Today was the first working day of “Jewelry Fabrication in Steel” with Sharon Massey. It started off with another wonderful breakfast (the food here is amazing!) before our group headed to the metals studio. Sharon began with demonstrating how to solder multiple gauges of steel wire (she makes it look so easy!). I made a few really quick sample pieces as she suggested, and I admit my first attempts were not very good. In order to experiment to find the method that worked best for me, I started a brooch which I purposefully made more ornamental than my past work to foster that experimentation. By the time I got the first part of the brooch completed (after multiple attempts of course), I began to get it!

Sharon then showed me how to solder steel sheet. I was surprised by how easy it was to saw through, at least in 22 gauge. I admit I found soldering sheet steel easier than soldering the wire. As a wire fanatic, I enjoy the aesthetic of the wire more, but I was much more successful with soldering sheet on the first try. In fact, Sharon explained that I could hold the piece in the air with my tweezers and solder it from underneath (it was a rather small piece, roughly 2”). When it flowed like a dream, I had to seriously question why I had not worked with steel before.


The discoveries did not stop there. Sharon had mentioned a few different techniques (some of which we will learn on Sunday) to alter the appearance/surface of steel. Today we learned etching with ferric chloride (available at Radioshack). She also mentioned products such as “Press and Peel Blue” but that the ferric chloride is a good etchant that requires neither a fancy printer, nor does it undercut the etching. I had never done etching before, so the process was completely new to me. As a resist, we used Sharpie Paint Pens and let the marks dry for a good 30 minutes or so to ensure solid adhesion. Sharon then showed us how to suspend the steel in the chloride using tape. After roughly 1.5 hours, we removed the metal pieces (wearing gloves—ferric chloride stains hands and clothes), rinsed them in water, and then dipped them in an ammonia bath to completely diffuse the ferric chloride.

For such a simple process, etching gets beautiful results! I have done roller printing/embossing, but never gotten such a crisp and even image through that method. I have a piece at home that I had been mulling over how to liven it up; now I will be visiting my local electronics supply store.  

The night finished off with a return trip to the studio for open studio hours before the class headed down to the campfire. It was a great way to end the evening.

 

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