Thursday, 28 August 2014


Framework created from Fine (99.9%) Silver

Enamels are added as a paste mixed with pure water. Pure water is used to prevent contaminants that can effect the colour and clarity of the glass.
the work is llowed to dry on the top of the kiln. This prevents bubbles being formed as the water boils off in the kiln.
Work is placed on a mica sheet to prevent enamels falling out in klin, the glass does not adhere to the mica

Work is fired at high (900 c) temp quickly
At high temp enamels change colour
after cooling more enamel may be added to build up the work where shrinkage has occured
Finished piece after sanding

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Enamelling pt2

Having created the framework the next step was to fill it with glass. I started by adding clear flux or clear glass suspended in water. Surface tension allows the mix to hang between the spars. the piece was then fired and hopefully the glass melts across the gap.
Framework being prepared on workbench

Piece being fired at about 800 C

Once the piece has had the initial firing coloured glass can be added to each cell and returned to the kiln. This is repeated several times until the desired effect is achived.

Piece after initial firing showing flux filling the cells.
The piece is then ground down to create an even surface and to remove any glass on the surface of the silver. It is then placed back in he kiln briefly to melt the surface of the glass to create a polished surface.
This was my first attempt at this technique and I am generally happy with the result and have learnt a lot that I will be able to use in future projects.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Enamelling part 1

 A while ago I acquired a kiln but I never really got around to using it for enamelling. In the last few weeks I thought I would give it a go, so I did some research on technique (I love YouTube) and fired it up. The first picture shows my first attempts at enamelling on Silver. One thing I learnt is you need to use Fine Silver which is 99.9% pure, if you use Sterling the small amount of Copper in the metal comes to the surface as black firestain when it is fired preventing the glass from adhering to it. This meant I needed to buy new raw materials and special solder. My first efforts shown below were on prepared blanks and turned out really nicely.

1st attempts

The piece I am now working on is far more ambitious  and will involve a technique called Plique-à-jour (French for "letting in daylight"). A framework of Silver is constructed and the gaps between the spars are filled with enamel creating a stained glass window effect. the photo below shows the early stages of the construction, it still needs more spars to added and the whole piece needs to be cleaned and tidied up before any glass can be added.

Silver wing framework
I will of course be adding more pictures as I work on the piece.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Silversmithing (pt4)

Well the box is finally finished, all that remained to do was filing all the surfaces to remove fire stain (copper that moves to the surface of the silver during heating, Sterling silver is 925 parts silver, 75 part copper) and sanding with fine grades of wet and dry paper. I di not use a polishing wheel as this would have rounded off the edge  causing the loss of the nice sharp look.

The box will now be sent off to be hallmarked in Birmingham. The raw materials to make it cost about £130 so I imagine if I were going to sell it (I am not!) it would be at least £400 given that 25 hrs work went into it.

I would recommend the course to anyone, our tutor Linda Robertson was fantastic, really patient and as you can see from her website really talented. Central St Martins is also an amazing place to do the course, the facilities are absolutely first rate. It also helped to be in such a great class everyone was so friendly and we all helped each other out.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Silversmithing (pt3)

The first job I had to do on my box this week was to check the alignment of the bezel and to file a small mitre around the top of the box section. The mitre allows the solder to flow around the gap between the box and the bezel without it forming a raised seam on the top of the joint.
Once the bezel had been soldered in place I had to carefully rmove any solder residue (the brown stained areas in the picture), once this was done I again check alignments and the fit of the lid. When I was happy with everything I could start sawing off the excess silver, while being careful not to damage the box.
Once all the silver had been removed the lid was place back on the box and I could begin filing. The lid remains on the box while it is filed as the filing action closes the gap between the lid and the body, it also insures that the box will appear as one piece.

All that now remains to be done is to finish the filing and to polish the box.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Silversmithing Course (PT2)

The next stage of the project was to solder the ends onto the body of the box. Both ends wee soldered then the top was cut off with a piercing saw

 One the sections had been perfectly alined by filing the bezel needed to be fitted. It was shaped on a forming mandrel to form a perfect fit inside the box. 
 Once it was sized it could then be soldered together.

 The next step will be soldering into the box.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Silver Smithing course

 As some of you will know I have just started on a course in Silver Smithing at Central St Martins or the London University of the Arts as it seems to like to call itself these days. The course is designed to teach techniques that can be applied across all types of silver work.

The first project is to reproduce this, a silver box designed by the course tutor Linda. To make it require accurate measuring, cutting, forming by bending and soldering.

The first stage was to cut the blanks and to form the shape of the box using a mandrel. once this was done, checked, double checked it was prepared for soldering. To do this we raised 'Stiches' (small raised nicks of metal) in the flat piece of metal to hold the sides in place during heating.
Sections of the main body pre soldering

Once this was done we could apply Flux and cut solder pieces to the joint and heat the piece until the solder formed the joint

The piece was then cleaned in pickle (dilute Sulphuric acid) and remeasured. the Excess Silver was then swan off and the edges filed.
Soldered body and cut pieces at the end of day one
The piece is now ready for the next stage when the top and base of the box will be soldered on