How to practice your soldering skills whilst making a fantabulous bracelet…

              So, this isn’t for all you seasoned solderers out there, but is instead for anyone who is a relative beginner and who feels that they could do with some practice.

To begin at the end, here’s what you’ll accomplish.

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Everything on this bracelet is soldered, but you can choose to not solder the connecting rings if you don’t mind being called a chicken…

‘sall I’m saying.

The reason why this is a good chain to practice on is that the solder doesn’t have to be perfect.

Of course, by the end of the bracelet you should have it down pat, but for this purpose, as long as the solder joins the two ends together, you’re good. The annoying lumps and bumps that a beginner may experience won’t be as obvious in the end result because of the nature of the link and so you can still use them without getting upset that they’re not perfect.

By the end of the project you should have the hang of soldering a link together without using too much, or not enough, solder.

NOTE: I’ve found that when excess solder overflows the joint you are closing you often see a slight discolouration at the area it’s flooded on to, especially as the piece of jewelry tarnishes. This is due to the difference in the composition of the solder to the silver. Pickling the bracelet after soldering may help this, but you can also sand the joints to remove some of the excess once the links are shaped, and before the final finish is applied.

This project really is just a good exercise to help you figure out how much solder to use, how it flows, and how to apply it.

Warning:

Prepare yourselves. It really is a fantabulous bracelet and all your friends will want one.

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Materials:

For a 7.5″ bracelet.

3 ft of 16 gauge sterling silver wire.

1 ft of 18 gauge sterling silver wire.

1″ x 14 gauge sterling silver wire.

1 x 3mm jump ring.

Solder.

Note: Ideally you will need both medium and easy solder for this project. You will solder the large links with the medium, and the small links with the easy.

By using the easy solder on the small links there is less risk of the medium solder on the large links melting again as medium solder has a higher melting temperature than the easy.

I only used the easy solder, but just wanted you to know that I tend to wing it.

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Tools:

Jump ring making mandrels – 9mm, 4.5mm and 3mm.

Oval shaping mandrel.

Torch

Jewelry saw or flush cutting pliers

Tape

Hammer - I used various head sizes

Pickle.

Soldering block.

Third hand.

(The links above are just some of the tools I use. There are many other choices out there).

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Note:

Depending on the length you want your bracelet to be you can easily add or subtract links to this design, therefore, you may need either more, or less, of the materials above.

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To make the links.

I used my Pepe jump ring maker, but you can easily improvise by using any type of rod that is close to the sizes needed and that you can wrap your silver around tightly.

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The mandrel I used for the larger link is 9mm. (This refers to the inside diameter).

You will need enough coil to make 26 jump rings.

Cut the coil off the mandrel and wrap it with scotch tape. This will prevent the rings moving around as you saw them.

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Now cut through the coil either with your jewelry saw.

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Or you can use your wire cutters to snip each ring apart. Just be sure to keep turning the wire cutters around so that the flush side of the cutters snip the inside of the jump ring. This provides a flush cut for soldering.

Close the jump rings together making sure that the joins are tight, flush and clean otherwise the solder won’t join them.

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(Note: The links are not yet completely closed in the photograph above.)

Now dab a little flux on each join and face the joins in the same direction on your soldering block. This makes it easier for you to find the area you are going to join as the flux will bubble when heated and you may not necessarily be able to see clearly where to apply the solder.

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There are many ways to solder jump rings, including sweat soldering, but I like to cut small pieces of solder wire and place them on the soldering block a little apart from the rings. I separate the pieces slightly from each other and they are then ready to heat up as I need them.

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Until you get to know which size a piece of solder needs to be for a particular join you can cut various sizes to experiment with. You’ll find that you really do not need that much solder to join a link. If you were to solder very fine jump rings, for instance, you would find you need barely any solder and that small chips would work best.

Gently heat one of the jump rings by moving the flame around the ring. Now move the flame to the solder pieces and gently heat one into a ball. Heat your pick at the same time. Now you’ll find you can pick up the ball of solder with the end of the pick by simply touching the pick to the ball.

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Now take the ball to the jump ring and hover it above the join. As the flame gently reheats both the ring and the solder you can now touch the ball to the join and it should attach itself to the ring. Take the pick away and move the flame around the ring until the solder flows.

Look carefully at the direction of your flame as the solder will want to flow towards the heat. If you are not heating up the silver evenly the solder will move towards the heat and perhaps away from the join. In which case there will be no connection. If this happens just back off with your flame and then slowly re introduce the heat to the other side of the join. Now move the flame evenly around the ring until the solder flows over the join.

You are not heating the solder, but rather bringing the temperature of the silver gently up to the point where the solder will flow over it. The solder has a melting point lower than the silver so it will flow before the silver melts and therefore will, (if the join is clean and flush), fill the join.

Keep an eye of the silver. If it starts to glow, remove the heat as this is a sign that the silver is about to melt. Let the silver cool down slightly and then introduce the heat to try again.

As you come to heat the next jump ring bear in mind that the soldering block is already hot from joining the first jump ring. You’ll find that you don’t need to heat the following rings as much.

By the time you have soldered the 26 jump rings, you will have hopefully become an expert at applying the perfect amount of solder to the join.

If not, you’ll just have to make another one :)

Now quench the rings in water.

I don’t clean the rings at this point.

Next I used this small oval mandrel to knock the edges of my rings out of shape. If you don’t have something like this you can keep the links round.

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By hammering the link roughly on the mandrel you are creating an irregular shape which will hide any imperfections you may have created with your soldering.

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You can skip this part if you don’t have a small mandrel because you are still going to whack the links by holding them flat to your metal block with pliers (to save your fingers) and roughly hammer around the surface.

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Do this to each ring and then make the small jump rings, as before, but with your 4.5mm mandrel.

Don’t solder the small jump rings yet.

Close four of the larger links into one of the smaller links keeping the soldered areas on the large links as far away from the small link as you can. This helps prevent the solder on the larger links reheating and soldering each other together.

Now place the small link in a third hand.

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Try to keep a gap between the third hand and the join of the small link (which should be at the top) and then solder the join of the small link using flux and the ball method.

Try not to use too much flux. You need just enough for the solder to flow, but too much will just bubble and, (I have found), gunk up in a sticky mess.

Carefully move the flame over the small link. Don’t keep the flame in one place for too long. Soldering this small link can be tricky, but with practice you’ll get the hang of it. Keeping the larger links dirty helps prevent them from soldering themselves onto the small link as solder does not want to flow over a dirty surface.

You can skip soldering the small links if you want to, but then you wont have accomplished the fiddly, I can do it, part of the project.

It’s o.k. :)

Once you have soldered the small link you can go ahead and make up the bracelet by adding the links two by two until you have the length you desire.IMG_5229

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Now you will add two more small jump rings to one end of the chain, and one 3mm jump ring to the last of the small ones. This last smaller link is the one you will add your toggle to.

I forgot to take a photograph of this at the time, but here’s a close up of the finished piece.

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Solder each jump ring together.

Hammer your 1″ length of 14 gauge wire to make the toggle end of your clasp.

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Then solder this onto the last small link of the chain.

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I thought I could get away with one less small link here, but I found that there wasn’t enough leeway for the bar to go through the opposite end link to close the chain.

I deliberately made that mistake so that you wouldn’t have to ;)

Now you can pickle and clean the chain.

For a consistent look you can hammer around the small link with a small headed hammer to match the irregular look of the larger links. Skip this part if you haven’t soldered the small jump rings as the links won’t stay closed nicely once you’ve hammered them.

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Now you can finish your chain in the way you prefer, either by tumbling, using liver of sulphur, or just by buffing it as I have done here – and enjoy :)

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At this point you may never want to solder another jump ring again, but hey, the possibilities are endless…

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Disclaimer: I am just a somebody muddling through. This is the way I do things. I am a wing it, try it, do it wrong, try again, sort of person. I do not maintain that I know what I am doing, only that I am trying to do it. Please feel free to enjoy my discoveries but follow your own research for professional advice and to perfect your skills. Above all, enjoy. Life is short.

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Now we will take you back to our normal programme…

I think something more to do with the actual making of jewelry rather than just the showing and telling bit, although I never did get to do that at school and am just beginning to see what I missed out on.

I know, poor baby, that was a huge chunk of my childhood down the drain right there.

It happens.

I got over it.

Actually I didn’t because I didn’t know there was anything I had to get over, but I will tell you that I have learned a lot sharing with you here and I recommend putting yourself out there to everyone.

O.K. I’m rambling. You didn’t know I did that did you?

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Stone Setting…

Ticks me off.

I’m not talking about the cabochon settings I do as I seem to have those down now, but rather the shiny, let’s put one of those in a ring settings.

This is how it usually goes when I want to try something new.

I think about it, think about it, and then I think about it some more. Sometimes for months. The cabs, perhaps a year. And then suddenly, before I even know what hit me, I start making them all of the time and voilà, I’m in the cab club.

Well the other shiny kind of stone setting has been roaming around in the back of my head now for quite some time.

I’ve dabbled, and generally get by, but I cannot tell you that I can wake up in the morning and say, right then, time to set a shiny stone into one of those ring settings, and then go into the studio and set that darn stone with the confidence that it will work.

So this is my mission chaps and chapesses. (Are there really any chaps reading this drivel?). The mysterious world of stone setting.

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I’ve got a few books on the subject. Well, I’ve got quite a lot really as I love looking at the pictures.

But this time it might actually be time to read them.

Although honestly I’m a visual learner, so I might have to change my mind about this later when all the words start running together and I get brain fog.

I learn by seeing, trying, messing up, figuring out where I went wrong and trying again.

Probably could save a lot of time and energy just by reading the darn books, but where’s the fun and frustration in that?

Here’s one of my books.

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Some of you probably have it.

Now, the setting I want to tackle first is the flush setting.

I think that’s what they call it.

Hang on, let me have a look.

Nope, it’s tube setting. Similar I think, but not quite the same.

O.K. I was going to show you a pic in the book, but then I realized that was probably illegal.

I’ll just have to draw my own for you, bear with me a mo…

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Flush Setting

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Tube Setting.

So here’s the plan.

I’ve got some stones which I bought from Rio back when I first starting thinking about it.

I was a little annoyed by this as I was still in the throes of perfecting my cab setting skills, but I went ahead and bought them anyway as I just had to have them.

No hope for me really.

As I said, I have had a few successes, but I really want to get to the place where I have alllllll successes.

I’m needy that way.

I’ll try to walk you through my trials and errors, but sometimes holding the camera while soldering, bezel pushing, filing, etc., can get a bit tricky, but I’m all about overcoming challenges ;)

So watch this space…

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In other news.

You remember those snipings from the bridesmaid earrings.

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There was a lot of them.

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Well they took a holiday at the charcoal block spa and salon.

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And now they’re sorted and ready to go party.

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Shame I’m doing stone setting now.

And here’s a photo of The Rodent for Angie.

Guinness

Guinness

Yes, I know he looks all cute and stuff, but

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He’s still a rodent.

Actually there’s a debate as to whether guinea pigs are in fact rodents.

Frankly I don’t care.

He might be cute, but he hounded his poor little black friend to death, literally, by using Thor, RIP, as his sex slave, but that’s another story…

It’s always the good looking ones you’ve got to watch out for isn’t it.

And finally, the show and tell.

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Serpentine

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Chrysophrase

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Petrified Wood Opal. (I know, who knew?)

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And for your continual enjoyment.

(O.K. so maybe the show and tell wasn’t last)

Soldering jump rings.

Exciting, right?

Here’s how I like to do it.

Place all of the jump rings facing the same direction as sometimes, once you start heating them, you can’t find the area you want to join.

This way you have a heads up.

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Use a little flux.

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Cut loads of pallions of solder wire, or use chips, whichever you prefer.

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And heat them gently until they form little balls.

You can then pick them up with your pick (see what I did there), and place them easily on the join to be soldered.


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The balls have to be hot, as does the pick, to be able to do this.

I leave you now with your very first look at the top of my head.

Oh, and sorry about the sniff. Got a bit of a cold.

 

Go on. You thought I had long golden locks didn’t you…

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A few probs around the house.

First up, Nutmeg.

In better days.

In better days.

Nutmeg isn’t mine, but she sure acts like it taking the best seat in the house and the cosy blanket.

She’s the Boy’s, who showed up with her a few months back when he came home from university.

Like we wouldn’t notice.

Yes she lives with him, but did he not know that when term’s over and the holidays show up he lives with us!

I love cats I do.

I have the fabulous Wally Walnut.

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My constant companion, even if I don’t need his assistance all of the time.

And the rather fat, very heavy, but super cuddly Pickles.

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Who would lay at my feet over subjecting me to her bone crushing love any day because she knows she could do with losing a few pounds.

I think I told you that one night I was dreaming I had a railway sleeper on my chest (don’t ask) and woke up to find pickles laying on me.

I was almost crushed to death in my sleep.

So despite the danger of broken bones, bruises, and strained backs when you try to lift obese animals, I love cats. They’re my favourite. So much so that P has told me that if I ever bring another one home it will be the last thing I do.

Like he thinks he can take me out.

I don’t think so!

But, I love P and am getting a little tired of the litter box myself, so I was just a little p.o.’d when the Boy brought Nutmeg home, and especially p.o.’d when on his latest visit this spring break the extremely cute, but incredibly clumsy Nutmeg had obviously been having one hell of a time ripping open her body on fences.

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But that’s o.k. It only cost me $350 to put her back together because the Boy is broke.

Go figure.

I should get him the collar of shame to wear also, perhaps he’ll think twice next time when he can’t clean those tricky bits and keeps bumping into walls.

And then there’s the guinea pig…

Doesn’t everyone need one for their front hallway.

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Needless to say I’m looking forward to the rodent going back to school also.

And then there’s the shoes.

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The ones relegated to the studio because they got a bit too grungy for their own good.

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Well they finally gave up the ghost and died.

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It was somewhat of a relief really as the water was getting in.

So I had to buy a new pair which proved more complicated that it seems.

I wanted a nice, comfortable pair, but I didn’t want to spend too much on them as they would soon look the same as the old ones.

I’m a bit hard on studio shoes.

So I finally settled on these.

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Which are definitely comfortable, but make my feet look stubby and my ankles fat.

:(

Oh well we can’t have everything.

In other news, the studio looks like a bomb hit it.

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Been doing a bit of snipping.

That’s a lot of mess for just five pairs of earrings.

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For some bridesmaids, if they’ll have me.

Actually I made this also,

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This is the back, which I’m kind of liking, but kind of repulsed by as it looks like the alien face thingy.

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And, lastly for Cecilia.

I’m still doodling. I’m thinking of making some cross stitch patterns, but can’t make up my mind.

x stitch flower

That might just put me over the edge completely.

;)

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Complete overload.

It seems that I can’t handle too much internet at one time.

Something had to give.

Either that, or I’ve hit my boring stage.

Whichever it is I’ve got nuttin’ except a few pieces of jewelry to share and I’m even beginning to bore myself doing that.

Hang on, let me think…

Nope, still nuttin’.

Oh well, here’s the latest.

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Ocean Jasper

 

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More Ocean Jasper

 

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Labradorite and that strange Acai seed thing.

 

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And the ever faithful Turquoise.

Something’s up.

Every day I wake up excited to go into the studio, and then I can’t be bothered

:(

I think it’s a phase.

Perhaps it’s because I just had a birthday.

Again.

Man they’re coming fast. And don’t get me started on Science Friday. I like listening to NPR as much as the next person, but every time I turn around it’s Sci Fri on the radio and another week has simply poofed into extinction.

I’m beginning to dread it.

It’s like I can’t keep up any more.

On top of that it seems that the Flourish and Thrive course has finally bored me to death, I’ve yet to even look at the last week.

I’m all flourished out.

So, that’s it I’m afraid. I’m off now to plod through today which will soon be tomorrow, and then Ira Flatow will be on – again – telling me about birds drinking deer tears or something equally fascinating but with the terrible finality of life floating away into a sea of intriguing information.

Drowning in ….

Too much?

So. All that’s left to say is that I will see you on the other side of the boring place my friends…

May the force be with you.

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Whyyyyyy

Is it still raining here!

Is it not aware that we are Houston?

That, yes it can rain, but not all of the time…

I mean, I like a good downpour as much as the next person, but I want to take some photographs and, although the dark depths of doom sky is pretty cosy in my book, I just can’t operate under these conditions.

I’m telling you now, when I go outside in a minute if it’s cold as well, I’m going to be completely fed up.

I’d have lain down and died already if I was living in the snowy parts right now.

I don’t like to be cold.

I shut down and wither away, in that brittle kind of way you do when you’re freezing, and that might very well mean no dinner for P.

Yes, and I’m not going to be the one to tell him.

In other news…

I made a nice pair of earrings, but they took me THREE hours!

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Look at that stone. A beautiful Prudent Man Plume Agate. The beads are Cats Eyes.

Yep, you read that right, THREE hours!

Just when you think you’ve got it down, that you’ve turned a corner, hit a milestone, become invincible…

It all goes to pot and you have to kick yourself in the head.

To  be honest I wanted to encase the bottom bead in bezel wire so that you could see it on the front and the back.

Like this.

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But with a little thicker wire round it.

You know, like a regular bezel, but not.

And I did manage to make one without too much trouble.

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Don’t look at it, it’s annoying me.

But do you think I could make the second one?

Nooooo.

So two hours in I threw it on the floor and settled for just the beads

I hate to settle but I was getting depressed.

I was just as depressed the next day when it took me a whole year to make these two.

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polychrome something or other. Front.

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Back.

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Aqua Nueva Agate. Front.

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Back.

I think the Flourish and Thrive course is de-thriving me.

I’m dipping into funk time people, and it ain’t gonna be a pretty sight.

To top it ALL I just ate one too many slices of bread for lunch and now I’ll probably blow up.

My life. I’m telling you…

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P.S. I’m determined to make one of those bezels. It might not be today, it might not be tomorrow, but one day, just when it thinks I’ve forgotten…

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I’ve done it!

I’m not sure if it’s really up and running or if I’ve just imagined it all…

but I’ve done it!

It took me a week because I dithered around waiting to take some better photographs of some items, but it’s been cold, dark and dreary here so I kept putting it off because I like to take my photographs outside and I don’t like to be cold.

In the end I just decided that if I didn’t publish it now it wouldn’t get published at all because, knowing me, I would keep on putting it off until another year had gone.

Then another.

I’ve still got to work on the SEO’s etc., but I’ve decided that I need to take a break from it for a while else my brain will explode. I have yet to figure out what to do about Etsy, etc., but I just can’t think about that right now as seriously I need a cup of tea or five.

Anyhoo, any critique would be welcome, just so long as you’re gentle with me.

I’m feeling a bit protective of my baby right now as she’s so brand new…

;)

Here she is…

Cold Feet Studio

(Should I change my name?)

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So, now we’ll get on to the old lobster claw dilemma…

I like them, and I don’t like them.

O.K.

What else shall we talk about…

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First off, I can safely say, without having to dither around second guessing myself, that small lobster claws are definitely off the menu.

They’re fiddly and they just look like little, I can’t be bothered so I’ll just use one of these small things that are awkward to use and hurt when the prong jabs up under your thumbnail because the darn thing keeps slipping in your fingers which makes you have to swear a little, or a lot, depending on where you come from, and so you have to chuck the jewelry on the floor because now you have to wear that other piece of jewelry that you didn’t want to wear and which doesn’t go with today’s choice of clothing and so you have to curse again (but this time with meaning) the maker who thought it would be a good idea to put small little fiddly things on their pieces of jewelry without thought nor care for when you, the user, has to go out in public wearing the inappropriate accessory for your attire just because they, the maker, couldn’t be bothered to really think about what they’re doing.

See how that goes.

Very thoughtless use of the small lobster claw…

O.K. maybe I will have to dither a bit as admittedly they do look good on some of those lovely petite pieces of jewelry with fine chains… especially if they’re gold chains…

Man!

Amendment #1.

don’t like the small lobster claws on my jewelry pieces because they’re fiddly and they just look like little, I can’t be bothered so I’ll just use one of these small things, etc., etc., and so forth…

I won’t go into the medium lobster claws here because I believe the above goes for them also. Except that, if possible, they hurt even more because the jabby prong thingy is bigger. Granted they are a little more user-friendly than the small ones, but on the whole they should perhaps be included only as a side dish on the menu.

Now for the large ones…

And this is where we come to the, I like them and I don’t like them, section of todays entertainment.

I just don’t know.

I don’t want to use them, but… on the jewelry I’ve recently made, especially the latest bracelets, the hooks are just not working. The bracelets are meant to be worn snuggly so that the stone doesn’t keep turning and I’ve found that the hook is very awkward to close onto the best link for that fit. I certainly prefer the look of the hook, as Cap’n Ahab said to his first mate over morning coffee, but I put a lobster claw on one piece, under duress you understand, and it clasps the correct link so much easier.

I have to say that also they are far more secure, and when the bracelet is expensive, I think I would much rather feel safe knowing that the clasp was less likely to come undone and the bracelet lost.

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Hook (I’ve yet to put the little pearl on the end of this one).

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Lobster Claw

So, that said, I’ve decided to change the clasps on all of my recent bracelets. No, no. You can’t stop me. But I will be looking into buying some of the lobster clasps that turn, (as Gale mentioned in one of her comments), because I think those will definitely make the bracelets ‘wear’ more comfortably.

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In other news the website is nearly ready!

After me, you’ll be the first to know when it’s up and running.

;)

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Oh and the trivia we come across when we follow the rabbit’s path

HERE

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