The end caps.
You can make these plain or textured, wonky or straight, rustic or perfect, but these are the way I made mine for the pieces you’ve seen.
I use fine silver.
I buy all of my sheets in fine silver and most all of my wire in sterling. I like to use fine silver for my bezel settings because it doesn’t tarnish like sterling.
Sterling tarnishes when exposed to air because it has a little more base metal in it than fine silver. Sterling is .925 silver and fine silver is .999 making it purer. PMC is also .999 as is Thai Silver.
Just love the Thai Silver :)
Back to the project…
Cut a strip of 24 gauge sterling silver, or fine silver, sheet and texture it with a favourite stamp.
I have a selection of stamps from the Indian Jewelry Supply store – HERE
It’s like christmas every time I look at them.
Cut a manageable length off the strip and wrap it around a mandrel.
You might need to anneal the silver to do this as stamping, hammering, or any work you do to a piece of silver hardens it. Annealing the metal by running a soft flame over it until it changes colour and then quenching it, softens it again making it easy to work with.
Some people don’t quench afterward as they say the silver hardens again, but, as you may know by now, I’m too impatient to wait for it to cool on its own and I’ve found that quenching doesn’t really affect the results I want for this project.
When you’re annealing be careful not to melt the metal. It just takes practice. If it does start to melt no worries as you can then practice your reticulation skills, but that’s for another day… ;)
You want the silver to just begin to turn a dull pinkish color then take your flame away.
Now you can bend it around the mandrel until the two ends meet for soldering.
The mandrel can be anything that is the shape and diameter you want. I often use anything on hand. The shanks of my stamps or dapping tools, wooden dowels, but better still are the mandrel sets that come with a jump ring maker.
As you then have a selection which will last you forever and you can more easily match the mandrel diameter to the size of bead you’re using.
I’ll be using 8mm beads for these tube ends.
Now solder the seam.
Once soldered you can cut the tube into the lengths you want either by hanging it over the edge of your bench pin.
Or by using some other way to keep the tube secure as you saw.
This is an old paintbrush.
For this method, slowly turn the tube and gradually saw around the circumference for an even cut.
Now you can put the smaller lengths of tube back onto the mandrel so that it just overhangs a couple of mm’s making it easier to file the ends straight.
At this point you can decide whether to keep your tubes straight or make them wonky.
I like wonky.
So I use one of my dapping things to hammer into the tube to flare out the ends slightly.
And then I might even hammer them down even more to wrinkle them.
I haven’t done that here, but just so you know all of my secrets…
The next step is to punch out the silver discs which will be the end caps of the tubes.
I like them to be just a fraction larger than the tube, (including the flared out diameter), as you’re going to dome them and this reduces the diameter of the disc.
Now you can use a hole punch or a drill to make a hole in the center of the discs.
I’ve found the easiest way to use a hole punch is to mark exactly where you want the hole to be with a sharpie and then place the bottom of the punch over the mark.
Then you can see exactly where to punch.
Now you will shape the discs into the caps using a dapping block.
If you don’t have these tools you can perhaps use makeshift ones.
Making shallow holes in blocks of wood, for instance, may make a good substitute for the dapping block. You can also round off a matching dowel piece to use as the punch.
For the discs you will have to either saw them or snip them. You can then file them down when they’re soldered to the tube.
At this point you are going to solder the caps onto the tubes.
You can solder the first cap from the inside.
But will solder the second cap onto the top.
You can only do this if there is at least one hole in the silver for the hot air to escape.
If you do not leave a hole the heat will build up inside and the piece will explode!
It will fly away from the soldering board and, if you’re as lucky as me, will probably land on your body.
And it will hurt.
Now clean up the edges of the caps with a file and sanding board.
And they are pretty much done.
These are my ‘rustic’ ones, but you can make these so that the joins don’t show. It will just take more precise measuring and filing, etc.
Here’s what I did with mine.