Friday, July 10, 2009

A good day with the hammer.

I get crazy ideas all the time. Some stay in my head longer than others I think because I want to have a small taste of success in other areas before I let the new ideas exist. Making my own chain has been on that list. I've dabbled with some chainmaille and also with making my own jump rings but never just dove in until now...

I was spurred by the amazing chains from fellow Etsian and Handmade Artists' Forum member AmongTheRuins (visit her shop right now on Etsy for examples of what I'm talking about). I had also read a great blog post on talking about a phenomenon known as the 100th monkey as it related to using steel wire in jewelry.

Now I don't have any problems following that 100th monkey. After chatting a bit with AmongTheRuins who shared with me the amazing Ace Hardware tips, I marched right down to ours and proceeded to pester the nice man who was very helpful with all sorts of info about steel wire. I marched out with enough wire for a long time and various gauges, some copper-aluminum-galvanized steel-dark annealed steel...I think that's it!

No wait, that's not know how I know this trip was destined? On the way out they had a 20% off sale on night lights including this sock monkey.


I went out later in the day and picked up some clear acrylic sealer (to use with the steel) and some earplugs because the last time I spent any length of time hammering, I regretted not having any. I had an old set of tools that I planned to use with the steel after reading that it would likely bust up my good set.

I also picked up some 6 gauge copper wire from another nice gent at the Home Depot. I asked him if there was any difference between a couple of the bare wire types and he said, 'well this one can handle 200 volts.' I laughed and said that if there was electricity going through my jewelry of that nature that something had gone horribly wrong. He also told me to check their trash bucket from time to time because they would toss short lengths of wire in there that I could just have so nice tip for upcycling. I have no qualms about bucket diving for materials.

So now, it was hammering time. I used a wooden dowel to wind a long length of 20 gauge galvanized steel on to make links. I wasn't really sure if I needed to work harden the wire similar to how I would with silver but I decided it couldn't hurt (laugh now or leave a comment if I can skip that step in the future...). I plugged in my earplugs and commenced to hammer. I love the look of the hammered links with the galvanized steel, like it's built-in rustic.

I pause here to mention that my Dad was a structural ironworker for my whole life. He just recently retired and the whole time I was working with the steel wire I kept thinking about how he spent his whole life twisting wire around rebar and that he would likely chuckle if he saw how I was working with it.

I had purchased some lava beads at a recent show but hadn't done anything solid with them yet. I had toyed pairing them with pearls but the wax coating on the lava beads wasn't holding up that well...if you touched the beads your fingers would turn black. Because I had planned on using a clear acrylic seal on the steel I thought about the lava beads again and my brain went 'ping' and pairing the two became a natural outpouring of feeling and being earthy.

I used smaller gauge galvanized steel for the lava beads and made them wrapped loop links. I really liked the tensile strength of the steel. It wasn't as stiff as I thought it would be and as long as I moved it firmly and a bit slowly, it would go where I wanted it to go. I bought spools of 20, 22, 24, 28 and 32 gauge just to see what the various sizes would be like to work with.

Anyway, the outcome was a lariat length necklace (this one is just over 36 inches) that I simply love.


I'm going to do some more chains with the steel including dark annealed which has a grungy quality that is wonderfully appealing and I'll have to bust out some of the upcycled watch bits from my tiara project.

I also played around with the 6 gauge copper wire and hammered out this rustic copper cuff bracelet.


What do you think? I think I'm addicted to steel and hammering...

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