My main job is working for Surrey Adult Learning, and I love it! One of the great things about SAL is how many brilliant creative courses they run, including loads in the Arts and Crafts curriculum. In fact, they do a LOT of garment making courses, which I really should investigate more fully for next term – a lot of the courses run in the daytime or on nights that I teach, so I can’t get to them, but maybe next term there’ll be something I could enrol on, particularly as I can claim a staff discount. They also put on a lot of Saturday one-day courses, and yesterday I went on the Make a Silver Ring workshop.
It was brilliant- I had such fun, playing with bits of metal. I hammered and I annealed, I pickled and I filed, I even soldered.
We started by playing with copper first, to get an idea of what designs we might like. I decided I wanted to beat metal with big hammers! I tried two versions, one with the ball end of a light ball-pein hammer, and one with the straight pein end if a heavier hammer.
Then it was time to choose. A couple of the girls on the course went with the dimpled effect, but I liked the lines. We were working with square silver wire, so we didn’t have to cut the silver into shape. It was rather daunting to hammer into the good stuff for that first time, but it came out as I’d hoped.
The tutor then had to help to straighten up the edges, because hammering into bits of metal has a tendency to distort them! I then had to file the ends so that they could be soldered together with no gaps. That was a bit tricky.
Then we had to shape the straight wire round into a circle so that it could be joined. This involved using a wooden mallet, so that we didn’t ruin the work we’d done to the surface of the metal. I must say, all this banging would be brilliant therapy if you were in a grumpy mood! It didn’t have to be a perfect circle at this stage, but we did have to be careful that the two ends would actually join up. Once all the shaping was done, and we’d checked that the two ends did actually meet up together smoothly, it was time for soldering. I’ve never held a blow torch before, and I thought I would be petrified by that part, but the tutor talked it through for us, and demonstrated, and explained really well, so I felt quite confident with it. It was surprising how little solder was needed, a tiny microdot of the stuff! The solder works by capillary action, and once the right temperature was reached, the little chip of solder just shot up into the join, it was really sudden. Once we’d soldered the ring join we had to pickle it, in some rather dangerous acid to complete the process.
Then we had to reshape the rings into something a bit more circular, as they were all rather wonky shapes. This involved twirling them around on the triblett (a long conical piece of metal, a bit like a ring measurer), and hitting them with the wooden mallet, while they turned. I soon worked out that I needed to keep control of the ring or it would spin off the end of the triblett, and found a way that worked for me.
We were starting to overrun on the set workshop time, so we didn’t have time to put the rings into the polishing drum. Instead, our tutor polished the outer surfaces for us on a big machine that looked a bit like a shoe-polishing machine you’d see at the cobbler’s. They shone up a treat!
I am THRILLED with my ring, and I’ve been wearing it ever since!
And to give you a quick run through the end results, one girl used the rolling mill to create a beautiful skeleton leaf finish to her ring.
One man got a more matt finish to his using a flailing tool, which was a bit scary! The photo is not doing it justice, but it was an elegant finish. He was going to add some scoring to it, at home (he’s done these workshops before and he’s quite interested in jewellery making).
There were punches available and one girl did a beautiful design with circle punches.
A couple of the other girls used the dimpled effect, that would have been my second choice.