Friday, December 11, 2009

This new hook is not just for the birds!

When I set up my tool stations in my shop area I used an old Dremel tool holder for my flex shaft. It was a metal pole with a hook on the top. It was wobbly and didn't really hold the motor at the right height. In the user manual that came with my Foredom Flex Shaft it said to hang the motor at least 30 to 40 inches above the work surface. It was frustrating because with the motor hanging at about 24 inches on the Dremel tool holder, the weight of the shaft pulling down on the hand piece made it difficult to hold. I had an extension piece for the Dremel hanger pole, but the taller I made the pole, the more wobbly the whole thing became. Also, the clamp on the Dremel tool holder pole is plastic and not very strong. This would be fine for a Dremel, but not for the weight of the Foredom.

Old Dremel Pole

So, I got on the web and searched for a better solution to my problem. I searched for hooks, poles, and hangers of all kinds. Nothing looked quite right until I stumbled on something on a bird website of all things. It was a long steel pole with a large hook on the end that comes with an adjustable bracket so it can be attached to a wall or deck railing. It was made for hanging a bird feeder, but it looked like it would be perfect for holding my flex shaft. And, on the bracket was a knob that could be tightened to hold the hanger in any position or it could be allowed to rotate freely. The info on the site said that it could hold 15 pounds, so I figured it would be heavy duty enough for my needs. When the package arrived I was really pleased with my purchase! The hanger is heavy gauge steel, and the bracket is heavy duty and well made. I attached it to a stud on the wall behind my flex shaft area so that the top of the hook is at about 40 inches.

New Bestnest Pole

The hand piece for the flex shaft is at just the right height for me while sitting on one of my tall stools. To find this hook go to: http// , and look for the Green Esteem Extended Reach Wall Bracket, Item # GRE-60500, Black, 36", Price:$29.99. It has worked out really well, and has freed up a lot of space on my bench top and allows me to move freely without bumping into a pole. They have other sizes & prices of wall hooks available, but this one had the longest reach which is what I needed for my workspace.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I don't care if the walls aren't painted - I'm moving in!

The weekend before Thanksgiving I taped and floated all the joints on the sheetrock walls.  And, even though it's not completely finished, I moved a lot of my tools into the area. I had 3 full days off from work after Thanksgiving and I wanted to be able to spend it making jewelry.  I arranged my work space so that all of my tools were easily accessible. I set up stations for doing each part of the process. In the shop I have a cutting, drilling, and grinding area, an area for annealing, soldering, and pickling, an area for hydraulic pressing and forming, and an area for wheel polishing.  In the studio I have an area for drawing, designing, and beading, an area for hammering, an area for my tabletop kiln, and a wet area for anything that requires water, like my tumbler, my shaper, and my lap machine.

This is one side of the "shop" area.

On Thanksgiving Day we had family over and did the usual cooking, feasting, and spending time with family. It was great having everyone here, but secretly I could hardly wait for Friday to come.  With all the construction projects and other things going on, I had not had much "Studio" time.

This is the other side of the "shop" area.

On Friday I finished organizing my workspace. I have a new air/acetylene torch that I had gotten several weeks before, but had not set it up yet.  I wanted to wait until my husband could help me. (I have a healthy fear of gas tanks and fire, and wanted his help to be sure I was following the directions properly so as not to blow up myself or the house!)  He helped me attach the regulator, the hose, and torch handle, and we checked all the connections with a mixture of liquid dish soap and water. Everything was tight, so I fired it up and tried all the tips. Five different sized tips came with the torch. The second to the smallest tip seems to work the best for soldering.

My new torch!!!!  Wooooohoooooooo!

On Saturday I started making a new piece that had tubing as part of the design. Cutting each piece by hand using a jeweler's saw was really tedious and time consuming. About half way into the project I was really wishing for some kind of tool to make the process faster and easier. Yes, I know I said "No more buying tools."  So, I will have to change that - no more big expensive tools for now!  Anyway, I did some looking on the web at several different miniature miter/cut-off saws.  The places selling them claim that they make the job of cutting tubing much easier.  I also did some reading on the Ganoksin website to see what tools other jewelers were using for cutting tubing. Many of them wrote about using a miter saw made by Proxxon, and a few of them wrote about the mini miter/cut-off saw available from Micro Mark. After reading reviews on a lot of different websites I could tell that the only way to find out which would work was to order one and try it out.  I decided that I would order the mini miter/cut-off saw from Micro Mark to start out with and hope for the best.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Studio: How the process began...

I'm starting this blog to record and share a new phase of my life. I have waited a long time to do what I truly love - to design and create jewelry. I majored in jewelry in college, but did not become a jeweler or silversmith due to the cost of materials, tools, and equipment.  Then life happened, and before I knew it years had gone by and I had lost sight of my dream.  A few years ago I decided it was time to get back to making that dream a reality. I never imagined it would be as difficult as it has been.  All during the process of building my studio I longed for someone to talk to, someone with the same interests to share ideas with.  I tried networking to find other jewelry artists in the city where I live, but for the most part I found that they weren't interested in getting together. I knew it had nothing to do with me personally, since none of them knew me. Perhaps it was because they felt that I was their competition. Whatever it was, it made me a little sad.  After all, I'm a good person with a lot to share!  Nevertheless, I managed on my own, (with the help of my sweet husband) and I have been successful in building a place where I can be creative. My motivation for starting this blog is to be the friend that I didn't have to anyone out there who is just starting out on the road to becoming a jewelry artist. My hope is that by sharing my experiences, successes, and failures I can be of some help to someone who just getting started.

First, I want to talk about how the process began. For the last several years I have been working toward having a fully functional jewelry making studio.  In 2005 my wonderful husband and I started the process of turning the attached garage of our home into my studio space.  We took down the existing sheetrock, insulated all the walls, and added lots of light fixtures on the ceiling so I have really good lighting.  As luck would have it, the ductwork for the air conditioning in our home ran right over one corner of the garage attic area, so we were able to locate it and connect to it, which allowed us to air condition our attached garage. We also added cabinets left over from our kitchen remodel, countertops, a laundry room style sink, and lots of electrical outlets. On the floor we put some dense foam mats in a dark gray color that we found at the local home improvement store. The mats hook together like puzzle pieces and make a really nice surface to stand on.  We also installed a high power kitchen vent hood on one side of the room to help with ventilation. In one corner of the studio we made an area for a computer with a desk area and cabinets with file drawers.

When you walk into the Studio my office area is on the left hand side.
(The door going into my studio is on the South wall it doesn't show in this photo, but it is just to the left of the grey trashcan, the computer is on the West wall)

 To the right of the office area is the door going into to the "Shop" area.
(West wall)

We partitioned 1/3 of the garage area with walls and a door to make an area for me to do "dirty" work like grinding, polishing, and soldering. This smaller area we call the "Shop", and the larger area we call the "Studio".  In 2006 we finished working on the studio, but left the shop area unfinished.  A few weeks ago we started working on that area, and it is almost completed - we took down the existing sheetrock, insulated the walls, and built a wall completely covering up the garage door. From the outside everything looks normal, nothing on the outside of the house was changed. This was something we debated about for several years.  The main reason for making this major change was because of the heat.  Our house faces toward the West and for at least 9 months out of the year here in Texas we get a lot of sun beating on our metal garage door. The metal garage door would hold the heat and acted like a radiator.  And, since the garage was not insulated originally, the whole attached garage would fill up with the hot air and cause that side of our house to be hotter than the rest of the house. So, since most of the garage had already been turned into studio space, it made sense to build an insulated wall inside the garage door.  We built the wall several inches away from the door so there was enough room to put 3" of foam board against the door and 9" of insulation in the wall. We left the spring in place, screwed the door to the door frame at the top and sides, took the top rails down, and put the rails at either side of the garage door (inside the wall), so that someday in the distant future, when the next homeowner decides to turn my studio back into a garage  :o (  , all the pieces will be there waiting for them!

There is just a bit of taping, floating and painting to do and the studio/shop building project will be completed.

When you go through the door into the shop area and turn left I have an area for my
rolling mill, my drill press, my cutting shear, my scroll saw, and my flex shaft.
(the drill press is on the South wall - the wall on the right side of this photo
 is the wall that covers the garge door.)

In the middle of the shop area (right across from the doorway) is my soldering station. I have the pieces for a ventilation system that will go just above my work area to pull toxic fumes away while I'm soldering. I will be putting it together soon.  Until then I wear a mask and turn on the vent hood fan in the studio.
(West wall)

 When you walk through the doorway into the shop area and turn right you see
my hydraulic press area and my polishing wheel.
(The hydraulic press is on the West wall and the polishing station is on the North wall)

If you walk back into the studio area and turn around 180 degrees,
to the right of the door to the shop is an area where I can sketch or do beading.
(bulletin board is on the West wall, kiln and vent hood is on the North wall)

To the right of my sketching area is my kiln area (with a kitchen exhaust hood).
(North wall)

All during the studio building process I  purchased tools as I could afford them. Before I started buying tools I got all of the tools together that I already owned. I assessed what I had and what I needed and made a list. At first I bought several smaller tools like files, cutting tools, pliers, dapping tools, etc. Then I moved on to larger tools like a kiln, a rolling mill, a large cutting shear, a magnetic tumbler, a drill press, a flex shaft, a flat sided ring mandrel, a disc cutter, polishing wheel, an air/acetylene torch setup, a lap machine, and my favorite tool of all: a hydraulic press.  After I bought some of the larger tools my husband started asking me, "Are you done buying tools?"   It has become a bit of a joke between us because at first I would tell him "I just need a few more things - then I'll be done!" Now whenever he asks me I just say, "Honey, get used to it - I will never be done!"

Moving around the studio area to the right of the kiln is a counter
next to the sink where I have my "wet" tools - a shaper and a lap machine.
(East wall)

Here is the sink, and to the right of that are my finishing tools,
a rotary tumbler and a magnetic tumbler.
(East wall)

My polishing wheel.

Here is my flex shaft area. Sorry this pic is a little out of focus...

Flex shaft!  Also in this pic you can see the rubber floor mats we found at Lowe's.

Large cutting shear made by Pepe Tools.

Drill press - this is overkill for a jewelry studio, but we already had it, so why not?

My favorite tool!!! My hydraulic press was built by Kevin Potter. You can see all of the great tools he makes and sells on his website:
He also has a great blog:

My only misgiving about how I have done things is that I have spent so much time on the weekends building my studio that I haven't spent as much time as I should have in actually making jewelry. I have had to accept the fact that it was the price I had to pay to get to this point.  Also, since I spent all my extra money on building my studio and buying tools, I wasn't able to set much aside for raw materials. Here and there I would buy a few small pieces of sheet silver or copper, but then I found myself hesitating to use it because I didn't want to waste it.  So, as much as I love tools, no more buying big tools for a while.  Last week I placed my first large order of raw materials including several sheets of sterling silver in different gauges, a bunch of sterling silver tubing also in different gauges, sterling silver wire, copper and brass sheet, and copper and brass wire. It arrived earlier this week and I'm ready to get started!

While I was waiting for my raw materials shipment to come in, I spent a lot of time thinking about a name for my business. It may be premature, but if I really want to make a go of this I will need a business name, a web presence, a dba, and a tax ID number. I've started filling out the paperwork for my dba.  Once I get that I will get my tax ID and then all the paperwork will be done!

So, I have written my first post!  Hopefully I will make contact with others who are interested in the art and craft of metalsmithing and the design and creation of jewelry. I would love to hear from other artists who share my passion - or anyone who simply has an interest!