Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Second Semester Metals Part 1 - Earrings

This semester went a little differently than last semester. We were tasked with the job of creating a pair of earrings every week for 5 weeks while STILL working on our first project. It was crazy but I loved working with smaller forms. The earrings were meant to be a way for us to experiment with new techniques without having to commit time and money to a large form. I decided to experiment with fold forming, and I fell in love with it. It is so easy, from a technical standpoint. You fold the metal like paper. No soldering or fancy tools needed, just a hammer and an anvil (and a way to anneal the metal). Here are three of the earrings I made. As it got closer to that first project being due, I slacked a bit on my earrings, so the last two pair are not something I'm proud of. But these are!

Copper fold-formed ruffles soldered onto brass backing (just plain brass, no designs) to give them weight. 

Copper sheet fold-formed into leaf shapes and patinated using heat to turn the copper a brownish color.

Brass sheet fold-formed into callalillies. My whole class says they look like female reproductive parts. I see this, but at the same time that is the purpose of a flower so it only makes sense. The brass is much harder to fold-form than the copper because brass is inherently a harder material than copper. As you work with it, it gets harder faster and therefore needs to be annealed much more often. 

Annealing is the process of heating the metal up to a certain temperature in order to loosen the mollecular structure. In blacksmithing, which most of us have seen on TV, they heat the metal to red-hot and hammer it on the anvil while it is still glowing bright orange. This is NOT annealing. We heat the metal up to a point somewhere around 1300 degrees (I have the exact temperature on a sheet somewhere, I just can't find it right now). If done properly, annealing does NOT make the metal red hot. The metal takes on a slight pinkish glow and the tip of the torch flame turns from blue to orange/yellow. At that point, the molecules are loosened as much as they're going to be before they begin to break down and start melting. We then quench the metal in some water (just put the hot metal in a bowl of cold water) so that it cools rapidly, we take it out and go on our merry way.

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