Skip to main content

All About Tools

The man I live with and adore is very supportive of my jewelry making. Not so much because I create beautiful pieces of handmade art and not because he's pleased that I have a creative outlet for my design skills. He likes it because the craft of jewelry making involves tools.
Back in the mid-seventies when I got my degree in graphic design our tools included X-Acto knife with No. 11 Blade and Rapidograph pens. One of the delights of getting to know Colburn was discovering that he had a love for the same tools from his days of working as a draftsman. In fact, we have both saved our old tools and now we love going to Asel Art Supply in Dallas and Fort Worth and drooling over the new products. 
Now the designer's tools include Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Talk about expensive tools! The sad part is that there's no tactile, hands-on pleasure from working at a keyboard.
Before I met Colburn I had never really known a Certified Tool Fanatic. Nor had I ever made a Saturday afternoon trip to Harbor Freight (cheap tools) or drooled over the Otto Frei website (expensive tools). This is a new world for me but a familiar place to Colburn. As it turns out he has three of every kind of tool a person could need, even a jewelry designer.
One day he asked if I'd rather work at a watchmaker's table instead of my plastic table from Office Depot. Sure, I thought, but why do you ask? Because he has one in the utility room, that's why. Lots of small drawers and a canvas pull-out shelf to catch any small bits before they fall to the floor. Someday we’ll clear a path and pull it out of storage. It will be a strange experience for me because it’s much taller than a regular table or desk.
When I started making my own jewelry five years ago, I was quite content to use my inexpensive round nose pliers, flush cutters and bail makers. Nothing expensive or elaborate. In other words, I stayed in a nice, safe place making pleasant but predictable jewelry for myself.
And then a month ago I took a workshop at BeadFest Texas and learned how to fuse fine silver. Just holding that piece of 16 gauge round fine silver transported me to a whole new place. It was as silvery white as the full moon and had a silky soft hard feel to it. Fusing silver means learning how to handle a butane torch, a Delrin hammer, an asbestos pad and hardening the silver with a Delrin hammer on steel block and/or mandrel.
I see another trip to Harbor Freight and a delivery from Otto Frei in the near future.


Popular posts from this blog

Eulogy for a Difficult Mother - what I wish I’d said at my mother’s funeral

I fell in love with my Mother for the first time on the night she died. It was May 20 of this year. Less than two months ago.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t love her before. I believe that all children love their mothers, but all mothers don’t necessarily love their children. My mother was a loving woman, but my sadness is that she loved her husbands more than she loved her children. In spite of that I always loved her. Every day of my life.

Mother had a difficult time living with bipolar disorder in a time when the only treatment was hospitalization and useless counseling, and the medications for it were toxic. It wasn’t until the last decade of her life that everything came together for her, and she was able to live well and with some peace.

On the evening before she died her husband called to say she had not awakened that morning but she was still breathing. Her doctor told us two or three years ago that she would not suffer with renal failure and that she would gradually lose energy,…

How to Clean Copper After Annealing with a Recipe for Non-Toxic Pickling

This is not your grandmother’s pickling recipe. I’m pickling copper bangle bracelets instead. As you can see by the previous post, I’ve been annealing copper bracelets this week (my first time was Sunday evening). To give you a point of reference, these bangles were dark brown, almost black, when I put them in the pickling solution.

Today I used a recipe for a non-toxic pickle to clean the oxidation from the copper. It was simple: 1 cup white vinegar and 1 tablespoon table salt. I heated it in the microwave for 30 seconds in a glass jar and then put it on my husband’s coffee cup warmer. To test it I stuck a piece of annealed 6 gauge wire in it, and it worked beautifully. I only had to brush a little of the black stuff off, and it was bright, shiny copper again. Better yet, the brushing didn’t take a lot of effort.

Feeling very successful I doubled the batch and dropped all six bangles in and left them for about 15 minutes. When I came back the black was flaking off nicely and floating…

Joseph Cornell’s Boxes

Boxes by surrealist artist Joseph Cornell
“Shadow boxes become poetic theaters or settings wherein are metamorphosed the element of a childhood pastime.”
Joseph Cornell was not a sculptor, a draftsman, or a painter. This internationally renowned modern artist never had professional training. He was first and foremost a collector. He loved to scour old book shops and secondhand stores of New York looking for souvenirs, theatrical memorabilia, old prints and photographs, music scores, and French literature. 

Cornell was wary of strangers. This led him to isolate himself and become a self-taught artist. Although he expressed attraction to unattainable women like Lauren Bacall, his shyness made romantic relationships almost impossible. In later life his bashfulness verged toward reclusiveness, and he rarely left the state of New York. However, he preferred talking with women, and often made their husbands wait in the next room when he discussed business with them. He also had numerous friend…