5 Jan 2011

My scrap pot bracelet and Christmas gift makes

My name is Boo and I’m a hoarder. I just can’t help myself – if I think something might be useful, I just keep it. I can’t bear to part with anything that might just come in useful some day, be used to fix something or just the part I need when making something. The fact that my house is stuffed to the rafters with junk is testimony to my [bad/good/environmentally sound; take your pick] habit.

Inevitably, the true usefulness of a saved item often peaks the very week after you finally part with it, so I tend to hedge my bets and keep things anyway. Just in case. I also feel slightly smug about re-purposing what most would probably consider to be rubbish and Christmas is one of those times when the rubbish generated is often of even higher calibre than the rest of the year – it’s amazing, once you tune into it, just how many foodstuffs and gift items are packed with nicely coloured or coated card liners, for example.

I spent a few happy hours in front of a film over the Christmas period, making gift tags and bags ready for next year – the idea being that I don’t want to end up in a last minute panic like I did this year – wrapping gifts into the early hours, as I’d left it too late. I made in excess of 50 gift tags just from one box of Christmas crackers, more from chocolate boxes and lovely received wrapping paper spray mounted onto white card.

All the smaller pieces of gift wrap I had from wrapping my own gifts were made into small gusseted gift bags – a habit I’ve got into in recent years as a quick and much easier way to wrap small and awkward items – a little tissue to wrap the item itself, then the bag is tied up through a punched hole with copious quantities of curling ribbon. making an attractive and easy wrapping method and you can make a bag with as little as an A4 sized piece of wrapping paper.

Please click on any of the photographs to see a larger view.

The rag tag assortment of failed links from my scrap pot that went on to become a new bracelet for me.

I’m loathed to part with anything that might have a future purpose and it’s no different with the materials I work with. Failed parts, clumsy solders or those that break when working, are put aside for potential repair, re-use, or simply melting into other components. I grade my Sterling silver scrap into two pots, one that’s truly scrap, every smidgeon of trimming is saved for melting into nuggets etc. and larger pieces that might be useful are kept separate.

Thus over time, I’d accumulated numerous silver ‘rings’ that had the potential to be re-worked or rescued in some manner and the idea formed some time ago, to make these good, in between other work, to make myself a Sterling silver bracelet. So I started working on sorting some of them out and soon had a dish of assorted links for a bracelet. I made some new smaller links from those that couldn’t be made decent and supplemented these with some new jump rings (some indeed cut individually from scrap itself) and a hook to bring it all together. I wanted to finish it to wear at Christmas and didn’t really have the time to do it properly, so rather rushed the finishing.

The finished, albeit rather rough and ready scrap pot bracelet ready to wear for Christmas.

I have filed off the worse of the blimps and hammered to cover a multitude of sins, but the work certainly couldn’t withstand close scrutiny or be good enough to give someone else, but I rather like it for myself – it feels rather virtuous that I have something nice to wear from my rubbish and whilst I could do with giving it some more time, I suspect that I won’t and it has already been worn most days since I made it.

I don’t normally do haphazard or random, it doesn’t come naturally to me. But this ‘scrap pot’ bracelet was made up from a completely random assortment of parts – I just hastily arranged them on my bench in a way that looked pleasing to me and actually gave the end design very little thought. I suspect that this is part of its charm – I certainly think that, on this occasion, the end result benefited from very little thought and serendipitously just worked. Although I don’t think I’d recommend this approach in client work – I was lucky this time.

The original source photograph for the leaf pendant – the larger leaf was manipulated into a black and white line drawing as an etching resist.

One of the reasons that I didn’t have much time to work on the bracelet just before Christmas was that I was concentrating on making gifts for others. Further to recent posts on copper etching, I still had some ideas I wanted to work for loved ones as gifts. One of which was a leaf pendant for my mother which started life as a photograph of a backlit beech leaf taken one autumn, as above. I created a two tone resist design, transferred this to the carefully prepared copper sheet, sealed all the edges and back surface, etched it, cleaned the etched copper and sawed around the leaf shape and polished and rounded the edges, giving it a little leaf like shaping too.

I wanted to keep the plain border of copper sheet beyond the etching to a minimum and parallel to the leaft outline, but didn’t want to drill a hole through the etching either, for various reasons, so this would require fixing something invisibly on the back to hang it from. I didn’t really want to use a tube bail, as I have in the past, as I wanted to put it on a chain with quite a large clasp and a tube bail works best on fine chains with in-line clasps like snake chains.

So a soldered D shaped hoop on the back was the obvious solution, I could make it easily in whatever size I wanted to accommodate the clasp. My usual practice when soldering, especially in silver, is to use my own cut strip solder pallions, but I’d recently bought some solder paste to try and have found this especially good with copper, but less so with Sterling. The texture and workability of the paste allowed me to get a nice neat join and I was delighted that it took oxidising so well – as an Easy paste I didn’t expect it to. So I left the back of the pendant with a dark gunmetal finish as a potential alternative way to wear it.

I made my first pair of cufflinks for a Christmas gift and I’ll write more about the process and inspiration behind the pattern I etched in a later blog.

5 thoughts on “My scrap pot bracelet and Christmas gift makes

  1. Thanks for that, will give it a try, i have just hired a workshop, there is 7 of us that use it, they have etching materials there but still to us it, will post pics on my blog when i get that chance.

  2. Thanks Eve. The ‘battery’ I use is 4 x AAs in a 2 quid battery holder from Maplins – it works really well – I just put some decent NiMhs in it and can get several etches from one charge. I have one that holds 8 but haven’t needed it – but I can tell when the etch degrades if the power in them is falling. But I check at timed intervals during the etch, so nothing gets spoiled.

  3. well i must say you have been a busy bee, your etched pieces are lovely, i have only done a few pieces must do more, i found doing the edinburgh etch not that great from home, must try the battery method, but need a 12v battery.

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