Monday, January 05, 2009

So You Wanna See My Shop...

I decided to start of 2009 properly... organized. It's not a New Year Resolution, I don't believe in those, it's just that I have lots of papers and receipts and little teenie tiny stones and scraps of metal and such... all of which need to be organized for taxes.

So, my shop is now spic and span! And what better time to show you where everything is fabricated. Here ya go...

That's it! I know, shockingly small. But I do have a few other pieces of equipment scattered about that I don't have room for down here. I have my ultrasonic in a kitchen, my tumbler in a pantry and a few large pieces (rolling mill, full sized polisher, anvil on a tree stump) in a basement in storage. But I have what I need... and I think it works pretty well.

My favorite piece in the shop is my double bench. It was originally a watch makers bench, somewhere in the ballpark of about 100 years old. I've modified it to my needs... added blocks to make it a bit higher (to be ergonomic), a sheet of metal added to the top of the left side for soldering (acts as a heatsink), and added lots of storage to hold all of my itty bitty tools.

And living on my bench is my sweeps jar. What is a sweeps jar, you may ask. Well, to fabricate a piece the metal goes through many steps to become an actual piece of jewelry. Metal can be filed, pierced (drilled), sawed, bent, hammered, soldered, and then finished (sanded, polished, etc) and all of that creates sweeps (dust.) All of those sweeps are to be saved to send to a refiner because it is a combination of precious metal dust/filings and little bits of emery paper, rubber, pumice, non precious metal and anything else that can break off of the tools used. On it's own, it's basically worthless... but once refined, it is transformed back to pure precious metal.

But as I was cleaning, I became a bit nostalgic. My Grampy Bonfiglioli used to tell me stories about working in a foundry where some of the screws and nails contained gold. He said the women who worked there would keep running their hands through their hair in hopes to trap any gold particles. When they would return home at the end of the day, they would rinse the gold out of their hair so they could save it and sell it.

Now knowing what I know, this would be REALLY difficult to do... there would have to be some very large particles of dust for it to equal anything. But, I still smile at the thought of him telling stories, so what the hell... I'll believe it.

But while I was thinking about Grampy, I remembered that he was the first person to ever teach me how to make a piece of jewelry. I'm not talking beads and strings... I'm talking about hitting metal with a hammer... getting dirty. You see, he proposed to my grandmother while he was in the Navy in WWII. He didn't have any money, so he took a nickel, drilled progressivly larger holes in it and then put it on a mandrel and beat the snot of it with a ballpean hammer. When he stretched it up to the proper size, he cleaned it a bit and scratched a diamond shape into it. Voila... instant engagement ring.

I was so impressed with the idea of hitting metal to force it to change shape, I had to make one for myself. So we spent the day in the basement and made a ring for me... which I still have. I should start wearing it again (even though it turns my finger green from the quantity of copper in it.)

Actually, now that I think about it... I also learned about metal compounds from him. My college boyfriend's little sister wanted to make one for her high school sweetheart, but a nickel wouldn't stretch large enough (especially since we weren't using any heat to anneal it.) So we attempted a quarter. Well, I'm not too sure of the metal/alloy content at that time, but the sucker just woudn't stretch. Maybe if we had heated it, sure, but just plain old hammer to metal didn't do it. For me, it was an early lesson on how different metals 'work'... for the little sister, dissappointment that her ring wouldn't fit her beau.

I wonder if she still has her ring?

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