This month’s post will pick up where last month’s left off in my continuing quest to document my creative process. There’s less to report this time though and this post is a little shorter, as the brooch project is now being worked around several new commissions – apparently ’tis the season for wedding and engagement rings! (Congratulations to my special new clients.)
Anyway, the month started off with the exciting return of the brooch’s centre stone fresh from the cutter. You can see it to the left in all its newly cut glory. Many thanks to Tim at A E Ward for doing such an excellent job.
My first task was to start making the box setting which will hold the stone – the rest of the brooch will be built around this integral part. I started by marking out the front plate (which overlaps the edges of the stone) on to a piece of sheet gold. Next, a hole was drilled just large enough to thread a fine saw blade though, allowing me to very carefully cut out the centre piece using my piercing saw. In the picture below, you can see the dividers and ruler I used to mark the metal, and the hair-thin saw blade used to make accurate cuts. Sorry for the lack of ‘action shots’ – turns out it’s hard to take photos of yourself at work!
The cut-out frame can be seen below. I left excess metal around all the edges – this will be removed after the walls have been created and fitted in to place. The inside edges of the shape were filed smooth with a small needle file.
Next, I cut some more sheet gold in to four strips, two long ones to make the top and bottom walls of the setting, and two short ones for the curved sides. I left all the strips slightly longer than necessary so that I could adjust them to perfectly fit the stone – you can always take away excess metal but it’s very hard to add on an extra millimetre!
The two shorter pieces needed to be formed in to a smooth curve. After scratching my head and hunting round my workshop for some time, I found a wooden doming punch that was the perfect sized cylinder to use as a mandrel to form my metal – very convenient as it saved me a trip to the timber merchant. A leather mallet was used to gently tap the strip of metal around the curve of the wood.
After filing the edges to meet flush, I soldered each of the curved sides to one of the long sides to make ‘L’ shapes. To make sure my angles were accurate, I drew the guide-lines I needed on to my soldering block with a pencil. (I always find this is a good way to get a precise outcome when working with geometric shapes.)
Next, flux (the luminous yellow liquid) was painted on to the joint and tiny pieces of a solder alloy were put in position. For small-ish jobs like this, I like to use a hand-held blowtorch – it’s surprising how much heat you can get from a something used for caramelising creme-brûlées!
After much careful cutting, filing and checking against the stone, the two ‘L’ shapes were soldered together to make the whole set of walls…
….and breath was held in anticipation whilst the stone was placed inside to check the fit – metal can shift and expand fractionally while heating, so this was a tense moment….
Now the only job that remained was to position the the walls onto the cut-out frame and solder in place. Once this was done, the excess metal was cut from the front plate to follow the curves of the walls, and whole piece was filed and sanded until all the joints were flush and almost invisible. High grade sand paper gave a smooth satin finish to the white gold, ready for the next stages…
…and finally, the stone was pushed in to its new casing from behind! Once the rest of the brooch has been constructed, the stone will be the last thing to be put in place, held securely in position with a decorative back-plate.
First stage complete and no mistakes made – what a relief! Next step: making the decorative wire work which will frame this beautiful stone. See you next time…