Friday, November 28, 2014

A tale of 2 chains ...

A couple of weeks ago, I finished a gorgeous necklace and bracelet byzantine chainmaille set for a repeat customer who has, in the past, been ever-so-patient with both me and my suppliers. These were to be a simple set of 12 gauge solid sterling silver byzantine chains in specific lengths. I ordered my supplies from a USA-based supplier both because of time & price. Everything went well until I put the necklace into my regular tumbler barrel for burnishing & cleaning, filled with stainless steel shot.

I usually run this barrel dry (yes, folks familiar with the process of tumbling for hardness and cleaning, that's no water, no soap in a Lortone rotary tumbler). I hand scrub my finished pieces with Dawn dish soap, a brush, and warm water in a sink prior to tumbling (and after). A lack of water with steel shot reduces the time needed to reach a gleaming shine on soft metals (no, I don't get a lot of dings in the metal either, even though there ARE pin shaped shot in my mix).

This time, I decided to add some water to help clean the piece since I wasn't in a rush. Little did I realize that this was a BIG mistake, mostly because it has probably been well over a year since this tumbler was run "wet". Let's just say that because of past experience, I did not even check on the piece after a few hours -- I let it go for 12+ hours overnight.

In the morning, I found that the dark crud that was dredged up from the walls of the rubber barrel had been pounded into the surface of my precious silver for far too long. The silver had the color of STEEL! I was mortified. I tried all of my usual cleaning techniques to no avail. I scrubbed the barrel, washed my steel shot thoroughly, and tried even using a silver polish to clean the dark ugliness that had invaded my piece, but nothing made it look "silver" again. I got it to about a nice dark white gold color. At this point, I realized that I may never get this piece clean, and so I re-ordered supplies and started my customer's piece over again the following day, all the while, working to clean the original.

After 1st cleaning attempts

 Luckily, I have a couple of different types of abrasive tumbling media that I use to achieve a better surface finish on titanium. These media essentially do a nice light sanding of the surface of metal in the tumbler, so I thought.... why not? I started with my harshest ceramic media (cylinders). The piece spent about 24 hours with regular water changes every couple hours in that. Next, it went into my plastic media, which creates a smoother, nicer looking satin finish (again a light sanding) -- for another 24 hours.

The result after both of these runs was pretty good! My silver looked silver, but was still a little bit dark. Not good enough for me, but getting there. Next, it went into my vibratory tumbler with some old uncooked dry rice and some excellent silver polish. After a couple of hours, I was impressed with the results. Not only was the piece insanely shiny again, it was CLEANER and brighter! I added more polish and put it back in for a few more hours.

Finally, it went back into the rotary tumbler with my now squeaky clean barrel & steel shot and just some water (in case any more dark crud decided to leech out), and the end result was unbelievable! It was as if the darkening had never happened. 

All clean!

Amazingly, the finished piece is a gorgeous gleaming silver again. And it will be for sale soon, in my Etsy shop. A few photos of the finished, cleaned piece taken to attempt to illustrate the sheer size of the piece, are below.

For sale on Etsy HERE

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

New finishes are coming!

As of right now, most of my chainmaille comes in a tumble polished finish. I currently offer a satin finish on most titanium pieces, but not on any others. I will begin offering the satin finish on just about any 100% metal chainmaille piece in my shop very soon.

I've also been working on improving the polished finish on titanium, too!

Please keep an eye on my shop for more news on these, and if you have a specific request for a particular piece, just make sure to convo me before ordering (just in case a particular finish isn't possible on the piece you want).

Monday, October 20, 2014

More sizes in celtic knot rings!

Thanks to a question in my shop on Etsy, I've added a few more size options (and altered the pricing on the rings appropriately) for all of my celtic knot rings. They are now available in whole or half sizes up to a US 12.

Celtic knot ring (bronze)

I am also working on a gold-filled version of this ring, hopefully to make it's debut before the holiday shopping season gets truly underway.

Celtic knot ring (sterling silver)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cleaning off my workbench sale -- specials galore!

Copper open arrow rivet ring
Sometimes I experiment with new ideas and a finished piece results. Other times, I'm asked about a custom item, and a finished piece results from my experiments to produce that item. These items usually end up in a basket on my workbench, sometimes "lost" for months or even a year. Sometimes parts of these just need to be recycled, scrapped, disassembled, or otherwise disposed of, and other times, these pieces are completely wearable, but they are often left in limbo.

When I have a bunch of these piling up in that basket, I sometimes go over them, clean them, decide which ones are potentially worth offering up as a "special" in my shop. I've listed a few of these pieces already and more are coming.

Specials are not items I can usually reproduce -- you may certainly ask about attempting to re-make a ring in a different size, but keep in mind that the same price of that "special" item may not apply to your custom item, because I now must attempt to reproduce something that may otherwise have been an accident. It isn't always quite as easy as it seems!

Please visit my shop here to see current specials ^_^. More are coming soon, too!

10k gold filled, sterling silver & amethyst celtic earrings

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

New mixed metal chunky 14 gauge byzantine bracelets, ready to buy now!

Yesterday, I promised these were coming -- and today, they are here in my shop, ready for purchase! These are the same custom-made chunky byzantine bracelets I've been selling in titanium and steel, but now you can get mixed-metal versions, custom-made just like the others.

14 gauge steel & gold filled byzantine bracelet
 Personally, I can not decide which I like more -- the combination of gold and steel or the combination of titanium and silver. As soon as I have some sample chains made for photography, I will also offer steel & sterling as well as titanium and gold.

Solid gold is currently available as a custom made item paired with steel in 18 gauge.

I've opted to create the first titanium & sterling bracelet with a satin finish. My satin finish simply shaves a single step off the somewhat long process that I use to finish titanium.

Titanium is such a hard metal that in the semi-rough state of the metal I receive, it requires a 3 stage tumbling process to get it to a more reasonable surface appearance (which is still rather rough looking by comparison to many of the softer metals that I work with).

14 gauge titanium & sterling byzantine bracelet (satin finish)

The 3-stage process that I use involves a very rough cutting ceramic tumbling media that is used with water. The titanium spends a full day with this media. It then goes into another full day, wet tumbling session with a finer-cutting plastic media. It is after this stage that the satin finished pieces stop and just get cleaned with a gentle soap (Dawn dish soap, to be exact). Pieces to receive a shine/polished look spend another day in the tumbler, but this time with steel and plastic burnishing media.

I'm working on a process that also incorporates a final polishing run in a vibe tumbler with walnut shell and potentially a nice polishing compound.

Either way, if you like the look of these designs -- hit the "Etsy shop" link on the menu above (or click the images in this post). Both are in the "Made to order" section of my shop, ready to buy today!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Byzantine by gauge - explained!

In my shop (and from other chainmaillers) you will find listings for specific weaves, like the ever-popular byzantine chain. What you may not realize is that not all byzantine chains are the same. I've noticed some maillers don't always say what the size of the chain is, and that's hard to tell from photos.

I usually list my byzantine (and other chains) by wire or ring gauge -- what this means is the diameter of the wire used to make the rings that are woven together to make the finished chain. Each chainmaille weave has a ring size (wire gauge to inner diameter of the ring) that is ideal for creating that weave, so in essence, each weave can be made in different sizes depending on the wire gauge of the rings! Confused yet? Let's take a look at some photos.

steel & 10k gold byzantine chain
This first photo shows a gold and steel byzantine chain. But how thick is it? It's hard to tell from the photo, which is clearly trying to show the pattern in a close-up way.

bronze & half-round sterling silver byzantine chain
The next photo shows a bronze and sterling silver byzantine chain. Does it look similar to the size of the steel and gold one? I'd say so. But if you guessed that they were about the same size, you'd be so very, very wrong!

Here's a photo I took recently to show the size difference in byzantine, starting with the thickest one I make (14 gauge). The order is this:  14 gauge, 16 gauge (shown in a hybrid barrel form), 18 gauge, and 20 gauge.

Byzantine size comparison (14 gauge, 16 gauge, 18 gauge, 20 gauge)

From the last photo (above), you can see that the last 2 chains are the two in the photos from earlier in this post. The steel and gold is 18 gauge, while the bronze and sterling are 20 gauge. I also like to give the cross-section thickness of each chain:  14 gauge has about a 3/8" thickness (almost a half inch thick!), while 16 gauge is a little more than 1/4". 18 gauge is about an even 1/4" thick, and 20 gauge is about 3/16".

So, the next time you're about to buy a handmade piece of byzantine chain, you might want to stop and make sure it's the thickness/size you want! ^_~

More options in 14 gauge byzantine bracelets coming very soon!

Some of the most popular items in my shop are my 14 gauge byzantine bracelets in steel, titanium, and sterling silver. Silver is popular with the ladies, while steel and titanium are the general preference for the gents (of course, guys like the sterling, too -- but more seem to prefer steel and titanium).

Byzantine samples (steel & gold, barrel hybrid, bronze & sterling)

Coming very soon are some mixed metal options to these bracelets with more customization options! To start, I'm pairing sterling silver with titanium and 14k gold filled with steel, but all of my mixed metal options will be available once I have supplies to make them all (e.g. titanium with gold, steel with sterling, etc).

Eventually, you'll be able to choose the combination of metals that you want (eventually, you'll be able to select the pattern of the metal mixture), the finish and the length so that your bracelet is made exactly the way you want it! For now, all of these options are available via special request (send me an Etsy convo).

Monday, September 8, 2014

New design, new web site ... new everything!

Things are undergoing a pretty big transition this week around here and elsewhere on the web. My main jewelry web page is moving to its own domain name, all of my graphics and banners are being updated with a new, cohesive design centered around the logo I've been using on my jewelry boxes for a few months now.

The new logo can be seen at the top of this page as well as on my main web site & Etsy shop. The old web site URL will continue to work, but it will be redirected to the new domain name. Everything will funnel through my Etsy shop, as well, contact included. I will always answer e-mails sent to, of course, but from today forward, all of my contact links will point to the Etsy convo system.

Monday, August 25, 2014

New gold designs featured & holiday updates

A week ago or so, I posted about my new chainmaille designs featuring solid gold -- these pieces are now featured items in my shop and made-to-order versions of these items are coming very soon!

I'm also working on some additional unique designs featuring solid 14k gold -- check my shop later this week for these.


The holidays are coming up fast! I know, I know... it's only August and I'm already mentally preparing for the holiday rush. My sales volume usually doubles (even triples) starting in early November, and with a number of made-to-order items in my shop, my daily work volume also increases accordingly.

If you are thinking of anything as a holiday gift, think about placing your order anytime between now and the end of October while my workload is low -- I'll have more time to spend on your piece. Once the end of October rolls around, some made-to-order items may disappear from my shop in favor of ready-to-ship items!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

New designs with SOLID GOLD!

I've been promising new work in the form of solid gold for awhile. I've been asked about working in solid gold by satisfied customers many times, too.

Stainless steel & 10k gold classic byzantine
Finally -- it's here. 10k & 14k worked into some of the most classic chainmaille designs -- the ones most frequently purchased. By far, the most popular chain is the byzantine, so naturally, it is the first one to which I added a touch of solid gold (see photo).

Sterling silver & 14k rose gold helm (parallel) chain

The helm chain is another popular design, so that was the next one on my list. I'm working on even more designs using 10 & 14k gold in all colors -- white, rose, and yellow.

Look for more solid gold designs before the holidays!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Prepping the shop for the holidays!

I know, I know ... it's August and I'm thinking about the holiday shopping season already. Really, I'm not completely crazy. I still have nightmares about last year, though, so this year I'm hoping to be a little more prepared for the extra volume of orders, especially for items that are made to order.

This year, I'm planning to heavily feature some of my most popular pieces of chainmaille for the holiday shopping season & I'm stocking up on precious metal jump rings already.

What's new right now, though? A few exciting things are on the way!

1) I'm working on sourcing some high-quality nickel-free stainless steel rings for guys' chainmaille bracelets, especially the byzantine. Steel is still my best seller, and being able to offer it in a nickel free version would be fantastic!

2) More high-end designs in sterling silver & gold filled! I have some new heavy gauge gold filled & sterling silver rings incoming to up-the-ante on some of the most popular items in my shop.

3) Gold, gold, & more gold! Look for 10k & 14k to make its way into some of my chainmaille designs just in time for the holidays.

4) Gem show time! My next local gem show is a week from now, so if you're looking at anything in my shop that uses gemstone beads and want custom stones, now's the time to make your request! I always get better deals on gemstone beads at shows (vendors just love to offer discounts to folks who pay cash & buy a lot at once! ^_~).

10k gold knot earrings on 14k gold filled posts