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Pierced design spider earrings

Clever workaround keeps small-scale elements from floating during soldering

One reason I love metalsmithing is the problem solving involved in the creation of a new design. Sometimes, a design that appears simple can, in its execution, turn out to be anything but. This was the case when I dreamed up my spider earrings a few years ago. I quickly realized that what seemed like a straightforward pierced piece was going to be rather difficult. The piercing extended all the way to the edges of the earrings in multiple places – which would result in a puzzle of seven separate pieces, all needing to retain their position through the soldering process. Even if I positioned the sections extremely carefully, once the solder flowed, they would float all over the place, and the thin pierced lines of the spiders’ legs would pull together and fill with solder. What to do? The solution ended up being surprisingly simple.

Below, you’ll find the list of materials needed to create this project and information on using saw blades for this project. For full instructions, you can download the free PDF by clicking here.

Materials

  • Sterling silver sheet:
    - 22-gauge (0.6 mm), dead-soft, 24 x 24 mm (15/16 x 15/16 in.)
    - 21-gauge (0.7 mm), dead-soft, 12 x 24 mm (15/32 x 15/16 in.)
  • Sterling silver wire: 19-gauge (0.9 mm), round, half-hard, 12.5 cm (4.9 in.)

Additional tools & supplies

  • Fine-tip tweezers
  • Brass hammer or plastic mallet
  • Planishing hammer

Toolboxes 

Pierceddesignspiderearringstemplate
Use an oversized blade to create the spiders' wide leg lines.
Saw blade rules (and when to break them)

Rule: Choose your saw blade based on the gauge of the metal you’re cutting. There should be 2-3 teeth per thickness of metal. 

When to break it: Think of the width of your saw blade as one thick-ness of line. With practice, you can use a variety of saw blade thicknesses to “draw” your design in metal. Choose your saw blade based on the complexity of the cut. Use a thicker blade for long, straight cuts. For more intricate, curved lines, choose a thinner blade.

A thick blade creates a rougher cut than a thin blade, a wider kerf (cut), and removes more metal. When I need to make a pierced line which will be soldered to a backplate (like the spider legs), I’ll use a larger blade than normally recommended for the metal gauge. This does present the problem of the blade wanting to grab and bend the metal instead of cutting neatly through it. I mitigate that by constantly adjusting the sheet on the bench pin to support the area I’m cutting as much as possible. I also use about three times as much lubricant as I normally would.

Rule: Correctly tension your blade. Pluck the blade with your thumbnail. If it’s a high pitch “ping,” the blade is correctly tensioned. If it’s a lower pitch “plunk,” the blade is too loose.

When to break it: You can actually use your saw blade as a very narrow file. Picture it this way – if you were to stack many saw blades together, aligning the teeth, you would create a file. Using a saw blade as a file takes practice, but it helps if you loosen the saw blade in your frame. This makes it less likely that you’ll make a traditional saw cut, and allows you to slightly distort the blade while “filing” along the edge of a piece of metal.

Rule: Saw perpendicular to the metal.

When to break it: You’re more likely to break a blade if it’s tilted at an angle, but if you’re cutting out a blanking die to use with a hydraulic press, it’s important to saw your steel blank at an angle specific to your saw blade size and metal thickness. With practice, you can also cut roughed-in beveled edges on your metal pieces.

For step-by-step instructions on creating this spider earrings project, download the free PDF here.

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