Snow day necklace

Basic soldering and wirework pair up in a necklace that evokes a winter day

These etched beads by Lisa St. Martin reminded me of frost, so I called my necklace Snow Day. To create balance in this playful, asymmetrical necklace, I used similar but not identical beads. Whether your piece is asymmetrical or not, you’ll benefit from taking the time to lay out all of your components prior to assembly. This extra effort to determine bead placement will pay off with a cohesive necklace that’s as pleasing to the eye as it is fun to wear.

SUPPLIES 

Necklace 20 in. (51 cm)

  • 30 mm disk-shaped art-glass bead
  • 11–15 art-glass beads in various shapes and sizes, with holes large enough to accommodate 14-gauge wire
  • 4 ft. (1.2 m) 14-gauge round sterling silver wire
  • 6 in. (15 cm) 24-gauge sterling silver strip, 1⁄4 in. (6 mm) wide
  • 24–32 12 mm outside- diameter soldered sterling silver jump rings,16-gauge 
  • silver solder: hard and medium
  • small ball-peen or chasing hammer
  • center punch
  • dapping block and large punch or rounded mallet
  • 10 mm dowel or mandrel
  • file: large, half-round
  • flex shaft or drill, size #52 drill bit (approximately 1.61 mm or 0.0635 in.), and wax lubricant
  • marker
  • metal shears or snips
  • sandpaper, 220, 320, 400, 600, and 1200 grits
  • soldering setup: handheld butane torch, soldering block, insulated tweezers, soldering pick, copper tongs, pickle pot with pickle, 2 heat-resistant bowls, dish soap, paste flux with flux brush
  • steel bench block or anvil
  • utility hammer or mallet
  • flatnose pliers
  • roundnose pliers
  • heavy-duty flush cutters

INSTRUCTIONS

Snow day necklace a
Photo a
Snow day necklace b
Photo b

Frame construction

1. Lay your focal bead on a flat surface. Wrap the 24-gauge strip snugly around the bead, and mark where the ends match up (PHOTO A). 

2. Using metal shears, cut the strip at the mark. File the ends of the strip so they are straight. Push the ends of the strip past each other (PHOTO B) so that they spring back into place and are flush when they touch, forming a ring. Test the fit of the ring around the bead; if it isn’t snug, file away a bit more of the ends, and test again. 

3. Prepare the pickle according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and fill the two heat-resistant bowls with water for quenching and rinsing the piece.

4. Paint a bit of flux on the ring on each side of the join; this will keep the metal clean for soldering. With the ring on a soldering block, place a few small pieces of hard solder on the join.

Snow day necklace c
Photo c
Snow day necklace d
Photo d

5. Using a handheld butane torch, slowly heat the entire ring. Keep the torch moving; if you hold it in one spot too long, you could melt the metal. If the solder pieces move, use the soldering pick to nudge them back into place (PHOTO C). 

Heat the metal until the flux turns clear and glassy — this indicates that the solder is about to flow (PHOTO D). Continue to heat the entire ring until the solder turns bright and shiny and flows into the join. Remove the heat immediately. Use insulated tweezers to quench the ring in water, then use copper tongs to drop the ring into the pickle. After 15 minutes, remove the ring from the pickle with copper tongs, and rinse in soapy water.

6. Using a half-round file, clean up any excess solder. If necessary, clean the join using sandpaper, starting with the coarsest grit and working to the finest grit.

Snow day necklace e
Photo e
Snow day necklace g
Photo f

7. Select a well in the dapping block in which the frame can rest comfortably. With a large dapping punch or a rounded mallet, lightly tap the frame to curve it (PHOTO E). This will slightly taper the frame, creating a curvature that will hold the focal bead more securely.

8. Place the frame around the focal bead, and mark where one hole meets the frame (PHOTO F).

Snow day necklace h
Photo g
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Photo h

 

Snow day necklace l

9. Remove the bead, and place the frame on a steel bench block or anvil. Place the tip of a center punch on the mark, and lightly strike the end of the center punch with a utility hammer or mallet (PHOTO G). This will create a dimple so that you can drill the hole easily. 

10. Using a flex shaft or a handheld drill and a #52 drill bit, carefully drill through the dimple (PHOTO H). Make sure to use beeswax or synthetic wax to lubricate the drill bit.

11. With the bead in the frame, slide a piece of 16-gauge wire through the hole you just drilled. Mark the point that it touches the other side of the frame. Dimple, and drill through this point.

For complete project instructions and to learn more about soldering, click here to download & print this PDF.

Snow day necklace u
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