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Chunky fused fine-silver chain with medallion

Fuse and solder a removable medallion that fits on a fused, free-form chain.
Full medallion
This chunky fused fine-silver chain looks equally striking with or without its removable fused sterling silver pendant (1 11⁄16 in. [43 mm] diameter).

Fusing isn’t exact. There’s a risk when you heat metal up to the very brink of its melting point: results can be messy and organic. But that’s the beauty of this project. Embrace fusing’s unpredictability to create something with primitive beauty and individuality. And most of all, play! Inexactitude has its benefits.

SUPPLIES

  • Sterling silver sheet: 
    • 28-gauge (0.32 mm), half-hard, 2 in. (51 mm) square
    • 28-gauge (0.32 mm) scraps, half-hard, approximately 2 in. (51 mm) square
  • Sterling silver wire: 
    • 2 x 0.75 mm, rectangular, dead-soft, 6 in. (15.2 cm)
    • 18-gauge (1.0 mm), round, dead-soft, 1 3⁄4 in. (44 mm)
  • Fine-silver wire: about 1 ft. (30.5 cm) each of the following, depending on how long you want to make your chain
    • 12-gauge (2.1 mm), round
    • 14-gauge (1.6 mm), round
    • 16-gauge (1.3 mm), round
  • Fine-silver wire: 16-gauge (1.3 mm), round, 1 3⁄4 in. (44 mm)
  • Shaped paper punch; or metal shears
  • Rolling mill
  • Soldering station: torch with big tip, solder (hard, medium, and easy), fire-resistant surface (firebrick or charcoal block), pickle pot with pickle, paste flux, insulated steel tweezers or third hand, copper tongs, pick
  • Bench block, optional second bench block
  • Hammers: rawhide mallet; dead-blow or utility hammer; chasing or planishing hammer
  • Disk cutter
  • Jeweler’s saw, 4/0 blades (optional), 2/0 blades
  • Files: #4-cut, #2-cut, flat needle
  • Sandpaper: 400 grit
  • Dapping block, dapping punches: preferably wood
  • Permanent marker (optional)
  • Bracelet mandrel (optional)
  • Baking soda
  • Pliers: roundnose, 2 pairs of chainnose or flatnose
  • Wooden dowels or mandrels in various sizes
  • Design stamps (optional)
  • Steel wool: fine (0000)
  • Liver of sulfur (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

Part 1: Medallion

Medallion_1
Step 1

 

NOTE: If you have scraps you’d like to use that are thicker than 28-gauge (0.32 mm), run them through a rolling mill until they’re the correct thickness.

Medallion_2
Step 2

Prepare silver shapes to use as texture. Using a paper punch and/or shears, cut out shapes from a 28-gauge (0.32 mm) sheet of sterling silver [STEP 1]

Select some of your shapes and some of the negatives left from cutting the shapes. Pickle and rinse the silver shapes to clean them. 

Place the silver shapes on a bench block. Pound another bench block on top to flatten them, or hammer them flat with a rawhide mallet. The shapes must be perfectly flat; any raised edges will likely melt during fusing.

Fuse the silver shapes to a silver sheet. Place a 2-in. (51 mm) square of 28-gauge (0.32 mm) silver sheet on a firebrick. Arrange the silver shapes on top of the sheet. Make sure not to overlap the shapes, because any raised parts will likely melt.

Heat the entire piece evenly with a big, bushy reducing flame [STEP 2]. Work around the entire piece until everything is fused. Let the textured sheet air-cool, then pickle, rinse, and dry it.

Medallion_3
Step 3
Medallion_4
Step 4

 

TIP: While you can hit disk cutters with a hammer to cut out metal, I prefer to use the pressure provided by my hydraulic press [STEP 4], because I can ensure that it cuts evenly. Also, there’s no bounce back like there can be from a hammer. 

 

Flatten the textured sheet. Run the textured sheet through a rolling mill [STEP 3]. The gap between the rollers should be just slightly smaller than the thickness of the textured sheet. 

You don’t want to thin the sheet too much, but you do want to check that the shapes are fully fused to the sheet. If they’re not, they’ll pop off now during the rolling rather than later. If some do come off, repeat the previous step to fuse them again.

Cut out the disk for the medallion. Use a disk cutter to cut a 1 1⁄2-in. (38 mm) disk out of the textured sheet. Hit the cutter with a utility or dead-blow hammer.

If you don’t have a disk cutter, you can use a jeweler’s saw with a 4/0 blade to cut out the disk. 

No matter which tool you used to make the disk, use a #4-cut file to refine any rough edges on the disk, and finish them with 400-grit sandpaper. 

Medallion_5
Step 5

 

TIP: A wooden dapping set is more gentle than a metal version: a wood set will shape your metal without stretching or thinning it like a metal set can.

Medallion_6
STEP 6

 

TIP: A simple way to anneal silver is to mark it with a permanent marker. Coat the marked silver with paste flux (alcohol-based flux will erase the marker), and heat it with a big, bushy reducing flame. The marker will disappear when the piece reaches annealing temperature.

Dome the disk. Place the disk facedown in a large, shallow depression of your dapping block. Select a dapping punch with a correspondingly shallow dome. Use a dead-blow or utility hammer to tap the dapping punch against the disk, doming the metal [STEP 5].

Cut wire for the disk’s border. Measure the circumference of the disk. Cut a piece of 2 x 0.75 mm rectangular wire to that length, and anneal the wire. 

Form the wire into a ring. File the ends of the wire flush, and solder them together using hard solder [STEP 6].      

Pickle and rinse the ring. Shape the ring and place it around the disk; it should fit tightly with no gaps. 

If your ring is too large, trim it and solder it again. If it’s too small, you can either stretch it by sliding it onto a bracelet mandrel and hitting it lightly with a raw-hide hammer or you can cut and solder a new piece of wire.

Medallion_7
Step 7

 

NOTE: By placing the solder on the back of the disk, there is less chance that any solder spillover will be visible on the front of the disk. This also prevents the solder from flowing into and ruining the texture of your fused surface.

Medallion_8
Step 8

Give the disk a border. Place the disk textured-side down on a firebrick. Place the ring around the disk so that the back of the disk and the top edges of the ring are aligned [STEP 7]

Using medium solder, solder the ring to the disk. Pickle the disk. After you’ve pickled it, place your piece into a solution of six parts water to one part baking soda. This will neutralize any remaining pickle that may have gotten caught under the fused shapes. Rinse and dry the piece. 

Make the bail wire.
Grip a 1 3⁄4-in. (44 mm) piece of 18-gauge (1.0 mm) sterling silver wire upright in insulated tweezers or a third hand. Focus your torch on the bottom of the wire. As soon as the wire balls up, remove the heat [STEP 8]

If you keep the heat on the wire any longer, you could melt it. Pickle, rinse, and dry the wire.

Medallion_9
Step 9
Medallion_10
Step 10

Place the straight end of the balled wire on a bench block, and hammer it into a paddle shape with the flat face of a chasing hammer or planishing hammer [STEP 9]. Use a #2-cut file to refine the paddle shape, and use 400-grit sandpaper to smooth any rough edges.

Solder the bail wire to the disk. Place the disk textured-side down on a firebrick. Position the paddle end of the bail wire against the back of the disk. I bent the balled end of my bail wire down to form a prop — this maximizes the contact area between the bail wire and the disk [STEP 10]

Use easy solder to solder the bail wire to the disk. Pickle and rinse the medallion. Dip it into the baking-soda-and-water mixture again to neutralize any remaining pickle, and dry it.

Form the bail. Using roundnose pliers, grip the balled end of the bail wire. Curve the wire over your pliers to form a hook with an opening that faces the back of the medallion. The opening should be just large enough to slip a jump ring of your necklace through, but not so loose that the chain could easily slip out on its own. 

Add a patina, as desired, and polish.

Bail image
A hook-shaped bail with a narrow opening creates a removable yet secure connection.

Part 2: Chain
Chain_1
Step 1
Chain_2
Step 2

Make jump rings. Create coils by wrapping different gauges of fine-silver wire around multiple wooden dowels or mandrels of varying diameters. Note that for this project, you don’t need to coil the wire tightly around the mandrel, because you want a variety of sizes of jump rings.

For my chain, I used a combination of 12-, 14-, and 16-gauge (2.1, 1.6, 1.3 mm) wire to make 10 rings on a 7⁄8-in. (22 mm) dowel, 8 rings on a 1⁄2-in. (13 mm) dowel, and 18 rings on varying smaller dowels.

Using a jeweler’s saw with a 2/0 blade, cut the jump rings off the coils [STEP 1]. Remove any burs with a flat needle file. Use two pairs of chainnose or flatnose pliers to close the jump rings. The ends must meet flush without gaps, or the links won’t fuse.

Fuse half of the jump rings. Lay a few jump rings at a time on your firebrick [STEP 2]. Heat them evenly and slowly with a soft, bushy flame. Move the flame continuously around the jump rings. As soon as you see the silver flash across the seams, remove the heat. Quench and dry the jump rings. Because they’re fine silver, there is no need to pickle them. Repeat until you’ve fused about half of your jump rings.

Chain_3
Step 3

 

TIP: You can easily form fused or soldered jump rings into ovals, using a pair of roundnose pliers. Insert both tips of the pliers into the jump ring. Hold the jump ring on the pliers, and gently open the pliers to stretch the round circle into an oval [STEP 3].

Chain_4
Step 4
Shape the jump rings. If desired, shape some or all of your jump rings into ovals.

Flatten the jump rings by hammering them on a bench block with a planishing hammer or with the flat end of a chasing hammer. If desired, texture the jump rings by placing them on a bench block and using a utility or dead-blow hammer to tap one or more design stamps into them [STEP 4].
Chain_5
Step 5
Chain_6
Step 6

Fuse the remaining jump rings. Use a soldering pick or another spare tool to dig a thin trench in your firebrick [STEP 5]. Use your open jump rings to connect the fused jump rings into a chain, using one open jump ring to link two closed jump rings.

Position the chain’s fused jump rings upright in the trench so that the open jump rings lie flat on the firebrick. Make sure that the jump rings don’t touch one another and that the joins of the unfused jump rings face you [STEP 6].

Focus your torch on the unfused jump rings, one at a time, to fuse them (avoid the upright fused jump rings). Continue down the chain, adding and fusing jump rings and quenching as you go, until your chain reaches your desired length. Quench, rinse, and dry the chain.

Chain_7
Step 7
Chain_8
Step 8
Texture the newly fused jump rings. Use roundnose pliers to make some or all of the newly fused jump rings into ovals, if desired. Fold the chain back to isolate one jump ring on the edge of your bench block [STEP 7]. Without hitting the connected jump rings, gently hammer the newly fused jump ring to flatten it. To avoid ridge marks on the undersides of the jump rings, don’t hammer too close to the edge of your bench block. Add texture with stamps if desired. 

Make and attach a hook clasp. Cut a 1 3⁄4-in. (44 mm) piece of 16-gauge (1.3 mm) fine-silver wire. Grip one end of the wire in your roundnose pliers. Turn the pliers to make a small loop. Repeat to form a larger loop on the other end of the wire [STEP 8].
Chain_9
Step 9
Chain_10
Step 10
To form a hook, roll the smaller-looped end over one jaw of your roundnose pliers. Hammer the side of that loop to harden and widen it [STEP 9]. Attach the hook’s larger loop to one end of the chain [STEP 10], and follow the process outlined in the previous step to fuse it shut.

Oxidize the chain, if desired.
Add a liver of sulfur patina, as desired. Clean off any excess oxidation with fine steel wool. Wash the chain in soapy water, and dry it. 
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