2 Rings

I got married yesterday!

 

No photos of that here, because that’s someone else’s hobby, not mine (Miranda hobbied the shit out of this wedding), but I took this photo a couple days ago of the two rings in a ring box. Obviously the one on the left is the two rings that I made for Miranda. The one on the left is one that Russ and Shane have been working hard on making for me!!

It’s a Mokume-gane style ring, where the smith repeatedly heats and smashes different types of metals together (in this case, stirling silver and nickel silver) until they are bonded together. It’s used to create almost a wood-grain effect.

They also included, at my request, a band of red that visually links it to Miranda’s ring.

 

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This thing is absolutely incredible!

Ring – Finished!

After all the polishing, it was time to drill some holes into the ring to put gems into it.

First we did some practice, as this was apparently a technique that Russ hadn’t done before (and obviously, neither had I!). It’s called a “star setting”, and it involves “bending” the metal in the corners of the gem over the gem so that it holds it in.

We started by drilling a hole smaller than the gem, so that it had a place to sit. Then we used a hart burr to create an angled shelf. Place the gem in the hole. Then use a graver to “dig” into the metal and effectively knife into it, and press up to take that little sliver of metal you’ve gouged out with the graver and bend it over the gem. Repeat 4 times for each gem to hold the corners on. He has another tool he uses to turn the sliver of metal into a little bead so it looks nice.

Here are some photos of the practice.

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After some practice, it was time to do it for real. Russ did all of this, possibly because a failure at this point would mean going back to the entire beginning, and it was fiddly work. 🙂

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Our original design had 4 gems, but at the end of this process I hadn’t given Russ enough space to set 4 gems, so we went with 2 of them. And here it is!

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It looks odd because it’s been designed to nestle into the existing engagement ring, and it looks amazing when put together!

Ring – Polishing

We’re on the polishing stage with the ring. A lot of filing to even out the imperfections from the cast, and also I discovered it didn’t really fit Miranda’s finger properly so I filled out the inside a bit more. Then sandpaper, to remove the marks from the files. Then…the jeweler’s rouge!

I started here.

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And ended here.

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Next is to confirm that Russ thinks it’s polished enough (he’s more patient than I am with this sort of thing…), and then we figure out how to put 4 white sapphires into it!

Ring – Investing

This is the really damn cool part of the process. I enjoy the carving and designing, but in this part we get to play with metal that is so hot it’s gone liquid!

We started on Saturday night with a mini-session of mixing the investment. I still don’t know what “investment” means in this context, but I can tell you that it starts as a white powder that is apparently a mix of some fibrous material, and silica. You mix it with a specified amount of water and stir gently. It becomes a magic-mud consistency liquid, and you have to try to keep the air bubbles out of it lest you get air bubbles in your final cast (ie, a bubble on your ring). We gave it a little tapping to help release the bubbles.

The next day Russ started early at 9am by setting the temperature on his kiln to 300 degrees and waiting. I arrived around 11am, just in time to set the temperature to 700 degrees. Then we got started playing with yet another hobby (which I’ll write about shortly).

4 hours later, we set the temperature to 1350 degrees. Another 2 hours, 1100 degrees. Then we waited 1 more hour before getting to the good part.

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The kiln and temperature controller.

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Taking our very hot things out of the kiln.

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It’s very hot in there.

 

Then we had a little problem. It turns out that we were out of acetylene, which is half of the required gas to create an acetylene torch, which is required to get silver hot enough to melt! Apparently we can’t turn the kiln off – the investment goes bad. We also can’t leave it for more than 6 hours, otherwise it goes bad. At this point, we were very close to losing what Russ estimated to be 16 hours of work!

We started calling people desperately. Russ asked me to point his propane torch at the silver, and then he ran off. We found out later that he’d driven to Home Depot to buy a mini acetylene torch which he hadn’t been sure he would be able to get, but about 20 minutes later the silver was melted from the propane (we also weren’t sure it was hot enough, hard to tell!) and he had plan B, a mini-torch.

We used the same swinging arm thing as the last time, melting the silver, winding the arm up, grabbing the investment with tongs, sticking it in front of the crucible and then letting go, allowing the sweet sweet silver to be thrown into the investment to form a ring.

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The silver after we’d taken the propane torch away. It’s still a lot molten!

 

We did two rings this time, because Russ had his press-molded version and I had my carved version and we wanted to have both. Here they are!
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Miranda was hanging around for this last, panicky, bit. She got to swish around in the bucket for a ring!

Next up, a lot of polishing! And gem setting.

Ring Making – Draft….#4?!

After draft #3 failed to produce geometric perfection, I went back to the drawing board. Literally.

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I took a photo of the ring on Miranda’s finger and cut away everything but the ring, and then drew every brainstorm idea I could think of that was within the realm of what we were trying to do. #1 was my favourite — maintaining the essence of what our original design was, but ending up with 3 rings instead of 2. #6 is what Miranda chose. Back to carving!

A day later I had this rough draft. The plan was to show it to Miranda to ensure it was what she wanted, as we go.

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Another day, and I had this “getting closer” draft.

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Seen here in the casting frame. We took a “save point” at this point, as it was the closest I’d got to success so far!

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While I was carving up a storm and praying, Russ was working on another idea. Since carving the relief of the ring into the wax was proving difficult/imperfect, he’d go the other way. He took Scuply and formed it around the existing ring. Then he cast that so he could carve away the unnecessary parts! It was an excellent idea, except that the casting material was miserable to carve, so while the ring impression was perfect, everything else was messy and frayed.

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In the end, I decided to go with the wax I’d been carving, as I’d gotten it close enough to perfection to be what I wanted to run with. I took it home again to show m’lady, who approved, and now very soon we’ll be dealing with silver things again! YAY HOT THINGS! 😀

Ring Draft #3

Still working on this ring thing, as best I can. Last time I’d done 2 different drafts, and the last one had been close, but I had carved to close to where the gems would sit so we couldn’t set them, and I didn’t like how the layout looked. I went back at it, with renewed vigor and knowledge of how to make it work.

And at the end, I’m not sure the design we have will work at all.

I don’t know if you can see the problem here, but we’ll see if I can explain it. The design has a gem on each side, while maintaining the existing ring. So the new ring has to either go over the existing, or under. Over is too bulky. Inside is the way we’ve been going. With inside, we’d need to have a little jutty bit that goes on the inside of the ring and sticks up to put a gem on the other side.

This adds material to the inner dimension of the existing ring. Which means we need to take material out of the existing ring in order to maintain the existing inner dimension. And the existing ring is pretty small to begin with!

Here are some photos  I took after I’d carved out a pretty good hole for the existing ring – my best yet, after 3 drafts!

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So now we have to figure out a new design, possibly with new gems – we’ll see how it goes!

More ring making!

After my last pile of ring photos, I took a break. But I have a wedding upcoming and now it’s time to get a move on with making the wedding ring!

The plan is to make another ring that “slots” into the existing one. We’re working from a resin cast of the existing ring to build around it. This first photo is of me with a very rough carve, and it identifies a problem with physics. ie, the holes will never line up with the geometry we have. One day of learning, toss that wax.

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The next day of carving I spent an afternoon on Sunday and ended up with physics being appeased, but my sense of aesthetics not being so happy. The result looked a little bit like an alien frog thing. I brought it home to test against the actual ring and was surprised when I got out of the washroom that Miranda had slotted it in and put it on! Pleasantly surprised – I hadn’t expected it to fit.

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I like my alien frog thing better after comparing it to the actual ring, but it still won’t work as the gem sections are to thin to be able set the gems properly. Back to carving!

Ring making – Final?

(Because of the schedule, it looks like I wrote “Next steps” 3 days ago, but it was a month or so ago, and now this “final” post fixes some of the next steps…and adds a bunch of story.)

After I had set the 5mm garnet, I had immediately set out to find a 5mm ruby so I could get the right gem in there! I looked at a lot of rubies and learned a lot about them…I learned also that they range in price from $3,000 to $200, and forgive me, but I bought the $200 kind.

The reasoning given to me was thus: I am not a gem appraiser, nor is anyone I know, nor is anyone involved in this process about to go and have the gem appraised, or try to sell this ring in 30 years. It has no fungible value, it has only emotional value (and it has a shit ton of that!). So spend the kind of money that makes you happy, and be happy with it.

The gem had an interesting life, which I won’t recount in full here. It spent 4 weeks on a boat, then a week getting here, and then 2 bloody weeks bouncing around Vancouver. I called Canada Post almost every day, trying to figure out who “Colin” was who had signed for my gem.

It finally arrived the day I spent working from home because I wasn’t feeling great. Because of a surprise cancellation the next day, I got together with Russ and finally set this gorgeous stone!

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Russ, fixing the little divot at the top. Using a mini torch and silver solder to fill the hole. After this, I spent some time filing, then sandpapering, then polishing. I couldn’t quite get an angle out, so Russ helped out and I took a photo of him doing it.

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His Foreman brand circular tool (“Dremel” to me…) with a polishing bit on the end and that damn jewelers rouge.

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We fixed the divot, he set the stone and polished the hell out of the top of the setting so it was super nice and shiny.

I think that’s the end of my story for this project! This gem is a little deep so we might have to figure out how to smooth out the bottom. We’re busily planning the wedding, making Save the Date cards, guest lists, booking the venue and a caterer and all that jazz. It’s pretty fun stuff right now!

 

Ring making – next steps

No photos here, as we haven’t done it yet!

The problem with doing it yourself, is that when it comes down to the tiny little details after you’ve “finished”, they’re your details to finish! Here’s a short list of what I see…and I think Russ has another short list, as he sees things that I don’t!

  • Obviously, the stone is wrong. I have a 5mm ruby on order that’s apparently going to be here between March 3rd and 10th. That’s dealt with, and we’re just waiting.
  • Then we have to pull the garnet out. Russ says this is easy, and I’m sure it is, but…
  • Then we have to “undo” the setting? We folded the silver over on top to keep the garnet in. We have to …unfold it? Sounds awful.
  • Put the ruby in, re-fold.
  • There’s a small notch on one side of the band near the setting that I want to fill, re-file and re-polish.
  • On the very top of the setting, it looks a little rough in spots. I think because we folded it over, and it…squished? I don’t even know. but once the ruby is in, I think it needs more filing and polishing.
  • Miranda says it might need to be a little smaller. We’ll see.

And that’s on top of her thinking we should make our wedding bands, and on top of actual wedding plans!

This has been an incredible experience, and I’m blessed to have such a friend that could allow me to have it!

 

Ring making – the final polish, and some stones

After we got the polishing to a point where it was almost done, was time to think about the final steps.

The first of the final steps, was to do a mirror polish with something called jeweler’s rouge. It’s a messy substance that gets red everywhere around you. I took a Dremel and the polishing bit (which I’d never understood it’s use…) and applied the rouge all over. It took the “brushed chrome” look that I’d gotten to, and made it super shiny. That was really unexpected, even though Russ had told me what was going to happen, and super exciting to see!

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We had a bit of a set back at this stage though. Two problems with the final gem – first, it was still on a boat from Thailand, and second, it was the wrong size. Because of the first problem, we’d gone back to Mountain Gems and picked up a few 4mm garnets to use as a temporary stone. When we tried to set it, we realized that we’d change the size to 5mm, and we’d ordered a 4mm ruby. Back to Mountain Gems to exchange for some 5mm garnets to use, and back online to find a 5mm ruby. Luckily the smaller ruby wasn’t super expensive, but it’s still a bit of a fuck up.

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Another moment that had Russ sweating a lot. He put the ring into this vice and very carefully used his power drill to widen the gem hole. We’d made it 4.7mm and needed it to be 5mm. 0.3mm’s >.> Centering this was a pain, and had him very worried, but he got it in the end!

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We heated up this resin stick thing that looks a bit like ice cream. The point is to get the entire ring stuck in it, except for the setting, so that when we put a lot of pressure on the setting to hold the stone it, we don’t bend the ring. After it cooled down, it was stuck in the resin. I don’t even remember taking it out, but I remember being concerned that it was lost forever.

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And here’s the incredible pressure! With the stone in the setting, he used a burnishing tool to “fold over” the edge of the setting to hold the stone in!

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A little more polishing, and we were done! Here’s that first photo of it on Miranda’s finger…and here’s a link to my other blog in case you feel like reading a story about how the hell I gave it to her.

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I’ve got one more post in this series, which is all the things we still have to do!