First, I want to say that I am glad I started this blog. I just read over my last entry, and found that I had already forgotten about the name pendant I am designing for Caoimhe. If I hadn't written it down I probably would never have remembered it.
I have been pretty busy the last couple of days. I have been working on a craft challenge for an Arts and Crafts website forum that I post on. Each month we'll be making an item on a theme starting with a different letter of the alphabet. This month is the letter A, and the theme is aquatic. I am almost finished with my piece, and I will post pics of its creation as soon as I am done.
I also finished the six pendants that I made for the lovely couple I mentioned previously (I will call them G.). I wish I had remembered to take pics of each step, but these little pendants were a lot of work and tired me out. I did take a few though, so I will share them here.
G.'s pendants were made out of 20g sterling silver. I had to order a thicker sheet of metal than I usually use (22g) because they needed to be stamped on both sides of the metal. If I used the 22g, the stamp marks would show through on the opposite side. Even using 20g was iffy, but a thicker gauge sheet of sterling silver would be too costly and wasn't readily available from my supplier. I have to admit I was nervous about stamping on the 20g silver, because it was expensive and I didn't have the room for error that I normally have when stamping on a pre-cut disc of silver - if I screwed up, I'd have to pay for a whole new sheet, which I definitely did not want. Although the G.'s had originally commissioned two of the pendants out of 22g silver because they would only be stamped on the front, I decided to go ahead and make them out of 20g as well. This way, they would match the other pendants more closely and wouldn't look thinner or cheaper by comparison. A subtle difference, but for me this is one of the perks of buying handmade items rather than buying them from a big store - the craftsman (or craftswoman) really cares for their creations and also for the people who allow them to create them, and a lot of thought goes into the creation of each item.
So here is a picture of the sterling silver sheet I used to make the pendants, I've already partially cut it down to size. It arrived covered in scratches, which is always a pain. You can see where I measured and marked off squares for three pendants, using a Sharpie marker. I then used a saw to cut them into separate pieces. After sawing, I used my metal files to file the sharp edges down. This was hard work, let me tell you. My arms were dead by the end of the day from all of the sawing and filing.
After this step was done, I had to decide where to place the words (these were such cute phrases, and I enjoyed the chance to make something other than the normal boring name pendants). To stamp the words, I individually place each letter stamp in the correct spot on the metal, then strike it with a hammer. This imprints the letter into the metal. I randomized each word, trying to make them look as nice as possible, but because these pendants were a custom piece, I also wanted to give a distinct handmade look to them. If they looked a little too straight, I moved one of the letters up a little. I didn't want them to look machine-made because to me this takes away some of the value. I feel that having the letters a bit out of place adds charm and personality to a handmade item. This is something that always worries me, because I never know if the customer feels the same way about this as I do. I can only hope that they read my store policies on this and hope that they trust me to create a nice item for them.
(Funny story on this topic -While I was in the kitchen making G.'s pendants, my hubby was in the adjoining room playing his electric guitar. He was playing some scorching solos, and every now and then he'd hit a note that was very loud and made me jump. One of these times was in the middle of making one of G.'s "meh" pendants. I jumped on the letter M, and accidentally moved the letter just a hair too high. I fretted about it for a sec, then realized that I really liked it and it would keep each pendant from looking exactly the same. I did, however, ask him to please lower the volume!)
Because two of G.'s pendants required a font that I didn't have, I decided to accept the request anyway and use the excuse to buy a new set of letter stamps. I bought the lowercase set of typewriter stamps that I've been wanting. Stamps are pretty pricey, at $90 plus shipping, so it's not often I can add a new set to my collection. The stamps cost a little more than the price of the two pendants, but they helped to considerably lower my out-of-pocket expense so I am quite happy.
After stamping each pendant, I punched holes in the top of each one for the jump rings to go through, then began sanding. Each one had to be sanded in one direction then the other, until all of the scratches were gone from the unfinished metal and they had a nice brushed finish. By the time I was finished with all six, my poor fingers were sanded to the bone. (If you ever need to buy a gift for a metalworker, get them some nice hand lotions or gift certificate for a manicure - our hands really take a beating!)
Next I put each one into my metal tumbler. I fill it with a special blend of metal pieces, and they polish the metal as it tumbles around. I didn't want to leave the pendants in the tumbler for too long, as I didn't want to ruin the brushed finish. But tumbling metal also hardens it, and because sterling silver is a very soft metal I wanted to add a bit of durability to G.'s pendants so that they could be worn daily without too much wear and tear. After tumbling, I sanded each pendant again to touch up the brushed appearance, then added a jump ring and chain to each one. All that was left after that was to clean off all the blood, sweat, & tears, package them (nice gift bags wrapped in lots of bubble wrap), and then bring them to the post office for mailing.
Wow, this turned out to be quite a book...I have more to write about (I have a new ring to share, my first gem setting!) but I will put that into a different post. I'd like to thank the G.'s again for choosing me to make their lovely pendants. I had fun making them, and hope that they love the finished result.