Techniques and Materials

Wire work

Each piece of wire work is one of kind. I start with the largest gauge round wires, hammer each one then twist these into the basic shape of the frame. I fuse all of these, not using any solder to connect them. Instead, I heat the piece to just before the point of becoming a puddle. The places where the wires touch then become one piece of metal.

I file and sand to remove all the tool marks made by the pliers while twisting them up.

Next, I add the smaller gauge wires. It’s hard to describe how I pick where they go – it’s simply a matter of having wrapped smaller wires around larger wires in a decorative manner a thousand times and now I know when they look right. I have to be very careful soldering these smaller wires, it’s easy to melt one of the little guys before the thicker one gets up to temperature.

Then I add the little silver balls. Each of these is made by taking a very thin silver wire and heating it with a torch until it melts then surface tension pulls it into a perfect sphere. Making little silver balls is something I do on mornings when I don’t feel like working. I sort them in diamond sieves and keep three little cups (small, medium, and large) of them on my bench. I line them up while I heat the piece, very carefully graduating them.

Here it has been tarnished completely black. I use Liver of Sulphur to darken the piece – it tarnishes the piece completely black – then I clean off the high points. This brings out all the detail.

This is my saw.

I’m not sure how many hundreds of hours of sawing this saw has seen, but you can see I have worn the chrome and paint off the handle.

Every one of these is hand drawn with pencil and paper.

The drawing part is very much like the wire twisting part. I’ve drawn so many twirly lines and made sure to note when they didn’t quite look right that they just happen. The visual balance has been wired into me.

If they are symmetrical designs I scan them into the computer, mirror them there then print them on sticker paper. I stick these designs onto the sheet of metal. Each place I am going to saw a line I have to drill a little hole to thread the saw through like this:

Then I saw right through the paper, tracing the designs. I am much smoother with the saw than I am with a pencil, so the designs get cleaned up and refined in this part.

I like to think this is the point where I become a part of the work.

Carving

I use very hard, ridged carving wax which allows for a lot of detail. I have a slightly softer wax which I use to draw the rough design on with a hot wire pen.

I’ll  place the stones by melting them right into the wax at this point. These get removed before casting.

Then I use a bunch of different little sharp tools to carve with; sometimes old dental picks, sometimes Completely Professional Jeweler Tools.

All different shapes and sizes.

I clean this wax up to the point of being finished. Exactly what I make here will come out in the metal cast of it.

This wax ring is encased in plaster, melted out, then molten metal is injected into the void left in the plaster. It’s a one time shot as the wax ring is destroyed in this process – so that makes for some excitement.

The piece then comes back to me in need of filing and sanding. I then set the stones and give a final finish. 

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