10.10.2009

Behind the Scenes: Making Fine Silver Head Pins with a Micro Torch

silver autumn leaves necklace hint jewelryAutumn, Beth Hemmila (Hint Jewelry):
peridot, carnelian, brown pearl, fine and sterling silver

I'm definitely a little nutty for wire-wrapping gems to necklaces at Hint Jewelry so it's no wonder that I get slightly obsessed with making my own fine silver head pins.


setup tools making silver headpinssetup for making silver head pins

Behind the Scenes at Hint Jewelry is back! I've cleared some space in my brain to demonstrate how to make fine silver head pins with a handy butane micro torch.

Tools & Materials
Butane Micro Torch
Wire Cutters
Jeweler's Bent Nose Pliers
Fine Silver Wire (22 - 26 gauge round)
3 x 3 inch Scrap Cardboard
Cup with Water

I'm a tool girl at heart, and when I find something that is meant for both art and whipping up a delicious dish in the kitchen, you'll see me dropping some cash. The purchase of my Micro Torch was definitely one of those aha moments. I bought my Roburn Butane Micro Torch at my local jewelry supplier Dava Bead & Trade in Portland, Oregon; however, this is the same kind of torch that gourmet chefs use for making Creme Brulee, Baked Alaska, and a host of other scrumptious delights. Though I've only used it to make head pins and for a silver wire fusing project, the package says it can be used for Do It Yourself soldering and welding during electrical and automotive repair. No, I won't be looking under my car's hood anytime soon, but you can see how this Butane Micro Torch is one incredibly multi-faceted tool.

My favorite wire cutters are made by Lindstrom Precision Tools. Honestly, I think they make the best jewelry tools, but I may have a bias because they were my first love in metalsmithing class. A couple years back I bought a set of Lindstrom Ex Series Ergonomic cutter, chain and round nose pliers from MonsterSlayer.com. I love ergonomic shape that fits smoothly into the curve of my hand and this cleverly designed bounce or spring mechanism that creates a strangely comforting feeling when working on something small. Lindstrom tools are sold all over the world and they provide a list of distributors on their Web site.

I also have a pair of funky little Japanese bent nose pliers with an orange handle. I can't remember the brand name, but they resemble the pliers made by Merry Brand. They are small and are a good tool for doing fine detail work while wire-wrapping gems. These Japanese pliers have a rounded grip and a spring in the back. I like to use the bent nose pliers when making head pins because they grip the wire in such a way that my arm and clothing stay safely away from the torch flame.

For wire-wrapping dangling gems I use 26 gauge fine silver wire to make head pins. I chose this size wire because it happens to be the gauge that fits most of my 3mm, 4mm, and 5mm gems. Sometimes I use 24 gauge or 22 gauge fine silver wire for bigger gems. I use fine silver wire to make my head pins instead of sterling because it balls up nicely when using the torch. Even though fine silver is more pliable, I work harden the head pin when I'm finished by running it through my fingers several times or lightly pounding it with a rawhide mallet.

Below is my video tutorial for making fine silver head pins and explains the basic process; however, if you are looking for something more in depth check out Cassie Donlen's Beading Daily lesson.

For exploring more techniques, check out my the series Behind the Scenes at Hint Jewelry.




10 comments:

  1. Marvelous, Beth! Nice photography.
    If you ever want to try something new for holding the wire, I've found that a hemostat is great because it locks around the silver, and you can get them with long necks and handles, to keep you away from the heating area!

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  2. i love making headpins too... the more i learn how to do myself, the more gratifying the work and finished product become... it was kind of you to share the 'how to' on this... and the recommendations on the tools... i am a tool girl too and have 2 torches now! really fun stuff... and so much to learn... i love the autumn necklace!

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  3. Thanks for sharing ;-}.
    I have exactly that piece on top in my treasury ;-}.

    Love your work !

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  4. you can use this torch for soldering too? it's hot enough? i'm dying to solder but i'm afraid of the big gas tank in the house.

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  5. thanks so much for sharing your techniques Beth. I especially like that you make your own headpins!

    Maybe you can do a tutorial on how you wrap up the wire on top to complete the dangle? I'd love to know how to do that as well.

    And I agree with Lynn -- such nice photography. You really do a nice job displaying your work :)

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  6. Glad you all found this useful :)

    Lunedreams, haven't actually broke this torch out for soldering but it does seem to promise it on the package so maybe some day...

    Barbara, glad you liked the technique and you've given me another idea for a future tutorial, thank you!

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  7. Thank you. I like your content. Very nice

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  8. Great Demo video- I post links to tutorials on my blog at http://divine3designs.blogspot.com
    Would you mind if I posted a link to your tutorials?

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  9. Great tutorial! I've got the same torch, and you can definitely solder with it and also anneal smaller pieces of metal.

    I make headpins out of sterling, and you're so right, it's tricky to get them to ball up into a nice round ball, they love going off to one side. Have to try using fine silver, it looks like you don't need to pickle afterwards, either, which would be a plus.

    Heather
    htttp://www.DalkullanJewelry.blogspot.com

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  10. Divine3Designs I would love it if you shared this link with your blog readers! Thanks for seeing it as noteworthy :)

    Dalkullan Jewelry so good to know this torch really does solder and anneal! Thanks for letting my readers know the real scoop. Fine silver does work so much better and no need to pickle :)

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