Friday, June 24, 2011

Tutorial for making Cufflink fittings.

Cufflinks. Copper, reclaimed tins, oxidised.

Over the years I've used many forms of cufflink backs and never really been entirely happy with any of them. Pre-bought manufactured findings are nearly always in silver or gold and just don't suit my work with their clean, shiny finish and high-end look...... and are quite pricey. I've made solid arched fittings that have no movement (needs to be made from quite thick sheet) and solid arched fittings with tiny wire rivets (too much work when I'm trying to keep my work affordable and costs down). I've used short lengths of either my own hand-made chain or bought chain, but these always seem a bit...well, too pretty for my designs and awkward to solder on to the cufflinks. So I trawled through my books looking for another option and this is the one I chose, a "Swivel Back"...but with a few alterations. You could make yours highly polished or even stamp decoration onto the bars, in fact these backs would look great whatever your own style of jewellery is. Here is how I made mine;

First I straightened some 1.7mm wire (this could be between 1.5 and 2mm). I straightened it by rolling it under my mallet on a steel block, back and forth.

Next, I cut about 6cm of the wire and folded it in half by hand, before gently squeezing it together with parallel  pliers, keeping an open loop at the folded end. Repeat for the second cufflink.

I soldered the lengths together with hard solder, using a bit of binding wire to keep them nicely shut. Don't forget to remove the binding wire before you pickle...otherwise you'll end up with a copper-plating solution instead of an oxide-removing bath. These will be the Stems of the cufflinks.

Now for the Stops (the non-decorative element of the cufflink which sits on the inside of the wrist, though of course you could have 2 decorative elements for each cufflink). Sometimes my stop is just round wire of between 3 and 4mm, sometimes I make it square. Here I made some square wire by rolling through the grooves of my rolling mill and gradually reducing the gap with each roll-through. Pre-rolling mill days, I would have forged square wire with a creasing hammer then planished flat, or used plenty of oil, sweat and a square-hole draw-plate. When rolling down wire into a square profile, you have to obviously start off with a thickness of wire that's bigger than you want, to allow for the shaping.

I sawed the length of the stems down to an appropriate length and the same with the stops, using one of my stock of manufactured findings as a guide...15mm for the length of the stem and 18/19mm for the length of the Stop.

I filed the ends of the Stems flat and smooth.

I filed the ends of the Stops smooth and flush, rounding off the edges and corners with my favorite emery-nail board to give them a good finish.

I soldered the Stem onto the Stop with hard solder. Notice that I have lifted up the stem by propping it on two overlapping saw blades, which serves to raise the Stem up into the centre of the Stop.

Here are the finished swivel backs, ready to go on to their decorative counterparts. I laid them on my steel block so the Stems were flat on the surface (with the Stops over the edge out of the way), then used my planishing hammer to flatten off the stems from round to square, whilst leaving the loop still with rounded profile. This gives a nice 'sturdy' look and complements the square profile of the Stop,  also strengthening the Stem further. Pickled and brass brushed.

The last thing to do is attach the swivel backs to the decorative counterparts by threading them on to loops soldered onto the decorative backs, which are still unfinished. Notice the single hole in the backs which I have drilled to be the same diameter as the loop wire. The loop wire is 1.5mm and the loops, or rather 'n's have one leg slightly longer than the other, so that the longer leg can sit in the drilled hole and make soldering them onto the backs much easier....I don't even have to hold them in place with tweezers. I placed them on a wire mesh and soldered the loops on with hard solder by directing my flame on the other side, with just a quick dart of heat to the front at the point of liquidus (when the solder flashes into it's melted flowing form), thus avoiding annealing the swivel elements. If due to the design I couldn't drill a hole through the piece, then I would instead have used a cotter pin to hold the loops upright.

Quick and easy. If the cufflinks had consisted of two decorative elements instead of one and a Stop, then I would use the same concept, but at both ends having the Stem made up with a loop at both ends, so that it looks a bit like a cartoon of a dog bone.


PeculiarForest said...

Great tutorial, thanks for sharing :)

Boot ~C said...

Thanks for this! Can I ask what kind of solder you are using on the copper? I'm not having lots of luck in my metalsmithing class w/ the silver solder(ok, part of the problem is my newbie skill set, but I would like a little less silver on my copper)

Fluxplay Jewellery. said...

Hi, good question.
I use silver solder on copper. If you are seeing silver solder on your copper, it's because you are either using too much, you're note directing your flame quite right or your joins aren't clean enough. A cleanly made, flush join will suck in the minimal ammount of solder required, through capillary action right into the join where it is not seen...remember that you cannot 'fill' spaces, gaps and big open joins. Surfaces must make perfect contact. In fact, silver soldering on copper is excellent training for becoming good at silver soldering on silver, because you see the mistakes very clearly. That's enough waffle from me, hope it helps.

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