Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ask Auntie EM - Bezel setting tools

Have you heard about the new weekly blog post called "Ask Auntie EM"? Ann Hartley of Hartleystudio and I, Sue Szabo of lsueszabo , will be answering YOUR questions in a weekly post we are calling "Ask Auntie EM". EtsyMetal has over 100 members with vast amounts of knowledge and far reaching interests and capabilities. We figured if we couldn't answer your questions...someone on the team could! "What can we ask?" Great question! Ask anything! Metalsmithing, enameling, raising, stone setting, cooking, childcare, travel...you got a question, we probably have an answer! Email your questions to askauntie@etsymetal.com and YOUR question might get answered next week!

Here's this week's question from Dale, who posted the question on our comments section-

"I've been experimenting with making gem-set bezels, but have been unable to find a satisfactory tool for folding the bezel edge over the stone. There seem to be a variety of tools on the market. Do you have a bezel pusher that you particularly like?"

This is a great question, and YES, i do have a favorite tool. It may be a bit unconventional but I really like a plain wooden dowel. First I use it vertically all around the side of the bezel to get it as close to the vertical edge of the stone as possible. Then I gently start to fold it over- of course, the best way is to do opposing sides first- North, then South, then East, then West. Another way of looking at it is the clock face- bend over the bezel at 12, then 6, then 3, then 9. Then proceed to fold over the rest. I like the wooden dowel because, it doesn't scratch the surface of the stone or the metal and it will take alot of downward force without breaking. Of course, there are times when i need a bit more "oomph" and I just can't get that stubborn bezel edge down- for example, in a tough corner. Then I get out my standard steel bezel rocker and apply downward pressure while rolling the rocker on the bezel surface.

Some people like to use the standard steel bezel rocker to initially bend over the bezel but I don't. If you slip with it, often you've scratched your stone or enamel unless you have protected the surface. I also think it can leave crimps and dents in the bezel easily- it's just too aggressive for my taste. Crimps and dents and scratches will almost never happen with a wooden dowel. I have them in different sizes to use with different size pieces.

My favorite well-used wooden dowels and a bone folder (left)

There are other tools similar in concept to the wooden dowels I use. Some like to use a standard bone folder that is available at craft stores like Michael's. These also work well, are very inexpensive, and will not scratch your stone.

After the bezel is down firmly, I finish it by covering the stone with blue painter's tape (it comes off easily without leaving residue on your stone) and then burnishing the bezel down completely with a standard steel burnisher to remove any gap and tighten it up. Some people like agate burnishers (available from Rio) as they don't scratch your stones. I tape mine off anyways for the final finishing so I use the standard steel ones which I think work better.

A standard steel bezel rocker (left) and burnisher (right)

Once the bezel has been nicely burnished down, I then sand the bezel and do all the final finishing with the tape on the stone to protect it. You should end up with a pretty perfect looking bezel.

I am only addressing HAND pushed bezels and not hammer set ones, we'll save those for another day....

Thanks for your question Dale. Anyone have something they'd like to ask Auntie EM? Email us at askauntie@etsymetal.com!

Til next week, happy metalsmithing!



Dale said...

Thank you soooo much for your answer here! It's just what i needed to know to keep my trying new ideas until i find something that works for me. After the heartbreak of scratching up my beautiful carved turquoise cab last time, a wooden dowel sounds just what i need :)

Dale said...

another question... what gauge of metal do you usually use for your bezel edges?

Beth Cyr said...

ooh I love the wooden dowel tip! I've never heard that - sounds wonderful!

Ann Hartley said...

Hi Dale!! I learned something this week too!! Great post Sue! We have discussed your thickness question and we agree that 26-28g is perfect for handsetting and fine silver is softer than sterling. If you have the hand strength you can go up to 24g but after that you will need chasing tools and a hammer or a hammer handpiece. Happy setting!! See you next week!

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if any Etsy Metal artists ever take on apprentices? I think it would be cool/interesting if a part of the website or blog was dedicated to people in Etsy Metal who wouldn't mind taking on an apprentice (paid/unpaid whichever). Or if any of them teach classes, I would be interested in that as well.

Shirlee said...

Great post. It's always nice to see how others approach things.

I'd like to suggest sweat soldering for one of your next topics ... i have a lot of practice at this yet I still find it difficult.

Suzanne said...

I never thought of initially using wood. Thank you for this post, you've given me plenty to think about!

Dale said...

sorry, a further detail on the gauge of metal question. I know you were talking about sterling or fine silver... what gauge would you use if it was copper?

Lawrence Halter said...

Those metal tools seem very handy. It also looks nice with its wooden handle. I'm sure dealing with heavy duty work can be done more smoothly with the help of those tools.

Anonymous said...

My teacher, Dawn Nakanishi, at Cabrillo College taught us to use a square handled toothbrush to set bezels. Best idea ever! The plastic is less likely to slip than metal or rounded tools, and it won't hurt the piece if it slips. Works like a charm!

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