Monday, November 14, 2011

Ask Auntie EM

By now we hope you have heard about the new weekly blog post called "Ask Auntie EM". Ann Hartley of Hartleystudio and, 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, got a question, we probably have an answer! Email your questions to and YOUR question might get answered next week!

This week's question came from LauraAHHH-

I have two questions for a future post. I'm not sure if the first will count since it's something I've run into with jewelry making but not having to do with metal! Anyways, I was wondering if you could possibly do a post on drilling. My specific problem, is I want to drill holes in some antler tips, but the surface is smooth, and the tips are round, so the drill bit skips. I'm not sure what is best to use to create a pilot hole. I'm also not sure if my Dremel Stylus is good to use (since it has variable speeds and I don't own a flex shaft) or if I should actually look for a hand drill. I've also wondered about drilling glass and porcelain.

My second question, is what can you use to seal acrylic paint on metal? Is a clear acrylic seal my only option?


Well LauraAHHH-

We said ask us anything........ so here goes. Let's tackle the sealer question first. There are several options here to seal paint or patinas on metals. You can use spray-on clear acrylic sealers either in a matte or a shiny finish. Krylon makes a good one. The trick to using these is VERY light coats but several of them. If I am sealing paint or prismacolor, I use 5 coats of light Krylon matte sealer. If you do very light coats, it will not be drippy and should not even be visible. Another sealer I like alot is Renaissance Wax (Restoration Hardware has it). This is a museum-quality petroleum based wax that is very nice and durable. I take a bit on a soft cloth and coat the piece. After about 20 mins. of drying time, I buff it off. I usually do at least 3 coats. You can also do this with Johnson's paste wax or even warmed beeswax although I personally like Ren Wax better. I have pieces I sealed with it over 4 yrs ago that are still perfect and I seal all my forged steel pieces this way. Whatever wax sealer you use, you will periodically need to re-apply it as it will wear off over time. If your pieces will get alot of friction from wear, I would err on the side of over-sealing it. If the pieces will not be worn or if friction is minimal (like earrings for example), then a couple coats of sealer will do.

Now, as for the drilling-

I have done some drilling on bones, ivory, porcelain and other alternative materials. I have not done as much as Victoria Takahashi from Experimental who uses these alternative materials often. I decided to ask her for any tips. As it turns out, we both do the exact same thing so I am confident in giving you these tips. For smooth materials such as antler or bone, we take a sharp pointy steel instrument (I use a scribe) and twist a divot in by hand. This will function as if we used a center punch to keep the drill bit from skipping when starting to drill the hole. From there, just drill as usual. Here is an example of my snake bone earrings that I did just this way-

I drill pebbles, glass, and porcelain with diamond drill bits (not the standard steel ones) and UNDER WATER. This is critical as it will help the piece not to overheat and it will also wash the debris out of the hole while you are drilling it. The trick to this is to go slow and back the bit out of the hole frequently to allow the debris to clear. A flex shaft is so important for this because it allows for variable drill speed as well as superb control. LauraAHHH, I would use your dremel over a hand drill for this if those are my only 2 options. I would strongly recommend you purchasing a flex shaft if you plan to do any significant work along these lines.

As with all drilling, don't forget to wear a dust mask and eye protection.

Victoria of Experimental has graciously provided this link to a tutorial she did with Ashley Akers on drilling beach pebbles. Enjoy!

Until next week, happy metalsmithing!



Juju By Sarah said...

On the underwater part...I use a small ashtray with a slice of a wooden paint stir/stick on the bottom. I put a little of water in that and lay my piece on the wood. The water just goes over the edge of the piece being drilled. Diamond bits are a must.

tkmetalarts said...

Great questions and I learned something new.

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