Let's jump right in to this week's question- it's a good one.
I am a high school art teacher and I teach a jewelry/metals class. I’m definitely no expert in metals but I’ve been teaching the basics for many years. The one thing I haven’t really figured out is at what point in the process to add a hammered texture to the metal? Before soldering or after soldering? If adding it after soldering you run the risk of tapping an area you don’t want to hit, and if you do it before soldering then the contact area to be soldered is no longer a snug fit. Any helpful tips would be great!
Thanks so much!
Well Laura, as with most things in life, it DEPENDS. There is no absolute right and wrong to this question, each situation requires thinking through the fabricating process and doing what makes the most sense. I would say as a general rule, I apply texture before fabricating. But, of course, rules are meant to be broken and sometimes should be. Let's talk about some specific examples and discuss how we might solve the texture problem.
For textured ring shanks you can do it either way but i prefer to put the texture on first and then cut the ring blank out. This prevent tapping an area you don't want to hit or distorting your fit which may happen if you texture it afterwards. If the texture is just in a line, or a small area and not the whole band, then i might texture it afterwards, placing the band on a steel ring mandrel and tapping it on that to prevent the ring shank from going "out of round".
Of course, if you texture first and then fabricate you must consider your solder seams. Wherever you place the solder, that spot will require filing and sanding and that runs the risk of removing your texture. I try to place the solder seam in the least noticeable spot so that if there is a loss of texture, it is hidden as best as possible.
When soldering on a textured surface, I try to place my solder on the non-textured side. Say in our ring shank example, I would solder from the INSIDE of the band and draw the solder to the outside texture. At least then the remaining solder blobs will be on the smooth inside where they are easy to clean up and not on the outside where I will lose the texture in the clean up process. You may still have to do a bit of cleaning on the outside too, but you will be dealing with a relatively clean line of solder and not blobs which will require more aggressive filing. Make sense? I do this as well with brooches, necklaces etc.
If I cannot fabricate the piece by putting on the texture first, then I will do it afterwards with the realization that yes, I will have to be careful and tap on steel that supports the piece in the best way so as not to distort it. Another trick, if you have access to this, is to etch the texture in after fabricating and this works beautifully. Of course, not all pieces will be amenable to this process and you may need to use asphaltum or another stop-etch measure to prevent areas from being etched if the piece also has non-textured areas.
You certainly could also cut a ring blank, texture it and then true it up again afterwards so you get a proper fit if anything gets distorted if you prefer that method.
I hope this helps you Laura. There are many different ways to deal with this particular issue, with no one way being correct for all pieces.
Until next week, happy metalsmithing, and keep those good questions coming!