Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A while back while I was out on a garage sale run , I found a toy rock tumbler -the kind that you can buy at Michaels Craft Stores - for only $3.00.

It didn't look too bad. According to the seller, the tumbler was never used, but the little rocks and the grit were missing. But, all in all, not a bad deal. I thought my 10 year old would like to try it or maybe I could use it for something.

Well a couple years passed and the tumbler collected dust in the front closet.

I had always heard that tumblers are great for silver jewelry. They supposedly shine silver up and harden it. Since I make a lot of silver jewelry, it sounded like it might be worth a shot.!

Next step: find out what I need to know about tumbling silver jewelry.

Google, of course comes in handy. I found this site that tells you just about everything you need to know about tumbling silver: http://urbanmaille.com/articles.asp?id=148 Armed with the information, I am ready to begin.

First. I already have a tumbler. (So what if it's plastic! No snickering!) It looks simple enough and seems to work all right without anything in it..

Next, I need to get some steel shot - probably about a pound worth. After checking some sites, I realize that I will be paying more for my steel shot to FILL the tumbler, than I PAID for the tumbler itself. Plus there's a shipping fee for mailing a whole pound of stainless steel shot across state borders. This is getting expensive.

So, $24 later I have my steel shot:

I guess it must be dirty because the directions say that I'm supposed wash it before I use it with jewelry.

??? So what should you use to wash steel shot with???

Well, I have a colandar. I checked the holes and decided that the shot PROBABLY wouldn't go through them. But...what a minute... using a colandar would mean I would have to put it and my steel shot in my sink and run water over them. Not a good idea. I don't want any steel shot going down my sink and into my garbage disposal! Bad idea!

What else? Let's see, I have some stainless steel mixing bowls. I can fill one up with soapy water, put the steel shot in it and swish it around. The shot could be washed on my countertop and not on the sink.

OK! Let's go!

So I got my bowl, put some warm water in it, and placed it around five feet away from my sink. Opened up my steel shot and started pouring it carefully in the water. Well, those steel shot are pretty heavy, and they seemed to gather some speed while I was pouring them in. All of a sudden -SWOOSH!

Do you know what happens when steel shot hit a steel mixing bowl. They start bouncing. About 5 of them bounce out of the bowl, and wouldn't you know those suckers bounced right across the counter top straight for my sink, with me scrambling after them and trying to catch them before they reached it.

I managed to catch two. You KNOW where the others went.

Yes, there're down there.
No, I can't get them out.
Yes, I have to tell my husband something.

The plumber was called the next day. I was lucky. The housecall only cost $120 because we didn't need a new garbage disposal. That would have been at least another $150 more.

In the end:

Rock Tumbler: $3
Steel Shot for said tumbler: $24
Plumbing bill for steel shot in disposal: $120
Look on my husband's face when the plumber handed him what was stuck in the disposal: priceless.

Friday, November 9, 2007

I want to learn to solder so badly and also be able to make silver headpins with little balls on them. I have asked for a propane torch for Xmas but my darling husband tells me that no way he could conscience giving me one, due to my propensity toward absentmindedness.

I've read that you can use a gas stove. By just holding the wire in the flame (with TONGS of course), the end of the wire should ball up. Then you can pop it in a glass of water to cool down.

Well, unfortunately, I don't have a gas stove. I have an electric range. Would that work? No, I found that the damn wires wouldn't ball up on my electric range.

Oh yes. Desperate times drive us to desperate measures.

This afternoon I just HAD to have some headpins. No torch. No gas stove. (Oh, and I also tried to use matches. but that just didn't work. The only thing that got me was some blackened wire.)

But suddenly I realized, WE HAVE A GAS GRILL. Got my silver wire, matches, metal tongs, a glass of water, and perseverence. The gas grill worked great. Wow, those silver wires heat up and ball up quickly. Now I have head pins but NO HAIR on my fingers.


Oh, it was GLORIOUS.

Monday, November 5, 2007

A while back I thought I would try my hand with seed beads. My husband was complaining that I was making so many pieces of jewelry and not selling anything. So I figured that seed beads are pretty cheap, and it usually takes quite a while to make a piece. So this would keep me busy while keeping the quantity of my output down.

I found a beautiful bracelet in one of those Beading magazines and thought I would give it a try.

Of course I never did this before so I needed SUPPLIES. Needles, threads, and, most importantly, BEADS. Shiny, shiny, little seed beads.

I found the most amazing beadshop just a few miles from my house (of course, I did) that has every seed bead imaginable. Of course I didn't want the least expensive beads. Oh no. Those Japanese Raku beads called to me. I think there're like about $5 for a little container.

This was starting to add up.

Finally I got to work. I never knew working with seed beads is such a pain. It takes FOREVER. Just getting the stiches right, trying to figure out the instructions, and picking up tiny little beads that spill all over your carpet. I have a new appreciation for people who work with these types of projects.

Oh, let's say about ...oh... 40 hours of beading later, my bracelet was finished. Except for the clasp. It took me about 2 weeks to find a button that I liked to finish off the bracelet. (Of course, I found a lot of other buttons that I liked. So I had to buy them too. Just in case. You know, for future projects.)

Another 4 hours and I got the clasp finished. FINALLY.

This is my first AND LAST beaded bracelet:

While it wasn't THAT expensive for supplies, I could never recoup the cost for time I spent making this thing. If I decide to sell it, I'll probably end up making less than $1.00 per hour of time spent on it.

I think I will stick with either stringing larger beads or, preferably, working with sterling silver. Especially the kind of projects where I can hammer it - SOO therapeutic. Can't do that with seed beads.