Hi and welcome to my first instructable! In this lesson, I'm going to teach you how to make a bangle bracelet using simple soldering techniques.
The bangle I made in this lesson is made from 14k gold filled wire and I added a Tahitian pearl. Feel free to swap out the Tahitian pearl for another type of pearl, shell, bead or pretty much anything you'd like! This just shows the basic steps on how to make a bangle. You can use these same steps and techniques to make a bangle from sterling silver, copper, or what ever metal you prefer. So lets get started!
Heres what you'll need:
- 12 gauge wire
- Pearl (or what ever item you'd like to put on your bangle)
- Wire cutters
- Solder wire
- Torch (I use an acetylene torch, but a little hand held creme brûlée torch will work just fine for this project)
- Soldering block (I use a solderite block from Rio Grande)
- Flux (and a little paint brush to apply the flux)
- Soldering pick
-Pickle (and a pickle pot or small croc pot for it)
- A set of hammers
- Bracelet mandrel
- Steel bench block
- Polishing wheel, tumbler or polishing cloths
Throughout this lesson, you'll notice I refer to Rio Grande quite a bit. Rio grande is where I purchase pretty much all of my tools and materials from since they have the best prices and amazing selection. All the tools and metals shown in this instructable can be purchased from www.riogrande.com.
Step 1: Measuring Your Bangle Size
Form your hand like you are about to slide a bangle over it. Using a measuring tape, wrap the tape around the widest part of your hand (around your knuckles). However many inches that is will be your bangle size (you can see in the picture that I am a size 8, or 8").
Step 2: Cutting Your Wire
Now that you know how many inches of wire you'll need to make your bangle, measure and cut your 12 gauge wire. When cutting the ends of your wire, remember to use the flush side of the cutters so you have a nice straight edge.
Next, file the ends flat. In the photo, I am using a number 2 Glardon file from Rio Grande. If you're just starting out and limited on tools, you can swap this file for a regular nail file! Just be sure to make both ends as flat and straight as possible. You'll need them to match up well in order to have a good solder joint.
Step 3: Setting Up Your Solder Joint
Using my bracelet mandrel and my rawhide hammer (rawhide or rubber hammers are great because they do not leave any marks in your metal) I will form the basic shape of my bangle. Don't worry, it doesn't need to be perfectly round. We're just setting up the wire to create a good solder joint.
Next, slide your pearl or other object onto the wire. Then use your hands to make the two ends of the wire meet. Remember when I said it was important to make sure the ends are flat? Thats where this comes into play. As you'll see in the second picture above, the ends meet up nicely and there is no gap. I like to hold the bangle up to see if there's any light shining through. If there isn't, then you have a good joint that's ready to solder!
Step 4: Prepping Your Bangle for Soldering
I realize not many people do the two steps I will mention next, but I want to make sure that my metal is protected from fire scale and that my pearl is protected from the heat of the torch.
Coat your pearl (or what ever object is on the bangle) with a layer of Rio Chil Gel. It's a water based gel that protects pieces from heat. Once the soldering is done, you just rinse the pearl off with soap and water.
In the third and fourth picture, you can see that I have a white chalky substance on my wire where the joint is. This is just a simple mixture of boric acid and rubbing alcohol. I mix these two items in a little tupperware until I have a texture that is almost like a very watery tooth paste. Next, dip your bangle joint in the mixture. Taking the time to do this step will really help to protect your metal from discoloration or fire scale. It also makes clean up and polishing a breeze!
Next, I place my bangle on my soldering board (with the pearl hanging off the edge, like in the third and fourth picture). I like to place my charcoal block in the center of the bangle for two reasons. One, it helps to direct the heat to my joint. Second, it helps to protect the pearl from the direct flame.
Since I am using 14k gold filled wire, I will use 10k gold easy solder. In the last picture, you can see I snipped off a small amount that will be used to solder the joint. If you're soldering any other type of metal, use the appropriate solder for that metal. For example, sterling silver will use silver solder etc. I like to use 'easy' solder since it melts at a lower temperature than medium or hard solders.
Step 5: Time to Solder!
Use a paint brush to apply some flux to your joint. Flux is used to clean your joint so you can easily get the solder to flow.
Now it's time to fire up your torch! I use a medium flame (too small of a flame won't let the solder flow, and too high of a flame can melt your wire) and focus my heat on the solder joint. Once I've heated the joint and the flux has stopped bubbling, I will use my soldering pick to add my solder to the joint.
Gently rock your flame back and forth over the wire, right over the joint, until the solder flows.
Once you see that the solder has flowed, turn off your torch and move your charcoal block. Be careful! The charcoal will be warm and the bangle will be hot! Use a pair of tongs to grab the bangle and quench it (drop the entire bangle in a cup of water). Once it's quenched, the bangle is instantly cool and ready to handle.
Step 6: Cleaning Your Bangle
Now that your bangle is soldered, it's time to remove all that yucky residue that is left behind from the flux. This is where pickle comes in.
Don't let the name fool you. Pickle is an acid that can be harmful if used improperly. Be sure to wear your eye protection in case of any splashes.
The croc pot is filled with water and a few ounces of pickle from Rio Grande (follow the proportions of water to pickle that is listed on your specific container of pickle). I keep the croc pot on low heat.
You only want to put your bangle in the croc pot. Never place your pearls/shells etc. in the pickle or it will damage them. I like to use chop sticks to hold the pearl above the water/pickle mixture. Let the bangle soak for a few minutes, then pull it out and rinse in water.
(If you're soldering a bangle with nothing on it, you can drop the entire bangle in the pickle pot. Be sure to use only copper tongs to pick up your bangle. Never use your hands or tongs made from metals like steel or nickel.)
Side note but very important: my croc pot is dedicated to being a pickle pot. Do NOT use a croc pot that will later be used for cooking food.
Step 7: Shaping and Texturing Your Bangle
You're almost finished! Now it's time to make your bangle nice and round, then give it some texture.
Slide your bangle on the mandrel and use your rawhide hammer to round out the bangle. Once the bangle is round in shape, you can apply your texture.
There are many different types of textures you can make depending on the hammers you have. I recommend ordering a hammer assortment from Rio Grande so you can experiment with all the different textures you can make. Here I am using a riveting hammer to create a clean texture.
Now that I have textured my bangle, I want to make sure it's nice and flat. Set your bangle on a steel bench block. If it doesn't lay flat on the block, use your rawhide hammer to flatten out the bangle.
Step 8: Polishing Your Bangle
Lastly, we're going to polish our bangle. I like to use my polishing wheel along with some polishing compound shown in the first picture (I like to use Fabulustre or Zam for my polishing compounds). If you do not have a polishing wheel, a tumbler with some steel shot, soap and water is another great option (second picture). If you don't have either of the above, you can do a good ol' hand polish with a good quality polishing cloth (I like the Sunshine cloths from Rio Grande).
Step 9: Show Off Your New Bangle ;)
Congrats, you're all finished! Now it's time to wear and show off your new creation.
If you're just starting out in the jewelry biz, it can be a little daunting. When I first started, all I could think about was "it's so expensive to make jewelry!". But if you purchase a few high quality tools, they'll last for years and you'll be able to create beautiful jewelry for a very long time.
Thanks for reading my first instructable, and let me know if you have any questions by commenting below!