This instructable was made to help beginners with making a simple sterling silver band. Silver stacking rings are usually made from thin gauge wire such as 14 and 16 gauge wire. One drawback with making your own bands is that it requires a significant investment in tools. In the case of jewelry tools, you get what you pay for, so don't go for cheap knock-offs. Although you will pay less money, you will pay more in time and frustration.
Several things to keep in mind while you are making these rings:
- Silver is a relatively soft metal. In forming this metal, we use a combination of hard and soft tools and surfaces. Just remember if you use two hard surfaces it will result in denting and marring of the surface that will result in more work down the road to remove them.
- Annealing: Metals get stiffer as you work on them. This is known as work-hardening. Annealing with heat will make the metal softer and easier to bend.
- Annealing, soldering and the associated chemicals and flames are dangerous. Please use proper safety precautions.
Step 1: Step 1: Materials and Tools
- Sterling Silver Wire in 14 Gauge (1.6mm) or 16 Gauge (1.3mm) . Sterling Silver currently costs about $20 per ounce in wire form. 1 ounce of 14 Gauge wire is about 4.7 ft long. 1 ounce of 16 gauge wire is about 7.5 ft long. I get my jewelry silver locally from Otto Frei (Oakland, CA)
- For Soldering:
- Silver Sheet Solder (Medium)
- Batterns Self-Pickling Flux
- Firecoat solution: Boric acid (100% with no dyes, can use ant killer labelled as such) and Denatured alcohol (50/50 mix) Firecoat serves to minimize the amount of oxidation which occurs during the heating process
- Pickle: I use Ottotech Pickle in a mini crock pot (For cleaning and removing surface oxidation from the torch)
- Pickle Neutralizing Solution: Baking Soda mixed in water.
- Bench pin: I use a GRS bench pin that is secured to the end of my work bench. I recommend the version where you need to mount a plate on the desk. This makes installing and removing the bench pin much easier than using a clamp. I cut a V-notch into the front end. This gives you space to support your piece while filing or sawing through.
- Ruler (mm)
- Jeweler saw frame 3" with 3/0 saw blades
- Ring Mandrel
- Nylon-faced Deadblow Mallet
- Jeweler Files
- Jeweler Pliers: Needle-Nosed
- Charcoal Block (For soldering)
- Solderite (Insulation for Charcoal Block)
- Soldering Torch (Propane and Oxygen)
- Small Brush: For applying flux to the solder joint
- Solder Snips: For cutting small pieces of solder
- Tweezers: For picking up hot items for quenching
- Copper Tweezers for use in the pickle. Normal tweezers will corrode if used in the pickle.
- Soldering Pick: For placing solder on solder joints
- Polishing Wheel
Step 2: Cutting and Annealing
Start by figuring out the size of ring you would like to make. Your ring size is usually within a size of your shoe size. If you don't have a ring gauge, you can use the ring mandrel to obtain the size of a ring that fits your finger. These rings can be easily enlarged about a half size on the ring mandrels, but it is more difficult to shrink them. For these rings, I would start a little smaller, knowing that a few light blows of the hammer can increase the size slightly. Once you know your size, refer to the Ring Length Table to obtain the length.
- File the first end square.
- Mark the desired length with a Sharpie and cut with a saw.
- File the newly cut end square. Double-check the length. If too long, file down to the desired length.
- Anneal the piece
- With a small brush or Q-tip coat the outside with a thin layer of fire coat.
- Place on charcoal block.
- Anneal with a reducing flame. I use a propane and oxygen mix. The flame should be adjusted to be blue with a minimal amount of yellow.) The first torch picture shows the flame with only propane. The second torch picture shows the flame with the appropriate amount of oxygen added. Move the flame back and forth over the piece, do not concentrate the flame in one spot. Heat until the piece starts to barely glow red. If you apply too much heat or hold the flame in one place for too long, you may melt the piece instead of annealing it.
- Quench and pickle the piece. The time will vary but it should be in the pickle until most of the oxidation is removed.
- Neutralize in Baking Soda/Water mixture.
Step 3: Forming
Now that the wire is annealed it will be easier to form into shape.
- Using a ring mandrel, place the wire at a diameter slightly smaller than your ring size. With the wire sticking slightly beyond the point of contact, strike down on the end with a nylon-faced dead blow mallet. The wire will start to bend. Advance the wire 1 mm or 2 and continue striking the wire until it is almost curved in half. Do the same to the other side. You should end up with an almost oval piece.
- Using the deadblow mallet, hammer the ends down to start to close the oval. The oval shape will make the soldering easier. Flatten the ring by placing it on a hard flat surface and tapping it with the full face of the dead blow mallet. Bring the ends together with needle-nosed pliers or your fingers. It is very important that the ends are aligned and flush. You will get a much nicer solder seam if you put a little extra effort into this. If you hold the seam up to light, you should not see any light shine through. If the two ends are not flush, pull the ends apart slightly and file the high edges. When you are done, you should be barely able to tell that the seam is there.
Step 4: Soldering
Once your piece is formed, you are ready to solder the piece:
- Apply firecoat to the ring.
- Place the coated ring on the charcoal block with the seam facing you.
- Prepare a piece of solder. I use solder snips to cut a 1 x 1mm square from the main piece. I will cut a few extra in case one is not enough. Place on the charcoal block.
- Apply flux to the seam and the solder.
- Heat the ring evenly with a reducing blue flame. When you apply heat to the solder, it will melt and form into a ball. These can be picked up and transferred to the seam with a solder pick. Place the solder ball on top of the seam. Continue evenly heating the ring. Once the ring is hot enough, the solder will melt into the seam. Apply more as necessary.
- Quench, pickle and neutralize as described previously.
- Examine the seam joint. If there are any high spots from the solder, you can lightly file or sand them down. Your ring at this point should be smooth, but misshapen.
Step 5: Final Forming and Polishing
Are are almost there!
- Place the ring back onto the ring mandrel. With the dead blow mallet, lightly tap down the ring on the high spots. Work your way around the ring. Then start tapping in and slightly downward. This will start to force the ring into a circular shape. Since the mandrel is tapered, you should flip the ring every so often. By the time you tap the ring down to your desired size, it should be perfectly round
- Polish the ring on a buffing wheel and you are done!
- Repeat the process to make as many stacking rings as you desire.