Introduction: Silver Cuttlefish Cast W/ Garnet Pendant
This piece is about an intermediate in silver. It's mainly about the casting of the cuttlefish piece, but I went through the basic procedures on how to make use of these awesome casts. I also do lost wax, but this is an older method. It's been around for centuries but leaves a nice, catchy, primitive look that can have things added to make it more appealing and controlled. You can also pour other metals into this, but the best outcome is with the non ferrous metals. You can even drill a hole in the top and make a lariat if you don't know how to solder and for jewelers, it is an easy way to recycle your silver scrap.
Step 1: Get Your Cuttlefish and Scrape Out a Cavity
Get your cuttlefish bone. It is usually used to put in bird cages, so you can find it at your local pet store. We are aiming to draw the spiny texture from the material into the silver. First thing to do is to make the surface level. You can do this by scraping it on level pavement, but make sure there are no pebbles on the surface since it will make thick lines in the material., or you can use a file to get it to be level somewhat. This will help when the charcoal is placed onto of the molten metal to push it flat, like a thick piece of sheet metal. Use a flat edge blade of an Xacto knife to scrape away a cavity, brush it off gently with a toothbrush. Next, using the tip of the Xacto knife, make lines around the cavity like shown. Thiese will act as vents by scraping lines all around the cavity so the air and silver have a small exit vent to flow out of and ensure the full area of the cavity to be filled with silver.
Step 2: "Smoke" the Cuttlefish Cavity
After your cavity is ready and leveled, use your torch to slowly "smoke" the piece so it has soot on it. If your using acetyelene, you can do it flat, but if your using a propane/O2, hold the CF up over the top of the flame without the O2 on and the smoke will adhere to the surface. This will make the silver fall out of the cavity easier kind of like a mold release with less cleanup and sometimes leave it stable to do another casting.
Step 3: Melt Your Scrap Silver
First thing, is to make sure your CF is stable enough to take the weight of a block of charcoal and to have a tiny pinch of casting flux, I use a few dried crumbs of solder paste for these castings. The back end of the cuttlefish is concaved, so it does take a bit of pushing the honeycomb bricks to stablize the piece so it does not move. The more ideal way is to have a casting pan with pumice, but it should be no problem as long as you don't overfill the cavity, a few drops of silver flowing out wont hurt the process. I have a table made of durarock that will not burn in case there is an overflow of silver. When the silver melts, make sure it "wobbles around in a mercury like phase and gently place the charcoal on top of the metal. Do NOT push or do it quickly. Dropping the block ontop, will make the silver jump out, or make large gaps and holes in the process.
Step 4: Shape Your Cast
Next step is to cut your shape out. It's easier to go along the lines of the cavity, but obviously you can cut another shape instead of the square.
Step 5: Making a Design
Once your CF is shaped, then you can start thinking of a design, I like to use bent tube that will act as a slide above for a snake or small link chain. I also have a small spiral I made from twisting thin wire and the scraps I've made into small "balls" of silver. They are simple, thats why they are seen in a lot of primitive jewelry. You simply hold the flame onto the scrap, and it will ball up. Just make sure the charcoal block is level so it doesn't roll off.
Step 6: Getting the CF Flat
You now have to finish the underside of the CF to prepare to attach it to the sheet silver. I use a tungsten carbide bit to remove large amounts of uneven silver. Then a small coarse sanding disc to make it as flat as possible. I then keep it on a flat steel block wrapped with 220 sandpaper t to sand back and forth, all while keeping it flat to ensure there will be no spaces between. Any spaces might store boric acid from the pickling solution and that will discolor the shine once the piece is completed.
Step 7: Soldering the Flat Pieces
This is much like a "sweat solder" but it's a bit easier since there is no pushing required and if there is a seam on the edge it doesn't totally matter since it will be hidden with the oxidizing. The first thing I do is pound the round solder flat with a small hammer and steel surface When the solder is flat it spreads the heat out better and it will melt easier and it won't roll like it would when round. I am using "handy flux" since it's probably what most beginners are using, but I also like to use "Firescoff" you can get from Rio Grande. But you flux the entire piece to help stop firescale, and make sure enough flux gets into the seams. I always use "hard" solder for a few applications to make sure the solderd part is stable, usually until the end where little add ons are soldered do I use EZ solder, or at least parts that won't depend on being completely strong. Soldering will always take practice to get good at it. Many projects aren't a straight forward process, things have to be positioned, and not moved once in place, even such things as flux bubbling, water bubbling, can pop the solder out of place. The basic rules about soldering, is that the ENTIRE piece needs to be heated up slowly, and every part needs heat distributed consistently. The absolute wrong thing to do is to put the hottest part of the flame (tip of whitsh/blue) right on the joints. You will know that youv'e failed because the solder usually balls up like making those balls from scrap in the last part of this instructible. The other part is to remember the solder will always flow to the hottest part of the metal,.You can actually make it "run" like syrup with the flame, since it will go toward where the heat is Thats another good point is to position your pieces in the future so the solder might run down a bit along with a little help from gravity. You also need to watch for colors of the piece when it has a flame on it. With handy flux, you'll usually see the silver turn to a "dirty" look, like it has black film on it, when the solder is getting ready to flow, the piece becomes opaque, like a shiny film over it, thats when you start "drawing" the solder to the hot areas with the flame. It may start to get a greenish tint, and thats when you know your heat is not being distributed good enough if the solder isn't melting yet. If it starts to glow, you may very well have some firescale to get rid of, but it should solder by then. Any excess solder runs, can be sanded off when finishing.
Step 8: Soldering the Top Half Round Wire
This part is a bit tricky. What I did was I filed my piece off on one end while it was longer and easier to hold onto. When filing, your wrist has to be straight or the end will have a curve to it instead of being flat. I also cut a 90 degree "L" shape in the half round so the flat part of the sheet will fit into it. I hold it with my ring clamp, and carefully saw out an "L" then file it with a needle file to make sure it sits flush. When soldering without holders or clamps, I like to use broken honey comb block or fire brick, so you can kind of tinker around with it to hold pieces together when they are soldering. If you have it really close and it's pretty flush, the moment you solder the piece it will pull together slightly and the piece will have a good solder.
Step 9: Attaching the Tube Slide
to attach the tube slide. I simply ran my tungsten carbide bit in a straight line on the top to get a start. It's easier to hold the piece with a ring clamp, it also can give a nasty gash should the bit run away from the piece and down your fingers, not good. I went over it with a file to make sure it was clean and even. I then used a simple soldering third arm clamp to keep the piece aligned with the tube, it has to be done perfectly or you will not get a solder at all. I go between moving the third arm and moving the honeycomb brick with the tube on it until it is flush. Again, flux the entire piece, heat the entire piece up gradually, then draw the solder to the joint by bringing the flame up and down the half round wire when the color is opaque.
Step 10: Soldering the Bezel
Now it's time for the EZ solder. If everything else is hard soldered, then the EZ will melt before the solder starts flowing on the previously hard soldered joints.. It's imperitive that you have absoutely flush 90 degree angles on the ends, and the seam fits perfectly. Use your snips to start it, then I use a stone masonry bit so I can hold it tight with my pliers, and just keep it straight as you push the tool into the end, it's alot quicker than needle files, and it will also not round the edge like a needle file will do with the natural movement of your hand. I then use my hands to wiggle and ease the bezel till the seam is flush. I usually will over lap the seam pushing with my fingers and pull it back apart while easing it together using the spring of the bent metal. When the seam is set straight, flux the entire piece, then while the flux is damp, put a small piece of solder inside the bezel across the seam, don't worry, if its flush, the solder will naturally go into the seam and join the two sides when soldering. Make sure it dries slowly or the solder will pop off when it bubbles, or slide down if it runs to quickly. Then simply go around and around the outside of the bezel, when it becomes opaque, go back and forth with the flame in the direction of the line of the seam,"drawing" the solder to the outside of the band. (it's hotter on the outside because thats the last place the flame has been ---->solder goes to the heat)
Step 11: Seating the Bezel and Soldering the Additions
With this part, I don't use any measuring tools, I just do it by eye. Take the large burr, to start a circle the size of the bezel, and grind it down to be somewhat flush. when it's close, I then used a cylinder burr to make the flush circle wider. The cylinder does not have cutting power on the end, it is only from the sides so it will not disturb the seat. I then placed the soldered bezel into the cavity, flux the entire thing, put EZ solder in the middle of the bezel, and solder it that way Again, heating the whole piece up, when it's opaque, I start doing small circles around the bezel and the solder will not only solder from the bottom, but from the sides too. The small beaded balls and the spiral, I simply placed ontop a flat piece of EZ and heated it until I saw the solder melt on the spiral and that usually will melt the others as well. Give them a hard push when ithey come out of the pickle to test it and make sure it's stable.
Step 12: Pushing the Bezel Down and Polishing the Piece.
Now before you set the stone, I always heat up some liver of sulphur to oxidize the piece. LOS comes in different forms and people have their ways of doing it. I generally try to keep BOTH parts hot, the metal piece, then the dissolved LOS. I will heat up water to a boiling point (microwave a coffee cup of water for 2 minutes, THEN put the metal in, no metal in microwave!!) Then I heat the LOS water in the microwave too, remember it's sulphur, don't want to have anyone complain it smells like rotten eggs. Heat it up, then drop your bits of LOS into the hot water, drop your heated piece into the heated LOS solutiion). It brings out the detail in the CF spine and can be scotchbrited off. There really should be no scratches deep enough to need a bunch of sandpaper, but I will sometimes fold up some 320, and hit the sides, and go up to 400, then 600, then scotchbrite to finish. I also used a water resistant glue or epoxy, since it will be underwater when the final polish is applied. I use Tripoli first with a foredom buffing wheel. Then, using a toothbrush and dishsoap to remove the buffing compound.. Make sure every bit of black compound is off the piece before you use Red Rouge, otherwise, your entire wheel willl be contaminated. Just a few specks of the tripoli sand on the red rouge will basically turn the red rouge into a tripoli wheel since the microscopic granules are bigger and it willl eclipse the finish from the finer particled red rouge. Some people use White Diamond and others in between, but if it's just an arisan piece, you can get away with just Tripoli and Red Rouge. "Test pull" all the joints again before you put the snake chain through it and put it up for display.
Second Prize in the
Jewelry Contest 2017
6 years ago
so cool tips on the cuttlefish casting which is a type of casting that I have done in the past.
6 years ago
6 years ago
That's really pretty, great work! :)
Reply 6 years ago
thank you!! I try to use silver scrap because it adds up so quickly and they only give you peanuts for it at silver shops. I even had a nice big piece of gold and because I soldered it, it had to get "scrap" prices, even though someone probably used it the way it was.
Reply 6 years ago
That's awesome :) I'd much rather save money that way, the jewelry supplies at craft stores can be pretty pricey!