Introduction: Professional Looking Jewellery on the Cheap

About: All you need to know is I exist......

How many times do you want to make some jewellery for someone, but find all DIY jewellery seems to be are clay beads, or just assembling clasps, wire and pendants that have to be bought?
This instructable goes through the construction of a pendant based on the "mockingjay" pin from the Hunger Games, (a thank-you gift to a person who gives me off-cuts of aluminium.) but the techniques could be applied to ear-rings, other pendants, or any small piece of metal.

Step 1: Tools and Requirements

Many instructions for good DIY jewellery require tools that aren't readily available, but these here most DIY-ers or hobbyists should have already. Even if you don't, buying them will be a good investment.

Fretsaw (or other fine-bladed saw)
Many fretsaw blades
Tinsnips (or a pair of heavy-duty scissors)
Normal Scissors
A rotary tool or some type (ie dremel if you have one) with the following attachments:
   - Some grinding tool (diamond steel, stones)
   - - Big, flat one
   - - One you can detail with
   - Wire brush
Computer and printer or pen and paper
Cheap Glue stick
Wooden mallet (what, you don't have one? Use a cube of wood then)

1-3mm aluminium

Step 2: Get a Nice Pattern

First thing is to decide what you want to make, and get it at the right size onto a piece of paper. 
For me it was the mockingjay pin, so I found a good image on the web, and then did some image processing.

1) Find image
2) Open image in gimp or photoshop.
3) Run a edge-detect filter (makes edges white, and the same colour sections black)
4) Desaturate it (if it isn't black/white)
5) Invert colours, so it's black on a white background
6) Adjust the colour balance, so you can clearly see all of the edges.

Then I took it it into a document editor, scaled it to a range of sizes (about 1cm between sizes) and printed it. Then I selected the size I liked best.

Step 3: Get It Onto the Metal

When I first started to do metal-working I would use a pin, and prick through onto the aluminium to see the outline this was time consuming, and you couldn't see it very well.
As a bit of a joke I tried cutting it out, and using a cheap glue-stick to stick the paper onto the aluminium. It doesn't stick very well, but that is good, as it holds well enough to cut around it, and you can pull it off without leaving bits of paper stuck onto the pendant. On thin bits (like the beak) it does peel off slightly, but it shouldn't fall right off.

So grab the cheapest glue-stick you can find, smear it all over the paper (not just the edges) and stick it on. Trim around the paper first, and stick it in the corner, to conserve aluminium. (lucky me, I get small bits free from the family I gave this to)

Step 4: Cut and Re-flatten It

Cut the aluminium around it, quite close, as this gives you a smaller bit to work with, and later this is quite important.
For this I used tin-snips, and it leaves a curl in the metal, so I had to come up with a way to flatten it that wouldn't remove the paper, or put dings in the metal. My solution:
Put a piece of thin card or paper on each side of the metal, and then hit it with a wooden mallet against a hardwood block.

Step 5: Drill It

If your design has recessed parts (like between the ring and bird on mine) then you need to drill some holes. One per section is plenty. Use the smallest bit you have that has a chance of going through the metal (ie don't use a 0.5mm one, or a 1cm one), and centerpunch to stop the bit jumping around.

Make sure you are well away from the edges, because when drilling through thin metal sheet it can "tear" slightly.

Step 6: Cut Out the Insides

Fit out the fretsaw with the finest bladed and thinnest toothed blade you have. You will probably snap one or two per project, and my record is 4 (that was for mild steel though) so keep a couple spares.

I'm assuming you know how to use it as a piercing saw, so, stick it through a hole, and march it around the edges. Sharp corners can be a problem, so you can either approach them from both sides, or keep moving it up and down while you turn it (just don't move it forwards).

To support the work-piece while you work, hack a "V" into a piece of plywood. Clamp it to the table. Then you can hold the saw and use it vertically, while the work-piece is supported on 3 sides. This is called a bench pin, and you can buy them.

I've found that for small work like this, the saw is more useful for doing the sharp corners than a dremel is. A dremel can go down to ~1mm corners, but the fretsaw can go right down to 0.2 or 0.3 (dependant on the width of the blade). So go slowly around sharp inside corners.

Step 7: Cut the Outsides and Remove Pattern

Well, the insides are the harder parts, as they tend to have more sharp inside corners. So just hack your way carefully around the outside. Do it in one piece, as this results in a smoother edge, and less work on the dremel later. (Where two cuts meet they tend to leave a little sticky-out piece)

Now you can remove the pattern and any other protective wrap the metal came with.

Step 8: Detail Time

Time to add detail.
First figure out how you want it to look in 3D. I visualise this bit, but if you worked off a 3D model, then you can see the details there and can skip this.
Now grab the rotary tool (mine is a super cheap "hobby engraver") and start.
Select a drum and use it to smooth the cut edges. Then start using it to lower major sections (the ring bit on mine) and add overall shape (curving the birds head, rounding it's beak)

Then switch to a tool that looks like:
(has a sharp bit that is wide at the end)
Start adding in the details. Eyes, feather's edges, sharpen the corners if they're too round.

You can also use a wire-brush at different angles to get different shadings, like for the the front of the wings.

Lastly engrave your name somewhere on it, to show that you made it.

Step 9: Mounting

This isn't really the purpose of this instructable, but I'll cover doing a pendant.

1) Fold cord in half, stick it through the ring, then put the other ends through the loop, pull it tight.
2) Tie an overhand knot at the ends of the cord, to stop fraying
3) Tie another overhand know near the end of the cord, around the other end. Repeat this with the other side, so you have  an arrangement that can slide. (Instructable for this step, more complex arrangement here)

I'm afraid I don't have any pictures of the completely finished pedant, cord and all. When I finish another I'll stick it up here for you guys to see.