I have always been fascinated by jewelry made from nails ever since I was a boy. My family would go to the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn Michigan. In the village there was a blacksmith that would demonstrate his skills by making rings from Horse shoe nails. He would give them away.
In the passing of my mother, my father gave me a box and in it was a horseshoe nail from the village.
This got me going again with making jewelry from nails.
I am not just using horse shoe nails, I like working with square cement nails.
I am including a category that I call pocket jewelry, also from my childhood. My mother would keep a glass dish above the washing machine on a shelf. In this dish she would put all the things she would find and take out of our pockets. I love going and looking in the dish to see what everyone was carrying or had found. It looked like jewelry to me.
Remember to practice and use shop safety – use protective eyeglasses, dust masks and gloves.
Know how to safely use the equipment before you start.
No loose clothing, hair or objects around moving items. Remove your rings.
Step 1: Items Used
- Cement Nails – square 2 ½ inch and 3 ½ inch long
Horse shoe nails – 2 inch long
- Small metal rings
- Gem stones – really just an option
- Bench vise
- Adjustable wrench
- Needle nose Pliers
- Plumbing torch
- Leather gloves
- Scuff pad or wire brush or wire wheel
- Optional: drill and drill bit
Step 2: Forming the Nail
Placing either end of the nail into the vise pointing up.
Adjust the adjustable wrench so it loosely slips onto the nail.
With the torch, heat the nail. While the nail is still hot twist the nail with the adjustable wrench.
Different designs can be created by where the heat is applied and how fast the nail is twisted.
Pliers can be used to twist the nails into a ring or just twist the top of the nail to make loop for holding a ring.
On some nails I drilled a hole and added a ring to hang.
Another option is to go abstract design of curls.
Gem stone option: Twist the nail to form a C and put a gemstone in, the stone is held in by spring tension. All I can say is try this at the end of our work session (or practice). I did not get this on my first try or the 10th, it took a lot of work to get the spacing right.
Note: the nails I have (worked with) do not cold bend or twist without breaking, so please be careful and wear safety equipment.
Step 3: Finishing
Since open flame torch heat is being used, scale (blackening) is on the outside of the nail.
Use some sort of scuffing to remove the scale to create a shine.
Note I use pliers to hold the nail when using the wire wheel for safety.
With skin reactions to different elements, I like to coat my wearable jewelry with a protective coating.
Add metal ring to hang from necklace.
Step 4: Pocket Jewelry
One of my ideas of pocket jewelry is twisted square nails without the ability to be hung on a necklace.
The feel and weight of cement nails seem to work well to carry them around.
I like to trade them or just show them off. I also flip them around in my hand when I am waiting (bored).
My mother had one in her purse, so you might want to call it purse jewelry.
Step 5: More Photos
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