Introduction: Making a Simple Sterling Silver Ring
The materials needed to make a ring may seem unrealistic for a DIY project. Check around your community to find a work space or craft space that may offer open shop hours for you to use their equipment. You'll need:
- Ring sizers (not necessary if you know your ring size)
- Marker or mechanical pencil
- Tape (optional)
- A chunk of sterling silver
- Wooden block (with a V cut out of one end - see image)
- Block of wax
- Scrap metal (optional)
- Ring clamp
- Large file
- Leather mallet
- Metal mallet
- 4 inches of galvanized steel wire – 20 gauge
- Fire Brick (or another fireproof surface)
- Flux – an agent used to make solder “run” faster
- Tiny paint brush
- Solder wire
- Torch lighter
- Torch (or pencil torch)
- Pickle – a sulfuric acid solution to remove imperfections from soldering and annealing metal
- Ring mandrel
- Leather mallet (same as used in step 5)
- Small files
- Sandpaper (320- 400- 500- and 600-grit)
- Polish wheel
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Step 1: Size Your Finger
1. Find your ring size using the ring sizers.
2. Find the dimensions of your ring size in the table shown.
Note: If you know your ring size, there is no need for the ring sizers.
3. Trace a rectangle the length of your ring on paper, the width of your desire using a ruler.
Note: If the ring width is too narrow, it may not solder correctly.
Note: If you want to attempt a design, the paper mockup is where you can practice drawing it and placing it correctly.
4. Cut out the rectangle.
Caution: Be careful with the scissors.
5. Wrap the piece of paper you cut out around your finger to see how it looks and feels (taping together if necessary).
Note: If it looks the way you want you’re ready to move on; if not, continue trying different things with the paper.
6. Trace the rectangle of paper onto your chunk of sterling silver using a marker or mechanical pencil.
Note: It may be easier to use a ruler again to trace onto the sterling silver rather than tracing the paper.
Step 2: Saw From Sterling Silver
1. Place the wooden block on the edge of a table.
2. Clamp the wooden block to the table with the C-clamp.
3. Run the saw blade through a chunk of wax.
4. Begin sawing up and down with as much pressure as a handshake.
Note: Before you begin sawing the sterling silver, you can use the optional scrap metal to practice your sawing skills until you feel comfortable with the motions.
Note: To begin a notch in the silver, run the blade up (against the blades) with moderate pressure a couple of times.
Note: In order to turn the corner once you’ve sawed the length of the ring, continue sawing with the pressure of a handshake, but slightly start to turn the angle at which you are sawing. The slower you take the angle, the less likely you’ll break a blade.
Caution: If you use too much pressure with the saw or turn to abruptly while sawing, you could break the blade.
You should now have a long rectangle of silver with the width you desire. Don’t worry if the edges are not perfectly straight. This will be taken care of with the file.
Step 3: File Edges Down
1. Take the wedge out of the end of the ring clamp.
2. Place the rectangle of sterling silver in one end of the ring clamp.
3. Place the wedge into the opposite end of the ring clamp (the end opposite to that with the rectangle of sterling silver).
4. File the edges down using the large file to make the edges as straight as possible.
Note: Repeat steps 1-3 moving the rectangle of sterling silver in order to file each edge.
Note: There will be more precise filing later on with smaller files so for now don’t worry about having it perfectly straight.
Step 4: Form Band
1. Set the C-block on the table.
Note: There may be a notch in the bottom of the block that will catch on the edge of the table. This will keep the block in place slightly.
2. Place one end of the rectangle of sterling silver on the smallest C on the C-block.
3. Lightly pound the sterling silver with the metal mallet so it begins curving at the end.
Caution: While using both mallets, use caution so you do not hit your fingers.
4. Turn the rectangle to place the other end in the smallest C.
5. Lightly pound the sterling silver with the metal mallet.
6. Repeat steps 2-5 on the middle-sized C of the C-block and the largest C of the C-block if necessary.
Note: Your ring should be curved like a C, similar to the third picture in this step.
Note: If you can no longer make progress on the curve using the metal mallet and C-block, try using the leather mallet to pound the ends closer together while just holding the sterling silver in your hand.
You now have a “band.”
Step 5: Bind Ring for Pressure
1. Cut about 4 inches of the galvanized steel wire - 20 gauge.
2. Wrap the steel wire around the band pressing the ends of the band together.
3. Line up the ends as best as possible.
Note: If the ends are different widths, line up one set of edges. If the other set of edges is uneven, it can be filed after soldering.
4. Pull the ends of the steel wire around the band, twisting them with plyers as they meet.
Note: Twisting the steel wire will hold the band together.
Step 6: Solder
1. Place the band on the fire brick (or other fireproof surface).
Note: The place where the ends of the band meet should be visible and easily accessible (See the first image of this step).
2. Brush enough flux to cover where the ends of the band meet using a tiny paint brush.
3. Snip off 1-2 pieces of solder wire (about 1-2mm each) depending on the width of your ring.
4. Place the pieces of solder where the ends of the band meet.
Note: It may be easiest to pick up the snips of solder wire using the tiny paint brush with flux (the snippet(s) of solder wire will stick to the brush). Then swipe again where the ends of the band meet placing the snippet(s) of solder wire.
5. Turn on the gas for the torch.
Warning: Do not open the gas valve too much as this will cause a large initial flame.
6. Hold the torch lighter about 1-2 inches from the torch.
7. Strike the lighter.
Note: Flame should be visible.
Warning: Be careful with the flame on the torch. You will now be heating the band. Do not touch the heated sterling silver.
8. Hold the torch about 3-4 inches away from band.
Note: Wave the flame over the band. Notice phases in the soldering process. (1) flux will turn very white, (2) sterling silver band will turn slightly orange, (3) sterling silver band will turn a dark gray.
You can now turn off the torch.
Step 7: Pickle Thoroughly
1. Grab the band with the tongs.
Warning: The band will still be hot so the tongs are very important.
2. Dip the band in a container of water.
Note: Dipping the ring in the water will be just enough to cool it down properly.
3. Place the band into a container of pickle.
Note: Let the band sit in the pickle until it is white colored.
Caution: Pickle, as it is an acid solution, could cause irritation. Do not get it in eyes.
4. Remove band from the pickle using tongs.
5. Run water over the band to “rinse” the pickle off.
You can now remove the binding steel wire.
Step 8: Finish the Ring
1. Shape the ring using the ring mandrel by pounding it with the leather mallet.
Note: This will get the band as round as possible.
2. File the soldered part of the band using the small files.
Note: A round file or half round file is best for the inside of the band as it is curved.
Note: Use a small file along both the inner and outer edges of the band to slightly dull the sharp edges.
3. Sand the entire surface of the band.
Note: Start with the 320-grit sandpaper as it is the coarsest. A measure of how much to sand is, make the whole surface the same amount of “scratchy.” You can then move up to the next level of grit sandpaper (400-grit, then 500-grit and finally 600-grit) and repeat sanding for each.
Band will look slightly scratchy; move on to the polishing step to create a shiny ring.
4. Polish the band using a polish wheel.
Note: Hold the band with a slightly firm grasp. Turn the band slowly to polish the whole surface. Continue until it is as shiny as you desire.
Step 9: You're Done!
You have now made your own simple sterling silver ring. You can try making designs by stamping, drilling, or sawing. Also, two-finger rings are an interesting thing to try. A few different options are pictured. Of course, these other options will increase the time of completion but can make your ring even more unique and personal.