Monthly Archives: February 2012

Thinking Engine in Overdrive

Most of my friends and family are aware that I am bipolar, and have the not terribly usual rapid cycling variety. So rather than extended highs and lows that can last for months, I can have a few of each throughout the course of a day, although most often I’ll be at one extreme or the other for a few days at a time.

I tend to be very creative during my manic phases, brain firing at a million miles an hour, dreaming up all sorts of wierd and wonderful things that are way beyond my capabilities and talking nineteen to the dozen in very long sentences andneverquiteknowingwhentostopforbreath. So I try to sketch my ideas down, wildly annotate the (crappy) drawings and hope to discern something wearable and more importantly makeable, when I’ve slowed down a bit.


Did you see the BBC’s recent adaptation of Sherlock Holmes with Benedict Cumberbatch (EPIC name, what WERE his parents THINKING??? Or should that be drinking? Absinthe, I suspect, or copius quantities of gin) and Martin Freeman? I loved the way they depicted Sherlock’s thought processes on the screen, little flashes of text, an image, faces, ideas. So far it’s been the best comparison to my own thought processes I have come across, although I don’t pretend to be anywhere near as clever. There are, I’ll admit, times when I THINK I am, but mostly that’s just bollocks.

And then there are the lows. I just hibernate, barely functioning until they pass. The duvet monster eats me in my entirity. I don’t want to think, speak, interact or create. My sense of taste goes funny. I become super sensitive to smell. I snap, I growl. No fur or claws appear, and it’s not invoked by lunar cycles, so I’m pretty sure I’m not a werewolf. Although I eat my steaks practically raw… These times are just horrible. I’m horrible. The shed just sits, patiently waiting for a better me to emerge, squinting into the daylight. And I always do. It’s the one certainty I can cling to, that this will pass, well, that and the total, unconditional love of the important people in my life.

Occasionally I am in between states, so am not a total nightmare to live with. This seems to be when I am best at rationalising the ideas and designs. I can clarify, hone and start thinking about how I am actually going to MAKE the thing, whatever it might be. For example, I had this great idea of texturing a piece of silver to look like vintage, distressed, lined paper and then creating some lovely copperplate handwriting from wire to go on it. Not quite got a method together for that one, but leave it with me…

Our experiment is progressing nicely, by the way. No abstract teasing photos to show you tonight, I’m sad to say – components are still curing; but it will be worth a little wait, we promise!

So this post isn’t really about anything shiny, just a gentle stroll around my mind. I’m a bit of a soppy tart deep down, so I’ll dedicate it to Scroticule and Beardy. They really do have their hands full with me at times…



I got Tim McCreight’s very useful book, “Hot & Cold Connections” recently, read the section on soldering and ignored the rest. I revisited it the other day and found very straightforward instructions for making rivets. It looked like a great excuse to buy another hammer, a very small one with a flat head on one side and a blade on the other, a cross peen hammer. As usual, I got it on eBay, and just loved the way it was described as being for “delicate work”!

I had a piece of embossed silver left over from our top secret experimental project, and thought it would be suitable for playing with rivets. I cut a frame and a back plate from brass, and did a test rivet on a bit of scrap.


I bunged the Dremel into the vertical bracket on the workstand, complete with a 1mm microdrill, and gently drilled a couple of bits of scrap brass for a trial run. I filed the end of a coil of 1mm copper wire so I could ease it into the holes, and pulled it tight with pliers. The book said it was vital that the wire is a really snug fit, so that when you start bashing the ends, the only place the metal can go is outwards to form a domed head.

My new hammer was a bit rubbish, to be honest! I ended up bashing it with a 2oz ball peen hammer instead. The copper did it’s magic and formed a head on the front side. Annoyingly my bit of wire was a bit too short and ended up flush with the back, so I walloped it with a centre punch to flare the ends out a bit. Must have worked, because I can’t get it to come apart and neither can Beardy. And he is VERY rufty-tufty.


Obviously an expert now (I wish!), I filed and polished my component parts and drilled 1mm holes in the corners of the frame. To avoid annoying mismatched hole sets, I only drilled one hole in the back plate. I did the rivet and then drilled the opposite corner and riveted that. Just the other two corners to do, and onto some very laborious filing to get the edges of the two brass pieces flush. I could have done it with the Dremel in the shed but thought I’d be sociable and do it while watching the Carling Cup final with the menfolk.

I had originally planned to rivet this thing to some copper and make a bangle, but it’s too heavy to bend! So I’m going to add a couple more things to it and turn it into a Steampunk style pendant


Another Sneaky Peak…

Well, the next stage of the experiment looks like it’s progressing nicely. A minor issue with leakage (best not ask!), but I think that can be remedied without too much faff.


This is going to be a pendant. The metalwork is done, so it’s time to watch Wales thrash England and win the Triple Crown. Exciting additions will have to wait until tomorrow… Or Monday, depending on the hangover!

Sneaky Peek

Had a very experimental day in the shed with Sally, amid the cackling we both had good results with our new ideas, not quite ready for a full unveiling tonight, but here’s a sneaky peek…


Hubble Bubble…


Sally and Mel are locking themselves in the shed today and plotting. We have some ideas we want to try out, mwahaha… Watch this space to see if it works or not…

Just for me

I registered with the Goldsmith’s Hall in London last summer, so I can send my silver off to be assayed and hallmarked. Even though many of the things I make are lighter than the legal 7.78g threshold, I send everything off anyway as I feel it’s an important tradition to maintain! And I’ll confess to a secret hope that one of my pieces will turn up on the Antiques Roadshow in a couple of centuries time and be identifiable as something I have made, hee hee!

I made this silver pendant for myself, and had it marked, as well as one for my mum in a different style. I’ve been wearing it on a narrow snake chain, but it didn’t suit it, or me! So today I made this chunky trace chain from sterling silver, having done a couple of practice runs in copper.


It was not as easy as with the copper! I got off to a great start, cutting lots of nice, neat rings of silver from 1mm wire wrapped around a 3mm steel rod. I soldered half the rings closed, and built the chain from these and the open rings. So far so good. Careful soldering of the links with my teeny tiny blowtorch seemed straightforward enough, the problems started with shaping the links. Squeezing them with pliers around a 2mm bit of leftover wire had the rather annoying effect of breaking the soldered joint on about one tenth of the links 😦 So….. I re-soldered them and was very happy with the result. I think it was trickier because the solder flows into the silver at just under the melting point of the precious metal so you need to move the flame away as soon as you see the solder “flash” or melt. Coppe melts at a much higher temperature than silver, so you can really blast it with the blowtorch without the fear of melting it! Still, I only melted one link out of ninety today, so for my first silver chain I was really chuffed. I doubt it would be an economical proposition to make chains for many my items, but as a special one-off for myself or as a gift, I may well explore some more designs of chain.

Polished Off

Well, we all got up not terribly bright, but definitely early this morning all set to get Scroticule to school for his first day back after half term. Sprog dispatched, I started to gather some bits together and hit the shed. Ten minutes later, he’s back home because it’s a teacher training day. Whoops. #badmummy #epicfail

So, just to make my mummy karma worse, I plugged him into his iPod and hit the shed anyway! I needed to unpack the portable workshop I had taken up to Mum’s and especially her tumbling machine 🙂 Mine had worn out, you see. Well, that one was hers too….

Remember those copper chains I made last week? My very first attempt at chain making, so thought I’d practice on copper before hitting the silver. Unfortunately silver solder shows up badly on copper, so I boiled the chains in some blued pickle with a length of iron wire: this copper plates the silver, covering the solder. I tumbled them in steel shot and burnishing soap for a few hours, and got some very, very spiny sharkly things as a result! I’m delighted with them, hope you like them too.



Finished! Well, until I think of something else to do to it…

I have just finished stitching the lace and velvet ribbon to the ends of the wrap I knitted yesterday, it took much longer than I thought because the edge of the lace was really hard to get a needle through. Still, perseverance is key, and it’s done now. The question is, do I leave it as it is, or add more stuff? Like a border of black velvet to the bottom edge, a tassel at the point or maybe some beadwork? Maybe a row of vintage mother of pearl buttons or some black leather fleur de lis down the centre…

I made it to go with this purple jacket, a bit of charity shop gold for just four quid 🙂


Getting Knotted…. er, Knitted

I crawled out of the arms of the duvet monster obscenely early for a Saturday without a child in residence and blearily made my way to the lovely Melissa Warren’s machine knitting workshop. Armed with an egg sandwich, a small bar of chocolate, eight cans of Pepsi Max and four cans of Red Bull, I was all set.

We had an introduction to knitting with a machine, hideously complicated to begin with, but after a cup of coffee and a couple of cans of caffeine it began to make sense.


I made a pair of wristwarmers to start with, and will photograph them once I’ve stitched them together! Then I started on this wrap. I wanted to make something to go with a jacket I had bought in a charity shop on the Wirral, so went with purple, grey and black yarns combined together. There is a striped “design feature” caused by the grey yarn breaking and me not noticing it, so I just matched it on the other side and called it “rustic”! The day went all too fast, so I’m sat on my sofa, quaffing a bottle of Spitfire and doing the final touches with a bit of lace. I shall aim to finish it tonight with the big reveal tomorrow!


Powering up

No metalbashing today as it is our CraftMistress Liz’s Herceptin treatment, aka power juice. We come every three weeks and it’s keeping any more cancer firmly at bay. So I’m going to have a snooze for an hour or so in the car while Liz gets powered up!

This is the unit we come to, run by Tenovus, the Welsh cancer charity. As we now have to charge at least 5p for bags here in Wales, we donate all our money to these lovely people to help make cancer treatment more readily available and accessible.


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