Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day One

Words cannot describe just how incredible this all is. Our day, 8am to 3pm, was spent learning how to saw and file metal. I am sure, to some, this would sound boring, but seeing silver dust on your fingers and bench pin, and the silvery sheen develop on a pale cast ring is truly a sight to be seen.
Our first project, named Mr. Newmann's Ring, is a previously cast silver ring that we have been "hired" to file and polish into a wearable piece. Many rings can be made at once using the lost wax casting method - that is how those mass market, "k-mart" type rings are made. Imagine a branch, though instead of flowers protruding, there are silver rings. These rings are not yet finished; they are covered with a casting skin, and many flaws that need to be filed and polished away.
My project began with weighing the piece in penny weights to determine the amount of metal I am beginning with. Later, when finished, I will weigh the piece again to see how much metal I have lost. Thus I am actually graded on how much metal I lose from the ring. Loss of metal = Loss of profit. However, nothing is truly lost. The interesting thing we were learning yesterday is that jewelers and goldsmiths, for thousands of years, have been the original recyclers of materials. Every dust particle of metal is saved, and eventually sent to a refinery. Our instructor explained that every few years the carpeting and chairs (anything that can collect gold or silver dust) is sent out to a refinery. There, all the carbon is burned away to reveal only metal. Then, by using different acids, they are able to separate the metals, and either send it back to the jeweler or a check for the value of metals. Nothing is wasted!
So, Mr. Newmann's ring is half way completed. Today I will continue to file the sides of the ring, then use the flex shaft tool to sand the interior of the ring, as well as using a burr to create a textured finish in the hard to reach areas inside the ring. The goal is to make even the parts unseeen, as beautiful as those seen. Later in the day, I will use the polishing wheels.
Off to Class!!!!!

1 comment:

  1. It all sounds pretty interesting to me. In fact, you're getting a lesson in some mechanical engineering methods. Lost wax casting, very similar to investment casting is still used quite widely today...but only more expensive type items due to the labor it takes to run the process.

    Don't forget, when sawing and filing, the teeth only cut in one direction. Nothing drives me nuts more than someone going back and forth with a saw blade...although, your tools may be electric...not hand tools :)