Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The fine art of saw piercing and how we make our jewellery.

When I say our jewellery I simply design the piece, the real magic starts when David receives the design.  I am, however, jumping the gun.

Silhouettes and pierced designs differ in difficulty and a few important restraints.  Silhouettes by their very nature are a solid shape, the pierced designs have cuts within the design.  I have to ensure the cuts don't overwhelm the strength of the piece and make sure pieces don't drop off!  Once you have mastered this simple idea you really can have some fun.  It takes practise and I want to show they are hand made and each step dependent on the next.

Once the design is made it is printed out the correct size, once the design would be drawn onto the metal however the paper method certainly aids accuracy.

Trial and error is often the only way to find a system that is just perfect and even down to the glue that is used to attach the image.

First the metal is brushed this allows the glue to bond the paper to the metal.  The glue used is solvent and pvc free, too strong and you can't remove the paper, too weak and the design moves or creases.  It is then allowed to dry often on top of the radiator or the polishing motor in summer.

The blade is inserted into the saw frame, teeth facing down and it cuts on a downward stroke.  Beeswax on the blade helps to glide it smoothly and protects the blade to a degree.  The blades of choice are swiss made Vallorbe, named after the village where they are made.  £4 a dozen and  generally use one a week.

David was always taught to work with your tools not against them....be heavy handed and they snap, you can't force the blade to cut.  If it snags, it snaps.  Turn it quickly and it snaps.  You listen to the blade as it cuts, the sound tells you if it could snap, snag or needs more beeswax...like a constant hum any deviation from the sound tells you if it needs help.

I am getting ahead of myself again!

The blade is tensioned in the frame, the bottom edge is righted on the blade and the frame is pushed about a quarter of an inch to get the blade tight in the frame.  A simple trained pluck with one finger, a clear ping sound tells me it is correct fitted.  Too high its too tight, too low its too loose.

The work to be cut out is then placed on the bench peg the one in use is 3"wide and 6" long Davids has a large V cut out of the peg, the smaller the work the further up the V you go, the blade is kept central within the V by hand.

Then the cutting start, using both methods of moving the saw around the work and the work around the saw.

When I pass a design to David I don't add the bail ( the hole made in order to fit the jumping loop in that your chain fits through), it is the work of a master.  He either visualises the weight on each side and finds the centre of balance or you balance the design on the blade to find its natural centre point.  The design has to support itself.

With a pierced design a hole is drilled and the blade treaded through the hole, cutting the bail from the inside.  This is the same for all the internal cuts,  the hole drilled in order to allow the saw access.  Each time sawing from the inside then undone and treaded into the next hole.

Each time you remove the blade from the design you have to remove from the saw frame.

Fingers need to be strategically placed!

Once the design is cut out it is placed in water which allows the paper design to lift off.  Then it is rinsed and cleaned in clean water then dried.

David is a purist and when checking the design and cut out he feels using a file means you have deviated from your plan, good cutting negates the use of a file as a rule.  As an apprentice you are taught to keep your standards high, it sticks with you.  The guys who taught David didn't like mistakes, mistakes were for learning from.

Still with us?

Next is buffing and polishing.

Buffing used to be a job on its own at one time, it was mostly done by woman as men were seen to be inferior to woman as buffers and polishers.  In reality it was a shortage of workers after the wars however David believed their is some truth in it and all the men buffers and polishers that David was trained by were themselves trained by woman.

The piece is placed in one hand and the buffing sand in the other, it is fed onto the design going between the piece and the wheel. The wheel is hard gelt or calico mop.  All surface marks are removed by buffing them out.  Once the work has been buffed it is washed to remove the pumice.

To polish a rouge compound is used, a bar that has one end dipped in meths which turns it into a liquid, once applied to the polishing wheel the pendant is polished on the wheel changing direction before finishing off all in one direction.  The wheel is made of wool or swan's down, the softer the better.  It is polished until all marks are completely removed.  Whilst polishing, the design is checked and checked again until perfect.

The polishing compound now needs to be removed from the jewellery piece using an ultrasonic cleaner.  The metal tank has ultrasonic waves passing through the walls into the water which lifts the compound from the piece.

Once rinsed in clean water it is dried with a smooth clean cloth.

The piece is checked again then polished one last time with a silver cloth to remove finger makes and placed into a sealed bag.

There are many different types of jewellery made around the world, many by casting often using craftsmen for each process, more frequently by machines and mass produced.

There are two people involved in our jewellery production.

David the master Gold and Silversmith and myself.  I am a small part of an amazing process.











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