Knowledge Shared is Knowledge Multiplied: The Value of a Jewelry-Making Playdate and a Binding Wire

No matter how many times you practice a new technique or how skillful the teacher who taught you is, sometimes you just never know you've really got it until you're able to pass it on to someone else. And for me, since Jewelry Making Daily covers so many techniques, I do a lot of some, some of others, have had a lesson or two in one or two, or haven't had the pleasure of even attempting others (like stone cutting)–yet.

  twisted forged wire cuff bracelet
Photo by Jim Lawson.

So when Katherine Prejean, a very accomplished jewelry maker and friend, asked to come over for some soldering help finishing Travis Ogden's twisted, forged wire cuff bracelet (from the cover of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine, November 2013), my first thought was, "I'm not sure I can help, but I'll try!"

While Kathy is a masterful metal clay jewelry artist and certified instructor, she is relatively new to traditional metalsmithing. She's a fearless, voracious learner though, and she taught herself fold forming and other metalsmithing techniques to go along with her metal clay jewelry designs.

soldering twisted wire cuff bracelet  
Photo by Gail Siegel.

She arrived with the two pieces of wire she'd formed for the wire cuff and needing to solder the ends together. Even though it was a simple solder join of two pieces of wire and she knows perfectly well how to solder, for some reason she hadn't had success with it. I figured she had likely used a standard method to solder it, so I had to think creatively about what else we could do to get it to work. The wires didn't align oh-so-perfectly, as you know solder joins really need to do in order to be cooperative, so we tweaked them just a smidge and then bound the pieces together tightly with some binding wire.

This was my first experience using a binding wire to help in soldering; I'd simply never had the need for one before, but Travis mentioned it in his instructions, so we gave that a try.

When the ends were snug and secure, I applied solder and lit the torch. It soldered just fine, on both ends. Considering the trouble she had with it, it seemed to us that it shouldn't have been so easy that time around–she knows what she's doing, after all. Did tweaking the fit of the join and using binding wire help that much? Maybe. But after a little brainstorming, we realized that the problem wasn't the join fit or her technique at all; her paste solder had taken on a strange almost-dry-but-not-really-dry consistency and, we assumed, had somehow gone bad.

half round coiled wire bracelet
  soldering kickstand with binding wire

She learned from the experience, I learned from the experience, and we had fun too! We had another playdate yesterday, during which I shared with her some enameling techniques I use, she enameled some Sherman fold copper pendants and earrings she made, and she inspired me to finally work with some of my new heavy-gauge square, triangle, and half-round wire from IJSinc.com.

Soldering the flat sides of half-round wires together was challenging, until I remembered our old helper, the binding wire! It held the pieces together snugly enough for me to solder them and–bonus!–the tail of the binding wire made a great "kickstand" to hold the bracelet at just the right angle to keep the tiny piece of wire solder where I needed it for soldering.

While I made bracelets with my new wire, Kathy used some of the copper half-round wire to make another one of the Travis's forged, twisted wire cuff bracelets. She has become an old pro at it now!

twisted wire cuff bracelet variations

You can also learn to make Travis's forged wire cuff bracelet and so much more in his new video, Forged Wire Cuff: Make a Handwrought Silver Bracelet with Travis Ogden. In addition to a complete tutorial on making the deceptively beautiful twisted wire bracelet (and not just in silver, but in copper or another metal you prefer), you'll learn design variations including using more than two wires, a one-wire design, and separating the wires into a wider cuff design (like those on the left, and more). You'll also learn metalsmithing techniques like soldering, forging, annealing, and others, how to create a matte or mirror finish and finishing with a flex shaft, and construction advice for modifying the design to suit yourself–plus valuable tips (such as the handy binding wire!).

P.S. You can learn more about Kathy and see her work on her KP Designs Jewelry website.

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