Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I'd wanted a disc cutter and dapping block for a long time. If you don't know, a disc cutter will let you punch out circles from sheets of silver. And the dapping block will let you shape the discs into hemispheres.


But both are so expensive. Not only are these items pretty pricey, but shipping is really expensive because, being made from solid metal, they're very heavy. But I was itching to try this technique but wasn't sure that I'd use it a lot.

So I really didn't want to invest a lot of money.

The least expensive dapping block I could find was at Harbor Freight at $35. When it went on sale for $22.99 I snapped it up. (There it is on the left.)

It went home with me. I'll admit, it's not the best quality. I got what I paid for. There are minor scratches in the hollows on the block, and a couple of punches have slightly flattened tips.

BUT IT LOOKED SO COOL ON MY SHELF! And it works very well.

Next step was to find a disc cutter.


I heard that the best ones were made by Pepe. But for some reason, they were unavailable and back ordered everywhere .. PLUS I balked at the price. They were really expensive. Instead, I opted for a relatively inexpensive disc cutter on eBay. (There it is on the right.)

I was pretty happy at first, but it didn't last for long. After the first 6 or so punches, it wasn't cutting very well. Every disc had to be trimmed and filed. I started hating using it. In fact, I started to avoid using it. And after a very short period of time, it started to rust.

Not too long ago I noticed that the Pepe disc cutters were in stock again. So I decided to spend the bucks and buy one. And if I was going to spend the bucks, I decided to pay a bit more and buy the big monster set with every punch size - even though I had no idea of what I was going to make with the teeny tiny punches the set has.

And on the left is was recently arrived on my doorstep.

Wow. What a difference. Each time I use it, I get perfect discs. No trimming necessary. Considering the time I used to spend trimming the discs and filing them, I'm saving money.

I've been happily making discs of all sizes and playing with them. And even though I never
thought I would use the smallest punches, I've found them to be so much fun to make and incorporate in my jewelry. They make great accents to cabochons and I've got some ideas about earrings.


I'll just need some time to make them.




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Monday, December 14, 2009

The first thing I do every morning is let the dogs out. But last Monday I awoke to find a light snowfall on the ground. This meant that MooShu was going to have his first encounter with snow!

I opened the door and the dogs ran out, full speed. As soon as Mooshu's front paws hit the snow they did a quick stop -- but his back end kept going - up, up, up, went his little bottom until he almost did a front flip.

It took a while to show him that the snow wasn't all that scary. Although I don't think he was all that convinced.

Eventually, he began exploring and found the snow quite tasty!


This was barely a dusting and it went up to his knees! I don't know what he's going to do in the first real snow.


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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Jeweler's Saw Tips

No one has taught me how to use a Jeweler's Saw. I've only learned by trial and error. But I thought I would share some things that I've learned.

Buy yourself a bench pin. Either with a V cut out, or cut it out yourself. They are invaluable.

Expect to break a lot of blades and don't get upset. Just make sure you buy lots of them. Dozens. Really.

The saw blade should be tight in the saw. I start by inserting the blade on the side of the saw opposite from the handle, and tighten the screw. Then I push the handle into the middle of my rib cage and press (ow), insert the other side of the blade and tighten the screws.

When you quickly pull and release the blade, it should "ping" . (If it doesn't, unscrew the blade, press the handle harder into your ribcage, and insert that blade in the saw taunt.)

The teeth of the blade should point down and out. If you can't see them, you can run your finger against the blade to make sure they're pointing the right way. (Now that you've checked, go back and reinsert your blade the right way.)

When sawing, remember to let the teeth of the saw do the work. Do not push the saw

When sawing, keep the saw straight and not angle it.

Most of the progress in sawing is made on the downward stroke. But it's easier to start your cut by bringing the blade up than down.

When cutting a circle or pattern, move the metal sheet, not the blade.

Use long, even strokes instead of short, quick ones. It will cut much quicker that way. EXCEPT when sawing a corner/angle. Then saw in place with short quick cuts and move the metal sheet, not the blade.

Lubricating your blade often. (I use bee's wax, but there are other products available.)

Read every article you can, on how to use a jeweler's saw.

Remember, it WILL get easier. And, who knows, you might even find that it's fun!


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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Using a Jewelry Saw

For the longest time, I feared the jewelry saw and I avoided using one. But it you want to do metalwork, you're eventually going to need to saw some metal!

My first feeble attempts at sawing resulted in many broken saw blades. Even trying to saw out a simple figure was difficult. My circles were misshappen, my ovals were eggshaped, and my squares turned out as quadrilaterals.

So I decided that if I couldn't make a simple geometric shape, I better try something different. Fluid forms might not be too bad - I could disguise the fact that I couldn't cut a straight line. And they're pretty interesting and make the back of a pendant seem a little bit different.

So I started cutting out wavy patterns on the backs of my pendants. After a while this got easier and I began to break fewer saw blades.

The other day, I bought the cabochon you see on the right. To me, the pattern of the stone looks like trees on a mountainside, with misty hills in the background. I planned to bezel-set this stone in a pendant, and as I soldering the bezel in place, I suddenly got an idea: I would saw out the back of the bezel in the shape of a leaf!

For someone who'd never sawed anything more intricate than some rounded shapes, that was a pretty daring idea.

So I took my sharpie, drew a leaf, chose my blades, and began sawing away.

And this is what I got:
(Look ma, it took only 6 blades!)

Let me tell you, I learned a lot by just doing this and I've gotten pretty comfortable with my jeweler's saw.

The pendant is still a work in progress but I promise to post some pics when it's finally done.






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Monday, November 30, 2009

mooshu dog puppy friendsSuddenly, they're friends!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Just thought I'd share this adorable photo. These poor little meerkats lost their mommy at 2 days of age. But with some human love, a hot water bottle, and the help of a stuffed animal, they're doing great and are now over a month old.

link

Friday, November 27, 2009

swedish blue slag ring sterling
Another cabochon from my Russian dealer!

This one caught my eye immediately and I had no idea what the stone could possibly be. An incredibly bright blue, but not quite the right shade to be turquoise. I was told that it was "Swedish Slag" and came from foundries in Sweden. I bought it (and I should have bought more!) and did a little research on it.

The blue stone is actually 500-year old glass from Sweden. But it didn’t start that way. It began its life in the 1400's when metal smiths would dump the waste product from iron they were smelting. This sludge or slag which they dumped outside their shops would accumulate in piles which got buried for centuries. During that time it changed into this glass-like stone which is now being mined. Different minerals or metals would make the slag different colors. This one was probably contaminated with cobalt, creating this lovely blue color.

swedish blue slag sterling ringSo wearing this ring means wearing the ultimate in recycling. 14th century sludge on your finger!



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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I know a dealer who sells gemstones that come from all around the world, but especially Russia. He comes to Indianapolis a couple of times a year and I've bought some amazing cabochons from him.

During his last visit, I picked up way too much stuff (again!) and I'm going to have the pleasure of working with the beautiful stones for quite a while.

Among the items I picked up were some intensely purple charoite.

I've seen charoite before and for a while I assumed it might be synthetic because of the incredible color, luster, and swirly patterns in the stone. Charoite can be so incredibly purple that it’s almost hard to believe that this stone occurs naturally.

But they're real and they're only found in Russia.

If you've seen my silver jewelry, you know that I like to incorporate swirls. But I haven't done so in a ring until know.

This design almost seemed to create itself - I guess the swirly patterns in the stone inspired me. There are swirls on either side of the stone and little graduated spheres of silver to balance the pattern.

charoite purple sterling ring

sterling silver band charoite ringRather than using a plain half round wire to make the band, I cut out heavy silver sheet to create a wide band and then accented it with spirals and stampings. Then everything was oxidized and polished to bring out the details.

I really love how the band turned out and think I have to make a band (sans stone) just for me!

(Did you get the reference in this post's title? If not, maybe the name of my ring will help. Click here to see it.)

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Plume Agate Cabochon

plume agate contrariwise To me, gemstone cabochons are very inspiring. Each one is unique and each one holds some promise. Sometimes I get a stone and know exactly what I want to do with it. But sometimes I fall in love with a stone not knowing what it's destined for.

This one is one of the latter.

I picked up this plume agate from an Etsy shop called StonesInMotion. Ed has some wonderful pieces and this one caught my eye. I bet you can see why. It was collected at the Woodward Ranch in West Texas which is world famous for these gorgeous plume agates. Apparently, they're getting harder to find at the ranch these days so I feel lucky to have picked up such a gorgeous speciman.

While I loved the stone, it didn't speak to me right away. It took several months before I decided to highlight it in a ring. But I think it was worth the wait.

I didn't want the setting to destract the stone, so I decided on a simple setting. Here's the stone, set in silver, with just a little extra border that I hand stamped. Then everything was oxidized and polished to give the ring a little bit of a rustic feel which I think matches the feel of the stone.
plume agate sterling ring bezel contrariwise More pictures of this ring can be found here.



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It's guess about time I started posting again! Let's begin again with Mooshu, who's now about 9 months old.

This morning, our black lab mix, Indy, dragged out an old soupbone of hers and started gnawing away. Mooshu was very interested but possession is 9/10ths of the law. And Indy's growls let Mooshu know it was her bone.


Mooshu hasn't shown any interest in his own chew bone for a while, but I gave it to him anyway. Well of course he was interested! The funny thing was that Mooshu sat right next to Indy, and both of them lay there and chewed away, best of pals.

Of course, dogs are very like people. Sometimes the other bone will always seems better.


(By the way, if you noticed the fluff on the carpet, it's from one of Mooshu's dog toys. He's been happily eviscerating a stuffed bunny for the past week and there's always new fluff around!)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Although he's still not teething, we thought Mooshu might enjoy a chew toy.
Rawhide is not supposed to be good for toy breeds; it can get stuck in their tiny digestive track and swell up. This little bone is totally digestible and Mooshu has been chewing on it for several days. He's probably nubbed off a couple of millimeters! (Let's just say that Indy, our black lab mix, would have chewed it up like a piece of popcorn!)

It's important to make sure that tiny puppies eat throughout the day. They have so little muscle mass that they can get hypoglycemic. So we've been coaxing him to eat, sometimes to the point of feeding him with a spoon. (Now can you understand why these little dogs as sometimes so spoiled!)

He's been eating well and we thought he grew a bit. That is, until we weighed him. After a few weeks with us, guess what!? He put on 2 ounces! Up to a chunky one and a half pounds!

Here's one more shot of Mooshu. See, he's standing my the computer mouse and helping me write this Mooshu Monday post!






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Friday, May 22, 2009

Yesterday, as I was walking by my window in my kitchen, I look out and stop dead in my tracks. What the heck is on my deck railing!?
I can hardly believe it! There's a hawk placidly sitting there!

I run and grab my camera to take pictures. When I aim the camera the bird turns his head in my direction. He sees me through the kitchen window and calmly looks me in the eye, allowing me to snap a few photos.

I've seen hawks overhead before, but never this close. I'm not sure what kind of hawk this is. (Red-tailed? Any guesses?) But what is it doing in my suburban yard?!

We live in Indianapolis but in a heavily wooded area near water. There's all sorts of wildlife co-existing with us. Groundhogs, foxes, and deer are regular visitors and neighbors claim to have seen a coyote. I can hear owls in the early morning and know that there is a nest of horned owls across the street. (They haven't been so polite as to pose for me though. They seem to take off every time I run for my camera.)

I never worried about them before. There is no way my 55+ lb black lab mix will ever be mistaken for a snack. But now that I have a 1 1/2 lb furball of a puppy, this puts a whole new perspective on things.

I've heard that a large hawk can lift up to 8 lbs. and sometimes more, so it could be dangerous to small pets. Hawks have fantastic eye sight and small animals are just prey to them. Mooshu could appear to be a rabbit, squirrel, etc., to them and they'll swoop. Even if a hawk can't successfully lift a small dog or cat it can leave some nasty punctures and tears in the skin which could require stitches.

We have never Mooshu unattended, not even once. Not even to answer the phone.

Seeing the hawk on our deck and having the photos to show to my kids, has really reinforced this.

Monday, May 18, 2009

I remember that when my children were babies, they were absolutely fascinating to watch. We could spend hours just being mesmerized by them - watching them discover their fingers and toes, the cute faces they made. They were just so darn sweet!

Having a brand new puppy has the same effect on me. I can just watch him for hours discovering new things - the wind in his face, the cracks in the sidewalk, a leaf blowing across the driveway...

Simply watching him play with his ball can bring on the giggles from me.Look at how intense he is. His entire focus is on getting that little ball. You can see how hard he's concentrating by his face. (Check out the little tongue!)

Yet at the same timel, he's keeping an eye on me. What's that black thing at my face that I keep pointing at him? And why is it clicking?

Maybe the ball doesn't have his whole attention, after all.




Wednesday, May 13, 2009


via


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Monday, May 11, 2009

Bathing a dog is like simple addition. You just have to get the equation right. For example

First you start with this. (Yes, you're right. He's sitting in the kitchen sink.)

Then you need this.

Finally, add them both together with some water, and it equals this:


Of course, sometimes the equation doesn't work quite right. For example, you might have too much of one thing or too little of another - which is exactly what happened. In this particular case, all we had to do was subtract a little water from an eye:

And then everything added up just fine!







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Thursday, May 7, 2009



Definitely not.






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Monday, May 4, 2009

I think that I need a new feature in my blog: Mooshu Monday! Mooshu is our brand new yorkie / maltese mix puppy - and we've had him for about a week.

Isn't he a cutie!

He has his own toys and loves to play with them. Our other dog, Indy, who is a 55 lb black lab mix, has her own toys too, and it's funny how neither dog will play with the other's toys.

We tried to give Mooshu a tennis ball to play with but it was so huge that he couldn't do anything with it. (Plus Indy seemed to think it belonged to her, so off she went with it.)

But while I was shopping, I found these cute miniature versions of tennis balls that are about an inch and a half wide. Just his size! He can pick them up and carry them in his mouth. He loves chasing them and playing fetch.

He had his first vet visit yesterday, and weighed in at a whopping 1.4 pounds! And from the photo below, it's all in his bottom!
(Look at those cute little puppy 'tocks! All fluff!)



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Wednesday, April 29, 2009


***Do Not Do This***

Monday, April 27, 2009

...unabashedly show photos of your new puppy.







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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Groundhog in my pool

Continued from
The man from animal control came over our house with a trap and a plan to capture the groundhog living in our pool cover mechanism. Once he got him, he was going to take him far far away to a field with plenty of tasty dandelions for him to munch on.

So he went and unscrewed the metal plate from over our pool cover and found.....
....absolutely nothing. No trace of the groundhog. No nest. No nothing.

He thought the groundhog had probably just be resting and trying to stay warm

So the above picture above is NOT my groundhog. It's just a picture I found on the internet. My groundhog is somewhere in the woods behind my house, frolicking amongst the ferns.

The man from animal control left empty handed (or empty crated). But not before charging us $130 for about 20 minutes of work.

It was a very expensive groundhog.





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Dendritic Quartz Ring

Just a quick post to show you one of the things I was working on this weekend.

I bought the stone at a recent Bead and Gemshow. It was in a box marked "tourmalated quartz", but it didn't look like any of the other stones. (That's probably why it caught my eye.)

I really wanted to make sure I had the stone correctly identified so I took it to a local lapidary shop and the owner identified it as dendritic quartz. The dendrites are crystals formed in cracks and can sometimes even be mistaken for fossils. In the stone above, the crystal "dendrites" run up the middle of the quartz and form what look like ferns within the stone.

I oxidized the silver to bring out come contrast. Since the stone is mostly black and white, I think it complements it.

Luckily I made it in a size too large for my fingers, otherwise I might have been tempted to keep it myself! I just listed it in my Etsy shop.

Also, look at this moss agate ring:

I had tons of fun making it. The final design was quite different than I had intended. While the first ring just seemed to come together easily, this one took a long time to get right.

I think the patterns on the agate resemble continents. And it's encircled by a saturn-like ring with solid silver "satellites" that seem to orbit it.

(OK, maybe I'm letting my imagination get the better of me.)





Tomorrow, more about the woodchuck living in my swimming pool.


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Monday, April 20, 2009

The weather has been gorgeous. It's the type of weather that inspires you to go outside and start working on the garden.

And as I was looking over my backyard, I realized it's certainly time to start cleaning up. The old dried vegetation from last fall needs to be pulled or trimmed. New bushes and flowers need to be planted. Perennials needs to be split.

And the ducks taking over our swimming pool are telling me that it's time to think about draining that pool cover.

The water is deep enough for them to go deep sea diving for god-knows-what that's been growing in the pool cover since last October. (And I'm sure that the ducks have been contributing to the flora and fauna by....well... you know what they do.)

Yes, the ducks look happy and they're probably investigating potential nesting areas near this wonderful new habitat they've discovered.

As I'm watching them, all of a sudden I see a face looking up at me from under the pool cover!

WHAT THE HECK IS THAT!

I've never seen anything like that before! It looks like it might be the size of a rottweiler! And how long has it been there??!!! And why is it looking at the ducks with possible evil intensions??!!

As quickly as I spied it, it quickly hid out of sight. And over the next several hours I kept a lookout, trying to see it again.

Finally it peered out a bit more and I got a better shot of it:

What the.....???

Then, it ventured all the way out:

This has got to be a....groundhog???!!! And it's FREAKIN' ENORMOUS!!! Probably about the size of a baby hippopotamus.

I'm guessing the groundhog's been hibernating here all winter! After it got scared by it's shadow on February 2nd, it went back under my pool cover and didn't come out till the weather turned warmer. Which is now.

Grrrrr. I'm taking this as personally as the grounds' keeper in Caddy Shack. It's definitely going to be me against the groundhog.

I go and get a screwdriver to unscrew the metal covering around the pool and see what foul things have been happening underneath over the winter.

Just as I go to open the cover, it suddenly dawns on me that the groundhog might have a nest and THERE MAY BE BABY GROUNDHOGS!

I might be brave enough to try to chase an animal the size of a Hummer H2 out of my pool, but I'm certainly not brave enough to face a mom and her babies.

It's time to call in the pros.

Animal control is coming tomorrow to trap the little varmint and take him or her far, far away.

I'll give you an update on what happens.






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(And then you won't worry about missing the rest of this story!)