Wednesday 1 April 2009

I like bangles!

Bangles are definitely my favourite things to make at the moment - there is so satisfying turning a piece of silver wire into a tactile, shiny, wearable-with-anything piece of jewellery! I've been making quite a few recently, some as commissions, some because the wire in question was begging to be made into the perfect bangle, so I thought I'd show you some of the processes!

The starting point is obviously calculating a piece of wire. I use the circumference of the bangle I need and the diameter of the wire I'm using to work out how much I need, and then get my saw out. The old saying "measure twice, cut once" is doubly true when it comes to sterling silver!

I use a set of bangle sizers to help me work out the inside circumference of the bangle I want to make, but another way is to use a ruler to measure the inside diameter of a bangle you know fits you and then calculate the circumference (circumference = diameter x pi, pi being that number that never ends, 3.142 for these purposes). Whichever method you use to work out the inside circumference of your bangle, you still need to add on a little bit of wire to take account of the thickness of the wire. I add on 1.5 times the diameter of the wire. So, if I'm making a bangle of inside circumference 220mm out of 2mm thick wire, I need 220mm + (1.5 x 2mm) = 223mm of wire. Don't worry, that's the only maths you'll see on this blog for a long long time!

The next job is to file the ends of the wire square to prepare for soldering - the join will only be neat if the ends of the wire meet up properly. Once I've checked the ends with my set square it's time to bend the wire into a rough 'D' shape. This makes sure that the ends of the wire are flush with each other.

Next - apply the solder and flux. I like to use solder paste for soldering bangles, especially if I'm working on several at the same time - it's got the flux (the solution that makes the solder flow across the join) already mixed in. You don't want to use too much solder, though, otherwise you'll only have to file the excess off afterwards.

It's time for the flame next! I use the bigger of my two blow torches for jobs like this as it's quicker at heating up such a big piece of silver. In order for the solder to melt and flow across the join the whole piece of silver has to be heated up. I place the solder on the inside of the join and heat from the outside. The heat draws the solder through the join, so I know that if I can see solder all along the join on the outside of the bangle, the join is secure.

Once the soldering is done, I quench the nearly-bangle in water and then put it in pickle (a mild acidic solution) to get rid of the oxidisation that heating up the silver causes. I like the 'fizz' the silver makes as I quench it! My pickle is kept in a pyrex dish in water in a lidded slow cooker to keep it safe and also keep it warm. The warmer pickle is, the quicker it works.

Then comes my favourite bit - shaping the metal using my mandrel and hammer. I love turning the strangely shaped loop of metal into a smooth bangle, and I love the fact that the hammer I use to do it is one that I've inherited and it's older than me.

After shaping it's filing and sanding. These are definitely not the most fun jobs, but they are absolutely necessary in order to get a professional finish. The aim is to make certain that you can't see where the soldered join is, and the only way to do that is to file carefully and then to work your way through all the different grades of sand paper.

Once the bangle is sanded I usually give it a hammered texture, partly to help hide any knocks that the bangle will get during normal wear. Before texturing the bangle is annealed (heated up and then quenched, pickled and rinsed) to help soften it again as the shaping, filing and sanding will have work hardened the metal.

The final stage is polishing, usually in my tumbler, and there it is! This is one of my Dabbled bangles, made from 5mm oval wire. It's got a really nice weight to it, and oval wire is lovely to wear.

Okay, lesson over for today - I'll be back tomorrow with some more photos!


  1. Lovely bangle and really interesting to see it being made!!

  2. Lovely bangle! And thanks for sharing how its done - I had no idea!

  3. What a fantastic tutorial! Loved reading it and the bangle is just lovely!

  4. I am impressed. Great work you have done. How much time do you spend to make a single one?

  5. Lovely! your instructions are very easy to understand and enertaining...thank you

  6. love to see the making but I don't known if I be able to use the torche

    thank you for sharing


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