Monday, September 26, 2016

How Long Should a Bracelet Be?

It might seem like a silly question to ask, but how long should a bracelet be? The obvious answer is that it needs to be long enough to fit around your wrist comfortably plus have a little wriggle room.

But why is it that an 8" bracelet made with large beads fits snugly on your wrist whilst an 8" bracelet made with small beads seems to swim around your wrist?

Take these two bracelets: the top one is made with flat Friendly Plastic beads. They are about 4-5mm thick. You can see that it measures 20cm (8") long. The second one is made with puffy metal beads that are 14mm thick and the bracelet measures 24cm (9.5") in length.

When you place them side by side you would expect that the bottom one would be sized for a much larger wrist.

And when you see the bracelets alongside each other with their clasps closed, it still looks like the one with the larger beads is bigger.

But let's place them on two cups with the same diameter..... and all of a sudden, they are the same size!

How can that be?!!

Well, it all comes down to the internal diameter of the bracelet. Chunky beads are bulky and they have a thicker diameter so they take up more room inside the bracelet, making the internal diameter smaller. Thinner beads take up less room inside the bracelet so the internal diameter isn't affected as much.

So the rule of thumb is, when using chunky beads, always make the bracelet longer than usual to fit around your wrist. And to work out how much longer to make it? Multiply the diameter of the chunky bead by 3 and add this to the bracelet length for a much more comfortable fit.

'Til next time.......

Friday, August 26, 2016

How to Work out What Resin to Use for Jewellery Making

Resin beginners are often confused by what resin to use. When you're faced with a number of different types of resin to choose from, it can be daunting to work out which one will suit your needs best. I've been working with resin for almost 10 years and at last count, I've worked with at least 16 different types/brands of resin. That's a lot of resin and a lot of casting and it's given me a good understanding of what each resin is capable of.

So, let's take a look at the pros and cons of each resin type so you know how to choose the right resin for your project. As a sidenote, there are so MANY different types of resin out there and they are all formulated differently. It's not possible to cover them all but this will give you a general guide to help you understand what each resin is best suited to.

Firstly, let's start with the most readily available types of resin:
  • 2-part resins - this group includes Epoxy, Polyurethane (aka urethane), Polyester and epoxy clays.
  • 1-part resin includes the very easy to use UV Resins
Versatile Epoxy resin.
Epoxies are very easy to use and they are usually mixed in a 1:1 or a 2:1 ratio. The benefits of epoxies are the ease of measuring, mixing and colouring. They generally have a longer gel time so that you don't need to rush when adding colourants and embedments into the resin. Curing is often slower too and can take 12-24 hours, with full hardness achieved after 72 hours. These resins are usually very low in odour or no odour at all and are very easy to work with. The drawback is that finished epoxy pieces may yellow as they age. If you've added colourant to the resin, this won't be noticeable.

Epoxy resins are versatile: they're available as either casting resins (meaning that you can pour them into a mould to create objects such as bangles and coasters) or coating resins which are used to coat surfaces such as bar and table tops. Some are formulated so that they can be mixed in small batches for working on small scale jewellery items like pendant bezels. They can sometimes be used as a doming resin too.

Quick Curing Polyurethane Resin
When you need something to cure fast, this is the resin to reach for. They are sometimes measured by volume (1:1) and sometimes by weight. The polyurethanes we use in jewellery making are usually casting resins and they are best suited to being used in silicone moulds. Many gel in under 5 minutes and can be demoulded in as little as 10-20 minutes. On the downside, they are very moisture sensitive and will almost always bubble. The "clear" versions of polyurethanes are usually more amber than clear. You can also buy polyurethanes in some basic opaque colours such as white, black and flesh. Because of their quick gel time, they are not well suited to embedding but you can still add colours and glitters before mixing the two parts together. Learn how to make fun bangles like this Licorice Allsorts bangle stack in one of my beginner's resin classes.

Water Clear Polyester Resin
Most commonly used in the boat building industry as a laminating resin but it's also formulated as a casting resin, making it suitable for jewellery making. Where epoxy and polyurethane resins are measured in a 1:1 ratio, polyester resin uses an MEKP catalyst which is added by number of drops per millilitre/ounce of resin. Working out how much catalyst to add can be tricky - not only do you have to take into account the volume you are mixing, but also the thickness of the casting, the humidity and the air temperature. Too much catalyst and it could flash (ignite) or crack as the resin cures. It also has a very nasty odour so it needs to be worked with outside. But the attraction of polyester resin is its clarity - it is crystal clear, as you can see in this souvenir I picked up in Singapore.

UV Resin - the User-Friendly Resin
These are the most user friendly resins of all because there is no mixing, no measuring: you just pour the resin and then place it under UV light and it cures in about 10 minutes. No odour, no wastage and no clean up. And it is fabulous for doming. You can cure the pieces under a UV nail lamp or in the sunlight. The drawback of this resin is that it is a coating resin so it's only suitable for surface coating or for working in thin layers. You'll find the project instructions to make these fun fridge magnets here.

Epoxy Clay - for Creating Dimensional Jewellery
As the name suggests, this resin is a clay so once mixed together, instead of pouring it into a mould, you push it into the mould or bezel. It's mixed together in equal quantities and can be coloured using dyes and powders. Because of it's strength, it is an excellent adhesive and is perfect for creating pavé jewellery where the crystals will be permanently embedded once cured. It can also be sculpted, sanded and painted, making it suitable for home decor items too. You'll find two gorgeous Pavé-style jewellery tutorials here and here.

Now that you know a little more about the types of resin, use the flow chart below to work out which resin(s) will be suitable for your project.

Download the flow chart and print if off and then have some fun experimenting!

'Til next time.......

Thursday, August 11, 2016

You'll Never Guess What This Bracelet is Made From!

This eye-catching bracelet is sure to surprise you. It's made from wood, metal and glass beads - a really striking combination. But there's something a bit out of the ordinary about this bracelet. Those long red wooden beads are rather interesting. And you're probably thinking that you've seen them somewhere before but can't quite put your finger on what it is that's so familiar about them. Have you worked it out yet? No?

Well, keep scrolling down the page.... and I'm sure you'll recognise them straight away. 

Did you guess? The wooden beads are actually from a bamboo placemat that you can find at your local kitchenware or dollar store. What an ingenious upcycle!

If you'd like to make a placemat bracelet of your own, here's what you'll need:

Bamboo placemat
Eight 14mm silver donut beads (with 7mm internal diameter)
Eight 6mm 'Jet' Black bicone crystals
Eight 10mm black diagonally drilled square beads
Stretch Magic 1mm Beading Cord
G-S Hypo Cement

Begin by unravelling the placemat. You'll need eight of the short bamboo sticks. You'll find these along the top and bottom rows of the placemat.

Cut two 30cm (12") lengths of Stretch Magic and pre-stretch each one. This will help minimise overstretching the bracelet with wear.

On each piece of elastic, string the first hole of a donut bead. Then sting a bicone on each one and pass the elastic through the second hole of each donut bead. Thread one elastic through the top hole of a bamboo bead and the other through the bottom hole. Repeat.
String a square bead on each piece of elastic and then add another bamboo bead. Repeat.

Repeat these first two steps once more.

Bring the two ends of the bracelet together and tie both ends of the top elastic together in a half knot.

Tie another knot in the elastic to secure. Tie the bottom elastic off in the same way.

Trim the knots to 6mm (1/4").

Pull the knots tight by holding the cut ends between your fingers and pulling them in every direction to tighten.

Apply adhesive to each of the knots for added security and allow it to dry.

Once the adhesive is dry, slide the knot inside the bead to hide it.

And you're done!

'Til next time....

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Upcycling - Make a Woodland Themed Terrarium

In a throw away world we produce a mountain of landfill so it's good when you find a way to re-purpose the fancy packaging that often comes with our purchases. Today's project takes a Lindt Maxi Ball and upcycles it into an adorable terrarium.

In case you don't know what a Lindt Maxi Ball is, it's a large clear plastic ball filled with delicious Lindt chocolates and you usually find them around Christmas and Easter when they're packaged up like a giant bonbon.

So, how do you go about turning one into a terrarium?

Well, here's what you'll need to make this cute woodland themed terrarium:

  • Lindt Chocolate Maxi Ball 
  • Coloured gravel in your choice of colour
  • Horticultural Charcoal (this keeps the soil smelling sweet which is important as there are no drainage holes)
  • Potting Mix
  • Small piece of fly screen
  • Selection of small plants (all with the same growing/moisture requirements). Mine are all ferns and come in 5cm (2" pots)
  • Assorted figurines

You'll also need some scissors and a small pot that you can use to scoop the soil into position and a spray mister filled with water.

Before you can begin, you need to empty the plastic bonbon sphere of all the Lindt chocolates. The best way to do this is to eat them!

One half of the bonbon sphere is flat so it's perfect for the bottom. The other half conveniently has a hole in the top which will be great for plant respiration. Set the lid aside.

Pour a 1cm (3/8") layer of gravel in the bottom.

Cut the fly screen to fit on top of the gravel without being visible.

and position it on top of the gravel.

Pour a layer of charcoal over the fly screen. If your charcoal is chunky like mine is, remove the larger pieces.

Next, fill the bottom with potting mix.

....and tamp it down. I've filled to within 2cm (3/4") of the top.

Gently remove the plants from their pots.....

....and then make a hole in the soil large enough to place each plant in position.

Fill with soil up to the crown of each plant.

Pour another layer of gravel on top of the soil.

Position your figurines amongst the greenery. Mist the plants with water and then place the lid back on the sphere, taking care that the leaves don't get caught.

And that's it! Now you can justify purchasing that giant foil wrapped bonbon filled with everyone's favourite Swiss Chocolate!

This is such a simple and fun project that you can do with children. Let them get involved by personalising it with their own theme such as dinosaurs or fairies to help make it their own.

'Til next time.....

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

From Failure to Triumph - a Friendly Plastic Pen Success Story

Workshops don't always go to plan. Sometimes, things go wrong and you end up with a less than successful result. It's always a disappointment for the student but I'm equally disappointed when someone doesn't have success.

I had one of those workshops last week. We were making Friendly Plastic Pens. Here's some of the pens which turned out really well.

But here are some pen barrels which turned out less than perfect.

So what do you do when things don't turn out as planned?

Well, I gave it some thought and came up with a Plan B. I decided refoiling the Friendly Plastic would give us a better result.

But alas, Plan B was a big failure - the foil wouldn't stick to the tacky adhesive we'd applied to the Friendly Plastic no matter how much we burnished it.

So it was on to Plan C - applying an iridescent finish to mask all the previous layers. And the result is spectacular - the ugly duckling has turned into a beautiful swan!

Now I have a new technique to play around with and perfect (and perhaps a new workshop to teach!). It just goes to show that even experts have craft disasters. But it also shows you that with a bit of creative thinking, you can turn a failure into a triumph!

'Til next time.....

Monday, July 11, 2016

Gold Vermeil Earrings

These elegant dangling earrings will add a touch of golden glamour to your evening wear. The lentel-shaped beads dangle gracefully from delicate chains allowing them to move and catch the light, accentuating the lovely soft gold vermeil finish of the beads. Vermeil beads are a little more pricey than gold base metal beads but I'm sure you'll agree, they look fabulous!

Here's what you'll need to make these:
6 10x4mm gold vermeil lentil beads (mine are from Feeling Inspired)
6 gold head pins
11cm (4 3/8") fine gold chain
2 6mm gold jump rings
2 gold earring wires

String each of the beads onto a head pin and turn a 90° angle with flat nose pliers.

Use flush cutters to trim each head pin to 1cm (3/8").

Line the cut end of the head pin in the round nose pliers so that it is flush with the jaws and rotate your wrist inward as far as you can comfortably turn it. This forms the first part of a simple loop.

Reposition the head pin in the pliers so that you can rotate your wrist again to complete the loop.

Cut two pieces of chain, each of the following lengths: 13mm, 18mm and 23mm (1/2", 5/8" and 7/8")

Set one of each length of chain aside for the second earring. Open the loops you formed in the previous step sideways and slip on a length of chain.

Hook the other end of each of the three chains onto a jump ring with the longest chain in the middle and close it.

Open the loop of your earring wire and hook on the jump ring. Make the second earring to match.

Wow, that was quick! A gorgeous pair of earrings in no time at all!

'Til next time....


Blog Widget by LinkWithin