Friday, October 25, 2013

Handmade Torch Forged Rings p2

The following is a continued description of how I make my hand forged rings. It is a long involved process so I am splitting this description into several posts. This is the second of these posts. Part 1 can be read here.

Torch Forged Rings
Part 2 - Forming the Ring Stock
made by Ash
Unicorn's Garden
Part 2 begins with forming the prepared ingot from part 1 into the ring band stock.

Ingot After First Hammering Session
Forming the silver for the band is a slow process. Each time the hot silver contacts the steel pounding block and the hammer contacts the silver it is cooled by the steel. After several strikes the silver is placed back on the charcoal to be heated again. Once heated the silver is again placed on the pounding block and hammered closer to its finished shape. This process continues until the silver is the right width and thickness for a ring band.

Second Hammering Increases Length - still too thick
I have never counted the number of times the silver goes from heated to hammered and back again but it is quite a few. Each photo of the silver being shaped is after about an hours worth of heating and hammering. After each session of hammering I let the silver air cool on the charcoal blocks or the heat-reflective soldering pad beneath the charcoal blocks.
With most torch work I quench the piece in water for a quick cool down but never with forged rings. With forged rings the slow cool down of the silver is very important. It has to do with keeping the molecular structure that is created through the heating and hammering process. As I said I have never been formally trained in forging so I don't really know all of the specifics but I do know if the silver is quenched at any point it ends up being annealed. Annealing is a process of heating and quenching metal to make it softer. That would make all of the hammering done to the silver a complete waste of time in about 30 seconds.
Third Hammering Continues to Increase Length & Thin Band

After the silver ingot has been hammered into the right width and thickness for a band it is time to cut the silver to the proper length for a ring. I will state here that the "right" width and thickness for the bands is not a precise measurement. All of this work is being done by hand and not a machine so the thickness and width does vary slightly from ring to ring. I try to keep these variances below 1 mm though by comparing the hammered metal to 18 gauge sheet sterling and comparing it to other rings I have made that are 3/16" wide.

Fourth & Final Hammering - The band is ready to be cut

Part 3 will be posted on Friday 11/1/13

Friday, October 11, 2013

Handmade Torch Forged Rings p1

The following is a description of how I begin making my hand forged rings. It is a long involved process so I am splitting this description into several posts. This is the first of these posts.

Torch Forged Rings
Part 1 - Melting to Hammering
made by Ash
Unicorn's Garden

Although I have not been formally trained in the ways of forging I have developed a process of torch forging sterling silver rings. This process began with our wedding bands. I wanted to create rings that weren't part of my standard ring lines at the time. Something that would be meaningful to both of us. The result was beautiful sterling silver rings that are stronger than sterling silver usually is.

I have made other forged rings since making our wedding bands. With the most recent forged rings I made I decided to photographically document the steps of the process I use.

Sterling Silver Pieces in curable
with cuttle bone trough

 I begin with pieces of sterling silver that would otherwise be sent back to my silver supplier. These pieces are placed in a clay/silica crucible with some boric acid and melted with a torch. Once the silver is liquified and impurities are pulled out with a carbon rod I pour the silver into the trough of a cuttle bone that I prepared before melting the silver. I let the silver solidify into a rough ingot (usually more lump shaped than anything else) I quench it in water.

As I don't often have enough time in one day to make a ring from beginning to end I usually schedule the different steps with my other work over a course of several days. Thus why I quench the ingot instead of getting straight to forming it.

Sterling Silver ingot, after cooling, in crucible

When it is time to start forging the ingot into a ring I set it on a piece of charcoal with another piece forming a wall behind it and start heating it with a torch. The charcoal not only provides a heat shield for my working surface but also reflects the heat back into the silver I am working with. Once the ingot is glowing orange I pick it up with a pair of pliers, place it on my steel pounding block, and start hitting it with a steel hammer. I find this to be a particularly fun part of the process as it can be very therapeutic repeatedly hitting something with a hammer for creative rather than destructive means.

Part 2 will be posted on Friday 10/18/13