Friday, November 8, 2013

Handmade Torch Forged Rings p4

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 fourth of these posts. The previous parts can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Torch Forged Rings
Part 4 - Stamping, Forming, & Soldering
made by Ash
Unicorn's Garden

Part 4 begins with stamping lettering into the cut, filed, and sanded ring band stock from part 3.

The next step for these particular forged rings is to stamp the letters into them. This process begins with marking where the letters will go. For the size 9 ring I hand draw the Ogham lettering onto one of the faces of the flat band with a Sharpie marker. Along the width of the ring I use a caliper to measure and mark out the center line. For the length I center the lettering with the aid of the design printed out on paper beneath the flat band. I also use the printed paper as a guide to draw out the Ogham lettering. After the lettering is carefully marked out on the silver I use a stamping tool in conjunction with the steel hammer and pounding block to hand stamp the lettering into the ring band.

Lettering Stamped into ring bands
For the size 10 ring I mark the center of the ring length again with a Sharpie marker using the caliper as my guide. With the center point marked I use individual metal letter stamps working from the center point out. Each letter stamp is carefully lined up according to its appropriate placement. The letters nearest the center of the word are positioned according to the center line and each successive letter is positioned according to the previously stamped letter and what letter it is being stamped. Kerning (the spacing between letters in typography) is all controlled by where each letter stamp is placed and struck. Because different letters take up different amounts of space from left to right this part of the process would be too complicated to work out mathematically before hand and the spacing drawn onto the metal so this process is all done visually. The purpose of kerning is for visual appeal after all, so there is no need for mathematical precision.

Formed and aligned for soldering.
When the ring design does not call for stamping I skip the steps used in stamping and go right onto forming the ring. This step begins with hammering the flat bands around a metal ring mandrel to form a circle. It continues with fine adjustments using pliers and often time gentle filing to make a flush meeting between the ends of the circular band. The goal of this step is to leave no gaps between the two ends wen looking at the inside and outside faces of the band or when checking the width of the band. The test to see if the band is meeting up properly is very low tech. The joining part of the ring is held up to a light source. If light can be seen coming through the joint from either the edge of the ring or the faces of the ring adjustments have to be made to correct that. This may sound easy but it can be a very frustrating point as a small adjustment to one small section, either with the pliers or a file, can easily misalign another part of the joint. This step is crucial in any fabricated ring forming process as an improperly prepared joint will "pop" and break during the final sizing process.

Prepped for soldering.
After fiddling with the joint to get it properly aligned it is time to prepare the ring for soldering and then the soldering itself. I use a few things to make the solder, shall we say behave the way I want it to. Solder likes to spread and run wild some times. Not staying where it is supposed to be and going where it aught not. To prevent this I prepare the ring with a bit of correction fluid or commonly called white out. I coat both sides of the joint with the correction fluid leaving only the joint itself and a small aria to either side uncoated. The correction fluid keeps the solder from spreading beyond the joint itself. It can also be very useful in projects that require soldering in several places. By coating one soldered joint with correction fluid while soldering another part it prevents the solder of the first joint from flowing anywhere. I will admit there are times I wonder what will happen to the availability of correction fluid if we do completely move to a "paperless" society. Just one of the many odd things I think about while I'm working but that is for another time.

Freshly soldered joints before any cleaning.
While the correction fluid is drying I cut the pieces of solder that I am going to use on the ring from a piece of sheet solder. The solder "chips" I cut are only about 0.056" square. This is also the time I prepare the flux using a mixture of boric acid and water. The flux is the second thing I use to make the solder behave the way I want it to. Flux of one form or another is used in any soldering process to make the flow of melted solder smoother. Solder is more likely to flow in a fluxed aria than a non fluxed aria. It also slightly cleans the metal being soldered so the solder adheres better. I then apply the flux directly to the joint and put the ring in an alligator clamp. I carefully place the solder chips into place and start heating the ring with a torch. The torch flame itself is the final thing I use to control how the solder behaves. Melted solder tends to move toward heat so I use torch specific techniques I have developed over time to make the solder flow into the joint. I won't go into the techniques because they really wouldn't make much sense in written out form. The techniques used are also very ring specific, I don't use every technique on every ring or even every soldering project. I use what each project calls for at the time.

As I mentioned before I do not quench forged rings at any point during the process. If you have read through the steps up till now you can see I would be wasting a lot of time and effort by quenching and thus annealing (making them more malleable) the rings at this point. So the rings are soldered one at a time and then removed from the alligator clips and left on the charcoal pieces or soldering pad to cool slowly.

Once the rings are cooled it is time to clean off the correction fluid and pickle the rings. Pickling refers to placing the rings in a heated acid bath to remove the fire scale and flux after soldering. This is a very easy step which consists of letting the pickling pot warm up and then letting the rings sit in the acid while I wander off to do something else for a short time.

Part 5 will be posted on Friday 11/15/13

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