Ring making has changed little since man discovered fire. You can find examples of complex or simple rings using metalsmithing techniques in museums around the world. You can make your own metal ring using the same techniques that metalsmiths have used for generations. Find metalsmithing supplies at your local hardware store and jewellery-making supply shop.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- 12- to 16-gauge wire
- Ring mandrel
- Ballpeen or forming hammer
- Plastic or rawhide mallet (optional)
- Jewellery saw and blades or wire cutter
- Soldering torch & equipment
- Soldering flux
- Acid pickle bath
- Metal files
- Wet/dry sandpaper
- Polishing machine and tripoli, white diamond and red rouge compounds (optional)
Cut a piece of 12- or 16-gauge nonferrous metal wire (such as gold, silver, copper, brass or nickel silver). Depending on the size of ring you want, use 16-gauge wire for a very thin ring or use 12-gauge wire for a thicker ring. You can use any shape of wire, but round or half round are the most comfortable for a ring.
Measure your ring size (or the ring size of the person for whom you plan to make the ring) using a standard ring gauge. If you do not have a ring gauge, take a ring in the size you need and slide the ring onto your ring mandrel. Mark the mandrel. Wrap the wire around the marking on the ring mandrel to form the ring. Take care as you work that you wrap the wire in the size you need.
Form the wire into a ring. Hit the wire with a ballpeen or forming hammer to shape the wire around the ring mandrel. Metal hammers will give a textured look to the ring. You can use a rawhide or plastic mallet to form the ring if you want your ring to look more smooth.
Remove the ring from the mandrel. Cut away the excess wire with a jewellery saw or wire cutter. A jewellery saw will create a cleaner cut that is easier to solder, but many beginners find a wire cutter easier to use. Adjust the ring so that the seam, the place on the wire you cut, is flush. File and sand the wire as needed until the seam of the ring is flush and the ring is perfectly round. You may need to file a lot to create a flush seam if you cut the wire with wire cutters. Use parallel pliers and the hammer to very tightly fit the ring ends. Check the ring for size before you solder.
Place the ring on your soldering station. Paint the seam of the ring with flux, a chemical cleaning agent used in soldering. Put a small piece of silver solder under the seam of the ring. Heat the entire ring with your torch until the solder runs and joins the seam of the ring. Pickle the ring in a warm acid bath to remove unsightly discolouration to the silver caused by oxidation while soldering. Remove the ring from the warm pickle bath and rinse the ring in a mixture of room-temperature baking soda and water.
File and sand the soldered seam of the ring until it is smooth. Use your files to remove excess solder. Use wet/dry sandpaper to remove marks caused when filing and during soldering. Begin with 220-grit wet/dry sandpaper. Switch to 400-grit, 600-grit and 800-grit sandpaper until the ring is highly polished. You can use a rotary tool and sandpaper to hasten the process. You can also use a polishing machine and tripoli, white diamond and red rouge compounds to polish the ring.
Tips and warnings
- Take fire-safety precautions when using a torch. Work only in a well ventilated space. Solder on a metal, fire safe surface. Have a fire extinguisher ready when soldering.
- Take care when working with chemicals. Wear gloves and eye goggles. Label chemicals so they are not misused. Store chemicals away from children and pets.
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- "The Complete Metalsmith;" Tim McCreight; 1991.
- "Complete Metalsmith: Professional Edition;" Tim McCreight; 2005.
- "Jewellery: Fundamentals of Metalsmithing;" Tim McCreight; 1997.
- "Metalsmithing;" Robert Ebendorf, Michael Jerry, and Thomas Markusen; 1973.
- "Form Emphasis for Metalsmiths;" Heikki Seppä, 1978.