Thursday, July 24, 2008

Turk's Head Knot Ring

It's been a while since I posted on my blog but I've tried a new technique inspired by the metal working turk's head knot guru Loren Damewood on

It has been a very long journey since I first saw Loren's website and then started searching the internet frantically to find out how to do this elusive knot (see below for where I found tutorials). I made about 4 leather knots to get the feel of the technique before trying it in silver wire. the above photographed ring is 0.8 mm gauge sterling silver wire and is a single strand of wire passed through the knot twice.

Here's some things I've learned on the way:
1. Gauge of wire discussion. This 0.8 gauge was too thick. Even for fine silver I reckon. Use 0.6 gauge maximum and you can go down quite thin to do more pass throughs. I found the 24 gauge (what's that, 0.4?) was too thin for a loose ring, that would need to be a really tight ring.

2. Ring size: These rings act like Chinese finger traps - if you open the lattice up the ring gets taller and thinner, if you squish it down it gets shorter and wider. If I were to anneal my ring I could potentially squish it down to 1 cm tall and a size 7, or M. I could open it up and make it smaller too. This is the good thing about these rings if you don't solder it all together - they are adjustable by plus or minus 1 ring size!

3. Mandrel versus ring size versus how much wire to cut? The 16 mm dowel mandrel gave me a size 6, or L ring that is 1.5 cm tall on my finger. The 19 mm dowel mandrel would give you a size 9, or like P, that would be 1.5 cm tall on the finger. On golden_knot (see below for web address) there is a good page there that he uses geometry to figure out wire length to cut for what ring size. I cut 2 meters here and ended up with half a meter left after the double pass on my ring.

4. Drilling holes spacing on mandrel: the further apart the two peg rows are, the more lacey and open your ring is going to be. this also means that a lacier, taller ring will adjust better to say plus 2 or even 3 ring sizes more. In a wire that stiffins up nicely, that's okay. But with fine silver or thin gauge wire you will find your ring bending out of shape, ring size a lot.

5. Number of passes: This is up to you. If you're going to do one pass only, use sterling silver or a wire that will be stiffened so that your final ring doesn't distort at the end. If doing multiple passes, like on golden_knot (see below) then you will want to use fine silver and a thinner gauge.
5A. If you will be doing multiple passes around your mandrel, do not use tight tension on your first pass around the knot or this will warp how your second and third passes will sit nicely. Let it be a little loose so that on the second pass there is space above and below your pegs to lay the second row of wire nicely. My ring looks wonky a bit because I pulled way too tight the first pass around the knot (so my second row wants to sit parallel to my first pass, not snugly next to.)

How to do the Knot:

Get to know this knot first. The Turk's Head knot is fun and incredibly varied. I'm still trying to figure out the underlying over and under pattern but - aside that there are two three resources I found um... (forgetting word again) can't do without them... INDISPENSIBLE!!!

First He is the god of doing metal work and turk's knots. He gives a LOT of information on what makes up the knot, the terminology and is very free with showing different knots in string - but very stingy with the metal tips. Read through all of his information so you can become knowledgeable about the knot structure and what's going on.

Now how a turk's head would transfer to wire. On, donbscout has done a fantastic series of 9 videos to teach you how to do a 7 bight, 6 lead turk's head knot using his "recipe" book he is advertising here. It's great because it transfers directly to wire and tells you where you're supposed to go under and over and what pins to go to.

Write down donbscout's instructions.

However, while donbscout uses a square template jig, you need a round jig for a ring - do a trip to your local hardware store (gotta love them!) for 19 mm diameter wooden dowling and 16 mm wooden dowling and a 1.2 or 1.3 drill bit.

Here is how you make your wooden dowel mandrel: (please note this is a 5 bight, 9 lead ring. Just adjust the number of lines on your paper to equal 7 instead if using donbscout's instructions.)

The idea is the holes you drill into the doweling needs to be the same size as the wire you have to stick in. I drilled with a 1.2 bit and poked 1.25 (14 guage?) copper wire as pegs, snug but can take them out again.

Now refer to for someone's tutorial on actually doing a turk's head ring in wire. This person has used the same number of pegs from donbscout's tutorial on youtube. So you see the necessity to view all these resources.

You really will find a combination of referring to all three above resources helps set out understanding of how to do multiple passes through a knot rather than doing 3 separate wires at once.

If you try, email me a photo I'd love to see!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Wax Carved Signet Rings

A friend approached me to see if I could create a signet ring for his sons when they turned 18 with a specific design on top that holds special meaning. We chatted about what type of techniques he was thinking of (wire working, bead weaving, etc.) and we settled on doing the lost wax casting process. I had never done this before so, with that in mind, my friend approved a few doodles and away I went.

The first thing I did was to look on the web to see what is already out there in wax carving advice and found two great sites at Ganoksin and some tips by Jason Bellchamber:

I carefully did a 2D drawing on X and Y axis (ack, I'm actually using some geometry???) 1:1 scale and, when I was finally satisfied with symmetry and size I started transferring the axis marks onto the ring wax form I would carve. I felt like a drafter doing this as I hardly ever actually plan/draw anything out before attacking the jewellery creating process. The hardest part was as I started filing away the parts I didn't want, I still had to re-draw my axis markings as I went to ensure symmetry was maintained.

It took quite a while and a LOT of filing away wax until I was happy with the shape. Using silver working knowledge I filed the wax like I would preparing for final polish - start with the very rough and work down to the finest sand grit. I had to jump down to the workshop downstairs and "borrow" files from the DH (usually forgetting to return them!). I was pretty happy with the end result on both rings. It is a little creepy to see my first major attempt at creating sculpture of any sort actually emerge from the blob of wax!

A major part of the pattern my client wanted was a cross / plus sign through the middle of the ring top. After consulting with the engraver I had found to do the final letters and then with Chem Gold who would do the wax casting, I decided it was easier for me to put the lines down into the wax rather than sterling silver or pay for the engraver to do it for me. That took quite a bit of doing to get the channels smooth as I did not have needle files yet, only a wax scalpel pack.

When the sterling silver rings came back to me I was thrilled. I could see every file mark I had left, every little scratch and dent that had been on my wax moulds. And the cross channels were beautiful! This may seem like complaining but it's astounding how exact the lost wax casting technique is transferring detail from the wax to the final product. Any future ring I will definitely spend more time sanding the wax mould to a high shine! The rings had burrs I needed to file off but they were splendid - I had not known what to expect and was very pleased to say the least. I had to work on the ring insides to get the size right (I had worried about the shrinkage and kept the rings thicker than necessary to compensate) so again borrowed the DH's half round file for quite some time to resize the rings.

In the end, the rings were identical but with being hand made had enough uniqueness from the other to make them individual. The engraver I found in Chatswood, Roy from Prestige Shoe repair in Westfield Shopping Centre, did an amazing FREEHAND job of the letters and my client was very happy with the results.

A cool side note, I was grocery shopping one day and at the checkout stand (one of 8 I could have chosen to go through) this ring was ringing my sale through his register! (Yes, I tend to associate people with their jewellery!) It felt really weird and I blurted out that I had made that ring - turned out it was the older son who had just celebrated his 18th birthday! What a small world we live in.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wax Carving

I have been approached to create a ring with a logo that is from the game Command and Conquer of the bad guys, the Nod. It is a scorpion's tail in a somewhat superman like shield shape. It is an exciting commission as it gives me a second chance to do something I've always wanted to do - carve wax for casting.

Having the right materials is important. For a recent silver working class I had just bought needle files and from a previous wax carving project I already had the wax scalpel kit. Now I needed to figure out what kind of wax to use.

After jotting down a few ideas I called my local jewellery stuff supplier, House of Jewellery in Sydney, and chatted with the extremely so helpful staff who listed to what I wanted to do and then were able to suggest the best wax products to purchase - as I have absolutely no idea about this stuff except it burns well in candles!

So after receiving my multi-pack of wax tablets, I first photographed my original doodle and then inserted it into word multiple times in different scale sizes. Then after printing it out I figured out the particular size/scale needed and cut out the scorpion segment shapes with really small scissors. After taping the little picture onto the wax I used a pin to lightly score the scorpion tail segments and the shield shape. Then it was a process of carving away the bits I didn't need while trying to protect the segments. I found that I ended up using the half round tapered needle file the most for this project. Here is what I came up with in the wax against a bright light. It's a good way to see if you are carving the relief the same thickness I've found as thicker will show as darker green. I left the recessed areas rather rough in texture on purpose. All up I would say I spent about 5 hours creating this wax mould.

So after cleaning up the wax piece, my client said there is a potential to sell a few more of these within her community so I sent my wax carving off to Chem Gold in Sydney to create a mould and the two sterling silver castings. I first received the mould and one casting and, when I called Chem Gold to order the second casting, they kindly paid for the postage without prompting! What great customer service! The casting came back looking fantastic with a large burr and it took me about 2 hours per ring to get the "button" as I took to calling them cleaned up and straight enough for soldering onto the ring bases.

After cleaning, filing and leveling the top of the casting I then had to figure out how to create two individualised ring bases. My client wanted one for herself so I wanted to create a more feminine looking ring base and she required an adjustable band for her son (it's his birthday present) so he can wear it as long as he's interested. The original ring she showed me was a very heavy signet ring look so I played with using asymmetrical bands, then settled on creating a V shaped ring base using half round sterling silver wire 3 mm x 2 mm for her that was soldered together at the bottom of the finger and then curved out to touch the top and bottom of the ring top. For the son's ring I cut out a 6 mm band from .06 mm sterling silver sheet and created asymmetrical tabs that would line up when curved.

After cleaning and polishing the rings I used a liquid Liver of Sulfur agent to darken the recess around the scorpion's tail. It was a very satisfying project to undertake!