Sunday, August 18, 2013

Tool Review: Swanstrom Disc Cutter

Rio Grande ran a special on Swanstrom Disc Cutters last spring and I finally bought one for my classroom.    I had spent years cringing at the price, but the special had it low enough for me to finally be able to justify it.  It was worth every penny and then some!  One of the jewelry projects I do with my students is based on designing a piece that unifies the form of a dome with both texture and contrasting metals.  Some student examples from my most recent class can be seen above.  The disc cutter easily shaved more than a week off this project.  As anyone who has done doming before knows, you need to cut near perfect circles to get a good domed form.  This took a tremendous amount of time for my beginners, especially those that had more complicated designs with multiple domes.  This simple tool has you clamp the metal in the middle, select your punch and then tap it with minimal force to pop out your perfect circle.  I had an older, smaller disc cutter donated to my classroom years ago that I was never super excited by the results of, so I had not really considered the Swanstrom.  That was a mistake.  Each student was able to take the time they would have spent cutting all these circles and re-allocate it to developing more complex designs.  I have since bought a second one and it allows my class of 18 to never back up.  Pop - Pop- Pop - done!  That's how fast it is.  I can also speak to the quality of it, since it is getting regular use by a class of 18 at a time and holds up to the beating my students give it (I can not say the same for all the tools I purchase in the classroom).  Whether you are considering it for the classroom or your benchwork involves disc cutting, I would highly recommend it and the possibilities it creates.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Etching Metal Part 3: DIY Texture Plates

This three part post on etching is in conjunction with my 7/21/13 demo for the Metal Clay Artisan Guild in Connecticut.


Etching metal can be used to create jewelry pieces, but it can also be used to create texture plates and stamps for use with metal clays and polymer clays.  Here are three designs for simple stamps using aquatint, marker and PnP resist methods to create the initial design.  Follow the link here to check out the first post on transferring your design to the metal.  If you are using a very precise design or a photograph, focus on the PnP method.  

Etching the Metal...

Once you have transferred your design to the metal, you will need to etch it.  The pieces here are wout the size of half dollars and are etched on 22 gauge copper.  If you follow the link here, you can walk through using ferric chloride to get a "salt etch" in to the metal.  I have had success using this with copper, bronze and nickel silver.

"Printing" your designs in Clay...

The copper pieces in this post are pictured next to the fine silver medallions they created.  I made a pancake of silver clay and rolled it into the copper the same way I would roll onto any other texture plate.  I had lubed each of these up with olive oil as a releasing agent and did not run into any problems with them sticking.  It took a little experimenting to get the clay the right thickness because when I rolled it too thin, the edges of the copper did rip it, but that was easy enough to work out.  This is a great solution to want to produce a limited edition series while still having the ability to make each one unique.  It would be easy enough to change the patina color, add carvings or even dome the shape of the final piece.