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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book Of Kells Pendant

In this tutorial you will learn to make a pendant with a decorative attached bail and how to add a gemstone cab using a premade bezel cup.

Materials Needed: 
25 gm PMC3
 PMC 3 paste
PMC 3 syringe
6mm gemstone cab
6mm fine silver bezel cup
shaping tools - roller, cards, paint brushes, needle tool, craft knife
needle files
olive oil
rubber stamps or texture sheets
fat straw
sanding sponges
3 M polishing papers
sunshine cloth
liver of sulphur
emery boards
finishing tools -  wire brush, burnishers or tumbler
Stone setting tools - stone pusher and curved burnisher
particle mask
kiln shelf

Create a template for your bail.  I created this one using a fleur de lis shape with a strip added for the rolled part of the bail.  The strip portion needs to be about 1 1/2" long.

 Roll out your clay 3 cards thick.  This time we are going to add two different textures.  The idea is for it to look old, like something from an archeological dig.  The first texture can be anything that has an organic feel to it.  I used a rubber stamp of an antique map of Africa.  The second texture can be any text stamp - I used one that is from the Book of Kells. Both stamps are my own designs. Apply the first texture and then the second right over the first.  Cut out a large circle using a round template and set aside to dry or use a dehydrator.  You want the clay to come to a leather hard stage.  This is where some, but not all, of the moisture has been removed.  The clay will feel cool to the touch, but not damp.

Roll out the clay again, this time 4 cards thick (I always use thicker clay for bails - they are going to get a lot of wear and I want them to be strong).  Texture with just the organic stamp this time.  Cut out the shape for your bail.  Cut out another small circle, about 8 mm in diameter. Stamp with a signature stamp if you have one  Set aside to dry.

Turn the clay for the bail over and roll the strip portion over a fat straw.  Moisten the top edge with some water using a small paintbrush.  Roll the straw with the clay until it touches the base portion.  Unroll and put some paste on the mark the wet end of the clay made on the base.  Roll the straw and clay back again so that the end is in the paste.  Clean up any excess paste with a damp paintbrush. Allow to dry to leather hard stage.  Remove the straw.  Check the point where the edge of the bail meets the base.  Fill in any gaps with a syringe.  Smooth out the syringe work with a damp paintbrush.  Check the back of the join and fill and smooth that as well.  Allow to dry.
Remember to keep the tips of your syringes submersed in water so they don't dry out.

Refine the 3 pieces with emery boards and needle files.  Run a damp finger over to smooth the edges (the idea is something that has been worn by time, so it's more realistic if it's not perfectly round with straight edges).  Remember to capture what you sand off for making your own paste later.  Use a sanding sponge to smooth the back of the pendant (always pay as much attention to the finish work on the back of your pieces as you do to the front).

 Drill a hole in the round part of the pendant where you want to place your gemstone (I just hold the drill bit between my fingers and twist it).  Enlarge the hole with a round file (#2 Swiss from Contenti - my students love this file!) until it is a little bit larger than the size of your 6mm bezel cup The file is not quite 6mm in diameter so I finished enlarging the hole with a round needle file.  Make sure the hole is a little bit larger than the bezel cup - the clay will shrink as it fires - if the hole is too tight the clay will buckle around the cup.

 Here are the components of our pendant, ready to be assembled.  I'm using amethyst cabs - the Celtic princess who wore this necklace was fond of amethyst ;)

Place some paste on the small circle and moisten the area around the hole in the pendant on the back side. (Check the consistency of your paste if it's the first time you are using it that day.  It should be as thick as very thick whipped cream.  Add water , a few drops at a time and stir until it reaches the desired consistency). Place the circle over the hole and run a bead of water around the edge with a small paintbrush.  Allow to dry.

Place some paste on the bottom part of the bail and moisten the back of the round pendant.  Place the bail on the pendant so that the rolled portion just clears the top of the circle.  Allow to dry.  Add some syringe to on the front at the point that the bail meets the pendant.  Smooth with a wet paintbrush.  Allow to dry.  Check to see if there are any gaps where the dry elements were joined.  Fill them in and smooth with a wet paintbrush and allow to dry.  Inspect your piece carefully.  Smooth away any imperfections with a damp finger or paintbrush.  Sand again if needed.  Take your time and make it as perfect as you can.  It's easier to correct any imperfections at this stage than it will be after it is fired.

Moisten the hole for the bezel cup with water and dip the bottom of the bezel cup in some paste and insert into the hole.  Check to make sure that the bezel cup is level.  Allow to dry to bone dry stage (clay will feel warm and dry to the touch).  Fire at 1650 degrees for 2 hours. Allow to cool. Check around the edges of the cup.  If there are any gaps between the clay and the cup, fill them with paste and refire.  Brush with a wet, soapy brass brush.  Place 1 1/2 lbs of mixed stainless steel shot in a tumbler.  Add a drop of dishwashing soap or a pinch of burnishing compound.  Add enough water to just cover the shot.  Add your pendant, close the tumbler and tumble for about 1 hour.  You can also burnish by hand.

Place a small chunk of Liver of Sulphur (LOS) in a glass cup with a little warm water.  Dip the silver pendant into the LOS for a few moments and rinse.  Repeat this process until you have the patina you desire.  

 Allow to dry and polish the back with a sunshine cloth.  If desired, remove some of the patina from the front as well (I want the patina in the recessed portions only in my pendant).

 Check the fit of the stone in the bezel cup.  Place a short piece of dental floss over the cup and insert the stone over the floss (the floss will allow you to remove the stone so you can adjust the height of the cup.)  The cup is too high for this stone.  On a large cab I would raise the stone, but for a small cab like this I will use a file to adjust the height of the cup so that it comes just up to where the stone begins to curve. Use the dental floss to pull the stone out of the cup....

...and a flat file to adjust the height of the cup.  Then sand the top of the bezel cup lightly to remove file marks.

 Place the stone in the bezel and use a pusher to gently push the sides of the bezel up and over the stone in the sequence shown.  Continue around the stone gently pushing to maintain the round shape.

Use a curved or agate burnisher to smooth the bezel against the stone.

Use polishing papers to bring your pendant to a smooth, shiny finish.  This piece was quite sooth to begin with, so I only used the 3 finest grits.  Then give it a last rub with a sunshine cloth.

Sit back and admire your work.