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Jewellery making activity

Discussion in 'Design and technology' started by brinda_maddur, Jan 14, 2020.

  1. brinda_maddur

    brinda_maddur New commenter

    I am planning to run a 4 day activity for jewellery making with pewter, acrylic including 3D printing for KS3 students. I would like to include visits to a workshop or the museum. Are there any experienced members who could throw som e light on this as this is my first attempt. Any suggestions are most welcome. Thanks in advance.
  2. Duke of York

    Duke of York Star commenter

    I first met Rosie Wolfenden and Harriet Vine in 2005. They'd already set up Tatty Devine and had bought a laser cutter, but they'd bought it from a compamy that weren't interested in providing support. They had ambitions for their business that to be frank, were beyond my comprehension of being viable, but I helped them to resolve the problems they were having with their machine and subsequently sold them a further four laser cutters, before I retired from that business. I also supplied a machine to the Birmingham School of Jewllery who had quite different ideas on what they hoped to use it for.

    Tatty Devine became successful, not only because they had an imaginative way of turning sheets of acrylic into jewellery, but they realised that cutting out the pieces of acrylic is just a tiny part of the job. For evey person doing the laser cutting, they had another ten assembling the designs and if you look closely at the things they make, you appreciate that more effort goes into making a piece of jewellery that can be sold than the obvious bit, i.e. the laser cut acrylic. It's a very skilled job creating designs that work and a very skilled, but different job turning them into saleable items.

    The Birmingham school of Jewellery were more interested in ways to add colours to metals by using the laser to heat treat metals. It can be done and can be very effective when you understand how to do it, but it's a steep learning curve to go through, because it involves an enormous amount of material testing to work out the settings you need and of course, every material needs different settings, as does every thickness of that material.

    Something I experimented with jewllery and had success with in using a laser cutter for was 3D engraving. To understand what this involves, you have to appreciate that laser engraing is essentially a black and white printing process. The laser turns on when the graphic is black and doesn't fire on the white parts of the graphic, however the amount of energy the laser delivers depends on whether the graphic is 100% black, or a shade of grey. In other words, whatever you've set the power to only gets applied when the graphic is 100% black. If the graphic is 50% black, the laser delivers 50% of the power you set it ro.

    By creating a graphic that has varying shades of grey in it, you will engrave to different depths and if you're clever enough, you can create 3d images. CorelDRAW has a countouring tool that makes it relatively simple to achieve to achieve smooth transitions between black and white, but you need to remember that you'll be creating a negative in your artwork, where black engraves deepest and white doesn't engrave at all. The shades of grey engrave proportianally deep, depending on their shade.

    The other thing you need to know, is that you aren't going to have much luck with this if you try to do it in a single pass. You need to take multiple passes to achieve the depth you require, because if you try to do it in a single pass, hoping to get the relief you need to create the 3D image, the heat will damage the material. But for a relatively small piece of jewellery, the enraving time won't take too long, so multiple passes won't be tying the machine up for hours on end.

    It's worth playing around with 3D engraving to make moulds for pewter casting too.

    Finally, I know of a school that had a go at making pewter cast jewelley with embedded pieces of coloured acrylic and achieved fair results. They were routing the moulds out of MDF with a CNC router, cutting the acrylic with whatever tools they had available, putting th acrlic into the mould before they added the pewter. Like all these processes, it takes a lot of work to get it right, but it's all achieveable, if you have the time to invest.
    brinda_maddur likes this.
  3. Ex-teacher

    Ex-teacher Occasional commenter

    We used to do pewter casting with coloured acrylic inserts, it worked very well. Our moulds were made initially out of 3mm MDF, to match the thickness of the acrylic. The acrylic was held in place by double sided tape as the pewter was poured in. However, the students, especially at the end of my career, weren't prepared to spend the time needed to wet and dry and then polish the surfaces to get a real quality product. Pity, as those that did ended up with some fabulous items.

    We also found a set of planishing hammers and formers in a cupboard, and did some cutting and fishing using them on thin tin sheet (be prepared for bruised fingers!), and resurrected an ancient enamelling kiln, and used that, having bought a kg of assorted copper shapes for £30 or so.

    If you have a laser cutter, give them a set size and other criteria, and a sheet of florescent acrylic, and let their minds work. Yes, someone will have to find time nesting them together to minimise waste, but cutting can be done in lesson time.... just turn it on and walk away, give the students individual time slots to check its progress, then when its finished get a couple of responsible ones to separate the waste from the items.

    An assorted set of jewellers findings (split rings, clasps, chord, even earing studs) would be useful.

    Good luck!
    brinda_maddur likes this.
  4. Mrs Grumpy

    Mrs Grumpy New commenter

    The original idea sounds rather over-full for the time allowed, especially at KS3. Cutting acrylic sheet to make badges etc, is manageable, as would be cutting shapes from copper sheet and enamelling them to a basic level. Effective and fairly simple design ideas can be gleaned from natural forms, or car logos, and can be done within the time. A shortish period "designing" from a given provision of material, demonstrations of what tools can do what ( and reminder powerpoints to hand for students to refer to - and then develop / modify chosen design to material, and work on it!
    Glow of pride at end, and an appreciation of the problems involved in working the given materials, one would hope.
    brinda_maddur likes this.
  5. brinda_maddur

    brinda_maddur New commenter

    Thank you so much for the detailed explanation. Having taken all the advice on board, I did decide to cut out the 3D printing and stick to Laser Cutter for plastics, Pewter casting and Copper enameling. However, unfortunately we couldn't go ahead with the activity due to the pandemic. Fingers crossed for next year.Thanks again

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