You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2011.

Lucas “Low-Boy”

This little beauty is a foot controller manufactured by Lucas Dental Equipment.  It is attached to my Foredom Flex Shaft and works like a dream.  It was a Christmas gift from my dear sister Lexi this past year.  I was delighted; thanks again Lex!  I had this on my tool wish list for well over a year.

The first time I saw one of these was in Lexi’s studio.  She told me about the benefits of having a variable speed control pedal that would allow you to start out slower than any other foot controller.  It definitely gives you great control as you work with your flex shaft or dremel.

The foot controllers that come with Flex Shafts don’t let you start at the very slow revolutions per minute (rpm) like this one does. There are times when you really need a delicate touch to start working on something you are fabricating.  This pedal fits the bill!

If you Google this, you find lots of positive feedback about the quality of the device.  And I am one who will chime in that this is a great addition to your metalsmithing studio.

This is the ad that Lucas runs and I thought I would share for those of you may be interested in adding this gem to your studio.  I think you’ll be very happy you did.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.


This month’s topic from the Blog-o-Sphere Think Tank is: “What is your favourite past time activity?”

As you can see from the photo at the top of this post, one of my many favorite past time activities is playing with our basset hounds. This was at the end of a ‘photo shoot’; taken about 3 years ago.  You see, when you are at their level, anything is fair game!  They had had enough of the picture taking session and it turned into some wrestling on the floor.  The bassets won!

There is something about spending time with the dogs.  Ours have great personalities.  They know my emotions and during those times when I may feel a little down, at least one of them will come and rest their head on my foot or leg.  Living with a pack of hounds has all sorts of great moments.

It goes without saying, but another one of my favorite past time activities is spending time with Dan.  I know, awwww.  But it’s true.  He’s my best friend and soul mate.

Lately, I’ve been able to resume a regular swimming schedule and that is also at the top of my list.  The morning zen after a swim is one of the best ways I know of to start my day right.

Working with my hands feels like a past time activity, even though making my jewelry is not …it is one of my passions and I love that it affords me an opportunity to do something that feels so relaxing.

My fellow think tank members are sharing their thoughts on this topic too.  Please stop by and find out what some of their favorite past time activities are.

Andes Cruz

Mary Spencer (WATTO)

Stephanie Clark

Shaun Young

Beth Cyr

Shannon Koochin

Brad Severtson

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

Tom Muir


I am one of the board members for Colorado Metalsmithing Association.  Our annual conference is approaching and what I find fantastic is that we have a gifted set of presenters who will offer workshops before and after our conference.

This year, Tom Muir is one of our presenters and he will be offering a workshop on Clasps and Catches.

Dates / Time: July 19 – 21, 2011 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM
Location: Metropolitan State College – Downtown Denver CO
Cost: $350 with paid CoMA Membership
$400 non-member cost

His workshop is almost full; a maximum of 12 students is the limit.  What a great opportunity to learn from someone who is a master of their craft as a metalsmith.

In this workshop, three clasps will be explored and fabricated by participants. Creative applications and the mechanical principles that apply to catches and clasps will be developed through an examination of actual samples, slides and discussions. Students will create samples of three catches, including a key catch, bayonet clasp with stainless steel spring, and a tension catch with stainless steel pin stem.

Great opportunity to invest in yourself as a metalsmith….I certainly think so.  For more details, along with the registration form, check out the workshop information on the Colorado Metalsmiths website.

I am a firm believer in investing in yourself through continuing education.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

Wubbers Bail Making Pliers

Pictured are my medium and large Wubbers Bail Making Pliers.  I purchased these when I was wire wrapping my glass cabochons.  They also have a smaller sized one, but I felt it was too small for the bails I would want for my work.

I liked a number of things about them and still do.  They provide a way to consistently shape a bail.  The handles are slightly cushioned so they are very comfortable.  I discovered them when I was reading a wire wrapping magazine and caught Wubbers ad.  They looked perfect for the job of making bails and I can confirm that they are.

I purchased these from FDJ Tools on Time.  Of course, my favorite resource for finding things on the web is Google, so feel free to do a search and you will find that there are a number of distributors for this line of pliers.

Now that I don’t work with wire as much, I find that I still use these for shaping some of my metal bails.  As long as your metal is properly annealed, I find they are a great asset for bending and shaping the metal into bails.  The different diameters work great to create a bail that is just the right size for the chain I like to use for my necklaces.

Since I have used these for a number of years, I find they are durable and a good value.  Of course, they have a very specific purpose, they are not a tool I use everyday so they don’t get regular wear and tear…more like gentle wear and tear.

Wubbers has a nice product line and I have found their website easy to navigate.  Although these are my only set from Wubbers, given my experience with these, I would definitely consider purchasing some of their other products when the need arises.

If you are in the market for a nice set of pliers to create bails for your pieces, give these a try…I think you will like them.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

It’s time for Art Hop!  Thursday evening, June 16, 2011 from 5 PM to 8 PM.  Lots to do.  Plenty to see.  And this time, I think the weather is going to cooperate too.

I will be one of the artists representing the Front Range Open Studios Tours, along with Nancy Bonig at the Gallery Center located at 366 Second Street #C in Monument, CO.  I think there may be some other open studio tour artists, but I haven’t heard the final word.

Just wanted to send out a shout and if you live in the Monument, CO area, come visit downtown Monument.  There’s lots to see and I think you will be glad you did.  Hope to see you there.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

Photo Credit ~ Daniel Krucoff

One of my latest. Right now I don’t have a title for this piece. I view it as a test run.

What do you do when you want to take your work in a new direction?  I read, listen to music, watch movies, take walks, swim….just about anything to clear my mind and get back to feeling centered.  Right now, I have this feeling like I did right before Arts & Crafts Impressions started to take form.  I experimented, tried a few prototypes, and learned from the things that just didn’t work.

I’m in that place of growth now.  Moving away from the comfort and safety of the tried and true.

This past week, Lexi wrote an post on her blog about “Is it Art or is it Craft?”  We’ve discussed this topic a lot.  I want to take my work in the direction of Art and not just Craft.  I feel like I have a long way to go and I like the challenge.  Time to step outside of the comfort zone.

I worked on a number of things with this piece.  Goal One was to not create a design based on the stone; especially don’t follow the shape of the stone.  I think hearts can be formidable design challenges because the tendency is to mimic the shape.  I did not want to do that.  The shape that surrounds this Sonoran Sunrise heart is an outline of one of the violets from our backyard.  I took lots of photos of these and I like the delicate ruffled edges of these bright, vibrant little flowers.  That’s where I started; the outline of a single flower.  I did debate whether or not to incorporate the lines of the petals and decided I would just keep this simple and abstract.  Then I just started to draw shapes that I thought would work as a back drop for the flower.  I didn’t want something symmetrical.  Eventually I came up with this rounded rectangle in silver, overlaid the copper floral piece and set the heart bezel to hold the stone.  I added a tube set at the bottom of a faceted black onyx.  As this progressed if felt like something was missing, so I added the 3 silver balls in different sizes.  The bail is textured.  When it came to the heart’s position on the piece, I thought setting it at this angle would add interest rather than just doing it the ‘normal’ way.  I liked the look of the skewed heart.

Right now I’m not sure where this is taking me, but I enjoyed spending the weekend in the studio working on this and another Mountainesque piece too.  I felt like I was getting back into the rhythm.  It felt good.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

My Pepe 90 MM Rolling Mill with Newton looking on in the background…..

For today’s segment of Talkin’ Tools, I thought I would discuss some of the heavy artillery in my studio.  In this picture is my Pepe Rolling Mill.  As you can tell by this photo, basset supervision exists in my studio pretty much all of the time!  😀

I purchased my rolling mill from Indian Jewelry Supply (IJS) a couple of years ago.  They had the best price I could find on the web and they were offering free shipping at the time too!   I do purchase a number of my supplies from IJS because of their prices, customer service, quality and fast delivery times.

Why on earth do I need this piece of equipment in my studio?  Well, there are a number of reasons, besides it’s just a really cool tool! A rolling mill is a machine designed to produce thinner gauges of sheet metal and wire.  But there is more to it than that.  Here are a few of my main reasons to use this equipment:

  1. I purchase my easy solder in wire form.  One of the things Lexi taught me was to use the rolling mill to flatten that solder wire.  This helps prevent using too much solder in your application. Since I only have easy solder in wire form, rolling it through the mill tells me it’s easy solder.  Added bonus, it’s in a consistent flat piece.  It helps me to identify my easy solder so I don’t mixed it up with something like silver wire.  Yes, sadly, I’ve mixed things up…chalk that up to experience and lessons learned.  😦
  2. Conveying patterns to metal.  This is just plain fun!  You can transfer textures to your metal from papers, wire shapes, netting, fabric textures, brass sheets to mention a few things.  Use your imagination, the sky is the limit, although somethings don’t work well.  Just experiment and have fun.  The process kind of reminds me of the old wringer washer my Mom had when I was a kid…those were the days before automatic washers with the spin cycles.  Can you imagine?  Her machine had these wringers to run clothes through to remove the excess water… I’m really dating myself!  The process is virtually the same with the rolling mill.  Place the texture you want to transfer against your annealed metal, sandwich the two materials together in a manila folder (cut to size) to hold them in place as you roll them through the mill.  The pressure exerted by the mill rolls will transfer the texture to your metal.  Pretty cool, yes?
  3. Sometimes you have a thicker gauge of metal, say 18 gauge, and you want to reduce it to 20 gauge if you don’t have any around.  The compression will cause the metal to ‘spread’ and thin out to a smaller gauge.

There are lots of uses for this machine, but I’m just covering a few of the things I use mine for.

They come in a number of different widths 90 – 130 mm, completely flat or combo.  Mine is completely flat.   With the combo, half the roller is flat and the other half has graduated grooves used for working with wire.  They even have automatic ones, but those seem a bit frightening to me, not to mention VERY pricey!  I shudder to think of getting a finger or something caught in an automatic rolling mill.  Clearly for a one person studio like mine, the size I have works very well.

It’s important to keep your roller surfaces clean and free from debris.  Particles can be accidentally transferred to your metal forming imprints you may not want.  When not in use, I keep mine covered and I wipe the roller surfaces with a light 3 in 1 oil to maintain them.

I am a huge fan of Pepe Tools.  Their quality is outstanding and with proper care, this is one piece of equipment that I think will last a life time.  Something nice to pass on to a future metalsmith.

For those of you shopping around for a rolling mill, I would encourage you to check out the line Pepe offers.  If you have a rolling mill, I’d love to know what kind and your uses for it too!

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

Soul Searching Series
Photo Credit ~ Daniel Krucoff

With this piece, I am revisiting my Soul Searching Series. It has been a while. In my quest to find other ways to fabricate my work, I envisioned a slightly different way of bringing two elements together. I think part of this came from my previous wire wrapping experience. When I wire wrapped cabochons, I never really set out with a pattern in mind. It was an adventure to see where the wire would take me and how the cabochon would signal the wire’s path.

Originally, I set out to create my first hinged pendant with this one.  As happens with some of those first efforts, one learns but doesn’t always succeed.  I wanted to salvage the components I had already completed and re-worked things which led to this design.  I think this is part of the reason I’m known as ‘da fixer‘ in my metalsmithing circle of friends.

I realize it may be a bit difficult to see in the photo, but I’ll try to describe the connection variation I used.  I forged a bit of wire, wrapped it to form a multi-circle loop that allowed the bottom connector to pass through.  With my Arts & Crafts Impressions, I started incorporating some copper elements.  It seemed like this piece was a likely candidate for a few copper elements to enhance that pale peach/pink section of the top stone.  The top copper accent on the bail is intended to carry the ‘scene’ from the top stone.  The copper circle place on the connection was a just because I liked the idea.

The stones are India Jasper (top) and Chrysoprase (bottom) which I purchased from Gary B Wilson in April this year.  I go through this process when I’m getting ready to work on something new; look at the stones, touch them, see what calls out. The pairing of these two just clicked.  This was the first time I added pale greens to my palette and I was drawn to a number of these when Gary was in Denver.  Set in sterling silver with the aforementioned copper accents.  Textured some of the metal components and oxidized with liver of sulfur.

It’s a small change in direction, which I plan to continue to explore.  I’m quite fond of my Soul Searching Series and from time to time there will be those new works that are destined to become part of that series.  Just as I feel that I am destined to “develop things according to plan”.

Well, I guess I’ve dropped enough hints about the title of this piece….it is Destined.  For me, it represents a promise of things to come, things that are destined to happen with my work.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

A few of my hand files

When I started to learn metalsmithing, Lexi stressed the importance of hand finishing my work.  Part of that process involves using some of these hand files, along with sand paper and other things.

In the picture at the top of this post, I have my size 0, 2, and 4 files.  For the most part, I start with my 0 file as it takes off the rough edges the fastest and then I work my way to the finer files.  I don’t always need to do that, it just depends on the finish I’m trying to achieve on the edges of my metal.

All of these files are manufactured by Grobet.  I purchased mine through Tevel at Allcraft.  One thing I’ve learned is buying quality tools is money well spent.  With proper care, your files will last a long time and you will be protecting your investment.

My set of number 1 Habilis files, also by Grobet.

Generally I use the number 0 and number 1 files and my work is done.  My goal is to get that nice, clean edge on my pieces.  The hand finish process creates a smooth finish that will prevent the jewelry from snagging clothing or feeling sharp to the wearer.

One of the added benefits I find with hand finishing pieces is that I find it very soothing to do.  I love working with my hands.  As I hand finish my pieces, I feel like I’m putting a part of my soul into the piece…kind of bringing it to life with the gentle care of crafting the metal in its final form.  It is a zen thing for me, no doubt.

How to protect your investment. It’s important to keep the files clean and the file cleaner, shown below, helps to pick out the bits of metal shavings that can accumulate in the file’s teeth.

The File Cleaner

This last file I want to show is is also a Grobet….it’s very small compared to the others and is used for very fine work, like gently filing the edge of a bezel.  Wonderful for delicate jobs where the others will just overpower and possibly ruin your metalwork.

The Number 6 File

The number 6 file is expensive.  I bought mine last year and it was over $60.  It’s only 4 or 5 inches long.  However it is a wonderful little file for precision work and I have found it to be worth every penny I spent.  This one also came from Allcraft.

Why do I hand finish my work?  The obvious answer is that it was the way I was taught.  However, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to explore other options and I still come back to hand finishing my work.  As I said earlier, it is a very soothing part of the process for me and,  in my opinion, the end result cannot be rivaled.

Another way some metalsmiths use for their final finish work is a tumbler.  I actually have one that I have never used.  Ironically, I bought it when I was doing wire wrap work and knew it was a good way to work harden the wire and finish the pieces.  Frankly, I just never found the courage to put my pieces in a tumbler because I was wire wrapping fused glass cabochons and I just didn’t trust the tumbling process to not harm my glass.  I had these visions of chipped or scratched glass cabs with my wire work destroyed and gnarled….just never felt like trying the tumbler.  Someday I’ll need to explore it on something small just to be able to compare the results.

I recognize that metalsmiths choose a variety of ways to finish their jewelry, some based on how they have been taught, some on alternative methods they’ve discovered and just enjoy, some it’s just their signature way of completing a piece.  I think the way an artist finishes their pieces becomes a matter of personal preference and what they like in the final look for their work.

At this point, because I enjoy working with my hands so much, I will continue to hand finish my pieces.  I find all of these files are an invaluable part of my process that allow me to achieve the look and feel I want in the personal adornments I create.

That concludes this week’s segment of Talkin’ Tools.  For those metalsmiths in the crowd, what is your favorite method to finish your work and why?

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

Kathleen Krucoff

Artist and Metalsmith

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