Apprentice blog : The first two weeks.

November 8, 2011

By Ella Sadler-Andrews

I’ve finally started the practical side to my jewellery apprenticeship. Considering we initially came up with this plan in May (rough guess, can’t actually remember exactly…) it’s been a looong time coming. But hell, it’s been worth the wait!

We’ve had two sessions so far, starting with some pretty basic stuff. My coach/teacher/boss has been Janet. I chose not to go to University for many reasons, one being I was fed up of conventional education and teaching. Janet knows this so I can tell she’s making a super effort not to bore me or have a ‘regular’ teaching style.

I’m pretty impatient, especially when it comes to watching demonstrations. I’d rather just get on with it and freestyle…Janet keeps the instructions to a minimal, and practical to the max. (I would say) I’m a quick learner, I pick things up easily. I understand however, that some things within working with metals that I can’t just ad lib. For instance, soldering and fusing. That blumming blow torch is lethal. If Janet hadn’t have given me instruction with that weapon then I can safely say, I’d have no eyebrows left.

So as Julie Andrews would say… ‘Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start’. I’ve started working with copper to begin with. Firstly, I got to mark out a rectangle of copper which I then went on to saw out. I was never one for woodwork at school, but with this more delicate sawing, I only managed to break one blade! I eventually got to the stage of sawing out a (very) small star and a (very) small heart.

Copper’s edges are sharp. So sharp, I even cut my finger lightly on my own piece.  To avoid this and to also make an article look finished, you file. This is probably the most tedious job of them all. Getting the angle correct so you actually smooth the edges and not just sharpen them even more, plus not sanding too much that you gradually wear down the copper is a skill I’m really struggling with.

To save myself going mad, we moved onto the next task – fusing. Using layman’s terms fusing is ultimately joining two pieces of metal together (this time we used silver). The precision needed to get this right is fine. Fusing involves getting the metals to melting point at the same time so that when you take the heat away, they form a solid so they become one piece. You’ve also got to use a flux to aid the ‘joining’ called borax. I used a thin silver wire to fuse onto a silver plate. Getting both sections hot at the same time without melting the silver wire (as it heated much quicker) was hard to do. Naturally, I melted a fair bit of silver wire; however, it generally worked!


My second session was centred around a piece I was to design. I like simple things, pieces inspired by nature and New Zealand. Combining these, I came up with a simple pendant. A small copper rectangle, with silver wiring soldered onto it. I chose to make it fit a ribbon as its chain, meaning the hole is a rectangle shape. I will upload a picture after my next session so that it’s a bit easier to understand!

Last week I got as far as sawing my rectangle out (no broken blades this time, definitely getting the hang of it!), and sawing out my rectangle for the ribbon. This involves hole punching a starting indent and then drilling through (using what seemed like the first hand drill known to man!). You then have to take the blade out of the saw, pop the blade through the copper and reattach the blade. Pictures will make this far easier!

Then came the inevitable filing. I didn’t get very far with this last week so tomorrow, I’m sure my first task with be smoothing the edges down.

I’m really enjoying my learning at Lancaster Jewellery school. It’s a completely new world for me. It’s creative, exciting and so rewarding. I look forward to completing my first piece and don’t worry, they’ll be some more pictures this week!


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