It’s DONE! Making My Brother’s Wedding Rings 6: The Finishing

This is where the rubber meets the road in the jewelry-making process. Finishing can make or break a piece.

With casting, if care is taken with the wax (ie. making sure the wax if very smooth, free of nicks and scratches, and nice and even) then your finished piece will be that much easier to clean up.

I’m going to be very meticulous with the finishing here, because I really want these rings to be beautiful and shiny. They are, after all, wedding rings, and need to be extra special anyway!

Check out our starting point:

Gold rings direct from the casting flask and ready to polish.
Gold rings direct from the casting flask and ready to polish.

First step in finishing; filing off the remnants of the sprues. We’re left with hearty balls on the band after the casting; and its no easy task to file that down with hand tools to make the bands smooth and even again. The goal is to make sure one would never know it was there. That takes some time, and some elbow grease.

I save my gold filings for use in future projects. It may seem like overkill to keep gold powder/dust, but it adds up for future use.

Bubble left on the band from the sprue.
Bubble left on the band from the sprue.

Once the band is even again it gets a nice light sanding. I used a Foredom tool with a coarse then a fine sanding drum to make the work easier. It cleaned up it very nicely.

Once the sanding is complete; it’s over to the polishing wheel for a liberal coating of Tripoli compound; a waxy paste that is mildly abrasive. It can quickly and easily remove the fine marks the sanding has left, and is the first of the polishing steps to ensure a mirror finish.

Tripoli compound being loaded into the polishing wheel.
Tripoli compound being loaded into the polishing wheel.

After the tripoli does its work, the rings get a quick scrub in soap and water, and then on to the second phase of polishing compound; Red Rouge. This is where the rings buff up like a dream. A few minutes under the rouge wheel and they shine.

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Another quick scrub up, and….. they’re done.

It’s been months of slow work (I had the privilege of being able to take my time with these) but I’m VERY happy with how they turned out. This work could be done in just a couple of days, but it was also a learning process for me I had no desire to rush. It also helped that my brother asked me to do these last fall.

The wedding is July 27th. I hope you’ll join me in wishing the newlyweds-to-be a lifetime of happiness … and great looking jewelry.

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Love it! So shiny I can see the pattern of my phone case in the ring!
Love it! So shiny I can see the pattern of my phone case in the ring!

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Making My Brother’s Wedding Rings 4: Casting Part 1

Now the action begins.

Casting is a 2-day process and it starts with prepping the wax rings by attaching sprues; essentially little hoses, which will attach to a wee wax funnel where the molten metal will flow in.

Attaching the sprues with a hot wax pen.
Attaching the sprues with a hot wax pen.

The sprues are attached using a drop of hot wax.

Sprued rings, ready for the flask.
Sprued rings, ready for the flask.

Once that’s done, they’re fitted into the base of the casting flask, and its measured to see how much investment is needed.

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Investment is an almost plaster-like substance, which fills up the flask and covers the wax rings.  It’s then baked in a high heat kiln overnight. The wax rings dissolve, leaving perfect little hollows, shaped exactly like your rings, and with any and all detail.

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Making and mixing your investment is a specialty all to itself.  Trevor, my jewelry instructor of a few years is an expert, and he’s doing the bulk of the work here, and humouring me by letting me “help”. It’s a great learning experience for me; but I’d definitely be in over my head if I had to try this myself.

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The investment power can be toxic, so wearing proper protection is a must.

Meaasuring the investment powder and using distilled water are also essentials.  Trevor is also adamant that the mixing technique is precise; using gloved hands to feel for any lumps (just one could cause your new plaster cast to explode in the kiln, or when pouring the gold), and timing the mixing exactly (we have 9 minutes to mix and pour and vibrate the flasks.

Hand-mixing the investment.
Hand-mixing the investment.

Vibrating removes any air bubbles inside which could cause similar unhappy endings to a casting flask, and thus all your hard work.

Vibrating the investment to remove air bubbles.
Vibrating the investment to remove air bubbles.

Once the mixture is just right, it’s carefully poured into the flasks and left to dry for a few hours.  After that it’s straight to the kiln.

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Finished flask from the top.
Finished flask from the top. That little “scoop” is the funnel that we’ll pour the molten gold into.

Once the flasks have been fired for the appropriate time, they’re ready for the next step; melting down the gold and pouring!

That’s tomorrow….

One post-script on this:  this is by no means an exact step-by-step of the casting process.  Casting is a very specialized, very delicate and sometimes dangerous process that should only be done by the experienced, or under proper supervision.  This is my journal of the process of making my brother’s rings, so please, don’t read this and try it at home!

Jewelry Blog: Making My Brothers Wedding Rings, Part 1

Appraisal photo of the ring.
Appraisal photo of the ring.

It’s a daunting (by special) request as a hobby silversmith; can you please make our wedding rings?

My brother and his wife-to-be have requested I venture out of my almost exclusively silver-working, and create matching wedding bands for them in gold.

To Match My Mom’s Ring

This is no ordinary task either; the band is to match a beautiful vintage gold and diamond engagement ring; my mother’s. She died more than 10 years ago, and may father passed the ring to my brother, who’s held onto it, waiting for just the right woman.  We’re very happy he’s found her, and that a piece of family history is being very much appreciated by both of them.

The ring is a simple prong-set solitaire, with a slightly raised edge.  The bands will be very simple to match.

We’ve been gathering unused, unwanted gold from various family members to keep it vintage when it comes to creating the bands.

In the next couple weeks, I’ll be working with an expert goldsmith and teacher who’ll guide my first real fabrication in gold.  While it’s not much harder of a metal to work in, it IS a lot more expensive.  Solder joints in silver cost next to nothing, while each solder joint in gold is about $25.  You have to be sure you’re ready to go.  And not to mention, if you screw up gold, it’s a mistake that costs several hundred bucks, instead of just $10-30 for raw silver.

Step 1 will be to test and then melt down the donated gold, and pour it into an ingot, or wafer.images.jpegold bar pour

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Step 2: to draw the ingot down to a wire of appropriate gauge.

Step 3: form the wire, by giving it that edge to match.

I’ll update the steps as I go.  Wish me luck!

You can also check out other photos and notes on my Facebook page.

-Erin