Friday, August 7, 2009

My First Tutorial: Pinched Ball Earrings

These earrings are enjoyable to make and lend themselves to a variety of designs. And, since this is my first tutorial, I'm counting on you guys to give me some constructive feedback.

Important Note: This tutorial is written for those with experience in the use of a torch and the knowledge of the safety measures that come with using it.
  • 16 gauge round, fine silver wire
  • 20 gauge round, fine silver wire for the earwires, or you can use ready-made ones from your jewelry supply shop
  • 9/8 inch diameter hardwood dowel
  • Good quality flush cutter
  • Torch (I use the butane microtorch...also used for creme brulee)
  • Soldering block
  • Wooden block with a 1/4 inch mandrel fixed into it (you can use a 1/4-inch screw and saw off the top like I did)
  • 1 narrow-diameter nail, approx. 2mm
  • Jeweler's hammer
  • Steel block
  • Tumbler with steel shot and original Dawn dish liquid

  1. Wind the 16g wire around the 9/8-inch dowel twice to make 2 rings. Slide the coil off . Cut two rings with a flush cutter.
  2. Now look at the opposing ends on each ring you just cut. One end is flat across, the other is in a wedge or pointy shape. You need to cut this pointy shape so it is also flat across. Use the flat side of the flush cutter to cut this end flat, or flush (you don't need to cut in too much).
  3. Butt these ends together to form the ring. Make sure there aren't any gaps. Place carefully on the soldering block (take your time with this) and fuse this joint closed. Let the ring cool on its own. Side Note: If you're not sure how to fuse, I highly recommend an online course by Iris Sandkuhler of Sandkuhler Studio called "Fused Loop Pendants and Stackable Rings". That's how I learned, and I've been having a blast with fusing ever since.
  4. With two thin, metal rods of the same diameter, stretch the ring into an oval shape.
  5. Squeeze one end of the oval together with flat-nosed pliers until the sides touch each other. Squeeze the other end together, but just before the sides touch each other. This will be the end that hangs from the earwire.
  6. Use the torch to form a ball at the end where the sides are touching each other. It's best to do this with the earrings next to each other so you can try to make the balls approximately the same size. Let them cool on their own.
  7. Gently pry the sides apart and fit the open shape over the 1/4-inch mandrel. Pound the narrow-diameter nail through the earwire end. Just in front of the nail, squeeze the wire together to shape the hole for the earwire. Gently pull out the nail, and pull the earring off of the mandrel.
  8. Hammer the balls on both sides against the steel block until they are to your liking. This step really shines them up. Add the earwires.
  9. Place the earrings in a tumbler with some steel shot, water just 1/2 inch above the shot, and a squirt of the original Dawn dishwashing liquid. Tumble for as long as you want. I tumbled mine for around 6 hours total, and they were nice and hard.
  10. Alternate Finish: If you prefer, or if you don't own a tumbler, you can hammer the entire earring to harden it. This will give it a lot of shine and flash.
You can do some really cool things to these earrings, like drill a hole in each hammered ball and hand pearl briolettes or other beads. Or pinch more wire and ball those up too, like I did with these other earrings. Let your imagination run wild!