Rings

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Sizing finger-shaped ring shanks.  How to use a square or finger-shaped ring mandrel too!

Added:  4/11/17

Question

“I have a question about rings. I follow your posts and today came across the one you did on ring sizing. My question is: If I make a rounded square ring do I size the ring as if it were a normal round ring, then when soldered, form it on the mandrel of choice.”

Answer

I’ve been asked this question a few times and finally did a test today.  I started with two different rings, that were already round.  I measured the size of the rings, annealed them (and in one case, soldered the seam) and then shaped them on a finger-shaped ring mandrel. 

  1.    Both rings started out round. Ring #1 started out as an 8 1/4.  Ring #2 was a size 7.
  2. To tell what size a wide banded ring is, on a ring mandrel, look at where the center (widthwise) of the ring shank sits.  Whatever size is marked, under the centerline of the ring shank, is the ring size.  If it is like an 8 and 1/16th, you’ll have to approximate, where that line would be.  Maybe mark it on your mandrel.  Most mandrels are marked with1/2 to 1/4 sizes If you have a choice, opt for the mandrel with 1/4 sizes as many people have in-between sized fingers. I couldn’t find a mandrel with 1/8 markings.
  3.   Ring #1 was unsoldered so, I thought that I’d share a tiny bit of the process.  Here’s what my “round” ring looked like before soldering and shaping.  I “flattened” the area where the seam is.  It is easier to get a good fit that way.  Before that, as you can see in photo #1, it was formed round.
  4.   Here’s how ring #1 looked,  right before soldering.  I’m using a titanium “corner” to prop it on.  I used binding wire to ensure a tight join (even though I usually despise using it!  I spread the wire to lift the ring off of the charcoal so that my torch flame could reach under the ring.  I could easily have also used cross locks, to hold it, or a third hand or a variety of other soldering furniture.  It is fluxed, the flux is heated, then the solder is applied.
  5.   I start the shaping process by placing the center seam on the back of the ring mandrel – the small side. Be sure to center the seam on the mandrel and that the mandrel is seated as evenly as possible. It’s easy to make some wonky shapes if things are not centered and the ring shape is not adjusted, with these mandrels.  After hammering a bit, I flipped the ring over and hammered a bit more. The reason for all this flipping around is that the mandrel is a cone and if it isn’t flipped, your ring will be smaller on one side than it is on the other.  Next, I turned the mandrel and hammered the top side, of the shank, flipping and adjusting as necessary to achieve an even, balanced shape.
  6.   Here are the two rings that I rounded and then shaped to be finger-shaped.  Both measured 1/2 size smaller on the ring mandrel but, fit the same as if they were a 7 and an 8 1/4.

So, I guess my brief answer would be:  round the shank first, solder and then shape.  No special stock sizing is required – use a standard ring blank chart (maybe one of mine? See link) or whatever method you usually use for sizing your stock for round rings.  At least that is what I have found: Others may have had differing results. If they do, drop me a line on FaceBook.  Just had a great typo:  FauxBook.  I like that.

Have fun!

Question on sizing and creating saddle rings

Question

“I have SUCH a difficult time getting the sizing correct. In any event, I was wondering if you had any tips on working with saddle rings. Is there a specific template to follow for them where I could get a feel for how they’re constructed? Or is it more just whatever I design and freeform it? Again, sizing is so important and I hate wasting materials. Inevitably, if I make it in copper, it’s gorgeous and perfect. LOL. See attached image for a reference of what I’m talking about.”

Answer

Those long, wide rings are the hardest to size. There is way more finger to accommodate and more metal to make adjustments for. Can you make your rings with an open shank? I find that I can achieve 3 different half sizes and they are adjustable for days when fingers are swollen – especially common with women. Unfortunately, the finger is not all one size. You might have to get a variety of measurements: from where the ring fits on its farthest end and what size it fits at its closest end. My vote is for an adjustable shank. At least, that’s what I’d do!

Have you seen my Ring Sizing Chart? I also have: the Adjustable Ring Size Chart.

As far as patterns for the ring: a. You can check out my Saddle Ring Patterns page or b.  you can buy a cheap saddle ring,  hammer it flat,  then mark out the pattern.  Scan it to a photo editing program like Photoshop or Pixlr Editor and make a few in different sizes by enlarging the image.  Make samples out of tin or roofing flashing to check how they look and feel before committing to your final metal.  Don’t forget to account for the difference in metal thickness between the sample and your final metal.  A .25 mm difference in thickness can make a ring not the right size.

See my video on creating patterns on Pixlr.

A saddle ring might also be created from creating a large disc and rolling in through the rolling mill until it is an oval. Haven’t tried that one yet.

How to Get Flush Edges on a Ring Shank for Soldering

Question

No matter how hard I try I cannot seem to get a flush join on my rings or bracelets.

I use the mitre vise but there always seems to be a round part which stops the seam from being flush.  Can you provide any advice? A video would be great I haven’t seen one yet.

Also, what kind of files should be used and what is the largest gap you can have in the join but still have a presentable seam.

Answer

I just taught a class of beginners how to solder ring shanks.  Everyone had a hard time.  I have found that the thinner the shank, the easier it is.  I have a webpage on how to use the miter cutting vise and jig.  On that page are links to two videos that might help, on the top of the page:  especially the video:   Flat Square Edges on Metal.  I also have a video called: “How to Make a Domed Ring”  that goes over soldering a ring shank.

One way to get a perfect fit is to overlap the band material, mark where they overlap and saw through both ends of the shank. Use flat nosed pliers to bring the two edges together and round after soldering.  No gaps is best.  Sometimes, you can get away with a little light coming through but, not much!
Sometimes, there are little burs left over from filing.  They can get in the way when you are trying to match the ends of the ring shank.  Carefully, sand them off – without rounding the edge of the band – that could create a channel at the seam.  
Use hard solder for your first join.
With the Miter Cutting Vise and Jig:  You can use any file that feels comfortable, isn’t too big or too small.  You want to use the flat side though!

Question

Soldering ring shanks, holding rings together, Argentium.

This was the first time I have brazed Argentium. I practiced on copper ground wire beforehand and then learned that argentium is not like copper.  Also, I found that,  Argentium solder is not like industrial 5% – 15% silver solder. So, I ended up with some porosity in the joint, after the argentium decided to warp open about 0.020, and I just decided to fill it up with solder.  Next time I will anneal the piece before soldering. Do you wire joints like this? Or use pliers?  In the industrial metalworking industry, if the metal was copper or brass, we would just put a big welding clamp on it to keep it closed.

I also might have used a little too much heat – still getting used to the new torch I have, which is oxy-propane instead of oxy-acetylene. I did not realize the flame cone is different on oxy-propane.”

Answer

You can also use medium silver solder with Argentium. When I make a ring shank, I don’t use wire to bind it (binding wire).  I create tension on the join by pushing the ends past one another and side to side.  This work hardens the metal and creates tension, producing a tight join.  Although, during the soldering process, the metal anneals and loosens but, usually doesn’t open up enough to leave gaps.  I hate using binding wire so, I’ll do anything to avoid it.  Don’t use brazing stuff, if you can.
Silver solder or Argentium solder doesn’t like to fill gaps.  Generally, it will flow to one side or another is there is a space.  The bond is at the atomic level so, the edges need to touch.  From the little that I know about brazing solder, it is possible to fill gaps with it.  The molecular bond will, obviously, be stronger with silver solder than with brazing solder, which generally contain (see below for composition of brazing solder).  Another thing to think about when choosing solder is the color match.  The higher the silver content, the closer the match.  I can see your seam.  Probably, if you had only used the Argentium, your seam wouldn’t be visible – after finishing.
I think you did a great job for your first ring band.  Lots of practice ahead of you and a lot of fun.
A hot torch is great as long as you pull the flame back in time.  What can happen, with silver based solders (those that contain zinc), is that the zinc can be boiled away, which pits any areas containing soler i.e.: your seam.  Try to control your temperature more.  Boiling hot red is not good.  Have you checked out the soldering sections on my website?  There is a ton of information, on soldering, under Techniques and there’s even more information under Q&A Soldering – scroll down to Soldering – there are several related pages.
Argentium is a peculiar beast:  it sags at a certain temperature.  It can, also be brittle so, don’t suspend it between two charcoal blocks.
When I make a ring, after cutting to length, I round it on a ring mandrel and check the fit.  With any luck the seam is perfect, no light can be seen through it, and all is lined up.  If it doesn’t fit together perfectly, and depending on the thickness of the metal, I’ll anneal it, pickle and then bend the ends, with flat-nosed pliers.  I want the ends flat and facing one another.  It is easier to line up and solder when the ends are in this position.  After soldering, I re-round using a leather mallet – so that I don’t stretch the band.
You only need to anneal to make forming easier.  You can also heat the metal, to a temp even less than annealing, to clean the metal if it has grease or dirt on it.  The flame will burn off goop and dirt.  Then pickle and make sure that your hands are clean.  Keep your hands away from other body parts – especially the face – as this is an area packed with oil glands.  All that oil creates dirty metal and dirty metal won’t allow the solder to flow.

How to make a two layered ring band, apply an overlay or add a strip to the outside of a ring shank.

Question

I couldn’t find the info I was looking for, regarding the layered ring band, like the one you have on your website’s resources page. Do you first form the band into a ring shape, and then form the pierced decoration on top of the ring band, and then solder it all together, or you first solder the two layers and then form both into a ring band.
I tried first soldering two layers and then forming it into a band, but I got flat parts, and it was hard to shape it perfectly round. But if I first form both layers and then solder, the ring band looks much better, but the problem is keeping it all in place when soldering.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Answer

Are you talking about this ring?   You can do it both ways but, I believe for this ring, that I soldered the decorative band first and then formed the ring shank.  You can use a ring bender, like this one from Pepe Tools,  a mandrel and a non-marring mallet or bending pliers to bend the shank.  To make life easier, make sure it is annealed, before bending and often if it requires further adjusting!

Getting flat areas is a problem but, you can try annealing often and using bending pliers or 1/2 round pliers.  If you use steel 1/2 rounds, I’d coat with tape or Plasti Dip first so that you don’t damage the metal.
With an open shank or closed shank:
  • Create base shank, solder shank ends together.
  • Next: figure out,  approximately,  how much metal you’ll need for the outer ring.  Be generous is your measurements and allow extra.  Use wire or other method to determine how much you’ll need (see link to my FB video below).
  • Flux and apply solder pallions to the strip.
  • Solder.  If you can, spread the solder over the metal with a solder pick. Your goal is to not have lumpy solder – if possible.
  • Pickle and then sand off any high areas of solder.
  • Treat the overlay ring like a bezel – wrap the wire around the ring shank tightly, mark where the two ends overlap, cut, square edges of ring shank,  and check fit.
  • Once you get a tight fit, slide the band over the inner band.  It should be difficult to get on and you might need a tap from a mallet.  It should be tight because the band has additional thickness because of the solder.   Once the solder flows, the shank will have less thickness and could be too big.
I just posted a video, on Facebook,  on how I guesstimate length.  It might help.
Added: 2/21/17