In this tutorial, Jasmine from JAS Jewellery shares with you a great metalsmithing project on creating domed earrings. This includes a range of techniques including cutting, doming, drilling and polishing metal.
I found myself buying a doming block quite quickly when I started silversmithing. A lot of my pieces explore the use of circular shapes and being able to dome them took my designs to the next level.
Using a doming block is something that can be explored even as a newbie to the world of silversmithing. It's a great tool to create simple domed earrings and can be used to create components for more complex pieces. This tutorial shows you how to form and polish your domed discs, these can then be turned into earrings by adding earring hooks or a necklace by attaching a jump ring and necklet chain.
The discs in the tutorial have a smooth surface for a minimal look but there are so many creative possibilities! You could easily texturise your piece with a ball pein or cross pein hammer as well as add a patina using liver of sulphur to make those textures stand out. Or use a rolling mill before cutting your discs out to achieve a more textured look. Other alternatives include sawing a star or flower shape from your disc before doming or even go a step further and set gemstones inside the dome or add some granulated spheres.
Choose the right size punch from your disc cutter, bear in mind that when you dome the discs they will appear smaller. Slide your sheet into the cutter and place the punch in, hold the punch steady and using a ball pein hammer strike the top of the punch until the disc drops to the bottom.
Using your needle file (I like to use the flat side of a half round file) file any marks from the edge of your disc, make sure you file in the direction of the curve to keep the rounded shape. Then use 400 grit wet and dry sanding sheets to sand your discs on the faces and the edges.
TIP: Place your sanding sheet flat on your anvil and move your discs across the top in a figure of eight motion. This will ensure your disc is completely flat and even on both sides.
You'll probably find that you need to anneal your discs after filing and sanding to soften them up for doming. Do this by heating up your discs with your gas torch on a soldering block, once the silver starts to turn a dull reddish colour take the heat off, quench in water, then put in the safety pickle to clean. Another tip is to draw a line with a sharpie on your silver once your silver reaches annealing temperature the sharpie mark will disappear. Remove your discs from the pickle with plastic tweezers and rinse and dry before doming.
Find the right sized dome and punch for your desired look. The larger the dome and punch the shallower your dome will be, make sure that you use a punch that doesn't fit too tightly in the dome, you want about 0.8mm between the edge of your dome and the punch to allow for your silver to sit comfortably.
Place your annealed discs into the correct sized dome of your doming block, make sure it's central then place the punch on top. Strike the punch with a rawhide mallet hitting at different angles and moving the punch around so that you reach every part of the disc's surface. You don't need to hit too hard, gentle taps to start with then a little harder if you need to. Keep checking to make sure the disc has curved fully and evenly.
Next you'll need to sand your domed discs using wet and dry sanding sheets starting with 400 then 600 and ending on 1200. This will make sure you've got rid of any marks from using the doming block and punch and then you're ready for polishing. I like to use the polishing papers and do it by hand working from green up to white.
You can end the polishing process here or do the following steps for a mirror shine or satin finish.
You can stop the polishing process with your polishing papers from the previous step or have a go at gaining a mirror shine polish or satin finish.
Now it's time to drill a hole in your discs so you can easily turn them into jewellery. Place your disc on a steel block, and use a centre punch to dent where you want the hole, this will prevent the drill bit from skidding across the surface of your disc and help you start drilling the hole.
Start with the smallest drill bit and work up to a drill bit that is slightly bigger than the thickness of your ear wire or jump ring. I start with a 0.5mm drill bit then finish with a 0.9mm bit, the wire I use is 0.8mm. You can use a round ball burr to neaten the drill hole or a round file to tidy any sharp edges. Using cutting lube or beeswax helps to lubricate your drill bit and drills much easier. The flexi shaft on the Dremel makes it so much easier to hold and it's less awkward.
If you are a beginner we would recommend drilling before polishing. If you have limited experience, you could easily slip off the centre punch mark which will create a scratch, meaning you will have to sand and polish your piece again!
Now it's your turn to get creative with your shiny drilled discs and turn them into pieces of jewellery.
You can add earwires to create instant earrings - check out Kernowcraft's earwire tutorial here. You can also add a jump ring and chain to create a lovely necklace, or experiment with adding wire wrapped beads or gemstones to the mix. The choice is yours.
I'm Jasmine, the face behind JAS Jewellery. I've been silversmithing for just over two years and I create all of my pieces from my home studio in Brighton.
I like to play around with geometric shapes in my pieces and take a lot of inspiration from minimalist art and architecture. I also like to use a combination of copper and silver in my work for a pop of colour.
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Watch our video or follow the step by step photos on how to make your own earwires from wire. Including a handy list of recommended tools and supplies.
Choose from our wide range of earwires and earring findings, including shepherds crook earwires as featured in a range of metals, as well as lots of settings to use with gemstones too.