FROM SILVERWARE TO JEWELRY
By: Major Young
Did mom or grandma pass down her old silverware and it's stuck in a drawer, closet or attic just waiting to be discovered and used again? Do something with that beautiful flatware, that not only will you appreciate but so will those that see your creation. These handcrafted pieces can make great gifts for family members, not only to wear and enjoy, but to pass down to their children. Sure, that silverware is tarnished, you might even say hopeless, but that's where the fun begins. That silverware can be handcrafted into jewelry that will receive compliments that you would never have believed. The jewelry created can range in style from primitive to elegant. Some patterns in silverware are very ornate and make beautiful necklaces, rings or bracelets. The spoon ends can be pounded into a rugged looking pendant for a necklace that works also for the guys when you put that pendant on a heavy leather or hemp cord, you'll be amazed. Beading can be added for women on either the rugged or classy pendant and be color coordinated for a great look. You might ask, "How do I turn my flatware into a beautiful piece of jewelry"?
Well, let's see what we can do with your flatware. If your silverware has a wide handle and is very ornate, it can be made into a beautiful pendant for a necklace or a bracelet. If you like a wide ring, that might also be a possibility. If your pieces are narrow with a beautiful design, a ring or bracelet might be the most desirable. Let's start with a pendant to make that beautiful necklace.
1. Buff the handle on a buff wheel. You can get a buff wheel and buffing compound at a local hardware store. Put your buff wheel on your bench grinder and buff away, being very careful not to catch the leading edge of the handle on the wheel. If your silverware is only lightly tarnished, you could just use a cleaning compound. Don't use any kind of a stripper to remove the darkness down in the crevices of the piece or you'll lose the character and beauty of the piece.
2. Cut the piece approximately 5/8" longer than needed, that extra length will make the loop that your leather rope will go through to hang the pendant when finished. Now grind that extra length to an even thickness, approximately 1/16" thick, so it will bend easily to form the loop. If it is too wide, you can grind some off of the width before you bend the loop. With a fine file, smooth the edges of the ground metal so that it will not mar the leather and will slide easily on the cord.
3. With a set of jewelry pliers with round jaws, bend the complete loop to a size that is bigger than the cord that you will be putting it on. Give the piece a final polishing and it is now ready to put on the cord. You can add beading of your choice or just leave it as is, and you now have a very unique and beautiful necklace. You can find leather cord and ends, lobster claw clasps, chain and beading at most hobby and craft stores.
1. Start by buffing the piece of silverware. Now let's cut the piece to the proper length. A ring sizer, (a tapered metal rod with size markings up the side), is very handy to do this task. You can determine your ring size by using a ring that fits you and placing it on the rod. Take your piece of silverware, and at the size you want, put the tip of the piece of the rod and roll the rod one full revolution with the silverware moving but not slipping on the rod. Add 1/4" and that will be the length you need for your ring. Cut the piece in two at that point.
2. Grind the bottom side of the piece to an even thickness and a slow taper to the cut end. The thinner the piece is, the easier it will be to bend on the metal rod. File the edges of the ground area to a smooth, rounded finish and you are now ready to bend it.
3. A 1/2" to 3/4" wide, 4"long piece of dense fiber material (which is what I use) or a hard wood, such as maple, with a 3/4" half-moon cut out in the side is good to use to pound the piece into the circle that we want to achieve. With the rod positioned securely in a vice or cradled in a wooden jig, place the piece of silverware over the rod with the half-moon cutout directly over the rod on top of the piece and pound with a hammer. Work your way the length of the piece and it will begin taking shape. You can use a pair of adjustable pliers with leather over the jaws and taped in place to help bend the piece, never use metal tools directly against the silverware as it will scratch or mar the surface. Keep working the metal until you have a true circle and it is the size you want.
4. Now try it on for size, if it fits the way you want, give it a final polishing and wear it with pride.
1. Start by the usual buffing on two of the pieces. If you have a bracelet that fits well, especially if it has a chain on one side and a lobster claw clasp on the other, that will give you a good idea of the shape and length you want to achieve in your creation.
2. I use a 1 1/4" PVC pipe T to bend my silverware on. You can hold the piece with your pliers and bend into a circle or make a clamp on the PVC with a flat piece of steel that's covered on the clamp side with leather and bolted onto the PVC. Once you have the piece held in place, bend it until you get the shape you want. Bend the second piece the same way.
3 Cut the pieces to the length you want and file to a smooth finish. Drill a 1/16" hole in each end of the two pieces to accommodate the jump rings and smooth the edges of the holes. Use a large jump ring to join the two pieces together. At this point, try the pieces on your wrist and see how they fit. If further adjustment is needed, use your adjustable pliers to get the exact shape you want. At the other ends you can use a split ring to join the lobster claw clasp to one end and to join a 1" chain to the other, Give it a final polishing and wear with a smile.
A FEW SAFETY TIPS!
1. WEAR SAFETY GOGGLES WHEN GRINDING!
2. DIP SILVERWARE IN A CUP OF WATER WHEN IT GETS HOT FROM GRINDING OR BUFFING!
3. BUFF THE PIECE VERTICALLY WITH THE LENGTH OF THE PIECE. IF BUFFING ACROSS THE PIECE, DON'T LET THE LEADING EDGE OF THE PIECE TOUCH THE BUFF WHEEL OR IT CAN GRAB AND THROW THE PIECE!
I hope you have fun with this project. If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you. Contact me from my website and I will be glad to help.
If you have silverware that is very special to you but you have no desire to try this project, contact me and if I can do this for you, I would be happy to.