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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Part Two

Well it's not tomorrow but this is the soonest I could get back to my post on making the custom ordered chain. So here is the rest of the story:

Once the wire is made I have to roll it onto an appropriate sized pipe in order to make the circles I need to make the chain. Since by this time I have either a really, really long piece of wire or a bunch of shorter ones, it's not nearly as fast as one would think. Plus when rolling it onto the pipe I have to insure that it never overlaps so that the links are consistent in size. Once done with that I have to cut the links which, fortunately in this case, does not require me to saw them as it isn't necessary to have an absolutely perfect join on these links to fuse them, so I use a small pair of shears I have to cut the loops. Then all of the loops (and please note we are talking about hundreds of loops) have to be bent so that the two ends line up perfectly. Once done with that I can begin the actual fusing process. Once again I spend a large amount of time fusing links with a hot flame about 2 inches from my face. Periodically I have to toss some links into a separate pile as they aren't bent together properly and at the same time I start a separate pile of links that melt while I'm fusing them, or simply don't fuse properly. When I finish fusing all the links (hundreds, remember?) I go back and rebend the pile of ones that didn't come out right the first time and then go back to fusing them.

Once this first round of fusing is done, I have to stretch the loops into a long oval shape with a pair of round nose pliers. This inevitably leads to about a 20% breakage of the fused joints as they just didn't take properly. Those links are tossed into the pile with the other ones that didn't fuse properly. The ones that hold up okay are then squeezed in the middle to get a kind of elongated figure 8 effect. Once done with that I have to go back to my pile of bad links and guess what? I have to start all over again with pouring them into my ingot mold and then making them into wire which is then formed into loops and fused and stretched yet again (whereupon I will end up with another, albeit smaller, batch of bad links).

So now I have a bunch of figure 8 shaped links. I then have to fuse two of them together in opposite directions to start the chain. Once this is done, I bend up the ends and begin the actual chain making process. This involves putting each link through TWO (once I get the first few started) of the links in the chain, then rotating the chain 90 degrees and putting the next one through from the opposite direction. Each time I put a link through I have to then push a small sharp tool through the top two links to stretch them out so that they are prepared for the next link that will go through. This, inevitably, leads to more link breakage as by this time I am truly putting an extreme amount of pressure on each join in each link. When a link does break it is almost always one back a few links so periodically I have to remove three or four links to get the broken one out and then start back at that point again. This process goes on until I run out of links, at which point guess what? You got it. I have to take all the broken links and all of the failures from the last round of link making and START ALL OVER AGAIN with a new pour of metal, make wire, make links and finally continue to make the chain. Phewww. Sounds like I'm done, huh? Well no.....................

After this, I have to anneal (heat the chain to soften it) repeatedly and then hammer it out gently with a wooden mallet on a block to stretch it and set all the links properly. After each hammering I have to anneal it and spend some time loosening it up. Okay so now we're done, right? Well no............

Then I have to make the caps that finish the chain off. This involves making new metal that I make into sheet metal. I then have to roll it into shape, fuse it together, fuse end caps on, fuse the wires that I wrap around it on, fuse the little gold beads on, drill out the ends for wires to go through, set small diamonds in the caps, and finally make one of my signature S clasps. I'm exhausted just writing about it!

So finally I have a beautiful chain, made to the right length, using all of the customer's metal and some of mine and it's ready to go. Then I have to contact the customer (made a little more complicated by the husband's desire to surprise his wife with it), get him into the store and deal with the final payment and packaging.

Estimated time here: 15-20 more hours. So you tell me how much you think this kind of job is worth!
The picture at the top is of the pure 24k gold we got back from our refiner after he purified the customer's Kruggerand.

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