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By Bill Fretz

Sometimes simplicity is the best design solution.  The Mountain Ring is easy to make and is very dramatic using very little silver.  The shape has movement and at the same time evokes mountain peaks in silhouette.  The hammer marks transform the static round wire into the symbolism of rocky terrain.

 We will go through this project as if the ring will be made as multiple pieces or a single ring.

1.    Coil Wire

             12 gauge round sterling wire is chosen for this project. That would be .081 if you use thousands of an inch or 2.06 if you are measuring in metric.  Large jump rings are made on a 20 mm nylon mandrel with a 6mm steel rod to fit into the Jacobs chuck on the Jump Ringer Coiler.  The nylon mandrel could also be hardwood turned on a lathe. The 6 mm mandrel was fitted into a slightly smaller hole drilled on the lathe from the tail stock for correct centering. The tail stock is the right hand side of the lathe that doesn’t turn.  Lathe’s can be fitted at this end with a Jacobs chuck or collet to hold the drill bit. 

             If you don’t have a lathe or choose to make only one ring, cut a strip 74 mm long. Bend the round wire around a mandrel with a Nylon Insert hammer (HMR-7) or in a ring bender to form the ring.


2.    Cutting the Coil Open

    The coil will have expanded around the 20 mm mandrel because the metal is hardening as it bends and becomes a small spring.  Slide the coil onto a larger wooden dowel or rod that has been turned to 21.5 mm.  This set up makes for rapid cutting with a 2/0 blade as you cut both the spring and the wood.  The ring blanks will then fall free in rapid succession.


With a single ring it is useful to run a 2/0 saw blade through the joint.  This will make both sides fit very tightly and the seam will be hairline thin.


3.   Solder Shut

   Place the ring on a charcoal block and flux the joint with white Handy Flux.

Place a small hard silver solder chip on the block.  With the solder tweezers place the ring so the joint is on top of the solder.  This solves the problem of the solder chip moving when the flux boils.  Capillary action and the fact that the solder goes to the hottest part of the metal makes soldering very easy with torch soldering.

Be sure to have good ventilation when soldering.     


 4.     Remove Solder

 The fastest way to remove the solder and keep the ring round is with a Cratex wheel or a similar abrasive mounted on a 1/8 inch mandrel.  The Cratex used was originally a 5/8x1/4 inch wheel.  The Cratex wheels will wear down to different diameters.  Keep an assortment of wheel sizes on mandrels for different size curves.

Follow the solder smoothing with bobbing compound or a compound that will leave a smooth surface and remove all fire scale. Always use eye protection and a dust mask

for  polishing.

     An alternative way to remove the solder is with around file of #2 or #4 cut half round file.  This would be followed by wrapping 320 grit emery paper or cloth around the file to remove the file marks.


5.    First Bending on the BH-1 Blowhorn Stake.

  Shaping the ring over the tapered end of the Blow Horn Stake (BH-1) makes for a very accurate and firm method of bending the ring in half.  An alternative is to use a round bezel mandrel a vise.  The annealed 12 gauge metal bends easily with just your fingers but gloves may be used to protect your fingers.  The first bend will bring the shape into a U with the form appearing to become oval.


6.   Second Bending on the BH-1 Blowhorn Stake

      Rotate the ring so the other side of the ring is presented to the mandrel. The second bending will make all curves equal


7.   Compression of the Ring


       The ring is then compressed with a nylon insert hammer’s flat end (HMR-7. This compression makes the curves on the ring much tighter. How far you compress will be a design choice. The tighter you compress the sharper the peaks of the final ring.


8.   Expansion of the Ring on the Blowhorn Stake          


 The sterling metal is now work hardened but should not be annealed to avoid adding firescale to the silver. The hardened metal will also keep the ring from bending while being worn.  Use  round nose pliers to pry open the ring by coming in from different sides. Then slide the ring onto the tapered end of the Blowhorn stake to form the ring.

An alternative would be to use a bezel mandrel.  Try to keep the sides even.


9.    Texturing the Ring on a Ring Mandrel


 Slide the opened shape onto a round ring mandrel to a size below what is desired. The ring will move up the mandrel with the Nylon Hammer without marring the edges by laying the hammer against the mandrel and taping the edges of the ring. Texture with the round side of highly polished Planishing Hammer (HMR-1). This will add variations of thicknesses in a random pattern. Polish with White Diamond compound so the hammer marks are not removed and we are done.


 This simple ring can be transformed by adding stones or other metal elements.  The basic design is a good foundation to add new elements or textures.  Sizing is as simple moving the ring up the mandrel to enlarge or compressing it to make it smaller.  It’s a fun design to explore with a minimum of tools.

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