Wednesday, February 01, 2012


These are just a few, quick, "as I went" pictures from the other day.
The photo quality isn't the best, but I didn't really want to keep stopping and checking as I went, so I apologise in advance.
This is nothing terribly new and exciting, especially for others that already make theirs ~ but this is how I make mine and maybe these pics will be helpful to someone that wants to make their own too.
By all means feel free to share, just please link back to this page.
Thank you ~ cheers ~ Lyn :^)

First of all you will need to assemble a few things to work with.
A pair of cross locking tweezers with an insulated handle
A piece of polystyrene foam or florist's oasis foam.
A metal bowl or container filled with cold water.
A torch of some sort (I use a plumbers propane torch, but a brulee torch will also work).
Round nosed pliers and a ruler.
Pickle appropriate for the metal you are working with.
A bowl of water with a couple of spoonfuls of bicarb soda dissolved in it.
A rotary tumbler with stainless steel shot, burnishing powder (optional) and dishwashing liquid.
A safe place to work!! Hair tied back if it's long, and no loose sleeves or clothing to catch fire!

Next on the agenda you need to work out what length of head pins you are wanting to make and then cut your lengths of wire (I'm using Argentium sterling silver here). I allow between 10 & 15mm for the ball and then I cut the wires DOUBLE the length I need. So for 60mm headpins, I have cut the wire into 15cm pieces. (60mm + 15mm) x 2 = 15cm (150mm).
Now poke all those little lengths of wire into your foam block ~ this will save you heaps of time in the long run.
Light your torch and then holding one of the wires mid way with the tweezers introduce it to the flame. I hold my wire almost vertical and the little balls are usually in a nice straight line with the wire. You'll find that sweet spot soon enough and the wire will just whoosh straight up onto a lovely little ball. Don't hold it in the actual flame too long or it'll fall off.
As soon as the red glow has faded, flip the tweezers over and do the other end. **If you flip it over too early, the ball will either become air borne (ouch ~ burnies!!) or fall to one side ~ not really a good look unless that's what you are intending to do. Let the red glow fade again and drop into your bowl of water.

I'm sorry there are no actual torching pictures, but it was a bit hard trying to juggle the camera and hot molten metal.

OK, now we have a bowl of nice double ended head pins. Next we find the centre of each piece of wire, grab it with the very tips of the pliers and bend it in half. The wires should just cross a tiny bit. Find a little end of scrap wire (preferably the same metal) and thread through the loops you just made by folding the wire in half.

Carefully lower the little bundles into the pickle. Use copper or plastic tongs ~ not fingers!
A little note here ~ Argentium doesn't get firescale like regular sterling silver, but it does discolour slightly when you use a propane torch ~ this is why I pickle them. When they look all clean, shiny and brand new, carefully remove them from the pickle and put them into the bowl of water with the bicarb soda. This is to neutralise the acid of the pickle solution.

You can actually use them "as is" now and give them a bit of a hand polish when you have finished what you are using them for, but what I prefer to do next is put them in the tumbler with stainless steel shot, a teaspoon of burnishing powder, a squirt of dishwashing liquid and cold water.

I just run the tumbler for about an hour and voilĂ  ~ beautiful shiny headpins, ready to be cut apart and used for whatever your heart desires.

Grotty looking copper and bronze ones waiting their turn!! Same principles apply :^)


Angie Simonsen said...

You have some great tips in there Lyn! Thanks for sharing!!!

lynette said...

Thanks Angie, hopefully it might be useful for someone else too :^)