I wanted to make a broad cuff, but didn’t have any specific plans for it. So I went about mixing the sterling silver alloy, melting it and rolled the plate.
Getting springiness into sterling is a bit of an art in and of itself. Rolling the plate in order to lengthen or broaden it, compacts the molecular structure because of the stress (pressure) placed on the metal. If the metal is placed under too much pressure, it’ll start to crack. To prevent this, the plate has to be annealed from time to time, by heating it under a flame mix of propane and oxygen. (Think of it as giving the molecules a heat massage to relax them.) However, to achieve springiness, there has to be a certain level of tension in the metal’s molecular structure. It’s at this point that you have to know at which plate thickness to call it a day; pertaining to the annealing process. If you call it too late, the plate won’t be springy enough, call it too soon and you’ll end up with a plate that’s cracked and you have to melt the whole thing down. After the final anneal, with a plate thickness of at least 2.5mm, the plate is continuously rolled down to approx 0.9mm. A loss of 0.1 - 0.15 mm has to be factored in for sanding and polishing, which would bring the final product down to 0.75mm plate thickness.
I took the finished plate back to the workbench, papered it and just sat there and stared or a while, thinking of what to do with it. I thought a wolf’s head and neck would look great on a cuff this width. I’ve always loved wolves, and I had a Swiss Shepherd dog whose genetics and behaviour displayed several pronounced wolf traits. So it sort of turned into a homage to my dog and a homage to wolves.
A freehand drawing was made on the papered plate and burred into the surface. Stamps are then hammered into the back of the plate. Next, the plate was polished to a high shine and it was back to the workbench to burr the final lines into the surface with various burr sizes.
The initial curve of the cuff is done by hand. After that, it’s off to the bracelet mandrel ( a solid metal cone) to give the cuff its proper shape. With a piece that’s already polished, care has to be taken not to make any marks on the surface. For this reason, I always wrap the silver in leather before placing it on the mandrel, covering both sides, as the inside can also pick up scratches from the mandrel. The cuff is then shaped by hammering on it with a leather mallet until perfect roundness is attained.
The cuff is now finished, just a final buff with a polishing cloth and it’s ready to go out into the world The final cuff measures 17cm long 4.1cm wide, but any future ones can be adapted to the customers measurements.
In writing this, it came to mind that it would be an interesting expansion to make further cuffs with other large predators as motif. Such as Grizzly, Mountain Lion…a black Panther, with complete oxidation. There’s much worth for me in sharing this process, not just to tell the story of making but also in revisiting and gaining new ides. Thank you for reading.