A New Approach to Etching Metal

Quite a few people have been asking how I transfer such sharp designs to copper when creating my popper cuffs, so I thought I'd put it out there for everyone to share... Hope someone finds this useful! :)

I purchased everything I needed for etching a couple of years ago when a friend of mine kindly shared how to do it. (check out http://www.annamcdade.co.uk/ her work is incredible!)  I managed to make a couple of things, but never really got on with the process of transferring designs to the metal to be etched.
Part of the process involved taping up the back of the metal so that it would be protected from the chemicals… so during a brainwave moment, I realised that I could cut the designs from sticky backed vinyl and use that as a resist on the metal.
My designs are cut using a Silhouette Cameo. For anyone that doesn't know, a Cameo is a craft machine used to cut paper, fabric, vinyl and much more for all sorts of crafts. It's pretty much the same as a printer, but rather than printing it uses a tiny blade to cut out the designs. To find out more of the kinds of things you can do with the machine see here http://www.silhouetteamerica.com/?page=what-can-you-make I think you'll agree that you need one!!!
If your budget won't stretch that far, this process will also work with hand cut designs. Use a really sharp scalpel and medium pressure to cut the vinyl without going through the backing paper.

Here's a step by step of how I transfer a design to metal using vinyl...

Copper blanks cut from sheet. Here they still have the protective film on. Leave this on while you sand and file the edges to make sure there aren’t any sharp bits. It will protect the copper surface from being scratched with your tools. Once you are happy with your finish, remove the tape and give them a good clean. I use a scouring pad and washing up liquid. You will know they are perfectly clean when the water sits on them like a skin. If the water breaks on the metal, you still have grease or dirt on them so keep cleaning! Leave them to dry on kitchen roll and try not to touch them as oils from your skin will create a barrier from the etching chemicals.

While they’re drying out, open your designs up in Silhouette Studio (the software provided with the cutter), size them to fit your blanks.

Here are the cut designs. these were then taped up with transfer paper ( like masking tape, but less sticky!) ready to stick them to the copper blanks.

The designs were cut to size once on the transfer paper and pressed on to the blanks. Make sure to give them a good rub down so that they stick well. This is where your cleaning the metal helps, any areas that aren’t stuck down will allow the etch solution to seep underneath and spoil the design. Tape up the backs of the blanks with more vinyl to stop the etch penetrating both sides.

To etch the designs, I use Edinburgh etch solution. This is made from ferric chloride and citric acid. It is a lot safer than other solutions used for etching, but safety precautions should still be taken and never empty used fluid down your drain!!! Once mixed up, it should last for a long time, it’s yellow when you start out, but mine’s turned green after being used so much. The recipe is based on the overall ratio of; 4/5 saturated ferric chloride solution (40%).1/5 citric acid solution which consists of 3/4 tap water and 1/4 Citric acid powder.The blanks are suspended with tape upside down in the solution. They are upside down so that the copper removed during the process falls off the blank and creates a nice clean design.

Check every half an hour or so to see how they're progressing and when you're happy with the depth of the etch, remove them from the solution. Drop them in to a solution of bicarbonate of soda and water to halt the etching process. At this point, if you’d just like plain copper cuffs you can remove the vinyl design and begin to shape and polish them. But I want my cuffs to be coloured, so I dropped alcohol inks into the recesses and left them to dry.

Once they’ve dried (I left these overnight) remove the vinyl design and give them a buff with a soft cloth to remove any flaky bits of ink and coat with renaissance wax to seal. I then polished up the backs and sealed again with the wax. They are now ready to be shaped in to cuffs. I set these with popper settings to use with my lampwork poppers, but you can leave them plain, rivet elements to them, or whatever takes your fancy !

Here's one finished off and ready to go!

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, leave me a comment if you have any questions, and if you’d like to own one my cuffs, I will be taking lots along to the Flame Off show at Silverstone and listing afterwards in my Etsy Shop!

Caroline x

Etching with transparencies

My love affair with etching copper continues as does my search for new ways to transfer the image on to the metal.

You may have seen on my blog, my idea of using stickers cut on a Silhouette Cameo to mask areas of metal to protect them from the etching chemicals. While this is a great way to create simple bold designs, it doesn't work so well on something with smaller fiddly details.

The most common way to transfer more complicated designs is by using Press and Peel Paper which is printed using a laser printer, the image peeled off and then ironed on to the metal. This produces a great result, the only down side is the cost. At around £20 GBP for 5 sheets, it's expensive.

color: #444444; font-family: Consolas; margin-bottom: 0cm;"> I don't know about you, but using expensive materials to test ideas (which I do a lot) makes me a little nervous, and usually ends up with me only creating a mess. So having my regular scout around on the internet, I came across using laser transparencies. They're clear sheets of acetate, the same as used on the old school overhead projectors, but they're suitable for use at the temperatures needed to print on a laser.

So a quick call to the local stationary shop and 10 minutes later, I had 5 sheets for £1.25... bargain! I had to try it out and see how it worked for me, so here's my results...

To start, I drew up some designs and printed them on to the transparency.

So far so good! You can see the images here on the transparent sheet laid over white paper. My laser printer is a bit temperamental, but it shot through with no problems.

Next, I got out the iron. I tried at full temperature on my first attempt, which was too hot and started to melt the plastic. So after a couple of tries, I found a medium setting was best. You don't need anything to cover the transparency, just place the iron on it and check every 10 seconds how it's going. Be careful, the metal gets very hot!

If you look at the print on an angle, you can see that it changes to a more solid colour once it's stuck to the metal. You might need a few tries and some close looking to get the hang of what to look out for. 

Once it's stuck down, you need to leave it to cool. If you're as impatient as I am, you can run it under a tap for a second to speed it up.

Peel off the transparency and if it's worked, virtually all of the toner will be stuck to the metal and the transparency will be pretty much clean.

As you can see here, part of the design missed, but the great thing with this technique is, if it hasn't completely transferred, you can re-align the design and try again. You do sometimes get a bit of trouble near the edges if they're slightly higher than the flat part of the sheet through cutting, so just pop it back on and press again with the iron until the whole image is transferred.

And here's the image after etching with ferric chloride, you can now cut it from the sheet and use in your designs.

I hope you enjoyed reading and that you'll have a go!

Safer Silver Etching

I have been desperate to try out silver etching for a long time. I love working with etched copper and wanted to create the same effects on sterling. The only problem was the chemicals involved in the process. Usually silver is etched using Nitric acid, a highly toxic and corrosive liquid which emits harmful gases while eating away at the metal. As much as I love undertaking dangerous activities, the thoughts of messing around with strong acid worry me. So I’ve been looking for a safer alternative. 

My research started off looking in to different solutions for stripping the silver, I found ferric nitrate and silver nitrate. I have silver nitrate in my ever growing collection of raw materials for glaze mixing so I decided to go with that. Silver Nitrate is still a hazardous substance and should be treated with care. I wear a mask when mixing it and rubber gloves. Silver Nitrate won’t do any harm if it touches your skin as a diluted solution, it’s actually used for certain skin treatments, but it will stain your hands a lovely shade of brown, it won’t be apparent at first, but it’s light sensitive so the minute you go out in the sun, they will change colour… ask me how I know! It is also dangerous if you get it in your eyes. Always take proper safety precautions and use common sense!

To etch with silver nitrate you also need a power source and a few other bits and bobs which I will tell you about as we go along. The power source listed was a bench supply, I have one of those, but I wanted to try and see if the process worked the same as salt water etching, so I'm going battery powered!

So to start, I cut as close to a circle of silver as I could, and also cut a dreamcatcher design in vinyl to use as a resist. You can use all sorts of things to mask with, pnp paper, stop out fluid, and ironed on toner. But I haven’t had chance to test how they work yet, so I went with what I know! 

Here’s the silver ready to go with the areas I don’t want to be etched masked out. I also masked the back of the disc.

The silver piece needs to be suspended in the silver nitrate solution, so for this I used Aluminium wire wrapped around the edge so it was touching the silver and taped it on from the back.

The other supplies needed are a steel bowl, (I used a small water bowl from the pet shop) a D size battery and holder with terminals (not sure of the proper name for that!), a couple of crocodile clips attached to the positive and negative of the holder with copper wire, and a bamboo skewer.

100ml of water was put in to the bowl and I added 1 gram of silver nitrate. Always add dry ingredients to wet to save splashes! Stir with an old spoon until the crystals have dissolved, and the mix is ready to go. 

The bamboo skewer is placed across the bowl and the aluminium wire bent around it to suspend the silver so that it’s fully submerged, but not touching the metal of the bowl. 

The negative wire from the battery is clamped on to the metal bowl, and the positive is connected to the aluminium wire to complete the circuit. Once both crocodile clips are attached to the battery, the etching process will start. It’s not as fast a process as if you were using nitric acid. I left the silver in for about an hour to get a shallow etch, it could have probably done with twice that! 

If the etch is working you will see a grey fur appearing on the wire and the silver. You can see here how dirty the solution gets as it etches. To reuse it, you need to strain all the bits out and pour it into a bottle for storage. (I swapped the wire over before this picture for copper, as I wasn’t sure if it was working. I didn’t realise that the aluminium wire was coated, so after sanding it off, I switched back and it worked fine!)

I’ve been looking around for information to dispose of the solution and bits safely. When you’re finished with it, the solution can be neutralised using table salt. The advice given is to add salt until no more white precipitate is produced and then hand it over to your local hazardous waste disposal facility, the same as you would with ferric chloride used for copper. It has also been suggested that as it is silver, photography shops can help you get rid of it safely, as they send in their spent chemicals to companies that recover the silver.

So after the hour, I couldn’t wait any longer and took out the silver piece. 

This is how it looked when I first took it out. After a scrub with a scourer, I treated it with liver of sulphur to bring out the texture and sanded back lightly to reveal the pattern.

This attempt wasn’t deep enough to polish, when I tried it lifted all the patina off again, but I quite like it as a matt textured piece!

I can’t wait to try this out again and experiment, I can now do all the things I’ve tried in copper, but in Sterling silver!


Simple sliding bracelet - Autumn style

I love simple designs in jewellery, especially thin stacking bracelets that you can pile up high.

Today I'm going to share a really easy design you can make up in 10 minutes to wear a favourite connector, bead or component.

One of my favourite materials to use are silk strings, especially the beautiful hand dyed ones from Diane atSowzere Designs over here in the UK. They come in the most gorgeous colours and tones that would compliment any design.

You only need two things for this bracelet, a silk string and a connector.

I've made this connector from etched copper, but you can use anything that will fit. You can also adapt this for a bead or three by running wire through them and looping each end.

Step one - Pull the string through the loop in the connector so that a 10cm tail is on the top side of the connector.

Step 2 - Pull both strings up so the long tail is between your 1st and 2nd fingers and the short one over the top of your 1st finger. Fold the short string over the top of your 1st finger.

Step 3 - Bring the short tail over the front and round the back of both tails keeping the ribbon neat as you go. This makes for a better finish.

Step 4 - Pull the short tail through the loop you have made with your first finger to form a knot. This should slide up and down the long tail if you've done it right.

Step 5 - Thread the long tail through the connector from underneath and pull it so that it fits snugly across your fingers. (This works for my sizing, but you may need to adjust a little here)

Take the long tail and repeat steps 2-4 to create the knot. Trim the excess and you're done...

This also works with the wider silk ribbons with the addition of a couple of jump rings.

If you want to use thinner thread, wrap it around 2 or 3 times heading up towards your finger in step 3 to make sure the knot is secure.

They're so easy, you can quickly make up two or three to match your outfit, or just to wear that one great bead you've been stashing!

Packaging - making unique bags

Just recently, I needed to restock on some of my packaging. While browsing patterned paper bags, I came across some favour bags. They were made with embossed paper and were just the kind of thing I would love for my own packaging. They were expensive though for something I use a lot of, so I set about finding out how I could make embossed bags without them costing a fortune.

During my search, I found something I've never come across before, embossing folders. They are a folding sheet of plastic with a raised pattern on one side, and a recessed opposite on the other. The idea is, you put a piece of paper, or whatever you want to emboss in the folder and run it through a machine to imprint the pattern. Perfect! The only problem was, I didn't want to fork out £80 for the embossing machine to try something out! I sat thinking about it for a while and it hit me... I have a pasta machine, that was a roller! I chose the pattern I liked and some plain bags and prayed my posties would be good and deliver everything quickly.

Thankfully they did, and here's how I got on with my idea...

This is the embossing folder. You can see the feather pattern which will be imprinted on the bag. As I said earlier, this is two sheets of plastic with a hinge at the top and the bag is put in between them.

The whole thing is then fed into the pasta machine. It needs to be a tight fit so that the pattern is embossed, but not too tight that it won't roll through.

I discovered on the first attempt, that it was better to clamp the machine right on the front edge of the table. If you're using a long folder, it will hit the base of the pasta machine, so you need to gently bend it out so that the whole thing will pass through. Putting it right at the edge means it won't hit the table when you bend it.
Once through, you can open up the folder.

And here are the finished bags. I'm really pleased with how they turned out!

The bags are slightly transparent, so you can see the tissue paper I've wrapped the beads in which I think is a nice effect. They are finished off with a handmade sticker and they're ready to go!

I hope you've enjoyed following along with my experiments, and I'd love to see some pictures if you have a go yourself!


Riveting with Wire

I've been having some fun this last couple of weeks jumping back in to jewellery making. My ideas have been thin on the ground for some time, but they've come back with a vengeance. I have ideas spilling out of my ears. Oh for a bit more time to realise them all!

I've been determined to try out some new techniques and today it's riveting with wire. I thought I'd share my first attempts with you and a few pics of how it went...

I decided to make a simple pair of earrings just to test out if what I'd read worked in real life. Apologies for the pics, the weather was pretty gloomy!

To start, I cut strips of copper and bashed them a bit to get a nice textured finish.

I then spent a good ten minutes trying to find a matching pair of my lamp work beads... I'm not very good at pairs! You can see I've marked out where the copper needs drilling for hanging and for the rivets to go through. The marks were centre punched and then drilled.

The hole for the rivet needs to be a snug fit for the wire, so not having the right size drill bit, I drilled smaller, then slowly opened the hole with a diamond reamer bit until it fit. As the holes in my beads were quite large, I used some steel wire which was the thickest I had to hand (about 3mm)

In everything I'd read, everyone had a neat little hole in their bench block for inserting the wire, but I don't. So as a solution I clamped the wire in my vice and gently tapped the wire around the edges to make it flare out... Looking good so far!

Next, everything was fitted together and marked where it needed cutting. This was my second attempt as I cut it too short on the first go. You need to leave enough to be able to flare out the metal on the front.

I didn't really need this picture, but I thought I'd show off my new saw while I'm cutting the wire! It's red and awesome!

And here they are finished after flaring out the front of the rivets. I did this really carefully as I had visions of smashing the bead to bits, but I think they worked out pretty well... not perfect, but it works!

I tried this with thinner copper wire too, it was much easier and not quite as scary joining metal to metal. This is using one of Lesley's bronze connectors and copper cut with my fancy saw!

Building a Raku kiln

As the weathers getting warmer and the nights are getting lighter, I'm thinking about Raku firing again.

A couple of years ago, I decided that opening my electric kiln at 1000oC was far too scary, it's a top loader with a hinged lid which means you have to get pretty close to the heat to swing the lid open.

So I decided to build my own raku kiln. After some research I found the materials I needed, ordered most of it on line and took a trip to IKEA for the firing chamber.

Here's what I used...

The box is full of ceramic fibre blanket (nasty stuff, so don't breathe in the fibres, or let it touch you skin, you will itch for days!) There are also ceramic buttons, nichrome wire and a gas burner.

First, the bin was cut to make a hole for the burner and a hole for the top...

I did this with the metal cutting disc on my dremel drill.

Then the inside was lined with the ceramic fibre blanket. I wore a mask, gloves, and long sleeves for this part!

The blanket was wrapped over the top of the lip to make a tight seal when the lid is on. The lid was also lined with the blanket. 

I had already prepared some simple buttons with clay and bisque fired them. I used wire through the button holes and drilled through the bin to poke the wires through to hold the blanket in place.

Once all of this was assembled, I needed something to stand everything on. For this, I took an old kiln shelf, measured the inner diameter of the kiln and cut a circle using a stone cutting wheel to fit.

The shelf stands on kiln bricks and the gas burner is angled through the front hole to heat below the bricks. 

I use a digital pyrometer poked through the side to measure the temperature, and can get up to around 1000oc in about 25 minutes. It works really well!

To remove the lid and the beads from inside, I have a long pair of Raku tongs, so I don't need to get more than a couple of feet away to work with it!

Here are some of the beads I've made using my home made kiln...

Now all I need is the weather to cheer up and I can start firing raku again! 

Making stamps & moulds

Despite being a complete sceptic, I'm a typical Aries, which means although I'm creative, I'm also lazy and will find the easiest way to do something. I think that's why I love clay so much, you can be as impatient as you like with it and still create something great!
So in my quest for less effort and to produce consistent results, I've been trying out different ways to make stamps for impressing textures and designs in to clay and generally speeding up the process of filling my big kiln. There are loads more ways of creating stamps and texture sheets, but here's a few I've tried for my designs...

My first try was with plaster of Paris, making a master form in polymer clay, then creating a two sided mould for pressing beads. To make them, I used the small, deep really useful plastic boxes. Fill up to an inch with plaster and as it starts to harden pop the master in so it's sitting half way in. Once this side has dried, top up the box with plaster so the master is completely covered. While the plaster is still wet, use a paintbrush to rub over the design inside the plaster. This will remove any air bubbles and give you a nice sharp design. Once the top's dry, pop the whole lot out and the two sides will separate. Pop out the master and leave to completely dry for a couple of days.
These worked great and transferred detail really well, but broke easily and took a few hours to make. They last a long time if you're gentle with them though.

Then I tried polymer clay. Making a form, then a mould from the form, baking to harden and then using with clay. My first attempt with using the mould failed miserably, I didn't dust the mould with anything to release it, so ended up picking all the wet clay out and washing and drying it again before I could use it. Once I'd sorted out how to use it properly, it worked really well. I have a few that I made over a year ago that are still going strong. They transfer detail perfectly and are rigid while you're using them so you can wedge your clay in easily to make sure you fill it up properly, but as I mentioned earlier... make sure you dust them well to get your design out in one piece!

Next I tried a new product 'Oyumaro' It's a mould making compound that works by dropping one or more of the plastic sticks in to boiling water. After a minute it becomes squidgy and can be pressed onto anything you wish to make your mould from. It sets as it cools and holds detail fairly well, but can be a bit fiddly to use. It's better for making texture plates than a full shaped mould, and great for making a quick reverse image of a stamp. It will stay in the shape you have made it until you drop it in hot water again. Great because it's re-usable, can be cut and can produce huge sheets by melting lots of sticks together!

And finally, I tried styrofoam. I got this in sheets from a craft supplier. This makes more of a stamp than a mould. To use, I printed my design on to a sheet of paper, then cut a piece of styrofoam to fit. Put the paper with design facing up onto the foam and draw around the lines with a ball point pen. This will transfer a light design on to the foam which you can then deepen using your pen or a stylus tool (don't press too hard and rip the foam). To transfer, put it on your clay and give it a quick roll over.
The finished design is fairly detailed, but not fantastically neat. For a rustic style, I'd say it's ideal. A quick whizz over with a wet paintbrush will neaten everything up.
I don't know how long these will last, the styrofoam is quite brittle, but it holds the shape you have carved in it really well. I think thicker blocks, carved with a sharp knife would create some great, more solid designs.

So there you have it... some quick, and not so quick ways of getting your unique and original designs on to clay.
I hope this has been useful and maybe saved you a bit of time and effort!

Mould making

I've had a busy week this week, all my kids are in school and I've had some time to make some plans and get organised. I did expect to be standing here after week 1 with armfuls of creations, but I seem to have just run around trying to do everything at once... I think I need a lesson in pacing myself!

So next week is going to be better, I have a plan of action and am working at things in stages. So I thought I'd share stage 1 of what I'm working on.

For my first project, I'm going to make a ceramic moon cabochon and set him in copper. So as I want to it to be repeatable, I first need to make a mould.

I have discovered a great way of making really sharp moulds using polymer clay and RTV moulding silicone which I'm going to share today.

I use Super Sculpey original to make my masters. Although I like to sculpt in clay, the polymer makes a much better mould as it's less porous and so far, has worked every time! Unless ceramic clay is glazed, the liquid silicon will stick to it and destroy the mould when you come to take out the master.

Here are the moon faces ready to make in to moulds.

The moulding compound I use is the same as the 2 part putty, but comes in liquid form. I didn't really get on with the 2 part putty and found it difficult to use around anything that wasn't flat. The liquid type is much more cost effective, so you can make a decent size mould that should last for a long time.

To hold the master and the moulding compound, you will need to make a container, I've found thick cardboard works really well. Make it into high sided boxes.

Roll a sausage of Blu-tak and stick it around the bottom edge of your master and stick it in the box. The blu-tak will stop the silicon from seeping underneath and keep your master from moving about.

Weigh and mix the 2 parts of the moulding compound in a cup taking care not to add too many bubbles. The type I'm using is condensation cure and has a working time of about 15 minutes so don't hang about too much! When the mixture is an even colour it's ready to pour.

Pour it into the mould in a slow stream, this helps to remove any bubbles that are there from the mixing.

When the mould is dry (I leave mine overnight) peel off the box and remove the master. You might need to trim it a bit with a scalpel blade to make sure your clay comes out easily, and that's it! To use with clay, I brush a bit of oil in to help it release.

Here's the clay when it's just come out of the mould,

And here they are after being trimmed and cleaned up, drying out ready for firing.

And after promising to be patient, I was in a rush and put these in to fire on Sunday and put the wrong program in, completely missing the slow ramp section of the firing. I opened to kiln a few hours later to lots of little exploded moons... Good job I have moulds!



I'm Caroline from Blueberribeads, a ceramic bead maker, but I love to try out anything creative, and I love mixed media.

I first discovered electroforming after stumbling across some beautiful lampwork beads while surfing around on google. I instantly fell in love with the effect, the colour, the texture, everything about it, and decided this was what my ceramic beads needed!

After much research and hunting around for parts, I worked out how to do it, so here's my version of electroforming in a nutshell...

 Electroformed Ceramic Acorns by Blueberribeads

Electroforming uses the same process as electroplating, where items are covered with a thin coating of metal. The difference with electroforming, is that the coating is much thicker and can also be used over organic, non metal items such as seed pods and beads. 

Electroformed seed head by Edooley

Now for the technical bit...

To 'grow' copper on to an item electricity passes from the DC power supply to the Anodes. These are pieces of sacrificial copper connected with wires around the tub suspended in a copper sulphate solution. The metal dissolves from the anodes passes through the solution and reforms on the cathode (the item to be electroformed). The cathodes, in this case beads and leaves, are suspended with copper wire into the solution and the bar is connected back to the power supply. The idea is to pass the electrical charge around in a loop.

Beads and leaves aren't conductive, so to complete the loop, they need to be painted with a conductive paint to make sure the copper forms where you want it.

To make leaves and other items in to pendants and charms, you need to attach a bail, I do this with 2 part epoxy resin. The next step is to seal the item if it's porous. I use clear acrylic car spray. Then when everything's set and dry they are painted with the conductive paint.

Once the paint is dry they are hung in the solution and power is switched on. To form something like one of my acorns takes about 10 hours. It's an extremely boring process and there's not much to see, but the end result is worth the wait!

When the leaves come out, they are bright copper, so to enhance the pattern of the leaves and the natural texture of the copper, I treat them with Liver of Sulphur and give them a tumble to bring back the shine.

To show you some of the effects you can get with electroforming, here's a few pics of my work and some of my other favourites.

Ceramic face pendant by Blueberribeads

Ceramic & leaf art nouveau pendant by Blueberribeads

Skeleton key by KimV Glass

Ring by PIROK

Glass Big hole beads by BeadsofPassion

Glass Acorn by Julie Nordine

I hope you've enjoyed reading and that I've maybe inspired you to have a go!

Making your own clay cutters

I don't know if I'm the only one, but every time I have an idea for something, it usually involves spending money on new supplies. So wherever possible, I like to save my pennies and come up with alternatives to expensive shop bought products. It's also good for some instant gratification as quite often, by the time something has arrived, I'm off on a new idea and the new tool sits in it's packet until I get back around to it.

Something I use a lot of is cutters. I have lots of favourite shapes and sizes, but sometimes, I either can't find what I need, or it just isn't available in the size I want. So I make my own.

To start, you need a can of fizzy drink. Drink the contents and wash out the can and leave to dry.

Now for the safety side of things...

*Warning... Cutting cans can leave very sharp edges, I recommend you wear gloves if making cutters using this method!

So with your gloves on! Take a sharp knife and carefully cut around the can, removing the top and the bottom. You should be left with a cylinder of metal. Slice down this with scissors so you have a sheet of metal.

Flatten it out and cut in to strips. I make mine between ½ – 1 inch depending on the size of the cutter. If it's going to be a small cutter, don't make it too deep, as you need to be able to poke your clay out to remove it.

Bend the metal in to the shape you want. To make sharp corners, use a pair of flat pliers to bend the metal to whatever angle you need. Don't pinch corners too tightly, as the metal is quite thin, it will split along the edge and spoil your cutter.

Make sure the bottom edges line up, it doesn't matter too much about the top, and use sticky tape to secure them folding it over the top edge. It's a good idea to put tape around the top rim of the cutter too to give your fingers a bit of protection while you're using them.

Use them as you would your normal cutters. They are a little more flimsy than shop bought, and you might need to smooth your clay back in to shape a little bit before drying/baking, but you should get plenty of use out of them before they need replacing!

Happy cutting!


Simple Beaded Bead tutorial

When I first discovered the incredible world of making my own jewellery, I spent hours scouring the net for new techniques to try out and discovered seed beads. I immediately decided this was what I wanted to do and bought everything I could lay my hands on... quite a few years later and the majority of them are still sitting in a box untouched. I sometimes add to them with some pretty new colours that I won't use either, but ultimately, I don't have the patience to spend hours creating a whole design in them.

During the few months that I did attempt to create something with them, I became obsessed with beaded beads, and spent many a happy hour tying myself up in knots. I did manage to create one design for a simple bead though, so I thought I'd share it with you today.

They're really simple and quick to make up, but I've never written a pattern before, so I hope I haven't over complicated it and you can follow along...


12 x 4mm beads. (anything will do as long as you can pass the thread through 2 or 3 times)
12 x drops. (Mine were made with miyuki 3.4mm drops)
40 x size 15 seed beads.
Nymo or similar thread
2 x beading needles

To start, take a 3 foot length of nymo and thread a needle on to each end.

Pick up 3 x 4mm beads and let them drop to the middle of your thread so you have an equal tail on each side. Pick up one more 4mm bead, thread the right needle through right to left and the left needle left to right to make a ring.

Pick up one 4mm bead with each needle, then one more and thread right needle right to left and left needle left to right to make a loop above the first.

Repeat again, to make 3 loops.

Add one bead on each needle, and pass the right needle from right to left on the bottom bead and the left from left to right through the bottom bead. This should form a cube. Pass around the beads until the two threads are opposite and keeping your tension tight, tie a knot to keep the shape. There are usually a couple of spots where the beads aren't connected to 3 others, so weave around until you have a nice solid cube. Try not to go through too many times though as you need to leave space to get the needle and thread through again later on. 

Next pick up a drop, thread through to the next 4mm bead, pick up a drop and thread through... keep going until you have 4 drops as in the picture and exit through a drop. (the pink is what will be the centre hole in the finished bead)

Pick up 5 size 15 seeds and thread through the next drop. Pick up 5 and thread through the next drop, continue until your bead looks like the picture below.

Flip the bead, threading through so that you exit on a 4mm bead, and repeat starting with the 4 drops and then 4 sets of size 15's until the bottom is the same as the top.

Pass through 3 size 15's, pick up a drop, pass through the 3rd size 15 on the bottom from right to left, back up through the drop, through the 3rd seed on the left hand side, through the size 15's on the right and through the drop. Pull tight so that the size 15's are drawn in to the centre making an 'X' with the drop in the middle. I've spread this picture out a bit so you can see the thread path, but yours should be nice and tight!

Repeat 3 more times, until there is a drop in the centre of each side of the bead.

To finish, tie a knot, add a drop of glue and weave the tail through a couple more beads and snip.

Phew... I hope you managed to understand all that! I don't envy those of you who write patterns regularly!

These are really addictive to make, I loved them with semi precious round stones, such as moonstone and garnets and pretty AB coated drops, and they make great bracelets with a whole stack of them strung together.

I hope you enjoyed reading, and that you'll have a go... I bet you can't make just one!


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