Looking back: workbenches

posted in: Workshop 0

Sorting through a pile of her old, film photographs my little sister just dug out this black and white image. It’s my first workbench, in a cold lean-to attached to my parents house, that we built when I finished university.

I had barely any machinery, just my university hand tools really, but it’s where my Flotsam range began and where I first made the choice to stick at being a jeweller. I’ve had two other works-paces since then, a small square one that I sublet from some other makers and my current home, all on Hylton Street in the Jewellery Quarter.

Sometimes it dazzles me, just how far I’ve come in seven years:

First and current workshop sm
The workshop then [2008/9] vs the workshop now [2014/15]

Craft & Design Magazine: Diary Writer 2015

posted in: Uncategorized 0

I’m incredibly pleased and proud to be this year’s Craft and Design Magazine Diary Writer.

Becca Jewellery Diary Writer Craft Design Magazine

Each year the magazine chooses someone working in the contemporary crafts and gives them a chance to write an article for each issue, forming a diary of what’s going on in and around their practice.

This year they picked me! The first issue landed in the workshop today and I’m super excited! So, what are you waiting for? Go buy one or, better still, get a subscription – it’s a wonderful source of information and inspiration.

Workshop: Extraction for Jewellery Polishers

posted in: Workshop 4

For many years I have got by in my workshop without a proper, large scale polisher. Oh, sure, I have a little barrel one (which is just brilliant) but not the full on, rotary kind. If things have needed a good, glossy polish I have either made do with a tiny polishing mop, mounted onto my pendant motor, or borrowed a friends larger polishing machine.

Well, no more! Back in the spring I found a local, third-hand polishing motor on eBay for a song and have finally had it re-wired, got it installed and ready to go. Of course, you don’t have to do much polishing to realise the value of extraction, while opening the windows is a fine start it is by no means enough when you’re using something that kicks out as much dust as a large polishing motor. Getting covered in polishing rouge is annoying but the real danger is combustible dust hanging around the workshop and getting stuck in your lungs.

Now, I’ll admit that I know very little about woodwork/carpentry and while I’ve seen some fine home-made extraction systems constructed entirely from cardboard boxes and gaffer tape, I really did want to get something a little more official – that I didn’t have to build. Most jewellery supply companies only stock ridiculously expensive, all in one extraction solutions which I’m sure are brilliant – but which would be like a sledgehammer to a walnut in my little workshop.

Moleroda Jewellery Polishing

Thankfully, there’s eBay. I found a nice, friendly little outfit in Salisbury, called Moleroda who have an eBay store here and a comprehensive website here. They specialise in polishing stuff and do a nifty little fold-up plastic polishing hood that can be cut to fit your machine, and a vacuum to use as an extractor, all in one listing. Having looked about a fair bit it’s easily the most cost-effective solution that I’ve come across and it solved all of my problems in one go.

So I bought one of these.

The dust hood does a surprisingly credible Transformer impression:

Plastic Jewellery Polishing Hood

in it’s flat pack state but it folds up very quickly (and simply) and is held together by yellow electrical tape, which is included in the parcel:

Plastic Jewellery Polishing Hood, folding

Plastic Jewellery Polishing Hood, fitting

I did have to cut the triangular, side ‘wing’ sections off (mainly to avoid them extending over the edge of my very skinny polishing table) but the sturdy, corrugated plastic didn’t seem to mind this and holds together very well without them. I’ve secured the whole thing down with a few tiny panel pins and it is, so far, very stable.

The dust hood has a pre-cut hole in the centre of the back, for inserting the hose of a vacuum but, as you can see, I don’t really have an abundance of space to work with behind my polisher – so I’ve opted to fit the extractor on the side – cutting a new hole in the plastic (again, not too tricky a maneuver):

Plastic Jewellery Polishing Hood - side fitting

and have used the angled head (that comes with the vacuum) to get the whole thing positioned correctly. That seems to have worked a treat and, now that the hoses are all connected up, I have a fully functional dust catching and extracting system to keep my lungs safe and my workshop tidy.

Plastic Jewellery Polishing Hood with extractor fitted

Plastic Jewellery Polishing Hood and extractor, fitted

Workshop Renovations, pt 2

posted in: Workshop 0

Workshop renovations are coming on apace, with the last coat of paint due to go on the walls tomorrow I’ve roped in some wonderful helpers to build benches, put up an awful lot of scavenged worktop and generally aid in making the place ship shape. And all I had to do was feed them.

Seriously though, I couldn’t have done this without the generous help that I’ve received along the way so far – and can’t wait to move in to the finished space.

Fotor0501191753Fotor0501191548

Workshop Renovations – pt1

posted in: Workshop 0

It’s been clear for a while now that I’ve needed a bigger workshop, I’ve got to a point where I need to invest in larger machinery, where I’d like to be able to stretch out, make bigger work and be able to have more space to plan designs as well as ‘just’ making things. I’ve got ideas of teach a little too and for that I will definitely require more space.

So, after a few dreary January afternoons combing the ‘to let’ adverts in and around the Jewellery Quarter I finally found somewhere that just felt right the instant that I walked through the door.

sm20140413_112929
Typically, it was last on a long list of properties to see, it was cold, dreary and may even have been raining outside. But, inside, there was light, and space and okay, it’s in the attic of a rickety old building but hey, I’ve always thought that it’s the haphazard structures that give the Jewellery Quarter a lot of its charm. 

And now, after quite a lot of official procedures (and filling in reams of forms) I have the keys and am starting to strip things back, ready to paint and to build:

 

DIY: Vice Installation

posted in: Uncategorized 0

Now, I’m fairly confident playing with precious metals but yesterday I had to do some proper DIY.

I’ve treated myself to a new workshop vice (I know, I could have bought shoes …) which has been sitting around for a fortnight while I worked up the courage to get the really big drill out. Normally I would just look pitiful until Mr W came to my rescue but he insists that I must learn and, therefore, I did DIY:

It wasn’t particularly fun (the lock nuts were particularly tricky with only a spanner and a pair of pliers) but I am proud of having managed it:

Plus I’ve tested it and it didn’t fall off the worktop onto my foot *hurrah*

All set for Open Studios:

posted in: Events 0

I set the workshop up today for the Centrepiece Open Studios:

It was nice to have a bit of a spring clean, blow the dust off the lamps and lay out my wares in the workshop again. I had a few visitors this afternoon (we trialed an evening opening this year which I think worked quite well) and hopefully there’ll be some more tomorrow. Drop by if you’re in Birmingham to see me – and the 30 other Centrepiece members and guests who’ll be opening their workshops:

Centrepiece Jewellery Quarter Open Studios Map
Centrepiece Open Studios map – Click to enlarge