Learn how to make fold formed leaf earrings with jewelry stakes. Improve your metalsmithing skills with this tutorial on the tools, supplies and techniques you will need.
Fold-forming leaves are the perfect excuse to get into the jewelry making studio and experiment with forming, shaping and texture. Here's a fun project you can make in an afternoon or evening!
Materials (for a 1x3" leaf)
- 4"x6" 24ga Copper Sheet (Item #:CBWS24-E)
- 20" length of 18ga Brass Wire (Item #: RBW18)
- 4" length of 18ga Copper Wire (Item #: CBW18)
- 20ga Sterling silver or Copper Wire for ear wires
- Graph Paper
- Permanent Marker
- Solder - Medium (Item#XS20M)
- Pickle - Mix according to manufacturer's instructions.
- Pickle Pot
- Soldering Pick
- Copper Tongs
- Third Hand
- Solderite Board
- Raising Stake
- Double Convex Stake
- Flex Shaft
- 1mm Drill Bit
- Diamond Reamer
- Bench Block
- Bench Vise)
- Center punch
- Sheet Shears
- Liver of Sulphur
- Wire Rounder
- Sandpaper and Files
- Round-nose pliers
- Slick Lube
- Diamond Coated Tip
- X-Acto knife or other thin blade
Note:This project will take approximately 2-3 hours. Gauges and sizes can be altered to suit your needs.
Process Steps - Leaves
Step 1. Start with two 2"x3" pieces of copper sheet.
Step 2. Draw a leaf shape on graph paper, cut it out and use a permanent marker to trace around it on the copper sheets. Or, simply draw the shape straight onto the sheets.
Step 3. Cut out the shapes using sheet shears or a saw.
Step 4. The next step is to fold the two leaves in half. The point of this step is to make a very distinct midrib in your leaf. Working with one piece at a time, place the leaf halfway into the bench vise. Hammer it with the rawhide hammer to fold the top half down. Repeat with the other leaf. Each leaf should be in an "L" shape now.
Step 5. Move a leaf to your bench block. Use a rawhide hammer to hammer it down the rest of the way so it's completely folded in half. Repeat for the other leaf.
Step 6. Your pieces are probably pretty work-hardened at this point, so anneal them with your torch and then quickly quench them in water.
Note:you will repeat this step several times during this project.
Step 7. Now that the pieces are annealed and flat, trim around the edges of the leaves with sheet shears so they are even on all sides.
Step 8. Next, use a raising stake (or a bench block) and a forming hammer to add texture. Hammer stripes in the blades of the leaves perpendicular to the midrib. Flip over and repeat on the opposite side as well.
Step 9. Anneal and quench the leaves.
Step 10. Place a leaf on a bench block. Measure 1/4" down from the top of the leaf, centered from side to side. Mark this spot with a permanent marker, then create an indentation over it by using a centerpunch. Move the leaf to a wooden block and drill a hole through the indentation using a Flex Shaft (or Dremel) and a 1mm drill bit.
Step 11. Carefully use a thin blade and your fingers to gently pry your leaves open until they are just slightly "V" shaped.
Step 12. Place the leaves one at a time on a double convex stake. Use a raising hammer to pound lightly at the middle on one side of the midrib, working your way down the leaf. The edges will start to curl up and look more like a natural leaf. Hammer lightly down the midrib to soften the angle.
Step 13. Anneal and quench both leaves. Drop them into a pickle pot and let them sit until fairly clean, then rinse and dry.
Step 14. This is what your pieces should look like at this stage.
Step 15. (Optional) To get an oxidized finish, place your leaves in a pot of Liver of Sulphur for a few minutes. Pull them out and remove some of the LOS using Dawn soap and water while scrubbing with either steel wool (extra fine #0000) or a steel brush. This will leave a shiny, brushed look to your leaves.
Step 16. Set your leaves aside for now and let's create the dangling brass accents.
Process Steps - Brass Accents
Step 17. Take your 16ga brass wire and cut three different lengths of wire. I cut mine at 2", 3" and 4" lengths. Make another set for the other earring.
Step 18. Shape a basic loop on one end of each wire using round nose pliers. Make your loops large enough for an 18ga wire to slip through easily.
Step 19. Working with one wire at a time, use a third hand to hold the wire high enough to heat the straight end from underneath with the torch. Keep the flame on it until the wire rolls up into a ball, then quickly remove the torch. (If you keep the heat on it for too long, the ball will fall right off of the wire. You may want to practice this first.) Drop the wire into the pickle. Repeat this step for all of the wires.
Step 20. (Optional) To shine up the accents, I used a Flex Shaft with a diamond-coated tip to give the wires a bright, sandblasted look. Just run the diamond tip lightly around the entire surface of the wire and ball.
Step 21. Take the 18ga copper wire and cut it into two 2" pieces. Starting with one wire, shape it into a u-shape and hang three brass accents of different lengths onto it. Turn the copper wire into a loop to lock the brass accents onto it. Repeat this step with the other copper wire.
Step 22. Run the ends of the copper loops through the hole you drilled in the leaf. (My original holes weren't quite large enough to maneuver the wires through, so I enlarged the holes with a Diamond Reamer to make it easier.) Repeat this step for the second leaf.
Step 23. Prep the loop for soldering. Sand the tips of the copper wire to remove oil and dirt and be sure the join is flush. Place a leaf dangle into the third hand with the loop up and away from the rest of the piece (you don't want to heat the leaf if you can avoid it). Flux the loop and add a piece of medium solder to the join. Heat until it flows, then hold it upside down and place just the loop into the pickle pot to clean it. Rinse and dry. Repeat this step with the other leaf.
(Soldering takes practice. If you're new to it, here's a guide to help you get started: 5 Steps to Start Silver Soldering.)
Step 24. To make your own ear wire, use round-nose pliers to make a small loop on one end of a 2" length of wire. Bend the other end of the wire around the widest part of your pliers to make the hook shape. Use a wire rounder to remove any abrasive burrs from the end of the wire. Repeat to make a second earring.
Step 25. Connect your leaf dangles to the ear wire loops and you're done!
Halstead is one of North America's leading distributors of jewelry supplies. Halstead specializes in wholesale findings, chain, and metals for jewelry artists.
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