By Abrasha
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Imperial pachinko ball bracelet

Advanced metal jewelry project inspired by trip to Japan

In 1986, while on vacation in Kyoto, Japan, I visited one of the ubiquitous pachinko parlors. These parlors are loud and smoky, often with hundreds of machines in one parlor. Players sit nearly motionless, controlling the velocity of small steel pachinko balls that are propelled vertically into the machine and cascade through a maze of pins sticking out of the machine’s colorful background. When balls are deflected into holes, the player wins additional balls, which can be exchanged for trinkets. I refer to playing pachinko as “mechanized meditation,” because the Japanese would spend hours in front of the machines, seemingly at one with the pachinko and unaware of their surroundings. I thought that I might want to make a piece of jewelry with the balls at some point, so I took a number of them with me as souvenirs.

Several years later, a colleague at a craft show wore an interesting bracelet, which was nothing more than a large industrial thrust bearing. When I saw that bracelet, the design for my pachinko ball bracelet immediately became crystal clear. After making several models of the basic elements, I had a good working model. As you’ll see in the process photos, one part of the working model became a necessary tool — a drilling jig. In 1992, I completed Royal Pachinko Ball Bracelet, which is now part of the permanent collection of the Oakland Museum of California. I later made a second rendition of the design, Imperial Pachinko Ball Bracelet. 

Click through the gallery below to see how the bracelet is made, or click here for the free project PDF.

Materials

  • 5 pachinko balls
  • Stainless steel sheet: 316-grade, 16 gauge (1.3mm), 12 x 12 in. (30.5 x 30.5cm)
  • Gold sheet: 18k, 24 gauge (0.5mm), 4 x 2 in. (102 x 51mm)
  • Gold solders: hard, medium, easy
  • Gold wire: 24k, 20 gauge (0.8mm), 12 in. (30.5cm)
  • Gold tubing: 18k, 0.8mm inside diameter, 12 in. (30.5cm)
  • Sterling silver wire: 20 gauge, 34 1⁄2 in. (87.6cm)
  • Brass or nickel sheet: 16 gauge (1.3mm) (optional)

Tools & supplies

  • Lathe with cutting tools
  • Milling machine
  • Drill press
  • Custom-made mill bits
  • Dividers
  • Jeweler’s saw, 2/0 blades
  • Center punch
  • Custom-made lathe jig
  • Jeweler’s files, various cuts dedicated to steel use
  • Jeweler’s files, various cuts dedicated to gold and silver use
  • Sandpaper, various grits
  • Ball bur or cylinder file: 11mm
  • Flex shaft
  • Circle cutter
  • Dapping block
  • Dapping punches
  • Plastic sledgehammer
  • Denatured alcohol (optional)
  • Graver
  • Soldering station: torch, solder, fire-resistant surface, pickle pot with pickle, flux, steel tweezers (cross-locking and precision), copper tongs
  • Finishing items: polishing equipment, steel polishing compounds and buffs dedicated to steel use, texturing cloths
  • Concave dapping punches or custom-made staking tool
  • Pin vise
  • Tube-cutting jig
  • 24k-gold plating solution (optional)
  • Rectifier and complete plating system (optional)
  • Cross-peen or riveting hammer

Instructions

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