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Notched cuff bracelet

With minimal equipment and no prior experience, you can create this notched cuff bracelet.

Adeptly using a file is one of the most basic and versatile metalsmithing skills. In making this bracelet, you’ll increase your filing skills by working with different types of files. The bracelet is extremely comfortable to wear and has a unisex appeal.

materials

  • Sterling silver wire: 4-gauge (6mm), square, dead-soft, 7 in. (17.8cm)
  • tools & supplies
  • Jeweler’s saw, #2 blade
  • Rawhide mallet
  • Oval bracelet mandrel
  • Soldering station: medium-tip torch, fire-resistant surface (soldering pad, firebrick, or charcoal block), pickle pot with pickle, paste flux, copper tongs
  • Hand files: #2-cut barrette; #0- and #2-cut flat; #2-cut half-round; #2-cut three-square
  • Needle files: #2- and #4-cut barrette; #2- and #4-cut flat or pillar 
  • Sandpaper: 220, 380, 400, 600 grit
  • Sanding stick
  • Masking tape
  • Permanent marker: fine point, black
  • Metal gauge or brass slide gauge
  • Finishing items:
  • Buffing wheel, polishing machine, and/or flex shaft; tripoli and rouge polishing compounds; stitched cotton and muslin buffs (optional)
  • Steel wool or brass brush (optional)
  • File card
  • Bench pin, workbench, or solid surface
  • Anvil (optional)
  • Hallmark stamps (optional)
  • Hammer (optional)
 

The cuff bracelet is 3 in. (76mm) across the top of the wrist, and 3⁄16 in. (5mm) wide.

Instructions

notched cuff bracelet 1
Step 1
1. Measure and cut the wire. For a medium-sized woman’s cuff bracelet, cut a 6 1⁄2-in. (16.5cm) piece of 4-gauge (6mm), square, dead-soft, sterling silver wire. This will yield an internal perimeter of approximately 5 3⁄4 in. (14.6cm) with a 1 1⁄4-in. (32mm) gap. Or, if you have a cuff bracelet that fits you comfortably, measure the inside perimeter of that bracelet and adjust your length accordingly. 
notched cuff bracelet 2
Step 2
2. Form the wire. Use a rawhide mallet to form the wire around an oval bracelet mandrel. Because the wire is of a heavy gauge, it may become work-hardened and difficult to bend. You’ll need to anneal (heat) the metal to restore its flexibility. 
notched cuff bracelet 3
Step 3
3. Anneal the wire. Coat the surface of the wire with flux to prevent oxidation. Use a medium-tip torch to heat the wire. The metal will turn a dull red and the flux will turn clear when the metal has reached the correct temperature. At that point, quench the wire in water, and then pickle it. Rinse it thoroughly, dry it completely, and finish forming the bracelet.
notched cuff bracelet 4
Step 4
4. Round the wire ends. Use a coarse (#0-cut) flat hand file. Hold the file at an angle to the end of the wire, and circle the file around the tip of the wire to round the edges. When the wire ends are rounded (see inset), move to a slightly finer (#2-cut) flat hand file, and sand the ends with 220-grit sandpaper on a sanding stick. Make a sanding stick by wrapping the sandpaper sheet over a craft stick and securing the ends of the sandpaper with masking tape. Try the bracelet on for size, and make adjustments to the bracelet on the mandrel.
notched cuff bracelet 5
Step 5

5. Use the bracelet to make a template. Trace the outline of the bracelet onto a piece of paper. Think about how you want your bracelet to look. Balancing the raised areas with the filed-out areas will provide an even distribution of weight. The edge shape affects the way the finished piece reflects light. Curved surfaces reflect light differently than flat surfaces, and you can achieve more dramatic reflections by varying shapes, surfaces, and edges. 

Sketch your design onto the template, darkening the areas where the metal will be removed. For a beginner, it is easier to file an asymmetrical design. Use a black permanent marker to transfer the design to all three exterior sides of the bracelet, leaving the inner surface unmarked. Don’t worry if the lines do not match exactly; you can correct the design as you begin to file.

notched cuff bracelet 6
Step 6

6. Rough out the design. Use a coarse (#0-cut) set of files to begin roughing out the design, but be careful not to file too deeply. Round off the curved areas with a flat hand file, and use the edge of a three-square file or a half-round file to remove notches of material according to the pattern. Use an efficient cutting stroke, filing from the tip of the file to the handle, or tang. Lift the file and begin at the tip of the file again for the next stroke. File at a diagonal to the surface with the longest and smoothest stroke possible. Reapply the permanent marker when necessary.

notched cuff bracelet 7
Step 7

7. Check the metal gauge as you work. Use a brass slide gauge or an American standard wire/sheet gauge (pictured) to check the thickness of the wire as you begin to file deeper grooves. To avoid weak points that might cause unwanted bending, do not reduce the wire to less than 10 gauge (2.6mm) at any point along the bracelet.

notched cuff bracelet 8
Step 8

8. Add detail to the bracelet. Once you have roughed out the basic design, use a slightly finer (#2-cut) barrette or flat hand file to create smooth arches. Use the narrow edge of a flat or pillar needle file to create narrow squared channels.

notched cuff bracelet 9
Step 9

9. Put away your sketch, and change or adjust certain areas, using the shapes of the files to add detail. Feel free to change the original design as you think of ideas for detailing your bracelet.

notched cuff bracelet 10
Step 10

10. Give the bracelet definition. After the design is established and shaped the way you like it, use the finer needle files to smooth each surface and add fine detail. Let the piece rest overnight, and then reexamine your work. Make any final adjustments to the bracelet’s design in preparation for the finishing process. Use finishing needle files (#4-cut) to refine edges and surfaces.

notched cuff bracelet 11
Step 11

11. Complete the bracelet. Use 380-grit sandpaper to smooth as much of the surface as possible. Use a 2-in. (51mm) square piece of sandpaper folded in half to sand into grooves and other tight areas. Pay attention to all sides of the bracelet, and change sanding directions often to get an even finish. Continue to sand the bracelet, moving through progressively finer sandpapers up to 600 grit.

notched cuff bracelet 12
Step 12

12. Finish the bracelet to a bright polish. Once you complete the hand sanding, move to the buffing wheel. First, use tripoli polishing compound to remove the remaining scratches. Apply the compound to a firm, stitched cotton buff dedicated to use with tripoli. 

Do not hold the bracelet in any one position for too long, and do not press too hard against the buff. The bracelet should not become too hot to hold with your bare hands. Keep square corners of the design crisp by moving the bracelet so that only one face of the design touches the buff at a time. 

Clean the bracelet thoroughly with soap and water to remove polishing-compound residue before using rouge, the final polishing compound. Apply the rouge compound to a dedicated muslin buff, and continue buffing to achieve a bright polished finish. 

Alternatively, lightly rub the piece with steel wool or use a brass brush with soapy water for a matte shine.

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