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Bell Charm

Making a bell charm is not as hard as it may seem. With a few basic forming, soldering, and finishing techniques, you’ll be able to make jewelry “with bells on.”

Try using different textures and metals for added effects and colors. You can make your bell frilly or keep it plain. You can play with the bell‘s acoustics, too. The smaller the size of the ball that you use inside the bell, the higher the pitch of the jingle will be. Thinner gauge metal can affect the tone, as well.

SUPPLIES

  • Metal sheet: 22–24-gauge (0.6–0.5 mm) 
  • Scrap wire: Sterling or fine silver (amount determined by design)
  • Jump ring: 14–16-gauge (1.6–1.3 mm), 6–10 mm outer diameter (OD)
  • Sawing/piercing toolbox
  • Soldering/annealing toolbox
  • Disk cutter
  • Circle template
  • Scribe
  • Dapping block and punches
  • Drill press (optional)
  • Polishing papers (optional)
  • Finishing wheels for flex shaft (optional)
  • Patina (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

Bell Charm fig 1
Figure 1

 

PART 1: DOMES

1.
 Use a disk cutter or a jeweler’s saw with a 4/0 blade to cut two identical circles out of 22–24 gauge (0.6–0.5 mm) metal sheet. (My circles are sterling silver, and are 7⁄8 in. [22 mm] in diameter.) Use a circle template to find the midpoint of each circle, and mark it with a scribe.

Anneal the metal, then quench, pickle, and rinse.

 
Bell Charm fig 2
Figure 2

 

2. Place one circle in a depression of a dapping block that is slightly larger in diameter than the circle. Use the corresponding-size dapping punch to form the circle into a shallow dome.
Repeat to dome the second circle.

NOTE: Form the circles concurrently to keep the dome sizes uniform.

Bell Charm fig 3
Figure 3

 

3. Place one metal dome back into the same depression you used in Step 2, and use the next-size-smaller dapping punch to further form the dome. Repeat for the second dome.
Place the first dome into the next-smaller depression in the dapping block. Use the corresponding-size punch for the depression as before, then move to the next-smaller punch to form each dome.

Continue to form the domes in progressively smaller depressions until the edge of each dome is flush with the surface of the dapping block.

Bell Charm fig 4
Figure 4

 

4. Use a fine-cut flat hand file to refine the edge of one dome so that it is flat and even. Place a sheet of 220-grit sandpaper on a flat surface and run the edge of the dome over the sandpaper in a figure-8 motion to further refine and smooth the edge. Repeat to flatten and refine the second dome.

Bell Charm fig 5
Figure 5

 

Hold the domes together with the edges touching, so the two domes form a ball. Check the join where the two domes meet to ensure they fit flush with no gaps. If they do not, further refine the edges until they do.

Set one dome aside.

5. Use a scribe or fine-tip marker to draw an X at the midpoint that you marked in Step 1, with each leg extending from the midpoint to approximately 1⁄8 in. (3 mm) from the bottom edge of the dome.

Bell Charm fig 6a
Figure 6a

 

Bell Charm fig 6b
Figure 6b

 

6. Use a scribe to make a deep divot at the end of each leg of the X [FIGURE 6A]. This will give the drill bit a place to be seated.

Use a #78 (0.016 in./0.41 mm) drill bit in a flex shaft or drill press to drill a hole through the first divot. Hold the flex shaft in your dominant hand, perpendicular to your work surface. Hold the dome firmly with your other hand. Set the tip of the drill bit into one of the scribed divots and drill straight down [FIGURE 6B].

Repeat to drill holes through the other divots. Insert a larger drill bit (I used a #59 [0.041-in./1.04 mm] drill bit) into your flex shaft. Hold the flex shaft and dome as before, and use the larger drill bit to enlarge the holes.

TIP: Drilling a smaller pilot hole in your metal will help avoid the problems inherent in using a large drill bit to drill through metal.

Bell Charm fig 7
Figure 7

 

7. Use one edge of a triangle needle file to score along the length of the legs of the X. Repeat a few times to deepen the scored line, creating a shallow channel in the dome’s surface. 

TIP: Filing a shallow channel along the line of your design makes it easier to saw a precise line on a formed surface.

Bell Charm fig 8
Figure 8

 

8. Tighten the top of a #2 saw blade in a jeweler’s saw frame. Thread the bottom of the blade through one of the drilled holes in the dome, then tighten the bottom of the blade in the frame. Saw along your filed line from the drilled hole to the peak of the dome. Remove the saw blade from the metal. 

NOTE: Do not saw across the dome to the opposite hole. The saw blade will be harder to control, making the cut uneven.

Repeat to saw from the other holes to the peak of the dome.

Bell Charm fig 9
Figure 9

 

PART 2: ASSEMBLY

9.
Set the sawn dome peak-side down on a charcoal block or firebrick. Apply flux to the dome’s rim, and place four evenly spaced pallions of medium solder on the rim.

NOTE: If you are using sterling silver sheet, you may wish to flux the entire metal surface to prevent firescale.

Use a torch with a medium flame to slowly heat the dome and melt the solder pallions. Quench, pickle, and rinse the dome.

Bell Charm fig 10a
Figure 10a

 

Bell Charm fig 10b
Figure 10b

 

10. Carve a small, round depression in your charcoal block or firebrick [FIGURE 10A]. Set a small piece of scrap sterling or fine silver wire in the depression. Melt the wire to form a ball that is about 1⁄8 in. (3 mm) in diameter in the depression [FIGURE 10B]. Allow the ball to cool. Coat the ball with an anti-flux and let it dry. 

NOTE: Carving a depression in your soldering surface ensures that your ball will be perfectly round. If your soldering surface is flat, your ball will be flat on the bottom.

Bell Charm fig 11a
Figure 11a

 

Bell Charm fig 11b
Figure 11b

 

11. Carve another depression in your charcoal block or firebrick large enough to support one of the metal domes. Set the plain dome peak-side down in the depression. Make sure the edge is parallel to your work surface. Flux the rim and the outside of the dome. Place the silver ball inside the dome [FIGURE 11A]. Set the sawn dome on top of the plain dome so the edges sit flush and the two domes form a ball.
Use a reducing flame to heat the assembly in a circular motion [FIGURE 11B]. Occasionally concentrate the flame on the seam until you see the solder start to flow. Then, use the flame to draw the solder around the seam.

Quench, pickle, and rinse the assembly. Set it aside. 

Bell Charm fig 12
Figure 12

 

12. Purchase or make a 14–16-gauge (1.6–1.3 mm) jump ring with an outer diameter (OD) of 6–10 mm. The gauge of metal and the size of the ring should be proportional to the bell assembly. (I made a 10 mm OD jump ring from 14-gauge [1.6 mm] sterling silver square wire.) 

Use a half-round needle file to file a U into the outside of the ring. Try to match the contour of the bell assembly’s dome. If you need the U to be wider, use a larger half-round file.

NOTE: You can solder the ring closed with easy solder before filing, as I did, or you can file the U at the join, so that you don’t need to solder the ring closed beforehand.

Once the U fits flush to the contour of the bell assembly’s dome, flux the ring, and melt a small pallion of easy solder on the curve of the U.

Bell Charm fig 13
Figure 13

 

13. Flux the bell assembly, and line the seam with some anti-flux. Place the bell assembly into the divot, with the sawn side down and the seam parallel to your work surface. Use a scribe to make a small mark at the top of the bell assembly where the jump ring will sit.

Flux the jump ring, and hold it with a pair of cross-locking tweezers. Do not set the jump ring against the bell assembly yet.

Light your torch, and use a circular motion to gently heat the bell assembly. When the flux becomes glassy, set the jump ring against the bell assembly at the scribed mark with the U against the dome.

Do not press down too hard. Focus the heat near the join until the solder flows.

Quench the assembly and remove the anti-flux if necessary. Pickle, rinse, and thoroughly dry the assembly. Use a half-round needle or escapement file to remove any excess solder, then use progressively finer grits of polishing papers by hand or finishing wheels in your flex shaft to smooth and refine the bell’s surface.

If you wish, patinate your bell using the patina of your choice. 

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