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Make a ring that swings

A tube and a hidden post are the secret to creating a piece of jewelry that only sits still when you do

Add a “twist” to a silver and gemstone ring by adding a fun, kinetic mechanism! The forged and fabricated gingko leaf, powered by the movement of your hand, actually spins around the center stone of this playful ring. It is sure to surprise your friends and provide you with hours of delighted distraction. 

SUPPLIES

  • Sterling silver sheet:
    • 18 gauge (1.0 mm): 64 x 10 mm (2 1⁄2 in. x 25⁄64 in.) 
    • 20 gauge (0.8 mm): 25.5 x 19 mm (1 x 3⁄4 in.)
  • Sterling silver wire: 14 gauge (1.6 mm),  1⁄2 in. (13 mm)
  • Sterling silver tubing: 2.6 mm outside diameter (OD), 0.25 mm-thick wall, 5 mm (3⁄16 in.)
  • Silver (sterling or fine) bezel cup, 4 mm
  • Gemstone cabochon, 4 mm
  • Sawing/Piercing toolbox
  • Hammering toolbox
  • Soldering toolbox
  • Finishing toolbox
  • Flush cutters
  • Wooden and metal ring mandrels
  • Large metal ball punch  
  • Burnisher, bezel pusher, or round stone-setting punches

INSTRUCTIONS

This kinetic ring can be broken down into three main parts: the ring, the center post, and the tube section. The main components are fabricated independently and then assembled to create the final ring. You can make them in any order.  

Cut the ring blank. Use a bench shear or a jewelers saw with a 3/0 blade to cut a strip of 18-gauge (1.0 mm) sterling silver sheet to your desired length and width. My strip is 10 mm (slightly over 3⁄8 in.) wide. The length is determined by the size of ring you want to make.

Make a ring that swings Photo 1
Photo 1

TIP: A quick way to determine the length of your ring blank is to measure the circumference of your ring size on a ring-sizing stick, and add that measurement to 3x the metal thickness.

If your strip isn’t flat (a natural side effect of using a shear), place it on a steel bench block and use a mallet to flatten it.

If desired, apply texture to the ring blank. I used the cross-peen face of a goldsmiths hammer to give my band a random, linear texture [PHOTO 1]. Of course, you can apply any texture you wish.

Solder the ring. Clean the ring blank with emery paper, and then sand and file the ends of the blank. Use a rawhide mallet to form the blank around a ring mandrel until the ends meet. If there are any gaps, file and sand as needed until the ends of the blank meet flush.

Make a ring that swings Photo 2
Photo 2
Make a ring that swings Photo 3
Photo 3

Set the ring band on your soldering surface, apply flux to the entire surface of the ring, and lay pallions of hard solder along the join [PHOTO 2]. Use your torch to heat the entire ring; once the flux is dry, concentrate the flame near the join. Use the heat of the torch to draw the solder along the length of the join. Then quench, pickle, and rinse the ring band. 

When the band is dry, use the cross-peen hammer to upset the edges, if you desire. Place the band back on the ring mandrel and use the mallet to form it in-to a perfect circle. Set the band aside.

Make the center post. Use flush cutters to cut a 13 mm (1⁄2-in.) length of 14-gauge (1.6 mm) sterling silver wire. File one end of the wire flat. 

Place a 4 mm silver (fine or sterling) bezel cup face-down on your soldering surface. Check the wire against the back of the cup to make sure it meets flush [PHOTO 3]. Paint flux onto the back of the cup and the flat end of the wire. Use cross-locking tweezers to hold the wire down on the center of the cup, and use hard solder to solder the wire to the cup. Quench, pickle, rinse, and dry the center post.

Make a ring that swings Photo 4
Photo 4
Make a ring that swings Photo 5
Photo 5

Make the embellishment. For my embellishment, I used a hand-drawn gingko leaf template — you can create a similar leaf, or draw or choose your own design. 

Use rubber cement to attach the template to a sheet of 20-gauge (0.8 mm) sterling silver. Use a jewelers saw with a 3/0 blade to cut out the leaf [PHOTO 4]. Remove the template, then file and sand the edges of the leaf to remove any burrs or sharp edges [PHOTO 5].

Make a ring that swings Photo 6
Photo 6
Make a ring that swings Photo 7
Photo 7

Place the leaf on a steel bench block and forge it with a small cross-peen hammer [PHOTO 6] to give it a leaflike texture. 

NOTE: I keep my hammer horizontal at the 3 o’clock position and alternate rotating the leaf clockwise and counterclockwise while striking the metal. After two or three rotations, the leaf has a natural-looking texture.

Make the tube section. Cut a 5 mm (3⁄16-in.) piece of 2.6 mm outside-diameter (OD) sterling silver tubing with 0.25 mm-thick walls. File the ends of the tube flat. 

Use a round needle file to create a notch in one edge of the leaf [PHOTO 7]. While filing, periodically stop and check the fit of the tube in the notch; it should fit flush.

Make a ring that swings Photo 8
Photo 8
Make a ring that swings Photo 9
Photo 9
Solder the leaf in place about midway on the tube. To set this up, push the tube halfway into your soldering surface, and lay the leaf on the surface against the tube [PHOTO 8]. Use hard solder to join the tube and leaf, then quench, pickle, rinse, and dry the tube section.

Assemble the ring. Find the center on the top of the ring band (the solder seam is at the bottom). Use a scribe or a fine-tip permanent marker to mark that spot, and then put the ring band on the metal ring mandrel. Use a center punch to make a divot at the mark [PHOTO 9].
Make a ring that swings Photo 10
Photo 10
Make a ring that swings Photo 11
Photo 11

Move the ring band to a wooden mandrel or secure it in a ring clamp, and use a #53 (1⁄16-in./1.5 mm) drill bit in a flex shaft or rotary tool to drill a hole at the divot [PHOTO 10]. (Make sure the bit goes in perpendicular to the band!) 

NOTE: To ensure a good join, the post should fit tightly in the hole. I like to drill the hole slightly smaller than the post wire, and then use the round needle file to ream it a little at a time until the wire just barely fits.

Slide the wire of the center post down through the tube, and then through the hole in the top of the ring band [PHOTO 11].

Make a ring that swings Photo 12
Photo 12

Solder the ring assembly. The objective in this step is to solder the center post to the ring without soldering the post to the tube. Also, any solder on the top surface of the ring will either interfere with the smooth rotation of the tube on the post or — worst-case scenario — solder the tube to the ring, rendering it immobile.

To be successful, you have to solder the post from the inside of the ring. You can also mask the tube and the top of the ring with antiflux (yellow ochre is a common antiflux) and hold the tube with cross-locking tweezers while you solder.  (The tweezers will create a heat sink on the tube and prevent it from heating at the same rate as the ring.)

Make a ring that swings Photo 13
Photo 13
Make a ring that swings Photo 14
Photo 14
Make a ring that swings Photo 15
Photo 15
Make a ring that swings Photo 16
Photo 16

The assembly holds together better during the soldering process when it’s upside down [PHOTO 12]. There are a couple of ways of propping up the ring assembly that work well. You can push the bezel into the brick and steady the band with a third hand. Or, you can support the piece in an annealing pan with pumice.  

Use easy solder to solder the post to the inside of the ring; remove the heat as soon as the solder flows into the join. Quench, pickle, rinse, and dry the ring.

Finish the ring. Use flush cutters to cut the post flush with the inside of the ring [PHOTO 13], then file it smooth [PHOTO 14]. 

Use finishing techniques, including wire brushing, sanding, patinating, and/or polishing, to finish your ring as you desire. 

Test the ring’s “spin.” The spinning action is usually stiff at first; using slight pressure, hand-twist the tube back and forth several times to help burnish the metal where the tube meets the ring. Flick it to see if it moves well on its own. 

Set the ring on a steel bench block and use a large ball punch to slightly flare the ring [PHOTO 15]. Turn the ring over and repeat to flare the other side. This creates a nice contour and will help make a wide-band ring fit more comfortably on the finger. 

Set the stone. Place a 4 mm cabochon in the bezel, and set the stone. You can use a burnisher or bezel pusher for this, but I prefer to use a setting punch for such small stones (see “Tool Spotlight: Stone-Setting Punch,” above) [PHOTO 16]. Be careful, though; remember that the bezel is supported by the center post. Use too much pressure to set the stone, and you might bend the post. 

Once you have completed this ring and learned to create the mechanism, you can begin designing other kinetic ring styles.  Try altering the ring band, spinning em-bellishment, the top of the ring, and/or the metals used. My first kinetic piece was an amethyst ring with a rotating pearl. What can you imagine?

Tool spotlight: Stone-setting punch

This type of stone-setting system is best for setting small faceted stones and cabochons in bezels and tube settings. Each set contains a variety of punches with concave faces. Like any punch, imperfections on the surface will transfer to your bezel, so polish the concave surfaces to a mirror finish before using them.
 
Place your cabochon into a prepared bezel (or cut a level seat in a piece of tubing for a faceted stone so that the table of the stone is ever-so-slightly above the top of the tube). Make sure the bezel is fully supported (for this project, place the ring on a steel ring mandrel). Choose a punch with a concave end that is slightly larger than your bezel (make sure the top edge of the bezel is completely covered), and insert it into the wooden handle. Place the punch vertically over the bezel, and press down firmly and rotate the punch to begin to burnish the bezel over the stone. Remove the punch from the handle, place the punch back over the setting, and use a chasing hammer to tap the punch — don’t hit it too hard, or you may crack your stone. Check the setting, make adjustments, and continue until the bezel is flush against the stone. 
 
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