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Playing With Prongs

June 8, 2016 , In: Metalsmithing, Tutorials
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I tend to go through phase’s of making things and my current favorite thing to make is prong set trinkets and treasures. You may have guessed by some of my recent work….
 
Prong set necklaces
Being self taught does however have it’s draw backs. Occasionally (most of the time) I want to make something and I either have no idea how to make it or I have none of the tools needed as was the case with these prong settings!
This is when my love of problem solving kicks in and I thought I would show you how I made these  prong settings (now you have to remember I am making this up as I go and I am pretty sure it is not the “correct” way to make one)!….
 
Making Base Rings
I use 1mm thick sterling silver wire to make two rings per prong setting, (they are wrapped around any random round object that I can find that is slightly smaller then the object I am setting). The wire is cut with wire cutters and then the ends are filed smooth for a nice flush joint. They are then soldered together with medium solder paste. 
 
Adding Prongs
Next I make my prongs by soldering two pieces of wire into a cross (I tend to just guess at the length), again I use medium solder, once cool I give the pieces a gentle sand down so that they are all clean for soldering (the pieces could be pickled to get them clean but I use safety pickle and find it takes quiet a long time and sanding is just quicker). I then shape my cross using plyers so that each side is bent down and touches the edge of the ring and trim each leg to the same length so that I can stand it as shown on the soldering block. I solder each join with medium solder being careful not to direct the heat onto the new joins and not the one on the top of the cross. 
Each join must be touching the ring. I use the thick copper wire to balance it on for several reasons, first my solder block is not flat so things roll all over the place and second I like to file the bottom flat on sandpaper after I have soldered it so it looks all neat rather then worrying about things moving slightly as I am soldering and being uneven.
 
Adding the Second Ring
Once the piece is soldered I snip off the top of the wire cross with my wire cutters and manipulate the wire so that each of the prongs are in contact with the next ring (I use the thick wire again to make sure the gap is even and to help hold things in place) this time I solder it in place using easy solder paste.
 
Balancing Act
Using 1mm silver wire I make some small jump rings about 5mm in diameter (they need to be big enough to make contact with both of the larger rings) now of course I forgot to take a photo at this point so I shall have to try and explain rather then show you! I place the thick copper wire into the jump rings to hold them in place, this part is rather fiddly and probably the hardest part to do, you need to make sure that the jumpings are in contact with both of the larger rings and that the wire holding it in place is not too close to the solder that you accidentally solder it into place! Some times if I am finding it hard to balance the pieces I solder them one at a time being very careful not to over heat the piece and melt the wire. I use easy solder and very slowly heating the piece. Once the rings are on I check that all the joints are still intact and when happy with it I put it into the pickle pot.
 
Clean Up
Next I check that the item fits into the setting by placing it into the prongs (it should sit on top of the top most wire ring and not fall through) then using wire cutters trim the prongs to desired length, then I remove the item and start the clean up process! 
I make sure the back of the piece is all filed flat with a needle file and that each prong has a nice round top by using a  cup burr in a drill, then I either polish it with rouge and a polishing bit in the drill or I pop it into the tumbler depending on how patient I am feeling.
Not bad considering I am just making it up as I go! And there are so many ways you can change up the look, imagine how cool these would look using a thicker wire with stamped wording on the back, or square wire or even a mixed metal look with silver and copper wire twisted together or textured wire, so many possibilities!!!
 
All Set
 
I hope you enjoyed a peek into my creative process and I would love to know if any of our readers just make things up as they go?!
 
 
 

Niky Sayers

Niky Sayers started creating jewellery 6 years ago after stumbling across a jewellery making blog while looking for a hobby. She is a stay at home mum with hermit like tendencies, a mild addiction to coffee and chocolate and a love of all things handmade or antique/rusty. While not raising her tribe she like to keep as busy as possible playing with metal sheet, wire and other treasures and trinkets all at her kitchen table in Surrey, England.
  1. Reply

    Fantastic Tutorial Niky, Thanks for sharing. It is hard to believe that you are self taught. But I have always wondered why you use 2 rings for a bezel instead of just one (on top) with the prongs?

    • Reply

      Thank you for your comment Divya, I use 2 rings because I like to have the option of using it in a bracelet or as part of a necklace or in the middle of a pendent rather then as a pendent on it's own. I find that if I just add the one ring it limits the design possibilities. I may make one in the future as a pendent on it's own but I think it just needs a little some thing extra, maybe the stamping on the back and a stone set on the side?

  2. Reply

    You make it look so easy!

    • Reply

      lol Kathy it's all just trial and error and the more you try the easier it gets!

  3. Reply

    Thanks so much! This was wonderful to see! Beautiful work, too!

  4. Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing!

  5. Reply

    Might've missed it in the tutorial, but do you use hard wire?

    • Reply

      Emily, I use soft wire for pretty much every thing, I just find it much easier to shape.

  6. Reply

    love the tutorial!!! do you remember what gauge thick copper wire you use?

    • Reply

      Thank you, I used 2mm thick copper which I think is about 12 gauge

  7. Reply

    Great tutorial Niky. I find prong setting interesting but I don't do a lot of metalwork. I do make up the process as I go though but with beads. I am willing to try whatever It takes to get the look that I want.

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