Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Cold Connections Are Hot!

Well, on one of the hottest days of the year, I think it's appropriate to talk about cold connections!

Cold connections join metal without the use of flame/heat. This includes such techniques as: tabs and hinges; grommets, eyelets and tube rivets; brads and nails; various glues and epoxies; and wire, including wirewrapping. Cold connections are used by jewellers for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the materials you are using won't withstand heat because they are too fragile. For instance, you need to use cold connections when you re-purpose old tins into jewellery, or if you are using flammable materials like leather and ribbon in your designs. Sometimes you just aren't comfortable using a torch and prefer the cold connection alternative.

Using tabs and hinges can lend your design a very distinctive look. By using a tab to hold your design together, you can showcase chemically-coloured stones or fragile materials like pottery. I used a rivet to attach the metal to this ring shank, but I used tabs to secure this oddly-shaped broken piece of pottery to the metal. I might have used a little E6000 (glue) to hold it in place while creating the tabs.


I love using grommets, tube rivets and eyelet rivets in my metal work. One of the main reasons is that they create negative space - a hole in your work - that can be used to balance other design elements. The other reason is that it creates a hole through which you can connect your piece to another with a jump ring, wire, leather, ribbon, chain, etc. In the etched piece on the right, I attached copper to a patterned brass backing with eyelet rivets then used the holes to insert brass jump rings. With grommets and eyelet rivets, which usually come in a variety of lengths and widths, one end is usually already flared, so that's the end I ensure is on the front of my work. You just have to flare the back. There are grommet and eyelet setters for this job, or you can use a riveting hammer to gently flare the metal. I find the use of washers, heishi and other components like them helps keep the work from coming apart, especially when the rivet is being flared over a soft, malleable material like leather. Tube rivets need to be sawed or cut flush, but are more customizable to your work. You have to use a setter or hammer to flare both ends of the rivet.

Twist-in micro hardware has become a very fashionable and easy way to connect metal to metal and to fragile materials. Just remember to flush cut the screw a thread above the washer then secure with a riveting hammer. In the bracelet on the left, I used screw and nut micro hardware by Susan Lenart Kazmer to attach the etched copper to the leather bracelet. There are also cone-shaped metal pieces that have threaded screws that allow you to join two thin pieces of material together.

Brads and nails are great to use in cold connection jewellery because they come in a variety of metals and already have a flush, secure end for you to work with. Brass escutcheon pins can be used as well. You will have to flush cut the other end and flare with your hammer. Once again, I suggest the use of a washer to ensure your rivet stays in place on the back side of your work if you are riveting metal to leather. Beadfx also has an assortment of pretty rivets that are topped with bees, flowers and other pretty designs, to add to your jewellery designs.

I'm a huge proponent of E6000. I use it to glue anything to everything. The metal in the bracelet above was glued before the rivets were applied. Trust me, it works. I'm sure there are other glues that work just as well, but my E6000 is never far away. I fact, I have three tubes around here somewhere....

Finally, wire. 16 gauge wire can make a great rivet. Copper is soft enough to flare easily. You need to flare the end (get out your bench pin) then flush cut the wire 1mm above your work and flare the other end. Of course, wirework can also connect your metal through weaving or even sewing your metal pieces together.

Let your imagination take flight and use several cold connections in your next piece of metal jewellery. To get you started, here's a link to an amazing tutorial by the inimitable Kate Richbourg, found on beaducation.com. And if you want a class on cold connections, let me know in the comments section -- I'm happy to design one and teach it again.

Kate Richbourg on riveting Beaducation video


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