Tutorial…silhouette necklace…

by Abigail Percy on 29/11/2006

in Jewellery+Accessories

Right…here is a tutorial to make your own silhouette necklace, just in time for a holiday gift {for yourself, or a lucky friend or family member!!}. There are a few basic tools you will need for this job – the main ones are pictured below – but in addition to this you will need some jump rings {bought ones are fine}, a packet of saw blades {I used a 4/0 but I would recommend the 2/0 size for beginners} some jewellery pliers {a flat nose pair and a round nose pair}…wet and dry paper {or fine sandpaper if that’s all you have}..a small amount of 0.8 wire {but you can open up a jump ring and use that if you don’t have any}….plus some scotch magic tape and a fine liner pen. If you can get one..a clamp-on jewellers bench peg makes projects like this much easier…and you can pick one up for around £15, so it is worth the initial investment.

..find yourself an image you would like to use in your necklace – I chose this stag {thinking raindeer really!} – but floral motifs, other animals, fruit, birds etc would all work well too. Print it off the computer, or re-size it to the scale you wish by hand. Choose your material carefully…I am using a piece of hot pink acrylic for this piece [3mm thick], but you could use any plastic, sheet silver, copper or brass…wood even! This would also be fun made from thick cork…you would only need a craft knife for that, but it is something to think about if you don’t have a jewellers saw.

Cover the image you are using with strips of scotch magic tape, overlapping each one…but don’t rub the tape down hard. Use a fine liner to trace the design..then peel off the tape [in one large piece]…

Stick the design down onto your material…make sure it is well stuck down now, and tuck the edges over if they are sticking out. Place the piece of acrylic flat on your wooden bench peg. [it is worth noting at this point, that the wooden peg for jewellers has a sloped side and a flat side. I don’t believe the sloped side should be used for piercing, as the material can never sit flat and the cut edge will be at an angle..so, use the flat side where possible]…slowly start to cut the material following the lines of the design.

When piercing, try and maintain the saw in a permanent upright position…the saw should only go up and down. To change direction, gently turn the PIECE as you are sawing {not the saw itself} with your other hand {which is always holding the piece to stop it moving with the force of the saw} Resist going too fast with the blade…take slow, easy strokes. This is good practice for any piercing excercise, but especially when working with plastic as the friction from the blade can make the plastic dust melt if you go too fast..jamming up the teeth and forcing the blade to break prematurely. {expect to go through lot’s of blades if you are a beginner…especially if sawing metal, so get plenty {they come in bundles of 12}}

Keep sawing around the edge of the design…concentrating on where the blade goes, and keeping a good smooth line….the less filing to tidy up the shape you have to do the better.

..soon, you will have the outline cut out!!

Use the dremel {or similar drill with a chuck that will accomodate a fine drill bit…0.8 is the best size for this}…to drill a pilot hole in any internal spaces you may want to remove. You can then undo the blade of your saw at one end, feeding it through the hole…and then re-tightening it.

[note: to tighten your saw, place one end of the blade — teeth pointing down — in the topmost clamp of the saw frame and tighten. Then rest the saw frame in the ‘V’ of your bench peg…handle facing your body, blade at the top. Press forward on the frame with your body {rest the handle on your breastbone} placing the free end of the blade in the bottom clamp, tightening it under this pressure. This will mean the blade is good and tight, and will give a clear ‘ping’ when plucked]

Continue to saw out the internal spaces…being careful when you reach any fine or delicate points.

One you have the silhouette fully cut out {that’s the hard part done!!}…you will notice some saw marks on the edge of the stag. How much work you want to put into removing these is up to you….it is possible to fully remove all sign of any work from the edge and restore it to a full shine {file, sand with wet and dry through all the grades of paper, finish the edge with the wet and dry paper and water, then polish the edge out with brasso}..but this will takes *hours*. I like to remove the obvious saw marks and then sand with a medium grit paper to take the edge to a smooth, yet frosted finish.

Use your needle file to smooth the files marks away…working in careful, long movements {a half round needle file is the most versitile}. Again, creating too much friction can clog the file {beyond repair} and cause the piece to break if it catches.

I then chose to frost the face of the acrylic {perfect too if the plastic you have is a little scratched}…place it down flat on a sheet of wet and dry paper on your work surface, and move it in smooth circular motions, checking every now and then if it is totally and evenly frosted. Using circular motions makes it easier to get an even finish and not remove material at one side more than the other which happens if you sand back and forth.

Now that the shape is fully finished, find a good point to hang the chain from. {you can buy the pre-bought chains from craft stores or jewellers, or buy a length of chain by the metre from a silver dealer…or have a look at the unusual chains you can get at the hardware store..powder coated brightly coloured ones for example…or even just use ribbon or cord}. Use the dremel to drill two small holes into the edge of the acrylic {this is why you want a 0.8mm drill bit — so it is fine enough to drill the sides without bursting out the face of the piece}…with the wire and the round nose pliers, form two small ‘U’ shaped pegs to fit the holes..and then glue them in to the holes with araldite.
[use the end of one of your broken saw blades to place a tiny bit of the glue into the hole]

If you are using sheet metal..simply drill a hole, and fasten two jump rings through it directly.

Then you can attach any chain, thread, cord or ribbon of choice….inserting a catch if you wanted {I made the chain long enough to just fit over the head…}. I used a medium weight silver belcher chain with oval links {which I buy by the meter}, because I had some and thought it went well with the size of the piece.

Now — Wear with glee and abandon!!! ;)

::: I would say this took me just under an hour from inception to completion {including finding and printing the image, and photographing all the steps}..but I would perhaps give yourself a couple of hours to complete this necklace if you are a beginner with a saw :::

** even if you don’t want to make a necklace…consider the techniques used here and how they could be used and adapted to make a great Christmas tree ornament, gift tag, place-setting etc!! Once you master the saw, the possibilities are endless! **

If looking to source some jewellery tools, have a look at this previous post on where to source tools and materials.

….also, see all the images in a larger size by viewing this photo-set on flickr

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