Wednesday, April 2, 2014



It's been a while since I've posted. Not sure how that happened! Anyway, I stopped by to wish you all Happy Spring! Now, I know that today is not the first day of spring. That happened about ten days ago.
Today, for some reason, it finally feels like spring to me. The air smells different, there are things coming up in the yard. Also, today is the day that I start my seeds for my vegetable garden. Some people start them a bit earlier, but I find that the seedlings do better if they aren't left under the artificial lights too long. They get kind of leggy. Funny how they know that the light that they are growing under isn't really the sun. Just like we all hunger for the feeling of the sunlight on our skin so do they.
So today I'm taking a break from making jewelry to get my hands dirty, in a different way than I usually do. Often in the fall, after all of the work is done and the snow begins to fall, I feel like maybe the garden is too much work, that maybe I just wont do it next year. Then spring comes around. This day, April 2nd is the day that was my Dad's birthday. On this day (and on every other) I think about my Dad and my Mom, who loved being outside probably above almost anything else. I know that's why I do too. So, on this early spring day any of those thoughts from November blow away with a gust of spring wind. Strange how that happens.   :-)

Monday, January 13, 2014


I found this little treasure on eBay recently. It arrived today. It's a mallet with what I think is a hickory handle and a cow horn. They've fallen out of favor in the last few decades in favor of rawhide and Delrin mallets that are common on the market. These hammers have been made since Paleolithic times and were probably used much like a chasing hammer in that they were used to strike a tool and not the object being worked. Hammers like the one above are great for getting into small spaces to form annealed metals and to gently form bezels on a mandrel. I was excited to find such a relic on eBay but I really would like to try my hand at making one.  I found these cool instructions on Brian Meek's website. Check out his beautiful jewelry while you're there.
I love antique tools. I have a pair of my Dad's pliers that belonged to my Grandpa and then to Dad, several old jewelry hammers that I've found at actions, an old Archimedes drill found on eBay, some old watch makers tools from a garage sale, an antique awl with pearl handle given to me by my friend Karen, to mention a few. I like to think of the people who owned these tools and the things they made. I like to think about who they might have been and what they thought about while they were working. I wonder if someone will think about me someday when they're using my tools. Not for a long time I hope :-)

Monday, January 6, 2014


If you'll be attending the Bead & Button Show in Milwaukee this June I hope you'll check out the classes that Gail Lannum and I will be teaching. Class signups begin tomorrow (January 7th) at noon central time. If you're a jewelry maker or a jewelry lover and you haven't been to this amazing show it's something I hope you get to do.
Please check out our class listings here.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Photo by the Cassini Spacecraft 2013 (NASA)

On the cusp of the new year, here's something to ponder. We're alone out here floating in the darkness of our corner of the Universe. Anyone else who may be out here is very far away. So for now, at least, we're all there is. Please take a few minutes to watch Carl Sagan say this far better than anyone else in the Universe could.  Happy New Year everyone!

Monday, December 30, 2013


Before and after

I got a bunch of old 5 1/2 inch square cut nails a while back at a junk sale. I had to buy them because they were cool and pretty cheap. They're so enormous, that I can't even imagine what these were originally used for, fences or barn beams, I suppose. At any rate, they're pretty awesome. I've been interested in tool making for a long time now. A couple of years ago I took a forging workshop with Tim McCreight (who makes a lot of his own tools) and I had the opportunity to sit down with him an ask him a few questions about tool steel and how to harden it, etc. I bought some tool steel but haven't taken the time to work with it. I ran across these nails the other day while I was reorganizing my studio space (still not done, by the way). I was looking for a reason to procrastinate the job, so I had the idea to see if I could make a tool out of one of the nails. It worked really well. It turns out that, at least to my untrained eye, that these old babies are made from really good steel. I thought I'd make a scribe first as the fabrication is pretty straight forward, in that the goal is to make it as pointy as possible. It took a lot of heat and force to make it malleable enough to twist, so I got a good workout. Since I don't know exactly what type of steel it is, I didn't know exactly how to temper it. After I finished the forging, filing and finishing, I heated it back up, not quite as hot as I initially did when forging it. Again, since I'm using an old piece of steel, I wasn't sure whether to quench in oil or in water. From what I could learn from blacksmithing articles on the Internet, it seems like unknown steel is most safely quenched in oil, so that's what I did. I cleaned the scribe back up and used it tonight to mark a sheet of bronze for sawing. It worked great! The tip stayed intact with no chipping, so I'm assuming that I tempered correctly. If anyone reading this has any experience with old steel that they'd be willing to share with me I'd really appreciate it. The nail makes a very nice scribe that's the perfect weight and length, at least for me. I tried to place the twist so that it'd make the tool easy and secure to grip. plus, it's pretty and I think tools should be nice looking if possible. Next, I'm going to try to make a curved burnishing tool, but only AFTER the studio reorganization is done. I got a new piece of equipment for Christmas that I'm dying to try out and I have to make some room for it. More on that later!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


I got in my car last night while we were running last minute errands for Christmas. It was so cold that there was frost on the inside of the windows.  As I was waiting impatiently for the defroster to kick in I glanced up and saw this beautiful heart-shaped bit of snow on the outside of my windshield. It gave me pause. It reminded me of how important it is to stop and notice things, because they don't last. There is beauty all around us, all the time. We're all so busy, so focused on what we have to do, on our first-world problems that sometimes it's hard to see it. But it's there, if we choose to see it.
I wish you all, near and far the happiest of holidays. I hope you all will take the time for yourselves to find the beauty in everyday. I know I will.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


The finished product. Look at all the room I have for more tools!

My lovely drawing. 

 At the lumber store. We chose Poplar for the cart, which the kid working there kept calling "Popular". I had little confidence in his skill set. 

Paul cutting the wood for my project. He may or may not have been afraid that I'd cut my hand off with the circular saw. He was too nice to say so, however.

 One side done.

 The other side.

 All done, ready to be sanded and stained.

 One coat down, one to go!

 One last rub with steel wool and it was ready to load up.

 Finally, a way to organize that's worthy of my Fretz hammers!

Organize, a verb, according to Webster that is defined as "to arrange into a structured whole; order".  This is an elusive concept, at least for me in the studio, that is. I suppose it's an elusive concept for any of us that create for a living. Especially when what you create involves lots of small bits and parts and lots of tools. Lately I have heard lots of chatter on Facebook on this subject of organization. It might be that autumn makes us think of getting organized for the winter months, a nesting of sorts. I always feel a sense of anticipation this time of year that teeters towards anxiety involving getting things ready for winter.
I decided after my last show at the end of August that my next project would be to once and for all figure out a way to better organize my space. I bought some great metal cabinets for organizing stones and beads. Not only are they functional, they're an awesome shade of lime green that matches the light fixtures that hang over my work table. I'll show you those later on after I get them a bit better organized. I'm getting rid of books and magazines that I no longer need (this one is hard for me!).  I'm organizing my bench and tools into a better working state, also a difficult task, but I'm getting there. All of my tools for student use are packed up into a bin so I know where they are when I need them. I have even sorted all of my metals into new bins by type and gauge. The one thing I couldn't buy was some kind of organizer for my hammers. For non-jewelry types I'm sure this sounds funny, as in "why not just toss 'em in a tool box?". Hammers made for metalsmithing have polished faces that need to stay that way if you don't want to transfer dings onto you your work. Plus, many of them are just so pretty that you just can't let them get banged around. I've never found any kind of commercial holder or rack that really served my purpose. I decided the only thing to do was to build my own. I lurked around on Pinterest checking out how other people store their tools and I found a few ideas.
I don't have any experience building things so this was a real challenge for me. I spent some time deciding on size, dimensions and exactly what I wanted to store on it. I did a crude drawing, and I do mean crude! My drafting teacher in college would be so disappointed in me. Paul helped me figure out the dimensions of the lumber I'd need and he also pointed out some flaws in my design that would have made my cart tippy, like the fact that the casters needed to extend beyond the body of the cart. Then off the hardware store we went. Paul cut the wood out for me and I built it in about 3 days. I was pretty slow, but at least I didn't make any mistakes. I'm really happy with how it turned out. It's going to make finding the tool I need much easier, plus they look so darn pretty displayed like that!