Friday, March 05, 2010

Sometimes you just have to make your own jewelry tools

I have a new bracelet design that requires an oval shaped bracelet mandrel for final heat treating. I bought a cast steel mandrel years ago (very expensive) but the steps are just not long enough for my current needs. The steps are 1 3/4" long and I need one 2 1/4" in length. I scoured the Internet for an oval bracelet mandrel, but the only ones I could find were tapered (won't work) or stepped, just like mine. Hummm.... what to do.
I was thinking, if I had access to a lathe, I could make one out of oak or steel. We have an ancient metal lathe down in the shop, but, it hasn't been used for years and I doubt it still runs. Still, I could spend a week moving the junk piled up in front of, and on top of it, cleaning the lathe and checking to see if it still runs.

Then, the perfect solution came to me. As usual, my ideas always seem to come in the early hours of the morning. I needed to find a plastic bottle, the right diameter. My oval design is 2.48" wide x 2.29"for an average diameter of 2.39". I buy plastic squeeze bottles from Wal-Mart for dispensing my assorted resins, and these turned out to be the perfect diameter. I ran a quick test for heat resistance. Yep, the plastic squeeze bottle can handle the 180 deg heat treatment temperature with no melting or distortion. I cut off the top of one of the bottles, squeezed it into the right shape with an existing metal cuff bracelet, filled the bottle with plaster of paris, and let it cure overnight.

Voila! Here it is! And, I spent maybe 2 dollars making it. My mandrel turned out a whopping 5 inches tall. That means, I can heat treat 2 bracelets at a time.
Home made bracelet mandrel

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