Monthly Archives: June 2015

More Jigs, Homemade from Dumpster Diving Treasures


Jigs you can make at home from handy stuff salvaged from the trash bin!


Don’t city folk know about FREECYCLE?!

Anyway, I’m not going to bore you with descriptions of all the valuable and useful things I used to find in the dumpster alleys in central Denver. That’s a post for another day, or perhaps the middle of winter when I’m snowed in.

These wooden earrings jigs were made using small lengths (cut with jewelry saw) of strips of cedar wood. Because they are quite thin (1/16 inch in some places), I used a pencil to mark where the nails (also found in a bucket in the alley) would be hammered. I used a #59 drill bit to make pilot holes at these marks, and then gently hammered the nails into the wood. The pilot holes prevented the wood from splitting.

These jigs were intended to be used only for one specific project, but I constructed them more than a year ago and they are still going strong. I use them for longer fancy earrings like this pair:

You can see where I have also penciled in the outlines/shapes of the earwires produced with each jig. I made two sizes  – one longer and one shorter – and wrote that information on the front. The two earwire styles are similar but not exactly the same and I can easily grab the one I want depending on how dangly the earrings are.




Experimental earring jigs made from scrap polymer clay and a bag of assorted tubing/rod from K & S. (Available at some model railroading shops)

As *they* say (who is this they?), Necessity is the Mother of Invention. I wanted to make some custom earwires to better fit the look of my handmade one of a kind jewelry pieces (

When you make a pair of custom earrings, it is nice to be able to make a unique pair of earwires to match. There is so much freedom in design, size, shape, length, small accent bead, twist, bend and overall personality. Plus, there’s nothing more satisfying than being able to make custom components yourself without having to order from a supplier. Or when you realize that you have to ship an order the next day and there’s nothing open at 3 a.m.

These jigs were an experiment that was kind of successful. I used scrap polymer clay that I rolled out into thick sheets. I stacked the sheets, pressed a piece of card stock on top and rolled the stack  to compress the layers.

Using some simple sketches of positions for the holes/tubes, I chose small bits of tubing in roughly equal depths and pressed them into the clay.

Placing the tubes and rods is a bit tricky because I tried a few designs that were impossibly complex and when I bent the wire around them, it did not cooperate. I used half-hard wire because I find that dead soft is just too bendy and I ended up with deformed earwires. This all is a matter of experimenting.

When the tubes are pressed into the raw clay, the edges tend to sqwunch out (there, there spellcheck!), so I used a straight tissue blade to trim the edges square.

Each little jig was then set on a ceramic tile and baked in a convection oven.

Some of these jigs worked well, and others not so much. In the front of this photo you can see samples of some of the earwires made, next to the corresponding jig.

I have lately been experimenting with small pieces of scrap wood and nails, and some as simple as dowels and white glue. I will post these very soon, as well as more ideas for earwire design, reverse engineering and problem solving!

Let me know what you think or if you have questions I forgot to answer in this post.

I have purchased bags of scrap tubes/rods here:

This listing is hard to search, and you might try calling them directly. If you are in or near Denver, this is a crazy fun place to visit. They have all kinds of tools for small-scale metalsmithing and jewelry making. Think out of the box and consider this alternative art/craft/jewelry supply heaven. If you go there in person, you will spend lots more than you budgeted. Trust me. I know.

The Future of Etsy


Intricate seed bead earrings made by artist Mersiha Strelci. These earrings, as well as other jewelry and handwork are available in her Etsy shop:

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If you live anywhere on this planet and you are a Maker of Stuff, you know that there are many postings about Etsy – its future, issues with copyright violations and so on. It really isn’t my intention to comment on that now, since my main profession is to making awesome stuff.

Large volume resellers, with *handmade* (NOT!) items proliferate, but rest assured there are MANY, MANY dedicated, illuminating, inspiring artists on Etsy whose work is worthy of becoming a family heirloom.

Look at these fantastic earrings:

If you don’t look very carefully at the photos in the listings, you may mistakenly think they are glittery ear adornments fashioned from easily available components. They couldn’t possibly be such a reasonable price for all that work, right? WRONG. These little lovelies have been constructed bead by tedious bead, along with lots of love and care. Trust me. I know.

I have done beadwork. It is not easy. It takes hours and hours and hours. It takes scooping up beads off the floor after the cat knocks over your work tray with her paw. It takes culling through beads so that you don’t, in a mindless moment, add a slightly irregular/defective bead to your piece and then have to rip out row after row of stitching or — horrors — scrap the whole piece.

If you need a gift for yourself or someone else, give Etsy a look, or maybe another look if you have become jaded. Be a discerning and discriminating consumer. If you are looking for the lowest price you may get it – with a corresponding lowering in quality.

Read descriptions. Appreciate the artistry, imagination and soul of the many dedicated artists still selling on Etsy. There are many of us out there and it’s not all about the money. We are passionate makers who don’t need to get rich but we do need to buy groceries. Give us a little love!

Product Photography

Cheap Photo Props from Hardware Store

Cheap Photography Props

Wally and Marie. Hardware and Software Experts

Wally and Marie. Hardware and Software Experts.

Cheap Photography Props and Solutions:

One of my least favorite tasks:  taking photos of my products and work. In today’s world, it is an essential skill and I’ve learned to dislike it a little less. I have managed to speed up the process so that I can take photos, edit them and post them online (on Facebook, Flickr, Etsy and this blog) in somewhat less than 5 minutes each (If the sun is in the correct position in the sky).

My set up is cheap, down & dirty, gleaned from multiple online posts and tutorials about Free Photo Box setups (you can google them). I’ve taken online courses for pay and some are well worth their cost, especially if you get them during one of Interweave Online Store’s sales.

The online tutorials by Jim Lawson have been especially helpful to me. If you get one or two hints or tips, they are well-worth the low cost.

My biggest challenge is taking photos of dangly earrings. I had these shelf brackets lying around and taped them down to some white foam-core board that I got from the free box at Meininger’s in Denver. I also had some silver-colored knitting needles and one fit through the holes perfectly. The combination works adequately for holding up the earrings so they can be photographed in the position that they will actually be worn.

The foam core board is balanced inside a translucent plastic box that is missing its top. I almost threw this broken plastic box into the recycle bin, but then was able to repurpose it for a photo box.

I’m far from an expert at product photography, but this cheap set up works great for me, and the price was right.