Monday, January 20, 2014

How to make PLexiglas cuff bracelets

Have you heard me mention how amazing my day job is? Well, sometimes I can't believe I get paid for doing what I love, and what I would be doing anyways for free, but, please don't mention that part to my boss...

Well, at my amazing job as a jewelry/metalsmithing high school teacher, we have fully equipped shops with the works, including 2 laser cutters. It has taken me over a year to begin to use the laser cutter, partially because I was having anxiety over figuring out how it works, and also because I knew that once I started I would in all likely hood not be able to stop.

I was right about one of those points...

Turns out the laser cutter is so totally easy to use. No complicated server issues, or weird formatting, no confusing computer stuff to contend with. Easy peasy.

And, yes, I am now completely hooked!

I need to come up with projects for my kids, so I have been trying to figure out the best way to curve Plexiglas for cuff bracelets. I share what I have learned with you here, and now...

*These cuffs were laser cut, but you can also make these by hand using a jewelers saw. Before the laser cutter I used Plexi all the time and I cut it by hand...

First make sure you have removed the paper coating from the back of the piece. With laser cutting, always remove the paper from the cutting side or it can catch on fire.

I made my cuff length 5 3/4. I have an average to small sized wrist. (this is actually my only small body part...sigh..)

Here's the tools and supplies you will need:

Heat gun, toaster oven, gloves, bracelet mandrel, vice, Plexi strips.

If  you are buying a heat gun, get one that has the off switch above or below low and high, not in between low and high. Gloves should be leather or some really dense but thin material. Thinner the better so you can manipulate the material with more precision.

You can use a pipe or some other tube like object as your mandrel. I like this stepped oval mandrel, but each step is only 1 3/4 in height so I am limited to how wide my bracelets can be. I use a vice clamped onto my bench to hold the mandrel.

Pre-heat oven to 325. ( I suspect the temp will vary from oven to oven, so this is kinda a rough estimate).

Place piece on tin foil and heat for 4 minutes. (again, may vary depending on size of strip and oven).

Quickly remove strip from oven (wear your gloves) and wrap it around your upright mandrel.
The plexi is very smooshie and mushie at this point but it hardens up fast, you only have seconds to work.

Ideally, you get the strip curved properly on the first try. This means getting your ends aligned and all parts hugging the mandrel. 

If your cuff is mis-formed then you will need to break out the heat gun. You can heat specific spots, then quickly put down the gun and press those spots into place. (That's why you need a gun that is easy to turn off, off in the middle is too hard to do quickly)

Some designs work a lot better than others.

Designs with long skinny elements are pretty hard to form properly.

Designs like this I had a hard time with.
Note the long linear elements at the top and bottom of these designs. See how the top of the red is wobbly. The neon one is hard to see, but its also really wobbly. I am not even going to do the pink one cause its the same design as the neon and those top/bottom edges are just to long and thin to hold the right shape.

When you have your cuff to the shape you want, you can be done! Or, not...

I actually prefer my Plexi slightly cloudy, especially the transparents. I use a wet/dry sanding block to give it a cloudy surface. And, viola! They are done!


In full disclosure,  these bad boys will snap when putting them on if they are too small, especially the lighter more open designs. Make sure the opening for your wrist is not too close, these are not very flexible so don't bend them or mess with them too much. If they do break, no worries, you can easily make more...

If anyone has more info on the best way to curve Plexi, please share your wisdom with us.
If this was helpful, please pass it on.
Happy making!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Dream House

Happy New Year!
This is my first post of 2014, and it's a good one indeed...

While visiting my family and friends in Los Angeles during the holidays, driving through sunny Santa Monica, I noticed something glittering and shining in my peripheral vision. Like all crafty gals when passing a house covered in mosaic, I quickly and dangerously flipped an illegal U turn to get a closer look. Not only did I find an amazing mosaic covered house, but I also found a man patiently gluing pieces of mirror onto the one unfinished wall.

I parked, grabbed my phone and introduced myself.

My new friends, Aziz and Louise Farnam

A portion of one side of the house. There is a water motif that runs throughout the house.

The front door. So amazing!

Aziz was friendly and willing to chat with me about his house, the materials he was using and the symbolism behind the imagery. Then his wife Louise came outside and offered to show me the inside.

Tables, chairs, walls, fireplace, beams, vases, all covered in glass, mirror and ceramic. 

As it turns out, the outside of the house is primarily the domain of Aziz, and the interior is the work of Louise. Louise discovered the art of mosaic 13 years ago and fell in love with it. She does custom furniture and architectural details for clients all over Los Angeles.

A wall and a blue mirror table that I really, really want...

A mirrored cabinet, box, mirror and vase.

Even this work table is an amazing ceramic and glass mosaic.

A close up of the fireplace.

I spent quite a while with Louise, she was so sweet and fed me delicious cake. We talked about our art and what it's like being a craftsperson in this digital age. We shared internet marketing strategies and I showed her how to use Instagram. Give her follow when you see her!

You can learn more about Louise and Aziz from Louise's website,
You can see lots more pictures, order one of a kind pieces, and there are even links to videos from when they were featured on HGTV.

It was so great meeting this couple who share this mutual passion, and I thank them for sharing it with me.