In the Studio with Nancy, Volume 4, May 2, 2013


Last Updated 10/5/23 Volume Four

Nancy L.T. Hamilton

Welcome to: In the Studio with Nancy

Hello All!  I hope you are all creating like mad men/women.  Today, I will babble about  Curiosity, Creativity, and the Practice of “Seeing”  – sound interesting?  In this week’s newsletter, I will share my take on these words.  Also, the TOPIC this week is not about an everyday jewelry-making technique. Yet, it is one you will, no doubt, eventually need to do. I’m also going to share some tips that will make this mystery technique a breeze. Curious? Good.  The Email of the week is from Ken W.  It’s not actually a question-based email, but, it too holds a surprise.  Curiouser and curiouser as Alice once said. So, let’s get moving, times a-wasting and I’m late, I’m late…Curiosity, Creativity, and the Practice of “Seeing”

Curiosity drives us to explore to understand the unknown.  To seek out the answers to that which we don’t comprehend.  We pick things up and examine them with our eyes, our ears, our senses of touch and taste.  We all possess varying levels of curiosity and creativity, but the practice of seeing enables us to be more creative. It involves an increasing awareness of the world around us and re-seeing, through our own experiences, that world. I call it “the practice of seeing” as it does, indeed, involve practice. Our brain doesn’t like to waste time re-categorizing things:  once the brain determines that a leaf is a leaf, it stays a leaf until it is trained to “see” it differently.

Some of my first jewelry sketches were made with paper models. The piece was pierced with no soldering.

The practice of seeing starts with becoming a little more aware of the world around you. An excellent way to learn how to “see” is to start with what is around you.  The next time you walk on the street or in the yard, focus on the ground.  Collect some of what you find.  Maybe another day, look up and collect what you find there.  Okay, now what?  Take those found things into your workspace and play with them.  Can you make something from them?  A collage, a piece of jewelry, a sculpture?  You don’t have to use the actual “found” pieces – you can replicate or change them. The art doesn’t have to be functional, be “pretty,” or even make sense.  Just play with the shapes, textures, and colors.  Think about what attracted you to it in the first place.  Notice:  is it rough, shiny, mottled, smooth, etc.  Explore your find.  How was the find on the ground different from the one in the air?  Why was it different?  How did it get there?  What does it remind you of?  Curiosity, remember?  We’ve all got it, we just need to use it.

Ask  other questions like:  “What would happen if I…”  How can I make this into a ring, a brooch, a necklace, earrings?  How would its function change the design? What would it look like in metal?  What if I bent it like this?  What about cutting it in half?  Keep asking questions.

A sketchbook is imperative.  Draw, draw, and draw some more. Draw your finds and re-draw them slightly differently.  Don’t erase, don’t condemn, don’t criticize.  Allow it to happen.  Even if you think you can’t draw, draw anyway.  You will get better.  Maybe not by next week, but definitely by next year.  Attach the inspirational pieces to your sketchbook.  Don’t forget to date your drawings –  you will, one day,  appreciate having a journal that clearly shows your creative growth.

  More sketches from my sketchbook(s) – about eight years ago.

Practice, drawing, and curiosity will help you understand your creativity and find your voice.  So, explore, destroy, reshape, rethink, and say it how you want it said, in your own words. Be creative, curious, and, most of all,  practice.

TOPIC – Finding the Center of a Disc

Why would you need to find the center of a disc?   If you are making domed beads, let’s say you want them to hang correctly (or you don’t, but for this discussion, we are going with beads with a center hole).  If the hole is off-center, the beads will not hang evenly.  So, I’m going to show you two shortcuts to finding the center.

 My solderless beads with center holes.

The first shortcut involves making a little template.  You can make a template for each size disc that you will use.  I don’t recommend using circle templates with four or more equidistant marks. They are difficult to be precise with.  Theoretically, you draw a line from one mark to the other, creating a + on the disc.  I say “in theory” because there are variables that occur that will result in an off-center hole.  The width of your line is one of the biggest problems.  Also, drawing the line, even 1/10th of a millimeter off, can move the center mark off true.

 Circle Template

Here’s how to make the template


  • Plastic file folders (Big Lots or the Dollar Store, Dollar Tree, etc.) or a Quilter’s Gridded Plastic Template.  You want a stiff plastic, not floppy like vinyl.  You’ll need a clear (the gridded template works) and a color.
  • Steel dividers with a sharp point – I love the Starret brand.  They are pricey but comfortable, small enough, and last for a long time.  I recommend a 3″ – 4″ divider.  The smaller size makes them easier to use with the small items we work with. 
  • Ruler – I like flexible, 6″, clear rulers in millimeters and inches.  Being clear,  you can see through them.  Flexible allows you to curve around the metal, and millimeters ’cause that’s the best way to measure these tiny elements. 
  • Scissors
  • Ultrafine Sharpie (I like the retractable style).
  • Optional – a scalpel or razor knife.
  • Disc of metal
  • Center punch – I like the automatic center punch because you don’t need a hammer.  Just press down on the punch, and it makes a divot. 
  • 1 mm twist drill (aka, drill bit). I recommend using High-Speed Steel drills.  I particularly like a drill with a 3/32″ shank for use with my quick-change handpiece.

​  Dividers

 The following directions are for a 1″ diameter circle.  Adjust the directions for each size that you want to make.

  • Set your dividers to half the size of your disc.  So, in our example, the dividers will be set to 1/2″.
  • Ensure you have enough room to create a 1″ circle plus a border of 1/2″ or so.  (See example). Cut out the square from both sheets of plastic.  Make them the same size.

  • You might want to put a piece of wood or cardboard under your work area.  
  • Press one end of the dividers in the approximate center of your CLEAR cutout square.
  • Scratch a circle in the plastic.

  • With a 1mm drill bitdrill a hole into the center of the clear circle.  It should be easy to see the center mark, as this is where you put the first leg of the divider.
  • Take the colored plastic square and insert the point into the approximate center – just like you did with the clear material.
  • Adjust the dividers to be A HAIR – A VERY THIN HAIR, larger than the 1/2″ it was initially set at. 
  • Instead of just marking the circle this time, you will cut out a circle.  So, press a bit harder and keep going around until the circle is cut out.  You can use the scalpel or the razor knife to cut stubborn parts.  Just be sure you don’t change the shape of the circle with the knife/scalpel.
  • It helps to hold the dividers in one hand and move the plastic with the other.
  • You should now have two squares, the clear one with a scribed circle and the colored one with a cutout circle.

The circle on clear plastic is highlighted with a sharpie for photographic clarity.  You can also use the marker if you have difficulty seeing the scribed line while matching the circles. (Please ignore the cutout corner.  I was using scrap).

  • Line up the circles and clamp and/or tape the tops of the squares together.  I used clamps first so that I could adjust the fit. Double-check for alignment and fit.  If the disc can move around inside the cutout, you need to remake the cutout.  The disc needs to fit nice and tight inside it.
  • Place a piece of masking tape across the back of the disc/cutout to hold it in.  You can also hold it.
  • Flip over the package so that the clear side is facing up.  Place the center punch into the hole drilled into the clear plastic and push it down into the metal.  You should have a visible dent.  Alternatively, you can mark the center with a Sharpie.  
  • If you are making multiples, try super gluing two or three discs together (perfect alignment of the discs is VERY IMPORTANT!) and following this technique. If you use super glue, either pry it apart with a knife and then use a super glue remover (Goof Off Super Glue Remover) or torch the discs until they separate and the glue is burned up.  GOOD VENTILATION IS REQUIRED.  You could also try rubber cement.

The (almost) finished template.  Here, I show it clamped before taping.  (These small spring clips are great for holding things together).

The easiest method of all for finding center on a disc!

Buy this: Steel Center Finder

You push the disc in, as far as it will go (in the back, I guess – hard to tell back from front).  On the other side (the one with the long straight edge) run a marker line down the front of your disc.  Give the disc about a 1/2 turn and draw another line.  You can draw several lines if you want. Where the lines intersect, use the center punch and make your dent.  Easy peasy chocolate cheesy.

Front?                                    Back?
Note two intersecting lines.  Although, I didn’t turn it a complete 1/2 turn (obviously).

That’s it.  Why, oh why, did I ever mess around with circle templates?  I can’t tell you how many off-centered beads I made (back in the day).

News from My Viewers

Mr. Ken W. gets kudos this week for turning me on to these pretty cool, flexible, rubber sanding disc mandrels (what a mouthful!).  They come with several sanding discs (that you may or may not use) and two mandrels.   These are called 102 Piece 1/2″ Sanding Disc with Two Rubber Mandrels. The ONLY thing that I don’t like about them is that they do not possess 3/32″ shanks – ergo, they don’t fit in my quick-release without putting in my adapter thingies. (3/16″ shank, collet adapters). But they are much more manageable than sticking the 3M discs to the back of a flexible sanding disc, cutting a hole for the mandrel, etc.  Read my page on “Sanding” if you want to know more about what I’m talking (babbling?) about here.

Also, thanks to Ken for letting us know about Utopia Tools.  Always looking for suppliers!

Thanks, Ken!  Now, can you pull a rabbit out of your hat?  

Thank you all for visiting with me today.  I hope you enjoyed the newsletter.  This week, draw, draw, and draw some more. Take a moment to stop and take and look around you. Then, pull up a chair,  find the center of a disc, and sand the rabbit fur off your hat!   Talk to you soon, Nancy

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