My New Apprentice

My daughter Wendy joined me at the Hanukah event where I vended last weekend and I realized it’s time for her to start apprenticing for real.

She’s been around my jewelry work her whole life and seems to understand very well how things are made. In fact she had a very early interest in gemstones and still is quicker at identifying stones than I am. (”Damn it Jim! I’m a metalsmith, not a gemologist!”)

She had fun talking to people at Pagan Festivals telling them she wanted to be a gemologist or an astronaut. One fellow told me later that after she told him that, he asked what stone he was wearing. She didn’t even hesitate to tell him it was snowflake obsidian. Of course he had to run and tell me. She was all of about 9 or 10.

Back in 2004 she first learned to use the jewelers saw on old AOL CDs and made some interesting things then. So last week at the show, (in between customers- of which there were none) I gave her the saw and the lesson I was given on the first day of my apprenticeship. Cut Lincoln from the penny. With an 8/0 sawblade.

She did well only broke about 4 blades in the process and started on a second one before we had to go. So I promised her I would figure out a bench for her so we could work together in the shop. She’ll be 13 in two weeks, seems like a good time to start an apprenticeship.

I set up a portable workmate with the tabletop I made for pagan festivals when I set up my shop, set up a light, bench pin and a catch tray and I now have an apprentice in the shop.

It’s nice to have another person to talk to while I work. It’s nice to start passing on these skills. And to be perfectly honest, to my astonishment, the kid is a natural.

Tonight she was given a sheet of sterling silver. I explained how to figure ring size, had her do all the math and measurements. She practiced soldering with a old piece of ring stock I had laying around, I explained about seams, had her reading The Complete Metalsmith by McCreight and about 3 hours later she had a ring. The little butane torch I use for traveling is perfect for teaching soldering. I learned on oxygen acetylene and I remember how scary it was. She didn’t melt anything. I remember so much from my apprenticeship, I felt like everything I touched melted.

It ended up about a size too small. We discussed stretching, etc. But she wants to do it the right way and learn how to size the ring properly and put a piece in. That’s for tomorrow.

And I’m still getting work done. I’m on my second custom order this week and just being in the shop gives me more ideas. In between I have her watch me and then try it herself. Mostly trying it herself because she learns like me, by doing.

It’ll be fun checking off today’s homeschool hours. Science, math, geometry, safety. We covered a lot.

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