|A long way to go?|
|Rings and tools|
|Forging the ring!|
|Our wedding rings|
When Maryl suggested that we should try making our own wedding rings, I was a bit unsure. We both were. Was this a romantic dream or one of our crazy ideas that all our friends would have to be touchingly polite about, like the small kid's painting on the refrigerator door?
Then we met Iris Sandkühler, an artist and teacher who has a studio right here in Pacifica. Iris told us gently but firmly that if we wanted to make our own rings, we could, and that no rings were going to leave her workshop that weren't up to her standards as a former college professor. Provided we didn't cut too much metal off, the worst that could happen was that we'd need to do things over and over again and be patient.
To get something really distinctive and special, Iris suggested that we try mokume gane, which is a Japanese technique for making beautiful swirling patterns by combining alternate layers of metals, in our case gold and silver. Already drawn by this metaphor for marriage, we bought our mokume gane material from Reactive Metals and a few weeks later we got to work.
First we had to saw the metal into two thin strips from which the rings were made - so our wedding rings were cut from adjacent pieces of the same metal, which you can see in certain places when you line the rings up. I made Maryl's ring and she made mine, so that they could be a gift from each to the other.
Then the strips were bent round a cone-shaped cylinder to turn the rectangular stips into rings. We had to be very careful to smooth off the edges really straight and matching so that they would join together without a gap. Then came the really exciting part - soldering the metal into a continuous ring. This took us both a few attempts to get right, but again, all it needs is patience, and if it doesn't work you just clean the ring in acid and try again.
We were so excited that we started wearing our rings straight away, even though it was still two days until we got married! The rings were still quite rough, and a week later, we went back to spend a few hours cleaning, gently filing, sanding and smoothing. We even dipped the rings in sulphur, which oxidized the outer layers of silver making our ring look like a dramatic tiger pattern for a few weeks. This has worn off and the shinier silver and gold effect is more subtle but still beautiful. If we want to go back to tiger stripes for a few weeks, it's a perfect excuse to visit some hot springs!
So in the end we did get to make wedding rings for each other, forged side by side from parts of the same piece of metal. We couldn't be more thrilled with them. Even with the mokume gane effect and Iris' time and the use of her studio, we spent less than we would have done buying mass produced rings online. And we didn't have to be brilliant or even experienced - just willing to take two or three evenings over doing something that we'll treasure for the rest of our lives.
If you ever want to give this a try for your own wedding rings or to
celebrate a special aniversary (and if you can get yourselves to the
coast a few miles couth of San Francisco), visit Iris' website at www.sandkuhler.com.