Friday, May 24, 2013

Metal Smithing & Finger Minting

Come now, don't be so brusque--
You are moving much to fast--
If finishing soon is a must--
Then don't save best for last!

Fine silver nose ring.
To start this post, I first should tell you I typed the original just-over-three-page draft of this post a month ago entirely with one  hand, using only the thumb of the left hand to press the shift key. To find out why, read on.

This past school year, I received scholarships for an introductory  jewelry metal smithing class at my local art college. In this course, I worked with brass, copper, and silver. I learned the basics of wire and sheet-metal shaping, soldering, cold connections, bezels, and tube settings. Big thanks to my teachers who taught me and helped me through this course!

Daemon me
First semester there were only four students in my class; a pair of human girls that had taken the course before and were repeating it as studio time, a human boy who was a bit of a self-inflicted shut in but was nice enough none the less, and myself, taking on the form of a milk-skinned, grey-hued, dark-teal-haired elf. I heard my fair of star-treck, lord of the rings, and miscellaneous other assorted elf jokes from the teacher because of my distinctly pointed ears. Well, what does one  expect when cross-species mingling?
Onyx set in silver on brass sheet band.
In truth, I worked at a haunted house during that semester and had to go strait to work after. I didn't have time to fully transform between class and work, so I attended as an elf; a half-way form to my daemon form I take at the haunt.
Because I really didn't know what was in store each class, I didn't come up with many ideas ahead of time. I did think of my final project before class, though. It took three four-hour classes to complete.

From left to right: Copper octopus mask, copper pounded wire bracelet,
fine silver nose ring, copper wire bracelet, brass twisted & flattened wire
bangle with brass screws, brass-banded ring with fine silver bezel and
onyx stone.
By second semester, I had gotten the hand of some techniques, and was full of ideas for new pieces. I had a small collection going of found objects, most of which I never got to. We had a substitute teacher for the first two classes, and an assistant teacher at this class. Our class had about twelve people. One of the returning girls from last semester was there. Me and her were the only ones that had taken the class before. We learned how to do cuttlefish castings out of copper, which was something that had not been covered before. I found I really enjoyed casting, and did as many as I could during the first two classes.

When second semester started, I had taken a recently unearthed interest in taxidermy, bone collection, and other forms of preservation of the dead. This inspired me to write a novella where wet specimens play a key role. The assistant teacher of my class was able to tell me some replacements for formalin 10% that is far less toxic, though still dangerous. I haven't tried this, but I looked into it and what she says seems quite valid.

Rings, buttons, and a fish-hook 16g piercing jewelry fish hook.
Copper cuttlefish cast buttons.
The end of the last class, we had a small art show. It consisted of the family members of the students arriving during the last ten minutes of class to see what everyone had made. Pictures were being taken by the teacher of student art on a white paper background.

I had hurriedly constructed my final project during that class. "Final projects" are not something required, as this was not a graded course. But I like saving best for last.
I had made a headband out of three 12 gauge brass wires twisted and soldered into a hoop. I added a piece of flattened wire shaped a bit like a staple to the inside of the hoop. This was going to fold over three peacock feathers to hold them in place. I had made a bezel for a small, round, burgundy cut stone, but it came out too small.
In the last five minutes of class, everyone was rushing to complete their projects. The teachers were spread thin trying to help everyone sum up their work. I saw that I had no time to make a new bezel, and hurried to polish the thick brass wire hoop.
I used a soft-bristled brush and white diamond polish on a large power-polisher. (the big kind built into a table). I wore a clear plastic hood as I polishing the hoop. It kicked once or twice in my hands when I pressed too hard into the bristles. I was thinking I should switch to the dermal polisher (a small, hand held device), between this though occurred to me, I only had five or so inches left.
Fine silver "fish hook" piercing jewelry.
Has eye drilled so fishing-line with feathers
can be attached.
Five more inches. How hard can it be?
See that tiny twist on the left?
That's where my finger caught.
The hoop kicked again. This time, though, it went over the smaller-diametered brush and hung on the shaft that spun the wheel. Before I could let go, the annealed (heated and quenched so that the metal is molecularly softer) wire began to curl around the shaft, trapping the tip of my middle finger between the wire and the shaft.
Copper cuttlefish bone casting of a
shark's tooth with sea glass mixed
with the molten metal.
I managed to pull my hand out in the nick of time, meaning right before my finger was pulled off. I am so grateful I was able to escape. This machine takes minutes to come to a stop, and no flimsy arm is gonna be something to stop it. In the moment of horror, I had completely forgot where the kill switch was.
I shouted "ouch! That hurt! That really really hurt! ****!" It almost didn't seem real. My first fear when getting caught on the polisher was I would loose a finger, and the first thing I new when I pulled it out was that I hadn't.
My finger tip did hurt, though. It hurt a lot.
The polishing room is separate from the happening and soldering/work bench rooms because of the dust and noise level. I stumbled into the hammering room, where I was met immediately by my teachers. The first thing they checked was if I could move my fingers? Yes. All of them. The conclusion at the time was that I had merely lost the skin over the nail. I was cleaned up and bandaged with a first-aid kit. When in the hall getting patched up, I could see my dad where I had told him to meet me to bring him to the art show. I tried to tell my teachers this, but shock had begone to take effect.
After school first aid, right before ER
I was half-carried to a work stool, where I half-passed out leaning on the table. I could feel myself pail and in cold sweat. I did my best to hold it together, But I couldn't help loud, high little noises of shock and pain.
At that point, my dad entered the room, looking for me. He was wondering why I had not met him like we had planned. Well, he found out quick enough.
Twisted wire band rings
The assistant teacher brought me some orange juice, which immediately helped with the shock. She said it had something to do with the blood sugar. Although I could still move my finger and my teachers said it was just my nail broken, my dad took me to the ER to get it checked out. I had 1,000 mg of tylanol to no affect in the car ride over, and he thought it was causing me too much pain to be just a nail injury.
First we went to the wrong hospital: according to their website, they had an ER, but when we got there they told us there was none. We were directed to another hospital that was on the same street as the school. So it took me about 40 minutes to get in, and another 20 or so minutes (though it felt longer) I was finally given ice. I was given painkillers and seditives through an IV as well as some pills. After all that, my injury reached a tolerable state. That means it felt like it had been slammed in a car door.
Cuttlefish fast ring, hay penny ring,
and yellow feather ring.
In the end, a nerve block was used: two at the base of the finger. The x-ray showed the bone was broken all the way through just past the knuckle. The location of the break explains my ability to still move the finger. The fingertips and knuckles on all the fingers (but not the thumb) on the left hand were bruised to the bone. I had blood blisters on all my fingers. The skin that normally sat over the live part of my nail had been folded between the brake in the bone, though I wouldn't know this until later. The ER nurse tried to push my finger back in place, and splinted it. Two days later I saw a hand specialist. He switched my splint to something that doesn't cover the top of the finger or put pressure on the break. Additional x-rays post-splinting reviled the flesh pinched between the two parts of the broken bone. The hand specialist said my finger is technically amputated because only soft tissue held it together. Luckily adequate blood flow allowed it to be saved.

Watch gear rivet ring, cuttlefish cast
ring, butterfly bead ring.
I went into surgery to have the bone pinned back in place three days later. I was supposed to be awake but sedated through the procedure, but when they put me under with the intention of it lasting no more than three minutes to clean and prep me for surgery, I ended up being out for about forty minutes. The pin stays in a month, and comes out next week. Then with another two months of healing, my finger should be good as new. Surprisingly, my fingernail was still attached enough to be saved. This was a pleasant surprise, seeing as I was told I would loose it and it would take a year to grow back.
Another six days later, I upgraded to a "streamline splint." This was the first time seeing my finger after surgery. The doctor did a good job repairing the skin, though my finger does look a bit flat still. The pin is visible, projecting slightly from my fingertip. I think it must go into the joint, because it hurts like hell and is impossible to bend my finger. This I discovered by accident.
Just after my wrapping
came off.
All in all it was six days from injury to surgical repair. The painkillers I had been given seemed to work, though I had to switch after two and a half days 
because the first ones made me sick. I never realized how much I used my left hand. Guess I won't be playing bass, opening jars, shuffling cards, or typing efficiently for the next two to three months. If anything, it's mostly annoying because it's such a small bone to cause such big limitations. I'm still grateful though, because at least I still have a finger.

~Evie Rooks

No comments:

Post a Comment