"Heat Zone" Workshop by Helen Blythe-Hart

January 17 & 18th , 2009

Written by Gail and Carl Pitts

It was a hot time in the Old Pueblo during the third weekend of January as Helen “HB” Blythe-Hart (http://www.helenblythehart.com/) came to Randolph Center to teach her acclaimed Heat Zone Soldering Method.  HB began her metalsmith career as an apprentice to a goldsmith at age 11. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Indiana University in Bloomington and her Graduate Gemologist Diploma from the prestigious Gemological Institute of America (http://www.gia.edu/3954/gia_home_page.cfm). She is a member of the Society of North American Goldsmiths (http://www.snagmetalsmith.org/) and her work can be seen at art galleries and museums around the world. 

On Friday evening before the class, HB treated us to a photo presentation of her development as a Goldsmith.  She showed pictures of her beautiful art crafted from a wide variety of materials including duck eggshells, feathers, dryer hose, silver and gold.   The presentation was well attended and those of you who weren’t there missed a great one. The hidden connections that joined parts of her work and gave them mobility were of particular interest to the attendees.

On Saturday HB began the class by discussing the anatomy of a flame and described the different heat zones.  She then had the students begin a series of seven exercises described below.

HELEN BLYTHE-01.jpgPumice Pull: This involved holding the torch in the non-dominant hand, moving it back and forth at the correct pace over the firebrick while keeping the hot spot on the brick. At the same time, using the dominant hand to pick up items with the tweezers and place them on the firebrick.  This was a “rub your tummy and pat your head” type of exercise to get the students accustomed to doing two things at once.  Here we see HB demonstrating the proper way to hold the torch and handle the tweezers.

Keep it Hot: The students had to heat up a piece of scrap silver and keep it at the right temperature for one minute without melting the piece.


Bezel On:
For this exercise the students created a silver bezel and soldered it to a sheet of silver.  Here we see Chris happily admiring his soldered Bezel.

Wire On:
This exercise involved soldering a series of wire coils to the sheet of silver without melting or unsoldering the bezel.  In this photo we see a sample piece with the bezel and wire coils soldered on. This exercise concluded the Saturday class.  On Sunday the students continued to perform the remaining three exercises.


Bird’s Nest:
Half inch long silver wires were soldered, in a jumble, to the back of the silver plate, being careful to not unsolder the bezel or the wire coils on the front of the plate.  In this photo we see Jorga shooting a self-portrait while Judy and Jan tend their soldered pieces in the pickling pot.

HELEN BLYTHE-05.jpgEarring Post: The students created earring posts by heating the end of the wire to form a ball and then soldering the posts to the back of the silver plate, again being careful not to unsolder all the other components on the front and back of the plate.

Jump Ring: Jump rings were made from silver wire.  The side at the join was filed to form a flat spot and the jump rings were soldered to the edge of the silver plate.  In this photo we see the back of the plate with the bird’s nest, earring posts and jump ring soldered on.


In this photo we see some of the class members busily practicing what they have learned while HB provides advice, encouragement and reminds them “Flux is our Friend – Oxide is our Enemy”.  The remaining members of the class are lined up waiting their turn at the workbench.

After the students had completed all the exercises, HB gave an extensive explanation of how to assemble the various pieces of a soldering system.  She stressed the importance of checking for leaks and safety precautions while using the system including the procedure for turning the tank on and off.

It was a great weekend and we thank HB for sharing her Heat Zone method of soldering with us.  We are hoping that she will return to Tucson next year to teach “Heat Zone 2”.

Her new book and DVD, “Heat Zone Soldering” will be available until May at the pre-press price of $49.95.  Contact HB by email at hb@helenblythehart.com to reserve your copy.

The photographs presented here are by Jorga Riggenbach.  For more photos from this and other workshops and Metalink presentations go to http://www.pbase.com/jar3531/adc08.
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