making our rings

Krissa and I have mostly tried to make our upcoming wedding fairly low key. The groom will probably wear sandals; there will be very little ceremony; traditional decisions like who is taking whose name (if at all) have not been made; so on, so forth. But we’re not completely dispensing with the traditional bits, and one of them is the rings.

Luckily, through some friends, we stumbled into a pretty awesome way of doing the rings too. Sam at New York Wedding Rings is a former sysadmin who got into ring making as a hobby. During some time off from work, ring-making became the work, and now he helps people make their own rings as the bulk of his business (though he also sells rings of his own design). What Sam does is basically help people make their own wedding rings, from start to finish. He works with people to design their rings, gets the materials, and then walks them through the process from cutting to shaping to polishing. If you’re not artistically inclined (like yours truly) he will also help to make sure that the result is something that looks professional even though it was made in part by amateurs, so you get both the side of pride and ownership that come from making it yourself and the good looks that come from actually having experience and skill. :)

Luis solders Krissas ring while Sam, our guide, looks on
BEHOLD THE POWER OF SCIENCE and also oxy-propane. I solder Krissa's ring while Sam, our guide, looks on. The ring is glowing because it is at roughly 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

I spent yesterday in the studio with Sam, working mostly on Krissa’s ring and a little on my own as well. It was a really great experience- I suppose I’m a fan of craftsmanship in general, and to put your own labor1 into the ring your partner is going to wear for the rest of their lives is a fairly powerful experience.

More details below the fold (lots of pictures so I don’t want it on planets, but do come by and say hi ;)

Besides being all crafty, it was fun too- you get to use hammers, and tongs, and serious amounts of fire. What could go wrong? :)

You start with a simple bar of metal, cutting it to the right length. Then anneal it to make it more pliable:

Krissa anneals the metal for my ring.
Krissa anneals the metal for my ring.

After doing this, I could bend Krissa’s by hand, but my own required more effort:

Krissa mocks my manliness as I try to bend the bar.
Krissa mocks my manliness as I try to bend the bar.

So you do it the old fashioned way: with tools:

Bending the ring, using a pressing tool.
Bending the ring, using a pressing tool.

Krissa managed to turn my ring slightly pretzel-shaped using the pressing tool, so she had to reheat it.

This leaves a slightly pacman-shaped ring, with a gap between the two ends of the metal bar. So you place some solder in the gap:

Placing solder in the gap
Placing solder in the gap

And then you light the torch. The rings are a platinum alloy which melts at around 3200 degrees; the solder melts at around 3000. So the thing has to get very hot for this to work. Hence, the goggles above that (in the words of a friend) scream ‘BEHOLD THE POWER OF SCIENCE’. Here is Krissa doing the deed with my ring:

Soldering the ring involves it getting very, very hot.
Soldering the ring involves it getting very, very hot.

After this, many hours of sanding, shaping, buffing, etc., occurred, including some banging with a mallet to make it perfectly circular (ironic, I know.) No pictures, it was dull but good to experience. :) Sam will do this part for you if you’re pressed for time and/or only want to do the ‘fun stuff’; I had intended to leave at noon but ended up sticking around until six because I wanted to do as much as I could; I’m a glutton for punishment that way.

Unfortunately, because of our time constraints, we could not set Krissa’s diamonds into her bands. That sounds like fun, and I would have loved to have done it, but perhaps for our next anniversary we’ll do that with Sam :) Because the rocks are getting professionally set right now, I also don’t have pictures of the final results. But they do look great, and since we’re moving Monday, I wanted to share this little photoessay before we move and get trapped in that madness- more pictures later if I can.

If you’re thinking of getting married, or just want a really special ring, I’d highly recommend talking to Sam- this was a great experience that I’ll be reminded of basically every day in years to come, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  1. not much sweat, it was air-conditioned []