Monday, June 2, 2014

The Art Of Hand-Made Part 1 "Understanding"

     I have been hand making double sided coin rings now for longer than I can count. I have made hundreds of rings. In fact, I could probably remember every single one of them if I thought about it hard enough. Each ring I made was special to me as I made it. I've never cranked out my rings in large amounts or for profit. That is something I think people often confuse me for, is a businessman running a business. I am not. I am a person, that constantly seeks challenge and exploration. I am a gold miner by trade. Back breaking hard laborious work. Certainly the extra income from ring making would put me in a better position financially if I was to go the business route with it. I don't do trade shows, events or local swap meets. In fact, I have never done a show of any kind. Its simply not what I am about. I know I make some nice pieces. I could make it a business and churn out rings like a mad thing if I wanted that. But. I have said it many times. I don't want this to be a business. The day its a business, is the day I don't care about it anymore. And I wanna care about it. Its opened many doors for me I would have never had the chance to explore. Its not about money. Parts of it are. Obviously. I have to keep it going. But. Its about what can I do next that is better than what I did last. And who can I make happy this time. Will I be lucky enough to sell my work to start a new project. Will I be so lucky as to make another wedding band for someone? That is always a big deal - making a wedding band. When I started this, I never thought I would reach a level to make wedding bands yet alone even see them sell. Its still an honor every time a piece sells. As it propels me along to the next project. And I hope to do many more rings for people. Because I invest myself into each piece. I work hard. I get frustrated. And then I feel a level of accomplishment once I get the piece completed, perfect and passed on. Each project is a little journey. A little exploration. No machine can match that. I don't care what the excuse is. 

   Something people are leaving out of this craft as new ring makers spring up all around. Is the personal investment in it. Many come to me for advice. They always say the same thing, something very flattering, then they get to the point. They want to know how its done and then tell me not to worry, they are not going to be making them to sell. Then, they show up a week later, selling rings by the dozen. They didn't like my advice. So they took the easy route. And went for the machines that do the work for them. They see a hand-made ring sell for a well earned price, and figure they can have a machine do the work with out breaking a sweat and collect the rent as I call it. I feel it's tacky. Its cheap. Its a fine Scotch Whisky VS some cheap 12$ gut rot Whiskey. It's been ruining what the real coin artisans do, thanks to cheap profiteers producing rubbish. And people buying cheaply made rings they produce. But. People will spend what they wanna spend on whatever they want. And people are going to make these rings however they want. No stopping it. No point fighting it. I am here simply to tell you, that I am still making rings the same way I always have. No machines. All hand tools, always hand-made. And I will continue to as long as there is still interest in old fashioned hand-made artisan pieces. Pieces with energy. With life.  Not some soulless mass produced copied piece those other guys did on their lathes and automated presses while watching it happen. 
   I am still here to teach those of you who are truly interested in making rings by hand. And to help motivate you. My way is traditional. But I am not, Amish about it.
   People that want quality hand-made pieces from experience will visit me, or other ringers or coin artisans that remain true to the trench art revival styles who do their work by hand. Who do this because its what they do. And do it because they, like myself love to do it. 

Using a router bit to remove burs and file away the center hole. 
Now, I know making double sided coin rings can be discouraging at first. But believe me. Its just a matter of persistence, patience and perseverance. Short cutting is not a wise option for an artisan. The men in the trenches in the middle of a deadlocked war in WWI. Most of them, believe it or not, would simply toss away pieces if they were unhappy. Those guys were truly picky! Rarely did pieces make it back home. And that is why so much trench art is found underground to this day. And the same reason I will scrap a piece if I don't like it. Not every piece I make comes out great. Sometimes it takes several times to get it right. And can get pretty costly. But in the end. It's all worth it. The fact is, I am just highly self critical of my work. A perfectionist. You don't need to be. Just be happy with what you make. That is the key. Believe me. If you love what you make. Your piece will shine with that. It will reflect you. And, of course the coin's designer. We can't forget to give credit where credit is due. The pieces we chose where pieces of art created for currency. But art none the less. And that is what makes this fun. There is a world of art to explore and use.
   Anyway. This little precursor to the real post "creation" is a bit cranky, but the intent is to make it clear I am a by hand coin ringer. And I simply don't give a crap about pieces made by machines. They are two different worlds. I welcome you to mine. And hope you can end up teaching me a thing or two.
Visit me on Facebook, or Twitter @Ryanoshea36 and say hello. I enjoy talking rings just as much as I like making them.

In my next post The Art of Hand-Made, Part 2 "Creation". I will be going over how to make a coin ring. So be sure to subscribe, check back, or bookmark. The next post is the one most of you have been waiting for. And a glimpse into something even bigger. 
     The typical mediums I work with are Gold, Silver, CuproNickel and Bronze / Copper. Below are some examples of these. And what you to can use in your ring making. In my next post, I will cover Coin Alloy's. And what is best to use for beginners, and what the difference in Alloy Means. So stay tuned. For those of you following my posts. THANK YOU. Please keep at it! Share your work with me. And if you wish, I will post your hand-made pieces in my posts to share with others. Enjoy the pictures. For those interested in purchasing a ring, there are always some rings up for sale at But you can email me for a custom order here O'Shea Coin Rings, Order Email.
(GOLD) Classic "49er" ™US 10$ Gold Eagle Ring

(SILVER) Classic "The Mighty Dollar Gamblers Ring" ™ Morgan Silver Dollar Coin Ring.
(CuNi) Australian 50 Cents Copper Nickel Scalloped Rim 

(BRONZE) 1864 Nova Scotia Large Cent. Canada Pre Confederation. 

Below are a couple short videos showing a couple rings I completed this month. They are up for sale now on Etsy. Have a look. And only buy from me if you really want it.

This Silver Morgan Dollar, is about as American as you can get in a coin ring. It shouts the wild west, it shouts the USA, the mighty dollar and is the most popular coin ring I get asked for. I make them in many sizes. But have not made enough in larger sizes. So here is one for those with larger hands. 

The Japanese Silver 50 Sen. I have a total of four of these over the years. And they are my favorite coin from Asia. This coin was made from a brilliant Uncirculated Grade coin that was not cheap to aquire. But worth it due to its stunning detail. 

Below, is the wedding band you see up top of this post. It was made for a very nice couple as a wedding band. I thank them for the photo above. And wish them the best in their marriage. 


Please note, that many of the links shown in the videos, and photos are no longer active. To find me, please search Saint Augustine Mint, or O'Shea Hand-Made (Sometimes as O'Shea Coin Art)


Saturday, February 22, 2014

How to Make Coin Rings: Tips and Tricks.

  I get asked a lot of questions via email about the different methods I use to make coin rings. I try my best to answer those questions. But I get overwhelmed with it. So I started this blog to help answer them in one place. In this post I will be answering questions about "How To Center The Hole In The Coin "Placing Leather on the mandrel and uses for leather in ring making" as well as a few things I feel a ring maker should know when working their pieces. I added some video with these as well. Forgive me for the shaky camera as I used a cell phone to do these quick tip videos.
   Anyway. Hope this helps. All the best! Please subscribe to the blog by entering your email to the left. Or, your questions can be sent to me directly at: 
-Ryan O'Shea

First, as I explain to many people starting out in this hobby a "perfectly centered hole" is not necessary. It just isn't. It can be slightly off. And can easily be corrected with the use of a round and flat file before and after the coin has been folded by filing the non factory side of your piece. Over the years I have watched many ringers come and go with different ways to center the hole in the coin. And youtube is full of these methods and even tools, so I understand why so many are confused about it. There is no one way to do it. There are many. My way, or ways are just simply that. My ways of doing it. But they work for me. And my pieces, I hope should reflect that I know a little bit about coin ring making. There are makers of a punch tool specifically made to punch a dead center hole in coins like half dollars, dollars ect if you want to spend 300$. I am not against these tools. They are brilliant. But as I have heard from many people. Nearly impossible to obtain. I figure with a tool like that, they are just swamped with orders. And like me. Have to turn the work away. Would I like to own one, sure. Am I willing to spend 300 dollars? No. Again. My method has worked for me for a very long time. And it will for you too. However, there are a lot of people who don't want to put in the work or discipline into hand made pieces. They want short cuts. They want fast results the easy way. But the fact is, when it comes to making a hand made artisan coin ring there are no short cuts. And its only as hard as you make it.  These tips will show that it is actually quite easy with a little work. And you might just come up with an method that works so well, you could teach us all a thing or two. 

The finished 1894 Newfoundland Coin Ring. Sz 9. For Sale on Etsy! 

How To Find The Center In Your Coin:
  As mentioned before. Your initial hole does not have to be perfectly centered. Only as centered as you can get it. Of course a perfectly centered hole is ideal. But with minimal tools at minimal cost, its more of a challenge, but not hard to do. I have tried many ways to do get my holes more perfectly centered. From use of calipers, templates and more recently the use of a centering tool made for finding the center of round flat objects. This tool has proven to be extremely useful and very inexpensive. And so that is what I am going to share here so you can use the same type of tool to locate the center of your coin no matter its size. And I highly suggest getting one like it.

Shown left is a Robert Larson Brand Circle Center Finder tool. 
I picked this tool up from Jerry's for 4 dollars. And I have to admit. I don't know why I never gave it any thought until recently for use in my projects. Its brilliant. Easy to use. And it really does get you as close to dead center as you can get. I have used it on many coins with great success. The video below will demonstrate it for you. Combined with a circle template its a powerful combination of tools that are readily available at your local home improvement stores. Once your center is located. You should have greater success centering your hole no matter what tool you use. Drill, Die Punch or Jewelers saw. The use of calipers and a round file are also tools I suggest using as you can actually get a nearly perfect centered hole by measuring and filing the hole if it is off center. A good eye and rolling the coin in your finger tips against a flat colored back ground will show any wobble in the hole if it is off. Correct what you can. Because later in the process you will be making use of a flat file to finalize the last steps in getting a uniform band in your rings anyway. 
The use of a round file to correct any unevenness in your center hole. 
     The use of the round file is an easy way to adjust any off center hole in your coin. With the use of calipers, file it out until it is as even as you can get it. Again. Does not have to be perfect. You will correct this after your fold by using a flat file by filing the non factory side of the coin until the band is uniform in shape. As shown below, I am in the process of filing the non factory side of this Australian florin evening out the band. It doesn't take much filing. The bonus to this method, is you will get the non factory side to be about as thick as the factory, or reeded side of the coin. This also helps make for comfortable band, as a ring band should be. Of course there is other steps involved. But I will get to that later. 

Use of a center tool video
    As explained above, this video simply shows how you would use your center tool to find the center and how great of a inexpensive tool it really is. 

Wrapping your mandrel in leather video
  I am asked this so often its amazing. So somewhere along the line I guess I didn't explain it and many of you became confused. I apologize. Its really a simple method. And the idea is to prevent the inside details of the coin from marring from the pressure created between the mandrel and the mallet during transformation. Leather has many great uses in making coin rings. And we will tackle that in future posts. For now. See the below video for a simple explanation of how to wrap your mandrel. 

Watch On Youtube

TIP: Checking For Hairline Cracks in your work.
   As you work your piece, I think its vital you check for any hairline cracks in your coin to prevent the coin from splitting in half. I do this by use of a loop to see if any cracks are evident in the coin before use and as I am transforming the piece into a ring. If a hairline crack becomes to big, and goes unnoticed your ring is surely to crack and break. This can be fixed if caught early. This is one part of the reason I use only high grade coins. And am extremely picky the older the coin. If you are coin shopping, avoid buying coins with dents or dings or anything that tells you the coin has been damaged. The video below is an example of how I periodically check my coins for cracking as I work them. I can't tell you how many times identifying a crack before it really opened up and split saved my pieces. This was a hard lesson learned early on. I've cracked a few coins over the years, and its an awful feeling. So I am posting this tip here so you will hopefully never have to go through that. And I will elaborate more on it in the future. For now. Keep an eye on the small details. 

Watch On Youtube


Tools of hand made coin ring making