Sunday, October 23, 2011

To the forges!

When I decided to get married to Lizzie, I knew it had to be done with a certain level of flair. Our relationship is special, we're both bringing a whole lot to it, so I couldn't just ask her in an ordinary way.

Using the same logic, I didn't think my wedding band could just be an ordinary wedding band that I bought at some store. I could go down to Symmetry and look around for a while, that's where I got Lizzie's engagement ring. But for some reason, I felt a strong compulsion to make my ring. I bounced a few ideas off of various people -- I had thought about designing a ring in CAD and giving it to Thiel to print on his fancy new 3D printer. I thought about buying stainless steel pipe that was roughly the right size and cutting it down to make the ring.

But after a few minutes of googling, I found a few references to making a ring out of a quarter or half dollar that was minted before 1964. Before that year, the printed currency was 90% silver, so I wouldn't have to worry about finger staining or using metals that aren't that malleable. And I knew where I could find plenty of coins minted before 1964. Lizzie's grandfather had unfortunately just passed away -- but he can still take part in our wedding as he left a collection of coins -- including the variety made of 90% silver!

Armed with this information, I asked Ms. Patti (from now on referred to as Poppi) if it was ok to use her father's coins to make my wedding band. To add even more sentimental value to it, I wanted coins minted in meaningful years -- and I selected 1953. That was the year both Poppi and my mom were born -- 2 days apart. I asked Poppi in an email, not thinking too much about it other than it was a really cool idea. She agreed, and that evening, Lizzie wanted to call her mom to tell her the good news. When I told her that Poppi had already agreed, Lizzie got really upset with me. Not quite the level of "bat-shit crazy," but pretty close. She wanted the two of us to tell her and to hear/see her mom's reaction, knowing that her mom would probably get emotional about it. Whoops! Chalk that one up there with the Rising Sun of Japan...

So back to the ring making -- essentially, the idea is to pound the coin down on the edge very slowly (so as not to warp the coin), until you get to about the right ring size. From there, you drill a hole in it and machine out the rest of the unneeded silver. I spent about 3 hours on one coin this weekend, and took some pictures with my phone to show Lizzie the progress. The little white circle is a plastic ring sizer that Lizzie had so I would know how far to hammer down the coin. I've got the ring sized appropriately, now I've just got to drill it and machine it out. One cool thing you can't really tell from this picture is that the writing along the outer edge of the coin has been warped and stretched along the inside edge of the ring. If I can, I'd like to keep that writing on the inside of my wedding band. Unfortunately, the year will get machined out -- that one I'll just have to remember.

UPDATE -- I thought I'd share one more picture here with everyone. The ring is very nearly done. There are some blemishes to polish up and maybe a bit more sizing to finish, but for the most part, ring number 1 is complete! I also realize I didn't quite explain why I've got 2 half dollars. I'm making 2 rings. Hopefully I only need one, but the idea is that if I get married in possession of 2 wedding rings, if I lose one, it's no big deal. My best man has thus far lost 2 wedding bands. And if I manage to be that unlucky, I suppose I could always make another one.