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Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Latest Jewelry Listings

Tonight I’m just going to show you some of the new items I’ve listed (including some fused fine silver and patinated copper). As usual, click on any of the photos to see more views or get more info.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Learning to Fuse Fine Silver and Argentium

So I’ve been experimenting with fusing silver, fine silver to be exact.

Fine silver is also known as pure silver because the content is 99.9% silver. Sterling silver, in comparison, is 92.5% silver and 7.5% mixed alloys. Usually the 7.25% added to silver to strengthen sterling enough for manipulation and duration is copper. Copper oxidizes, which is why sterling silver tarnishes much more quickly than fine silver and why sterling turns black when you heat it (soldering, fusing, etc.).

Fine silver, not having any copper to strengthen it, is very soft. That makes it easy to work with as well as difficult to work with… depends on the project.

Argentium is like sterling silver except that the added 7.5% alloy includes a substance called germanium. Since Argentium contains the same amount of silver as sterling, it can be referred to as sterling silver. But since the different additive alloy isn’t all copper, Argentium doesn’t get firescale (in other words it doesn’t turn black when heated) and it tarnishes much more slowly than traditional sterling silver.

My set-up this week included:
  • Fine Silver Wire
  • Argentium Wire
  • Blazer Micro Torch
  • Charcoal Block
  • Heat Proof Ceramic Base
  • Third Arm
  • Tumbler 
  • Crockpot of pickle (vinegar and salt)
  • Larger, unfocused torch

The things I learned are:

1) You can fuse 14 gauge fine silver with a micro-torch

2) You have to heat the whole piece up if you want a certain join to fuse

3) The join has to be almost imperceptible (flush cut and file)

4) If the 14 gauge fine silver piece you’re torching is very big, it is extremely difficult if not impossible to keep the whole piece hot enough for the join to fuse (using a micro torch, that is)

5) If you torch on a charcoal brick, things seem to go faster (after all, the brick is heating up and helping keep your piece hot)

6) Sometimes torching on a charcoal brick leaves your join mottled on the side that is against the charcoal

7) Torching with a third-arm then can work out better, but it’s harder to keep your piece as hot as it was on the charcoal and it takes a lot longer to heat it up

8) It is possible to fuse with a large, non-focused torch, but you will get different results because the whole piece turns molten rather than just a section you’re concentrating on.

9) It’s possible to fuse pieces onto other pieces, including fine silver onto sterling silver

10) So far, I haven’t found a way to fuse granulation (round balls of silver) onto wire without the ball fusing to the wire in an amorphous blob

11) Argentium fuses in a more laid-back manner than the often frenetic quality of fine silver, making it a bit easier to get a clean, non-lumpy join

12) Tumbling fused silver is a much easier way to debur and polish it than doing all that stuff by hand

13) Playing is fun

I did end up fusing some fire silver to a couple of flat sterling washers. Those I threw into a pickle mix (vinegar and salt) and heated for awhile.

Then everyone goes into the tumbler.

These photos are prior to any added patinas (I’m thinking the bead caps will particularly benefit from some LOS).

First up is my “learning bracelet”. I took some 14 gauge fine silver, wrapped it a bunch of times around my 13mm dapping punch, cut the spiral into jumprings, recut the non-flush side, filed both sides, then fused and fused and fused.

Then I wanted to see how big a circle I could fuse, so I made this one which I will be listing in my “Everyday Jewelry” collection later today or tomorrow. It’s 24mm in diameter strung onto a leather cord.

I practiced more rings (some fused on charcoal brick, some with the third arm). I wanted to try light gauge so these are 20 gauge fine silver (left and right) and 20 gauge Argentium (top). The bottom rings are just more 14 gauge fine silver.

I wanted to try adding granulation (balls) to a ring and this is the only one that didn’t blob out on me. The shadows at the bottom make it look worse than it is, but I’m keeping it for myself so didn’t bother to get a better photo.

Then I made some designs with 14 gauge fine silver that I can use in my wire-wrapping projects.

I experimented with fusing silver onto silver, rather than silver against silver. Here is some bezel wire with small triangles fused onto it (will look better once I add a patina).

And here are some bead caps I made using sterling silver disks and fusing fine silver on top of the disks. These also will look better with LOS.

Since those were sterling, I had to pickle them after I fused them, but wow… got a shock when I reached for the lid to my little crockpot with the pickle in it.

Yes, I have kind of a thing (massive fear) of stinging insects.

The last photo is another necklace I will be listing in a bit. It’s fused fine silver heart (25x22mm).

The rest of the pieces will be used for patina experiments. Stay tuned…

Sunday, March 25, 2012

More Patina Experiments... This Time: Sealants

Decided to expand my patina testing to a major area of concern for me… sealants.

After which I spent some time just playing with applying patinas via my torch (I used my box of old crappy practice components… mostly bronze and copper metal clay pieces).

For the sealant test, I took six 24 gauge copper disks and cleaned them with Penny Brite then alcohol.

Then I textured them a little and dapped them into concave shapes.

Last step was to punch holes in them.

BTW, if I do all that manipulating after I clean the pieces (yeah, I don’t always think ahead), I wear latex gloves while I’m working so as not dirty the pieces again.

I then patinated the pieces with ammonia and liver of sulfur (for measurements see previous blog post ).

So I took photos of these pieces, along with the group of bronze and copper that were only heat patinated so that I can compare the before and after photos to see which sealants change the patinas the most.

The first sealant I picked up from my closet of “stuff” was Triangle Craft’s Sophisticated Finishes Primer and Clear Sealer. Couldn’t use it though as the directions state it is not for metal (but I still may experiment with it at a later date because I have coated copper pieces with this before).

Next up Minwax Water-Based Polyurethane. Another no-go. I’d like to steer clear of anything water-based since I think a water-based sealant would let in more oxygen than an oil-based one and it’s the oxygen that will continue to change the color underneath the sealant.

Then I grab my Mixwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane, but the writing on the can is too small for me to read so I hit up Google and try to research it. Hm… can’t find anything that specifically states it’s not water-based, but all the other ones ARE labeled as “water-based”, so I’m going under the assumption that this is not.

I made a quick and cheap contraption to hold the pieces as they dry. I took some heavy gauge brasswire and formed three pieces as shown below, then shoved the ends into a styrofoam square I keep on hand (these styprofoam things are awesome… I also use them to hold PMC pieces upright while they dry).

Then, after dipping each piece suspended from a thin piece of brass wire, I tie the thin wire onto one of the notches in my wire frame. Final touch is writing which number each set is, so I can match it up with my notes when I’m done.

Test #2 is Krylon Make it Last! Clear Sealer.

Had to go outside to do this one (it’s an aerosol). Swept a couple coats across the fronts and backs.

For Test #3 I’ve decided to go ahead and use Renaissance Wax. I want to compare, right?

The rest of my tests pretty much just turned into the Minwax versus Renaissance wax. I did the polyurethane on the right half of each piece (noticing some distinctive color changes immediately upon application) and Renaissance wax on the left halves.

So here are the results:

Here’s the phot showing the heat-patinated bronze and copper pieces before any coatings were added:

For the bits and pieces, the polyurethane is on the right and the Renaissance wax is on the left. The bronze piece on the far left is the back of the piece, but all the other ones are showing the front (and sorry they’re not in the same order in the photo).

I was so intrigued by the lovely shade of red this piece of copper achieved, that I decided to keep a strip of it down the middle for comparison. So on the right is the varnish, on the left is the wax sealer and in the middle is au naturel.

And here are photos of the fronts and backs of the patinated dome pieces before any sealants:

And after:

I’m thinking of watching these pieces and taking photos are monthly intervals to see if/how the colors continue to change.

But so far my conclusions are:

The varnish is neat except it leaves a very glossy shine. I may pick up a can of “semi-gloss” or “satin” for comparison.

The spray sealant seems to leave the piece feeling… artificial? Or coated? I can’t find the right words, but I think I’ll take the varnish or wax coatings over the spray sealant.

The wax leaves a nice feel to the piece, but I do think it dulls the color more than the other two coatings.

As can be seen in the bronze/copper scrap pieces, both the wax and the varnish significantly change the patina color. The lovely reds turned to lovely orange/yellows.

A lot of the very subtle blues and greens have disappeared.

I’ll keep experimenting and keep sharing the results with you.

DIY Photo Cube Tutorial Instructions

Another DIY photo cube. :-)

You can use any size box that fits your needs. This one was made out of a necessity to fit into a particular space (11 inches wide).

For those of you familiar with one of my pet peeves, it’s having to set-up and tear-down my photography arrangement. Because it’s such an involved process, I only photographed once a week, if that.

But I found an 11-inch wide space in my workroom (I decided the etching equipment can come out when I use it and doesn’t need to be a permanent fixture). So then the trick was setting something up that worked to my rather severe specifications and still fit into the tiny space provided.

Lampshades were not an option this time unless I wanted to hit up a dozen stores looking for the exact shape and size needed. So instead, I took a used USPS priority mailing box and an Exacto knife and got to work.

I don’t have photos of the process because it took me all of ten minutes and I was just anxious to see if it would work first, but it’s easy enough to explain.

Ah heck, when I read someone’s blog, I’m more of a visual person rather than a written instructions kind of person, so let me make another one and show you.

I took a used USPS Priority shipping box that is Large Flat Rate (12x12x5½ inches).

Then, using an Exacto knife box cutter, I cut one of the sides off.

Then I close up either the bottom (or top; it doesn’t matter) with tape (I use my strong, wide packing tape ‘cause I don’t want this thing popping open while I’m using it).

Here’s what it should look like now. Mentally replace that piece of Scotch tape you see with packing tape… since I only made this second one for explanation purposes, I didn’t bother using my good tape.

Now, remember I said I wanted something that would fit an 11-inch wide space? But this box is 12 inches wide. I was going to fold the two side flaps in about half an inch so that it would fit my space but I ended up doing something slightly differently (see last photo).

Next, I took the leftover piece of cardboard from the side panel I had removed from the box, cut off one of the lower sections (where the crease is) and put a sheet of aluminum foil (Reynold’s Wrap) on it.

This sits nicely in the back of the box (so nicely, in fact, that you don’t need any adhesive to hold it in place) and creates a nice reflective surface to more brightly illuminate your piece without causing harsh reflections (like from a direct light source). The thing I was striving for was to have the inside of the cube be a lit-up as possible without any direct light that would cause reflections and other harsh effects.

Next lay your cube down so that one of the sides is facing up and score then cut with your box cutter like the photo. You want a margin of about an inch or so. Enough to maintain some structure integrity. And don’t worry about jagged edges. This is not an aesthetic creation in any way.

Do the same thing to the other two sides. So now your six sided cube should have a completely open bottom, a completely open front, two framed sides with cut-out openings, a framed top with a cut-out opening, and a solid back that has foil facing inward.

The final step is to tape (now you can use Scotch tape) vellum or tracing paper over the three openings.

So when I went to place my new photo cube into my 11-inch wide space, I discovered that I could tape the box on TOP of where I was going to put it and the 12-inch wide box was completely in line with my 12-inch wide structure.

Here’s what I’ve got the photo cube on. The box is resting on and taped to the two metal handles at the top. This cart is available through Target and Cosco and other great places. The drawers come out completely (something I require in my workroom) and it’s on wheels so easy to move.

In the final photo, you can see how it’s taped to the metal frame of the cart.

The lighting is three Bayco 5½ inch aluminum heat lamp frames from Home Depot (I removed the metal pieces in front). These have clamps and swivel joints so it’s pretty easy to position them where I wanted. The cords aren’t real long, so I had to bring a power strip close by.

The bulbs (also from Home Depot) are EcoSmart 14-Watt (60W) Daylight CFL Light Bulbs.

And there you have it. I can bring my tripod over if I want an angled shot, but mostly I will just use my table-top tripod positioned straight down.

Here are the first photos I took with the new set-up.

BTW, if you don’t already know, I offer the gradient paper I shoot on as something you can print out yourself (use a good quality setting when printing). Click here to see the options.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bead Woven Cuff Bracelets

Thanks, everyone, for the nice comments on my previous blog post!

I actually played around a little bit today with patina stuff, but I won't be able to show you anything until tomorrow.

Oh Robin, thanks for letting me know PayPal's new card reader is also for Droids. Whoohoo!

So I don't know if I mentioned here, but I've been trying my hand at bead weaving. So far I've got two cuffs under my belt, and I learned a tremendous amount with each one. I look forward to bracelet #3 in the near future.

[Update: here is the tutorial for this bracelet on Etsy and on my own website.

(Click on a photo for more info)

“You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” Martin Luther King Jr

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Patina Party Experiements

Back in February, I posted a link to place that sells chemicals and shows recipes on their website for making up different patina recipes.

A lampworker who lives somewhat near to me contacted me because she had also noticed that website and it sparked interest for her too.  She asked if I’d be interested in going in on some chemicals with her and then getting together to test them out. And that’s how I met Elizabeth Dauch… super nice person, great artist, and beautiful lady with an awesome family.

Yesterday we had our patina party and here are the results.

Elizabeth is super organized and already had several recipes written out on index cards.

She had also made a batch of bronze wire spirals that we would be using as testers.

I came with a baggie of pre-cut copper shapes… and a few brass discs. This way we had three metals to try for each method.

Here’s a photo of our initial work space and set-up. The metal was cleaned two ways. Some pieces were given an alcohol bath (shown) and some pieces were cleaned with Penny Brite. We used thread to suspend the pieces that had a hole and chopsticks to hold the pieces that were just discs (note to self: make holes in all the metal shapes first or create a “dunking basket”). We also had some steel wool on-hand to occasionally rub on the metal after patinizing. We used basic sharpie markers to add resist to the copper and brass.

We started with some liver of sulfur recipes that used household ingredients.

BTW, I’m showing you our methods and results (as opposed to trying to teach you about chemical reaction patinas), but I will also add some basic warnings. As Elizabeth wisely reminded me, never add water to an acid… always add the acid to the water. And when appropriate, we were using at any given time: protective gloves, goggles, respirators, and aprons.

Let me go over a brief explanation of LOS (liver of sulfur) for anyone not yet familiar with this handy product.

LOS comes in three forms that I know of (and have used).

Premixed liquid (the form most readily available at your local bead store). The only disadvantage I find to this is that it’s easy to use it up fast.

Dry chunks (aka LOS solid) that you mix with water.

Premixed LOS in gel form. A little goes a long way and I’ve had mine for years and it’s still doing fine.

These photos are examples of what I have on-hand, but there are many companies that produce the product and I’ve not found any difference in manufacturers’ quality.

Test 1

1 cup of boiled, distilled water
1 tablespoon of distilled, white vinegar
1 measure of liver of sulfur

A “measure” of liver of sulfur is this: both Elizabeth and I use the gel form of liver of sulfur. When we added LOS to our recipes yesterday, we did so by dipping the butt end of a fat paint brush into the jar of LOS gel about half an inch. Whatever stuck to the end of the paint brush is what got mixed into our recipe.

Here’s what the set-up for test 1 looked like. The mixture was opaque (which really made me wish I’d thought ahead to make a “dunking basket” because neither one of us could hold onto the little brass disks with the chopsticks (shown).

We were, however, using coated gloves so it was okay to dig into the stuff when we had to fish a piece out.

In this photo, you can see the “LOS” dipping paint brush.

The bowl of mixture was kept on a heating pad (we discussed that one could also use a coffee pot maker or a mug warmer).

When dipping pieces, we immersed them for 1-3 seconds and lifted them out to see the reaction, sometimes placing them into a stream of running tap water between dunks. You can always continue dipping to increase the intensity of the patina, but if your reaction goes faster than anticipated, your piece can darker beyond your wishes and/or attain a coating of dark patina that flakes when rubbed (you don’t want that).

The station was set up with a bowl of plain water mixed with baking soda as the final dunking place for the pieces. This alkaline bath arrests the patination process. It’s possible for a piece to continue to darken after being removed from the solution if the patination process isn’t completely halted. So sometimes just rinsing in water isn’t enough.

We numbered our paper towels so that the results and the tests could be kept in order.

Here are the results of Test 1 (we hadn’t yet started using the brass disk then). Kind of a warm patina with reddish undertones.

Then we dipped a q-tip into alcohol (plain household rubbing alcohol) and removed the sharpie marker resist. This ended up being the only piece where the resist left a dark effect.

BTW, I suggest not waiting until the next day to remove your Sharpie resist. As you can see on some of the brass disks where I did that, the Sharpie doesn’t seem to remove fully if left too long.

And here’s a close-up of the beautiful, rich patina on the spiral. Notice how the shading varies from the outer to the inner spirals.

We didn’t started dipping the brass pieces until test #2.

Test 2
(purported to create blue)

1 cup of boiling, distilled water
1 tablespoon of ammonia (could only find the lemon-scented type, so that’s what we used)
1 measure of LOS

I like when the mixture is translucent. It was easier to find the brass disks that kept escaping the chop sticks.

We were both thrilled by the results of this experiment. The colors ranged from vibrant reds and yellows to warm browns and cool shades of purple.

Here’s a close-up of the part of the bronze spiral so you can see the rainbow of colors we got.

Here’s the backside of the copper piece.

And when I compare the photo of the back of this piece of copper with the final photo (at the end of the blog), I come to the conclusion that what I’ve heard about Renaissance Wax removing the vibrant patina colors may indeed be true.

We determined that the brass disks must have a coating of some sort on one of their sides because we consistently got one side that took to the patina and one side that seemed resistant (so after experiment 2, I started adding sharpie resist to both sides of the brass disks).

Test 3

1 cup of hot coffee
1 measure of LOS

We both loved the super rich brown tones achieve by test 3. The pieces had that very aged vintage bronze tone (except for the resistant side of the bronze disk).

Then we moved from the kitchen to the garage for the tests that involved the chemical we had purchased.

Test 4
(purported to create apple greens)

A straight LOS/water combination to get a medium brown tone on the pieces.

Then the pieces were heated to 200 degrees F in a klin.

Then they were dunked into a mixture of:
236 ml hot, distilled water
1 tablespoon cupric nitrate

We were supposed to be creating a light green patina, but we didn’t see much effect.

So we decided to torch heat (Blazer micro-torch) the copper piece and re-dunk it in the test solution. 

One interesting effect of the torch was that it removed most of the Sharpie resist and concentrated one dot of it on each place where it had been (which couldn’t be removed with alcohol).

We continued to try heating the copper piece and redunking without much success of a green patina.

The bronze spiral didn’t seem to be having any effect from the solution so we left it in for a total of 8 minutes. When we removed it, there was a coating on it which easily flaked off when rubbed gently.

But we did notice two small spots on the bronze spiral that looked like the green/blue of weathered copper and bronze, so surmised that since our directions came with not “saturation” times, some of these recipes could very well be more suited to overnight saturation rather than a few minutes of dunking.

There was no effect to the bronze disk in this solution other than to remove the original LOS patina we’d put on it.

So then we moved to phase 2 of test 4…

A second bowl with:
236 ml of hot, distilled water
1 teaspoon of Ferric Nitrate

The results were not drastic, but were interesting enough to try with variations in the future.

Test 5
(purported to create blue)

236 ml hot, distilled water
50 grams Ammonium Chloride
4 grams LOS

Since we weren’t using LOS in solid form, we just guessed at the amount of LOS needed (in retrospect, I’m thinking we may have underestimated… when I consider how much 4 grams of solid LOS would be).

Again, the black coating on the bronze piece flaked off when rubbed gently, but underneath the flakes was an amazing vintage bronze tone that we both fell immediately in love with.

Elizabeth took photos of all the finished pieces after we’d added a coating of Renaissance Wax to them, so I will update this blog with those photos as soon as possible.

The brass disk was not dunked into the solution. Instead, we brushed some of the solution onto the disk and let it sit. The other two pieces (the copper and bronze) were dunked.

As you can see by this photo, the piece where we brushed the solution on and left it does seem to have created a nice patina. We just needed to be patient.

We came up with the same thoughts as on the first part of test 4, that if the solution were left on the pieces for a much longer period of time they would probably gain a patina. So then we painted some of the solution on the copper and bronze pieces too.

Keep in mind that portions of this patina have a texture.

Test 6

A bed of salt and ammonia
A closed container
A way to suspend your piece(s) in the fumes of the mixture

We used regular rock salt (like for making ice cream) mixed with the same lemon-scented ammonia from before. Equal-ish parts.

We then taped a piece of thread across the top opening, placed our pieces on the thread, and closed the lid.

Supposedly, you get a nice patina after 15 minutes, but we checked the results and decided they were pretty faint so we went back to lunch (thanks, Elizabeth!) and left the fumes to do more work.

After 45 minutes, the results were more noticeable. Here we’ve lifted the copper piece up so you can see the patina on the back of it. Notice the wild shades of green and yellow on the bronze spiral holding the copper piece.

Anyway, I’ve probably left some things out, but I’ll update this page as I think of things… or as Elizabeth reminds me of them. :-)

I’d like to thank Elizabeth for opening her home to me for this fun day of experimenting.

We both found it interesting that some of the patinas we had the most success with were the “kitchen ingredients” solutions, rather than the specially purchased chemicals. We also discussed that within each recipe there is still room for experimenting by altering things such as dunking time, temperature of liquids, the application of torch, etc.

We will be experimenting more in the future, both together and separately and look forward to sharing the outcomes.

I'd like to update this blog posting by adding the link to Elizabeth's write-up of our experiments: http://threadinglightly.blogspot.com/2012/03/patina-party.html