Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Metalsmith Tip #2--Oxidizing With Hardboiled Egg

My bi-weekly tips are very basic, very elementary. Today's is no exception. I first learned to oxidize with an ordinary boiled egg in a plastic bag and I still use this method for small pieces. I am always surprised to learn that some artisans who seem quite accomplished, do not know about or use this easy, chemical-free method to oxidize silver or copper and give it an antique look.

A Warm Hardboiled Egg Squished in a Plastic Ziplock Bag

All you need is a small pot with water, a chicken egg, a small plastic ziplock bag and a piece of metal.
1.  Boil the egg until it's hard boiled.
2.  Crack the egg and shell it while it is hot.
3.  Place it in the plastic bag and mash it up with your fingers.
4.  Place the metal piece in the ziplock bag and seal it.

Some pieces oxidize quickly and others take a little longer. When you're done, there is no harmful chemical waste to throw out--just a squished hardboiled egg!

Fine Silver Rings Oxidized in Hardboiled Egg

Lightly Oxidized Fine Silver Ring
The ring in the above picture was lightly oxidized for about 20 minutes--peridot and all. It is now ready for a polish pad to remove most of the oxidation.

The Final Finish on Textured Rings
Now the textured rings have a chemical free, antique look. Safer for you and safer for--yes--the environment! No messy cleanup. Just throw the bag and the leftover boiled egg in the trash. Good luck. This works great on copper also. How can you use this process?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Metalsmith Tip of the Week--Filling Gaps in Bezel Seam

I promised to post a metalsmith tip regularly but I didn't say what "regular" meant. For now, I'll schedule it for Thursday bi-weekly. That will provide structure for me and maybe it will be helpful for you. I am open to suggestions in the comment section!

Today, I want to tell you about my very own discovery for finding those pesky spots at the base of a bezel you are soldering--you know--the ones where the solder didn't flow or the bezel didn't touch the silver sheet properly. When I began soldering bezels, finding those spots was really hard for me--even tho' I had a lot of them on each bezel. At least it was really hard until I picked up a keychain that had an LED flashlight on the end and used it to light up the interior of the bezel. The blue LED light made the gaps easy to see.

First, clean the bezel by placing it in the warm  pickle.  Then rinse and let dry.  Check the bezel seam with the LED searching for any gaps in the solder.

Gap in Bezel Solder Identified With Led 
Mark the ends of the gap in the solder with a Sharpie.

Gap ID'd With LED and Marked With Sharpie
With the gap in the soldered seam identified, you can strategically place flux and snippets of solder for a quick and efficient cleanup of the bezel seam.

Here's a closeup of my handy, dandy LED flashlight keychain. You can see it's well used and most of that use was not on a keychain. Mine has a blue light and I like to think it's better than a white light!

Keychain LED Light For Checking Bezel Seam
I hope this helps!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Etching Revisited

Once in awhile our jewelry fabrication class at Civic Arts revisits etching. I always enjoy it, get all excited about doing more, purchase the material, try it once--or twice, and then put it away for several months. This time I picked up where I left off the last time and this time I added bimetal which I learned to make during Metals Week. The silver on the bottom of this piece is thicker than the copper piece. They were soldered together with medium silver solder and run through the rolling mill.

Copper Soldered Silver To Make Bi-Metal

After flattening  the bimetal piece with a mallet, I applied a design that was printed on PressNPeel paper. The design was a photograph of an ancient Mimbres Valley Indian Pottery shard from New Mexico. I can't wait to place it in etchant and see what happens!
Silver and Copper Bimetal With Print of Mimbres Pottery on PNP Iron-On

Once the design was printed on the Press N Peel paper, I cut out a geometrical design and placed it, printed side down, on a prepared piece of copper. To prepare the copper, I cleaned it with soap and water, scrubbed it with  steel wool, and cleaned it further with rubbing alcohol. Then, I placed the PNP design on the prepared piece and heated it with an iron. To make the design adhere better, I pushed it (burnished it) with a wood tongue depressor.  

Now it was ready to take a dip in the etchant. Dip is an understatement--it was more like a six hour soak. I have decided that it would have been a shorter time, a neater time, and a much better outcome if I had used thinner copper. It took way too long to etch any part of the design. Plain copper seems to etch much quicker than the homemade bi-metal.

Tomorrow I'm going to try polishing some of the silver edges and dip the piece in Liver of Sulfer. I first used Silver Black on it and am not excited about the results. I also think that it would have been a crisper etching if I had just used copper, so maybe I'll try that again. I think trying something new just to see what happens is fun and exciting! What do you think?