Thursday, June 28, 2012

Learning the Hard Way

Copper Cuff With Silver

Some weeks are more productive than others. Every week brings something to learn. I love it all--the easy learning and the hard learning. This was a week filled with lessons learned the hard way--by making mistakes.

This was to be a productive week. I scheduled some good chunks of time at my workbench and fabrication was progressing nicely. At the end of Monday I had completed two copper cuffs with sterling designs soldered on them. The last step was oxidation and that went well, adding just the right amount of patina to the copper and creating a slightly distressed, urban look. These pieces offered easy lessons because I had tried them before.

Another piece I was working on went really well too. I am working on a collection of silver collars for the Fall and I designed one around my smallest tear drop black druzy with added titanium. The silver backing is diamond shaped with a thick wire seat and prongs to hold the druzy. This construction progressed easily. I chose a 12 gauge sterling wire for the collar. This was lighter weight than I usually use for collars but the weight was right for the druzy setting. I overlooked the fact that the wire was Argentium sterling. Now, I have read about Argentium but I have only used it in small amounts. What I overlooked was the fact that Argentium can't be pressed down with a solder pick during the soldering process. 

Basic Argentium Sterling Silver Collar With Sterling Focal Piece

The first attempt to solder the collar to the silver pendant was fairly successful but when I looked at it closely I saw that about 1/8" of collar separated from the silver backing just a little. So, I set it aside for the night and planned to attempt to solder that 1/8" the next day. The next morning I started last detail cleanup on several pieces and the collar was first on the list. I fluxed the 1/8", placed a piece of solder and lit my torch.  As the silver turned red, the solder began to flow and I pressed down on the separated wire with my pick. Much to my surprise, I heard a crack and a piece of the Argentium cracked and broke off--like a piece of glass. I was shocked and then I  remembered what I had read and I remembered it was Argentium. The honeymoon was over. I put it aside until today when I came back with regular 11 gauge sterling to make a collar. The soldering went smoothly and I learned an important lesson.

As for the Argentium, I repurposed it into a simple, all sterling collar which is what I purchased it for in the first place. Sometimes, I have to learn the hard way. Soldering with Argentium in fabrication processes may be delayed for now but I will try it again soon. Here is the simple collar I made with the Argentium Silver.

Argentium Sterling Silver Collar

Here is the collar I made with a heavy, prong set druzy. I replaced the Argentium Sterling with regular .925 sterling for the collar.

Sterling Silver, Heavy Prong Set Druzy Collar

I will never, ever touch Argentium sterling again when it is red hot! I learned my lesson--the hard way! Have you learned something the hard way recently?

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