For the love of silver…for the love of life!!

Posts tagged ‘jumprings’

“Argentium Experimentium”

Is there anyone else out there that is trying to get to grips with Argentium silver and not exactly meeting with success??  I have tried to find information on other people’s experiences with it but have come up with very little success so far…but I will keep looking!!

I am a really recent convert to making jewellery with silver so I don’t have a lot of experience of working with the metal to really know what to expect when faced with Argentium!  But I have always been one to have a go and experiment!  I love working with pure ‘fine’ silver…it is just so clean and beautiful to work with….but it is not a very strong metal.  So although I make chunky, decorative chains from fine silver and use pmc with it as well, I am very aware of its limitations. That is why I was very excited when Argentium was finally available in the UK!

I have made earwires and catches with it since July with great success but I thought it was time to get more serious with it…and I especially wanted to see how compatible it is with pmc….so I have been having a play with it this week…  Can I just say that I am pretty new with pmc as well…and am reluctant to commit large pieces of it to experimentation!!

I have had a go at annealing the Argentium with a torch – using the Sharpie trick – and just watching for a very dull red colour change in a darkened studio but found it less than successful…so this time  – after initially trying to wind it round mandrels straight from the supplier and creating a very springy spring!  – I tried annealing it in the kiln…with the door ajar to allow lots of oxygen to circulate…

After allowing it to cool a bit and quenching it – it still looked rather springy…

Trying to get it tight round a mandrel was impossible – although I taped it into place!  See the gap that sprung open as I cut through the rings!!!

Anyway – I persevered…  I have already discovered that Argentium fuses really well…doesn’t even need a flux…and amazingly it goes silver again as it reaches fusing temperature!  Can you spot the difference between the fused and non fused rings here!!!

And here is the difference between the colour of the fused rings (right) and the smaller rings that I cleaned up in pickle…

So now we have my little pmc additions.  I have previously tried attaching stars and holly leaves to elongated Argentium  jumprings using pmc slip with some success and discovered that  if the attached area is too great it causes the Argentium to distort alarmingly!   So I have been very careful of the way I have attached them this time.  The rings were real experiments where I literally only attached the rings to the back with 3 or 4 little spots of pmc slip…just to see how strong a bond this would make!

Well – you can see by the results that the rings have distorted pretty dramatically  here so obviously the Argentium has adhered pretty well to the pmc even with a few dabs of slip!!  I am still pretty shocked by the extent of the blackening of the Argentium though – considering how bright it was after fusing it!  It is so thick it is actually pinging off the surface in little flakes!!

So I plopped them all into pickle after they had all cooled down a bit! and they came out looking lovely!

But as I gathered them all together I felt a horrible crunching noise in my hand and—– disaster!!  The ring from the ivy leaf – which had distorted so much in firing had snapped!  And as I manipulated it more I discovered that not only had it snapped but that I could break the rest of the Argentium off of the pmc leaf just using my fingers – and worse still…it snapped just like a piece of dry spaghetti!!

But I plodded on with my plans and popped a bit on enamel onto the pieces that were left…only to get distracted at the vital moment and ended up leaving them in the kiln for much too long…so that wasn’t much of a success either!!  A bit of a bad day all in all!!  (And it does get worse!!)  But look again!!  …why has the Argentium not blackened this time?  I fire my pmc and my enamel at the same temperature 820 degrees C – so why did it go black when fired with pmc but not when enamel firing and accidently leaving it in a hot kiln for the same sort of time??

Having messed these up I left them to cool in the kiln and had an evening with my grandchildren before looking at the pieces this morning….and yes…I couldn’t resist a fiddle!!  I could tell that the wire was just not feeling right…no where near as fragile as the ivy leaf ring was – but obviously not good…and there we go….  A pile of so much scrap!!

The broken wire I have discovered balls up beautifully – so perhaps that is not entirely wasted…but I can’t think how to salvage the pmc!!

I don’t know what I have learned from all this yet…and would welcome any comments!!  Perhaps Argentium isn’t compatible with pmc…not with a physical bond anyway.  I am thinking that the shrinking process with the pmc3 is disturbing the Argentium when it is at its weakest and most brittle state and causing it to shatter all through.  Perhaps it can only fire with pmc at its lowest firing temperature.   Perhaps it is only safe to use it with a mechanical attachment to pmc pieces….

Perhaps I will just go back to fine silver!!

As I have said above…I would really welcome any comments…and would love to have some information on how you have found Argentium to perform in the workshop…and with pmc if you have tried it!!

Did You Ever Make Mud Pies?

As a child of the 60s – long before the arrival of day time television – when we were masters of our own entertainment… having been plonked out in the garden for the day to get the sun and the fresh air I can vividly remember the joy I experienced in making mud pies and rose petal perfume.  All I needed was a few empty jam jars and a watering can full of water… and an old bent spoon to dig around in the soil and to stir my concoctions!!

So – what has changed????

NOTHING!!!!!!!!

I am now going to give you the recipe for the ‘connoisseur’s choice’ concoction that I made in my garden today!

As a jewellery maker/chain maker I make hundreds and hundreds of fine (pure) silver jump rings every week.  Everybody has their own way of cutting jump rings and I make mine by winding a ‘tube’ of wire of about 25 turns around a mandrel and then taping this up with some low tack masking tape.  I then insert my jeweller’s saw and cut through the rings from the inside of the tube.  The masking tape stops the rings from dropping onto the floor when they are cut through…and it also picks up a lot of the fine silver ‘dust’ that the sawing process produces.

Now – I hate waste.  So I collect the ‘sweepings’ from the sawing and put it in a pot.  I hope to be able to melt this and recover the silver one day.

I also collect the bits of masking tape and when I have a pot full I put them into a jam jar full of soapy water and some of the silver flecks swill off into the water.

Today was a fine, warm and still day so I decided to carry out my ‘experiment’.  I had collected the equivalent of 2 pots of masking tape from which most of the silver flecks had been washed…but I don’t like waste – and I could see there was still some silver adhering to the tape.  So – thinking back to the techniques of my chemical analysis job in the 1970s – I decided to burn the tape along with the silver flecks – collect the ash in a jar full of water and dissolve the soluble ashes. The liquid could then be decanted off leaving the silver flecks and any insoluble ashes left behind.

You may well think I am a lunatic…..but watch and admire!!!!

I started with a small pile…and as it started to really burn I added more from my stock.

Eventually it burned down to this…the large pieces to the top right are wrappers from Art Clay Silver packs which I couldn’t get the last bits of clay out from…and these are obviously made from plastic coated aluminium – and the aluminium wouldn’t burn.

Next, using my spoon…(not a bent one but something from my chemi lab days) – I scooped the ashes into a jar of water…

and then swirled … well more of a manic coacktail shaking technique actually!!

And you thought I was crazy………..

Not impressed yet?????……

Do you see what I see??

I guess you really need the sunlight to see it sparkle!!

OK – it isn’t pure silver….  there will be other stuff lurking in there too.  So I will let it settle for a day or so and then decant off the liquid on the top and the silver gunk at the bottom will go into a crucible in the kiln to make sure everything that I can burn of is burned off.  What is left I will melt with my torch in a scorifier – which is a pot with a spout designed to melt precious metals in.  If there is any scum and random debris I can scoop it off and what is left I will try to do some water casting with or maybe cuttle fish casting….I will have to see how well it works first!

But – aside from my joy at recovering this fine quantity of silver – I have had the delight of reliving my past!  I stink of smoke from the burnt paper and I am covered with smuts from the ash and water.

……I could always pick a few rose petals and lavender flowers and steep it in some water in one of those jam jars and make some exotic ‘perfume’ to mask the smell…

……just like I did when I was a little girl……

I hope I have taken you all back and you have relived a little bit from your childhood too.

Especially all my condron.us visitors.

If you have enjoyed this post please send me a comment and let me know!!

Spots Before the Eyes

I am really sorry that I haven’t posted anything for over a week but so much has been going on here I have barely had time to draw breath.

At the beginning of the year I decided to find out a bit about becoming self employed to see whether it was something I could do with Solunar Silver Studio.  I made enquiries at the local council and discovered that they have an ‘Enterprise’ initiative going at the moment and I was assigned a ‘Business Advisor’ to have a look at what sort of business I was proposing and whether it would be a viable proposition.  He has been a great help over the past few months  – not only in helping me to develop a Business Plan and Cash Flow projections but in simply saying “I think you have the makings of a nice little business here”…WOW – was that a boost to my confidence!!

Anyway – he has helped me to submit an application for a start up grant, and although it is not for a huge amount, it would make a big difference to me.  So I am awaiting the results of that now.  Whether I get the grant or not, I plan to start Solunar Silver Studio officially on 1st June 2009.

To that end I decided to use up the stock of fine silver wire and precious metal clay that I already have in making findings that I can use in my jewellery in June – thus giving me a bit of a head start.  So I was just about to start annealing wire and winding jumprings when I get a panicked request for a birthday cake required in 10 hours!!…that is from request to delivery, and I didn’t even have the ingredients in the house!!  Now my madeira cakes take in the region of 1 1/2 to 2 hours to cook – and at least 3 – 4 hours to cool down enough to decorate.  Adding the shopping time to that left me with less than an hour to slap on some form of decoration!  Fortunately there had been no request for any specific decoration – in fact they had said just cover it with white icing and leave it at that, but my personal pride would not allow me to go quite that minimal so I quickly coloured the offcuts from the white sugarpaste icing red, yellow and blue and using a set of geometric shaped ‘canape’ cutters (dating back to the 70s!) I stamped out a hand full of shapes  for each colour and stuck them on the cake at random.  Total sugarpaste icing time 15 minutes!  And – surprisingly – it didn’t look too bad at all!!  Very bright and cheery and sort of … well … nondescript – but definitely partyish!  Anyway – it went down well, or so I am told!

So, I am back to the jumprings now.

I have also spent a bit of time over the last week making my workshop ‘Studio’ into a rather more hospitable place since I am going to be spending a large chunk of my day working out there in future.  I have added a layer of wool insulation to the interior of the walls and roof and covered that with hardboard which I have painted a bright sunshine yellow to help to brighten up the space both physically and psychologically…with the morning sun shining through the window and reflecting off the walls it really is a lovely little place to work!  It has been physically demanding though and there have been times – particularly when trying to secure sheets of hardboard above my head with no one to help me – that I have literally seen spots before my eyes!

Although I have to share my 5 foot by 7 foot Studio space with the freezer and the gardening and Do-It-Yourself equipment I have built in plenty of shelves and drawer space and I have thick carpet tiles, a chair, ‘arty’ photos that I have taken on the walls, and a radio tuned to Classic FM to help me focus – what luxury!!….Oh! … and of course, my kiln(s) and ‘hearth’ and the rest of my ‘kit’!   So I am sure I will have no problem working out there during the better weather months, but as I learned at the beginning of the year – the winter is a different matter!  It is still a L  O  N  G way off though!

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I hope I haven’t lost all my condron.us visitors by not posting for so long….please come back….I promise I will post more often!!

Sunday Play Time

This Sunday had the potential for being a really depressing one.  I have had ‘the dreaded lurgy’ for the past couple of days and have been feeling very sorry for myself.  I only had one and a half grams of precious metal clay left to work with (as my new order hasn’t been delivered yet) and I have a pot with some liquid pmc or slip and a pot with a few dried up crumbs of pmc (that I could turn into ‘poor man’s pmc ‘ with the addition of a few drops of water) as well…what could I do that would cheer me up with these meagre ingredients?

Time for some of those ‘I wonder what would happen if I…..’ moments.

I have had an idea to introduce a bit of pmc slip to some of the jumprings that I use in my chains to see if I could fuse the chains into a rigid shape – a bit bizarre I know…and I have no idea what I will use it for, but it seemed like an idea so I went ahead and filled a small (4mm) jump ring in a piece of chain with pmc slip, allowed it to dry and popped it into the kiln.  Lo and behold the result was a chain with a section that was rigid, but the silver blob in the jumpring was a bit on the rough side.  As pmc is so forgiving, I was able to smooth on a bit more of the slip and prepare to put it back in the kiln…however, before it dried I remembered that I had bought a few tiny cubic zirconia that I have never used before, so perhaps today was a good day to see how it worked.  So I made an indentation in the pmc, added a little more slip and embedded the tiny stone into the centre of the blob.  When it had all dried I put it back in the kiln.

Well, I’m quite pleased with the way the whole thing worked…it was a bit on the rough side but the idea has some mileage.

The second thing I have been waiting to do was to make little moulds of letters of the alphabet on discs that could be put onto chains to make name bracelets.  I have had the letters made for a while (see Thing-a-Day, day 15,  Letters for Everyone) but haven’t found any discs suitable to put them on until yesterday, when I found some little mother of pearl discs that were just the right size.  So I have made a mould of each letter placed on a disc so I can produce any name or word in precious metal clay ‘charms’ whenever I need to.  I used some of my one and a half grams of pmc to try one out.

This worked really well and I am sure I will be using them a lot in the future.

The rest of my pmc went when I tried out a tiny little leaf cutter that I bought on Ebay a while back.  I rolled out the tiny blob of clay and cut out the shape before marking in some vein lines.  When it was dry, I cleaned it up with a file and drilled a hole in it to take the jumpring.

This was very sweet and will make a nice little charm on any summery bracelet or pendant.

I now only had a little bit of ‘poor man’s pmc’ left to play with, so I chose a button from my recent purchase (see Flower Madness, March 12th) which had a highly textured border around it and made a mould from it.  I then pushed the pmc into the mould and took a cast of the border.  I allowed this to dry before tidying it up with a file and putting it in the kiln.

All in all, I don’t think today has worked out so badly after all – and  I have a whole new range of ideas that I can start putting into designs over the next few weeks.  Hopefully, my pmc order will come tomorrow and I can get started on something more substantial!!

Happy Day ‘Hippy’ Bracelet

Today has been a great day!!  My son came home from his 3 week holiday in Thailand – where he had a motorbike accident on day 3.  I was so relieved to see him in much better condition than I expected.  He still has stitches that need removing and is missing a tooth but otherwise he is fine and I am so relieved and happy to have him home!!

Secondly,  I have managed to get the bracelet that I wanted to make from my pmc (precious metal clay) squares and flowers more or less done.  I have one and a half grams of pmc left so it was a close run thing.  I would like to put a catch on that is sympathetic to the design but I don’t have enough pmc left for that so for now I will have to put one of my usual toggles on it and swap it over when I get my new supply of pmc in.

I am very pleased with it although it has been a real trial to put together.  There is so much silver in it and the jumprings pass quite tightly through the holes I drilled in the pmc that it has been almost impossible to get the jumprings up to melting temperture with my torch…the rest of the bracelet has been acting as a sort of ‘heat sink’ and preventing the joining rings from fusing.  I have learned a lot from doing it and have decided to modify the design when I do it again to see if it makes any difference,  I must find a way round it because I really love the design idea.  I think the random numbers of flowers and the random arrangement on the bracelet ‘links’ works really well.  It has a lovely open look and would look brilliant as a piece of summer jewellery….and has a sort of ‘hippy’ look to it.

Well – I like it…do you??

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