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

Posts tagged ‘kiln’

(Day 15) I’ve Got You Surrounded!…

….but only just!

It has all been a bit of a rush today. I have baked 5 madeira sponge cakes today (all destined to be frozen and then turned into birthday cakes over the next few weeks) and I have fitted in my ‘thing’ for today while they were baking in the oven.

I have coated the ring I made yesterday with a layer of PMC (precious metal clay) slip (of which I always have copious amounts!) and embedded little fine silver wire scrolls (made from offcuts of wire from wire wrapping or similar activities). Another layer of slip ensures that all of the scrolls are surrounded with PMC and when dry the excess PMC can be sanded away to reveal the shiny wire scrolls again. As the PMC shrinks in the firing process it makes the scrolls seem to rise up even more from the surface.

This time a small crack has appeared in the layer of slip after it has been fired and will need patching up and refiring – but that will have to be tomorrow now. Just to get the effect, I have given the silver a bit of a shine with a brass brush and slipped the ring over the cabouchon bead….but the silver will be much shinier when it is all finished and has been tumble polished.

I love it!! Even though it has turned out exactly how I wanted it…seeing it in reality has given me a real buzz.

I’m still not quite sure what I am going to make with it as it is such a statement piece… Perhaps I will get inspiration during the night!!

“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!!

Cross my Palm with Silver…..

I finally managed to get a little pmc (precious metal clay) experiment up and running today – I’ve nearly got my pmc ‘workcupboard’ finished now so I thought I would christen it!  It is quite a comfortable space to work in although it is a very small area and I have my back to the door (which I don’t like) so I have rigged up a mirror in front of me so that I can see what is going on behind me…I think it’s a Feng Shui thing but it makes me feel more comfortable!

Anyway – back to the experiment….

I bought some ceramic beads, some glazed and some not.  Figuring that ceramic beads have already been through a kiln firing they won’t mind going through another one, and the temperature needed for pmc is lower than that used to biscuit fire or glaze fire clay, it should be a ‘walk in the park’ for them!!

So I have coated the beads with layers of pmc slip, drying each layer before adding another one.  After several coats I added a simple decoration using a syringe of pmc.   This is only the second time I have tried a syringe for pmc and I used a larger tip this time making it easier to push the pmc out.  It was very similar to piping with royal icing so I was quite comfortable doing it this time!

After they were thoroughly dry I popped them into the kiln nestled on a bed of vermiculite.  I cranked the temperture up slowly this time so as not to shock the ceramic beads and then fired them for rather longer than usual before allowing the kiln to cool slowly.

They looked to be in one piece although there were obviously areas on the large glazed bead where the bead was shining through the silver layer so something had gone wrong there…whether it was because the pmc doesn’t stick too well to glazed ceramics or because I hadn’t put it on thickly enough in those spots I’m not sure.  The unglazed bead seemed to be fine as were the little glazed beads.

I haven’t had time to tumble these in my machine to polish them up but I have given them a quick brush with a brass brush which has given them a ‘satin’ look.  It also put a lot of friction stress on the large glazed bead which surprisingly didn’t seem to suffer any more silver damage so perhaps it was just that I had put the pmc  on too thinly.

Generally, I think these look rather good considering it was a first attempt.  I think I might try painting another few layers of pmc onto the fired layer and then fire it again…I’m not too sure how well this will work but it is worth a try.  I might be able to build up a more substantial layer of silver doing it like that….I’ll have to give it a go!!

I’d love to have your comments on my stripy ceramic bead experiments…

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