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A different Argentium problem

Hello everyone -

I am writing with a slightly different argentium problem. I have
been using 24ga argentium sheet (from Stuller) to make hydraulically
formed cuff bracelets with a rolled line fold in the middle.

I anneal after hammering the line fold but before opening the fold.
Next, I roll the fold, then I solder the rolled line fold shut with
Rio’s medium sheet solder (Melting pt - 1275F, flow point 1360F).
Finally I do the forming.

Initially, I was having problems during annealing. I was very
careful not to over heat the metal but I did quench it hot, at which
point sections broke off and cracks developed. Assuming my technique
was at fault, I let the metal cool and successfully annealed.

Recently, I am finding that touching the piece during the soldering
operation, has caused sections to break off. Basically, I attenpted
to move the bracelet into a better position while heating. I used dry
room temperature forceps. Bad move - I broke off a whole flat section
about 1cm square.

So, is Rio medium solder too “hot” for what I am attempting? Should I
hold out for the dedicated Argentium solders now available? Finally,
is it bad to quench my regular sterling hot?

Inquiring minds want to know -
Debby

Recently, I am finding that touching the piece during the
soldering operation, has caused sections to break off. Basically, I
attenpted to move the bracelet into a better position while
heating. I used dry room temperature forceps. Bad move - I broke
off a whole flat section about 1cm square. So, is Rio medium solder
too "hot" for what I am attempting?

Hi Debby,

Argentium will crack or break if it’s moved, or if any pressure is
applied to it when it’s too hot. So nudging a piece with your pick
whilst soldering, or using binding wire to hold pieces in position
will cause problems.

I have read on a couple of articles on Argentium that say that it
shouldn’t be quenched until “red heat is no longer viable” (eg:
http://www.silversmithing.com/1argentium.htm).

However I’ve found that quenching even when the red heat has just
dissipated can cause problems with cracking or warping. As I
understand it, heat doesn’t dissipate from Argentium as quickly it
does from standard sterling, so I tend to leave it for a good 15-20
seconds after soldering before I quench it. Now this may be because
my Argentium stock is quite old - I bought mine in the UK about 3-4
years ago - I have heard that the alloy has improved since.

I’ve used Hoover & Strong’s medium silver solder with Argentium quite
happily on a number of pieces. I think the flow point of your Medium
solder should be ok - the new Argentium silver Hard solder from Rio
has a flow point of 1355F.

Hope that’s of some help,
Eva

Eva Martin
Hampshire, UK.
www.evamartin.com

I bet your silver is bad. It was improperly alloyed.

    I've used Hoover & Strong's medium silver solder with
Argentium quite happily on a number of pieces. I think the flow
point of your Medium solder should be ok - the new Argentium silver
Hard solder from Rio has a flow point of 1355F. 

OK, I went and checked, and the manufacturer of Argentium recommends
extra easy, easy, and medium solder for use with Argentium.
However, RG lists only easy Argentium solder in their catalog. They
were already closed. I’ll try to call them tomorrow to check on
availability of other grades of Argentium solder, but I just talked
to them a couple of days ago and was told then that they had only the
one grade of Argentium solder.

However, going by the following statement off an Argentium info
site, talking about conductivity:

  "...standard sterling silver (is) 96%, while a sterling alloy
  containing 1.1% germanium has a conductivity of 56%. 

  The significance of this is that the Argentium(r) Sterling
  Silver does not dissipate heat and energy as quickly as
  standard sterling silver. This may be an advantage in that it
  is possible to use a more localized flame when carrying out
  soldering operations." 

This would seem to indicate that different grades of solder may not
be so critical when soldering because heat conductance is so much
less that you get a more “pinpoint” heating effect (which also has
the unfortunate side effect of potentially damaging your piece if you
try to move it too soon). So it should, in many cases, be possible
to solder in a new spot without melting out your other soldered
joints.

I know people who solder standard sterling with only one grade of
silver solder, so I don’t see why this couldn’t be done more easily
(given the lower rate of heat conductance) with Argentium.

The availability of the Argentium solder is still pretty new - does
anybody have experience with using it yet? Or if you’ve used
sterling solders, what differences, advantages, or disadvantages have
you noted?

I still can’t find any on relative values of hardness
when we’re talking about dead soft, 1/4 hard, 1/2 hard, etc.
comparing Argentium to standard sterling and/or fine sliver. The
manufacturer mentions precipitation hardening to between 110 and 120
hv, but I don’t know how that compares to standard sterling (or
anything else, for that matter).

Sojourner

the new Argentium silver Hard solder from Rio has a flow point of
1355F. 

From Cynthia Eid’s SNAG article:

  "Argentium(r) Easy melts at 1146F (619C), and flows at 1253F
  (678C). Argentium(r) Medium melts at 1237F (670C), and flows at
  1319F (715C). Argentium(r) Hard melts at 1272F (689C), and
  flows at 1355(735C). " 

Rio Grande lists Argentium easy solder with melting point of 1195
and flow point of 1265, which doesn’t match ANY of the above. I’ve
got to call them tomorrow…

Also found out from Cynthia’s article that the “twice the hardness
of sterling” is based on the hardness of conventional sterling “fully
annealed”, which I always assumed was the same as “dead soft”.

According to the new RG catalog (p 37 of the new catalog), annealed
Sterling ranges between a Rockwell hardness of 18 and 48, depending
on the method used to anneal.

Now, to add to the confusion, in the same catalog on p 39, there’s a
chart showing Rockwell hardness values associated with the terms
dead soft, 1/4 hard, 1/2 hard, etc. THIS table shows dead soft
sterling with a Rockwell hardness of 70 and spring hard at 87.

So is “dead soft” NOT really as soft as you can get it? And is the
"double the hardness of fully annealed sterling" value based on
"dead soft" being somewhere between 18 and 48 (and if so, where?), or
70?

And if I want something really, really soft, do I have to anneal it
myself and quench it (and will this even WORK with Argentium since
we’re not supposed to quench it until it cools off somewhat?)

And if you want to get REALLY confused (or not, if you’re smarter
than I am, which wouldn’t be suprising) take a look at the “wire
hardness” chart on page 47 of the new RG catalog. I have no idea what
that’s trying to tell me. They’re not using Rockwell hardness values
at all, so I can’t compare to the other charts, and as far as I can
tell, “Brown and Sharpe Numbers” are arbitrary numbers that have no
meaning when comparing one material to another. Tensile strength, to
my knowledge, doesn’t necessarily relate to relative hardness.

My head hurts. I think I’ll go home and nurse my pneumonia now, and
hope that somebody smarter than I am can explain to me what’s going
on.

I've used Hoover & Strong's medium silver solder with Argentium
quite happily on a number of pieces. I think the flow point of your
Medium solder should be ok - the new Argentium silver Hard solder
from Rio has a flow point of 1355F. 

Sorry Debbie - I meant to say the new Argentium silver Hard solder
from STULLER not Rio. Trevor F. at Touchmetal.com has a great account
of his experiences with these new solders here:

http://touchmetal.com/blog/2005/07/final-comments-on-new-solders.html

Sorry to confuse.

Eva
Eva Martin
Hampshire, UK.
www.evamartin.com

Hi Debby!

Yes, Argentium Sterling Silver is very fragile when it is hot.
Today, I broke a piece of metal in half, by moving it when it was at
annealing temperature, rather than waiting a few moments until it was
gray-hot.

Remember: regular medium silver solder is the equivalent
temperature of Argentium Sterling Silver Hard solder. I certainly
have had accidents when soldering with hard solder and regular
sterling----anytime you heat any metal to close to its melting
temperature, accidents can happen.

So, yes, I suggest you get yourself some of the Argentium solder
which is now available. Not only are the temperatures better, but
it has better color match (matches regular sterling silver better,
too!) and does not tarnish so much.

And, for your final question: the Argentium will be softest if it
is quenched while hot, BUT it is important to let it cool a bit, so
that it is not red-hot when you move it. (This is most easily judged
in the dark, of course.)

Best wishes,
Cindy
Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com

    The availability of the Argentium solder is still pretty new -
does anybody have experience with using it yet? Or if you've used
sterling solders, what differences, advantages, or disadvantages
have you noted? 

I just got some easy Argentium solder from Rio and am in the process
of making 5 pendants with AS and the new solder.

I love it! It flowed beautifully. Previously I had problems trying
to solder a very large bezel onto flat 20ga AS using regular solder,
then I ordered some extra easy and it worked better, but the AS
solder is far superior IMHO.

I am using slightly different methods this time, thanks to Trevor
and all the other helpful people on the list. I’m laying the piece
flat on a clean solder pad, one I will keep just for AS, and I am
soldering from the top, not trying to get the flame underneath. When
I did the flame underneath before I had BIG problems with the base
sagging. I am using a very small flame, and staying longer in one
place until that solder flows.

One more thing - I plan to heat harden in my kiln (as I did
previously) when the pendants are all finished (except for setting
the stones), then I will tumble them with steel shot in my rotary
tumbler. Is that the proper order? Or should I heat harden before all
the soldering?

Slowly learning to use this new material…

Jan
www.designjewel.com

And if I want something really, really soft, do I have to anneal it
myself and quench it (and will this even WORK with Argentium since
we're not supposed to quench it until it cools off somewhat?) 

In my experience yes, if you want it as soft as you can get it then
DIY.

If I need Argentium Sterling to be really soft --I call it
super-annealing-- I quench it just before it loses the last of it’s
color BUT THIS IS RISKY. If you quench it when it’s too hot it will
stress fracture, just like regular sterling silver will stress
fracture under the same conditions. Other, more experience users of
Argentium Sterling DO NOT recommend this procedure because of the
chance and risk of failure. I respect their caution but I like the
results of super-annealing the metal.

WARNING: I accept that there is considerable risk to the integrity of
the metal in using this technique and so must you if you try it. Your
metal may shatter (see Marty Anderson’s experiences with this if
you’d like details, in particular the "Argentium - Dim the lights!!!"
post at http://argexp.blogspot.com/)

I work under low-light conditions (barely enough light to see my
soldering table) when heating AS so that I can see the color
temperature of the metal better.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
www.touchmetal.com

The availability of the Argentium solder is still pretty new - does
anybody have experience with using it yet? Or if you've used
sterling solders, what differences, advantages, or disadvantages
have you noted? 

I’ve tested and used all three grades. See the following entries at
the blog:

“Testing the new solders” at
http://touchmetal.com/blog/2005/07/testing-new-solders.html

“More tests on the new solders” at
http://touchmetal.com/blog/2005/07/more-tests-on-new-solders.html

“Final comments on the new solders” at
http://touchmetal.com/blog/2005/07/final-comments-on-new-solders.html

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
www.touchmetal.com

The suggestion that under certain circumstances Argentium silver
might be more prone to breakage brings to mind the consideration of
how Argentium might hold up in heavy wear as a bracelet. Silver
bracelets are very prone to breakage because people inevitably
squeeze them onto their wrists thus subjecting them to repeated
bending. All metals will behave accordingly when repeatedly bent
unless they are specially alloyed to behave like a spring.

Germanium is hardly likely to increase the flexibility or strength
of Argentium so the jury is out on what its characteristics might be
under the same conditions.

Ron Mills, Mills Gem Co. Los Osos, Ca

For production jump rings, Argentium’s lower conductivity means you
can use a Pulse Arc Welder with much better results to close the
jump rings than with regular SS. Just a fact that might be useful to
someone.

Ardell

Germanium is hardly likely to increase the flexibility or strength
of Argentium so the jury is out on what its characteristics might be
under the same conditions. 

Hello Ron,

Do you have some particular reason or evidence for such a statement?

I’ve been making anticlastic cuff bracelets out of Argentium Sterling
(AS) and my experience thus far is that work hardened and/or precip
hardened AS is MORE flexible AND stronger than regular sterling under
similar conditions.

I have no scientific tests to back that up so I’m wondering if you do
to support your claims. And let’s not get into theory here; real
tests tell the real story.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
www.touchmetal.com

... I plan to heat harden in my kiln ... then I will tumble them
with steel shot in my rotary tumbler. Is that the proper order? 

Hello Jan, that order sounds good to me. Argentium Silver (AS)
polishes up a little differently once it’s been hardened and I
personally prefer this. So yes, harden then tumble is good. You could
do it the other way around if you prefer a (slightly) different look
to your finish.

Or should I heat harden before all the soldering? 

Ummm, I don’t think this is what you want to do. Heating to soldering
temps after precip hardening will “undo” the hardening effects of
the precip hardening process.

Solder then precip harden is almost certainly the way you want to go.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
www.touchmetal.com

I just got some easy Argentium solder from Rio and am in the
process of making 5 pendants with AS and the new solder. I love
it! One more thing - I plan to heat harden in my kiln (as I did
previously) when the pendants are all finished (except for setting
the stones), then I will tumble them with steel shot in my rotary
tumbler. Is that the proper order? Or should I heat harden before
all the soldering? 

Hi Jan,

You have it in the correct order, indeed! Do the hardening after
the soldering, because the soldering will anneal the metal again.

Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com/

A different Argentium problem The suggestion that under certain
circumstances Argentium silver might be more prone to breakage
brings to mind the consideration of how Argentium might hold up in
heavy wear as a bracelet. Silver bracelets are very prone to
breakage because people inevitably squeeze them onto their wrists
thus subjecting them to repeated bending. All metals will behave
accordingly when repeatedly bent unless they are specially alloyed
to behave like a spring. Germanium is hardly likely to increase the
flexibility or strength of Argentium so the jury is out on what its
characteristics might be under the same conditions. 

I respectfully disagree. Argentium has, indeed, been tested for
breakage and springiness. People who squeeze their bracelets need to
be taught how to put them on and off properly, and/or have them sized
down.

The people that are having breakage problems are pushing on the
Argentium Sterling Silver when it is red hot, which is the only time
that it is fragile. If one wants to press on the metal while
soldering, in order to get things to fit properly, then one must use
lower temperature solder, such as Argentium Sterling Easy solder.
After all, similar accidents can happen when soldering regular
sterling with hard silver solder! Another solution, of course, would
be to make sure things fit well, or use binding wire to hold them in
place before soldering, so that there is not that sort of sudden,
spot pressure at the moment of weakness.

I also would like to remind people know that if they have a problem,
an excellent resource is available at info@argentiumsilver.com. They
will get a prompt answer from either Peter Johns, the inventor, or
his very able and knowledgeable assistant: Clare.

Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com

Argentium Sterling Silver - Zen Sojourner’s confusion about hardness,
and more

Hi Zen Soujourner,

When I read your posts about trying to understand relative
hardnesses, I got so overwhelmed with the description of the
confusion, I could not even organize my thoughts to compose a
response! I can’t stop feeling and thinking about your angst though,
so I decided I needed to try to help, somehow.

My solution to this confusion is to suggest simplifying by focusing
on the essentials.

The important thing to know is that the Argentium Sterling Silver
can get very hard, and that it is very easy to do, does not require
expensive, high-tech equipment, and that fire-scale is not created by
the process of hardening.

I offered a lot of explanatory in my article because
there are many people who really want to know that sort of thing.
Personally, I did not really cared too much about a lot of it, until
I was asked to write the article. Having agreed to do the job, it
was important to me to do the job well. I tried to write it so that
people who are not interested in the whys and wherefores can simply
skip over that stuff and read the parts about how to actually work
with the material. I also attempted to write it using simple
language so that those of us who are sort of science-phobic would
have a chance of understanding. Since I was aiming at both the
experienced professional and the avid newbie, there is bound to be a
sentence or two that needs to be read more than one time, before
being really understood. It took me many hours to find some of those
facts, and then study them, and ask questions and write, re-write,
and re-write several more times, so that I could write as simply as
possible. So, “cut yourself some slack” – our brains may be sponges,
but even a sponge has its limits of how much it can absorb at a time.

I hope this helps!
Cindy
www.cynthiaeid.com

Hi All,

Okay, just working my way through all this Argentium discussion and
it seems to me that alot of you out there are worried about using a
"new " material.

You are worried about breakage of the argentium. Well, think back to
your first solderings and for some of you that is a very long way
back. Guess what, I will bet you don’t remember breaking sterling? It
can be done. I have students who manage to do it all the time.

So, let’s get pass this and move on, because we are going to find
alot of similarities between both metals and our venture into them. I
personally would like to learn more and more about the positive
effects of using this new metal. Haven’t we all been trying new
metals all along? How about electrum? and if you haven’t tried it you
have missed out on a quality metal. Palladium, hmm isn’t that a new
one also?

Jennifer Friedman
enamelist, jewelry artisan, ceremonial silver
Ventura, CA

Cynthia and Everyone -

Another solution, of course, would be to make sure things fit well,
or use binding wire to hold them in place before soldering, so that
there is not that sort of sudden, spot pressure at the moment of
weakness. 

Your post implies that you have used binding wire successfully. I
was told it would also cause cracking. What is your experience with
binding wire? Have you used it successfully with all grades of
Argentium solder, or just the Argentium Easy??

Debby

I am writing an addendum to an earlier post I put in today regarding
the treatment of AS from the manufacturer. As I read Thackery
Taylor’s post regarding this very subject. I will have to assume the
info I got from Stuller was incorrect. Maybe if Grayson from Stuller
reads it he can comment. Thanks Thackery.

Grace