Sounds like a shop I worked at also! We bombed, bright dipped, acid
etched, tumble finished emblematic pieces. Several metals were cast
and stamped, as well as gold and silver.
Knowing the value of this process and the dangers to health it poses,
I have devised an easy, small shop, one person method. Here goes. Go
to the drug store and buy a pint of 3% hydrogen peroxide. On sale
they are under a dollar. One pint is enough for 3 separate projects.
Great for keeping cuts from infection too. You will need to purchase
granular potassium cyanide. Yuk! This stuff is worse than a gun!
Don’t open it, look at it, or smell it. Only have it open when you
are using it. This is one chemical you don’t want to have any
accidents with. So don’t drop it! Just a few parts per million in
water is enough to kill birds and other creatures. Contain and
dispose of properly! Leave it in a locked (then get one) cabinet in
its’ original container when not in use.
Now really here goes. You will need to do this outside or under a
strong hood; low density, high volume. Not your $40 dollar range hood
from the home improvement store. On the West coast doing this in the
winter occasionally is no big deal. Plan ahead and be safe and
contained where you do it. Here are the other things needed in a
list: five gallon chemical approved container with screw cap. (for
waste) plastic tub 15’ diameter minimum (to completely contain the
process) 3.5 quart stainless pan (don’t use for anything but this
procedure after) 1/2 gallon pitcher with hot tap water (for rinsing)
funnel with at least 6" diameter stainless steel ring tweezers or
plastic implement electric hot plate insulated rubber gloves -
Chemical supply or garden gloves work glass receptacle (pimento jar,
mustard jar) small volume
In your stainless steel pan fill to half with hot water. Pour off
about 1/3 volume from your pint of peroxide container. Put container
in the 3.5 qt. pan with lid loosened. It will float partially
submerged. Catch the lid on the edge of the pan (make a hangar for
the cap out of copperwire if you have to). Allow to come to 200
degrees. The water has bubbles, but do not break the surface or boil.
That is plenty hot. To little temperature makes the reaction take
longer, and results are not as bright.
Warm your small glass container (it will crack otherwise) with the
pitcher of hot tap water with your jewelry piece in the container.
Now fill to just cover your jewelry with the hot peroxide. Put the
peroxide aside. With an inch or so of water in the 3.5 qt.pan put
your jar in the middle of the pan. Take off the burner temporarily,
and put in the plastic tub. You do have your gloves on now. Have your
cyanide ready with a spoon. The amount of cyanide is quite important.
If you are using a pimento jar, half full of peroxide; my best
description of the cyanide amount, would be amount of volume of a
nickel. To give it a number my guess would be 1/8 teaspoon. Less is
better your first time! Don’t add to much! You WILL be wearing it!
The addition of cyanide will initiate the chemical reaction. Agitate
while boiling (the reaction). It only takes maybe thirty seconds.
Drain the spent fluid into your five gallon container, with funnel.
Rinse with hot water into container. Return pan and peroxide to
burner. Bring to same temperature. Repeat process as explained above.
if the desired surface appearance has been achieved, a second strip
may not be necessary. Too get maximum brilliance, I usually do a
second or third step this way. By watching, and timing the event very
closely, I “interrupt” the reaction when it is very nearly finished,
by rinsing the container with the rinse water. Now inspect the
results. You will notice almost a 24k appearance throughout. After
polishing the recessed areas will of course still be this color. If
that is not desired, you can use the plain water and add about a
dime’s volume of cyanide. That will reveal a color more closely
resembling its’ true karat. This “cyanide bath” is also good for
removing unwanted patinas. If you accidentally copper plate a
sterling piece in your pickle. It can be removed with a cyanide bath.
You will need to do it several times to remove the copper.
Rinse any spillage out of your tub and clean all articles used in the
process. Add the lot to your five gallon container. Put the cyanide
and waste away, locked. You never know what set of circumstances
could arise. An unknowing person or child could create a very
unhealthy situation with this stuff. Be safe!
The method described above is not to be compared with things you
could do with a rectifier. This produces a much brighter finish, than
that which is capable electrostripping.
Most pieces do not need stripping. It depends on the design. The
pieces that I choose to strip usually have gallery work, or other
inaccessible areas. Quite necessary in some of the deeply relieved,
Celtic designs, and so on. After azuring with square burs, it
virtually makes it unnecessary to polish. Always remove the casting
skin, everywhere possible, prior to stripping. The bombing (or
stripping) process is much brighter in appearance, if you have
removed the casting skin prior. I try to reach the areas with tiny
ball burs, flame burs, or tiny tapered diamond points. The piece is
completely sanded, rubber wheeled, ready for polishing, except stone
setting. It is then stripped in the method above. After stripping
the stone setting areas are then high polished. Stones are set. Then
Those of you reading this who are unfamiliar with chemicals in your
jewelry work thus far are advised to run this method by a mentor, or
shop that can introduce you to it safely, with some guidance.
On a post a while back, I saw a suggestion to add chemical waste such
as this to kitty litter, let it dry, and send in with your other
refining stuff. That is what I would suggest, to rid of this waste
occasionally. We definitely are wise enough not to put it down our
drains, or into our ground water! As I look back that is exactly what
most of the shops did! Thank God we now realize the environmental
damage and we care enough to dispose of it properly!