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Annealing Silver, beyond Finegold & Seitz

Hello, everyone.

I’ve raised a copper cup quite successfully, largely thanks to the
supervision of my jewelry class teacher. The copper was extremely
easy to anneal to a dead soft. I didn’t use any flux, and simply
pickled the copper after each annealing

I’m now trying to raise a sterling silver cup, and I’m finding the
results of my annealing to be less than expected. I’m following
instructions by the book, literally - Rupert Finegold and William
Seitz’s “Silversmithing”.

I’m coating the silver with Handy Flux. (I’m aware of the borax and
alcohol trick, but haven’t tried it yet.) I’m heating with an
oxy-acetylene torch with a bushy flame until a dull glow appears: as
in a glow that could be seen in a fairly dark room. I let sit for ten
seconds or so, and then quench in water.

The silver is not nearly as malleable as the copper was after the
annealing operation. Is that to be expected? Or am I doing something
wrong?

Thanks in advance!
Matt

Matt, you’re doing roughly the right thing, ie heating to the
correct temp, and allowing any red glow to dissappear before
quenching in water. As you’ve discovered, sterling silver simply is
not as soft and malleable as pure copper. That’s the nature of the
beast, I’m afraid. Sterling is simply not as butter soft as pure
copper. Bummer, huh?

You mention boric acid and alcohol. Be aware that this trick is
generally used for gold alloys. With sterling silver, it does not
afford sufficient protection against fire scale and fire stain.
Silver must be protected with a more substantial fluxing agent than
the thin dusting of boric acid that the boric/alcohol method gives.
Your handy flux will work, though you have to be careful not to let
it burn off, which it can do if overheated. Your barely dull red
color won’t do that, however, so you should be OK. Still, Handy Flux
has the problem of being a fluoride containing flux, so use good
ventillation. Personally, I’d recommend that you try Prips flux, a
mix you prepare yourself from Boric acid, Borax, and TSP (the real
stuff, not the common substitutes which are not based on sodium
phosphate. Mixed with water, and sprayed on, not brushed, it
provides very good protection for the silver. You can find more
complete discussions on the stuff in the Orchid archives. Prips is
cheaper to use than Handy flux, protects somewhat better, and is
fluoride free. But the need to spray it on for best effect can be a
bit of a pain for some people. If you get to that point, and need
additional pointers on it’s use, feel free to ask me (off list in
email, I’ll be more sure to see the request), including if you need,
sources for the appropriate sprayer types. Or do it the traditional
way as described in Feingold, that of “burning in” a borax coating.
Even more of a pain in the rear to do, but even cheaper to use than
Prips.

cheers
Peter Rowe

Hi Matt,

Copper and fine silver are nice and soft when fully annealed,
sterling isn’t (sigh). The Argentium gurus have said that AS has
better “working qualities” than traditional sterling. Maybe they can
comment on whether it “raises” more like copper.

You also might want to try the flux recipe used by Chris Hentz and
Fred Fenster, since it has a longer working time:

https://orchid.ganoksin.com/t/fripps-fabulous-flux

If you search the archives for “Fripps” (Peter Rowe has indicated
that this is a misspelling, but you won’t find anything under
"Frips"), you will see some related discussions.

Good luck!
Lisa Orlando
Aphrodite’s Ornaments

HI Lisa,

I was just looking at the flux recipe which you provided the link to
and realised that I can’t make it as I have no idea what ‘Cascade in
a green box’ is. For those of us in the world outside the US it
would be very useful if such recipes could include a little more
description of ingredients rather than just product names. Thanks.

Best Wishes
Ian
Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK

You have an excellent book. I think that your problem is the
oxy-acetylene torch. I use a big bushy soft flame from an
air-acetylene torch. This heats the metal much more evenly so that
there are no unannealed spots. I don’t coat mine with flux, I watch
the color of the metal while it is heating. I let it cool for a
minute and quench it hot. I know that people don’t quench hot in
pickle these days but I still do. It is nothing that I do everyday.
You did not say what gage or size cup that you are making.

marilyn

Cascade is a dishwashing detergent (soap) in granular form.

Ronald

Hi Ian

What you said about not knowing what Cascade was rang a bell for me.
I found my copy of ‘Haley’s Hints’ to look of Cascade. In the back
of the book it gives the americanism ‘washing soda’ as the european
’water softener or lime scale remover’, but it did not mention
Cascade.

On the internet I found that Cascade contains sodium carbonate and
some other stuff. Here is a link giving some products that contain
this chemical:

http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/household/brands?tbl=chem&id=16

Ardetta, @A_L_Bronson

Hi Ian,

Sorry to take so long to respond–my internet access is very spotty
right now. The reason I recommended searching the archives is that
there was a discussion of several issues–including yours–after I
posted the recipe the first time.

Lisa Orlando
Aphrodite’s Ornaments