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Argentium fusing questions


#1

I have been playing around with constructing some things out of
fused Argentium Silver and when it works it is really cool!This is
just for fun and the learning process right now but I am having some
issues which might be due in part to my inexperience with gold and
silver smithing. Ihave picked up a lot of theory over the years but
the practice lags far behind.I am using the following things:Rio
My-T-FluxPropane/Oxygen Smith Little torch (the local gas supplier
says that it is possible that there is up to 30% Methane mixed in
the propane, but most jewelers locally use it on gold with no
problems).Sulfuric Acid pickle (Does it lose its potency with
time??) Ultra Sonic with some sort of Ammonia and soap like solution.
(The bottle broke and I switched it into another one so what exactly
it is has been lost.) I am fusing on a compressed charcoal block
purchased from Rio GrandeI try to clean off the pieces with a light
sanding, or wire brush and dish soap before fusing. Often I also will
pickle or Ultrasonic and Pickle before fusing to try to get as clean
a surface as possible. The problem is that the results I am getting
vary a fair bit and I don’t know why. Sometimes it looks just like
the instructional DVDs I got (from Ronda Coreyell, really like them)
and you can tell the fusion is working, after cooling the piece is
very pretty and “silvery” with just some beads of flux on the
surface which come off easily in the pickle. At other times it gets
orange hot and to me seems at least as hot as when it fuses but you
can just tell that in spite of the glow there is not that liquid
mercury look to the surface and things are NOT fusing. Often
afterwards the surface (especially when quenched after cooling just a
bit?) will have what I call a reddish or blackish “patina” for lack
of a better name. I associate this in my mind with the presence of
some sort = of chemical or something on the surface of the metal
during heating but I don’t know what it is exactly.My hope is to get
consistent results with this (my sister and mother have gems they
want set!) but to do so I need to know why things work sometimes and
not at others. Anyone have experience with issues like this that can
help me out?

Regards,
John Dyer
johndyergems.com


#2

John -

I just recently took Ronda’s fusing class. Let me offer this -

Use white vinegar & table salt as your pickle. Since argentium
shouldn’t be getting firescale, there’s no need for the action of
more agressive pickle. Using the brass brush after pickle is good. I
don’t think you need to go as far as sanding new sheet unless it has
sticky residue…if there seems to be colored oxide on it, just torch
it off, cool, and slip into the vinegar pickle.

Pripps flux works the best during construction - right combination
of stickiness and fluidity. One thing about Pripps is that it has a
nice habit of ‘dancing’ on the surface of the metal just before you
are at fusing temp. Once you see the flux dance, move your flame a
bit further from the work to keep that state for a few seconds, then
creep in to push heat into the area that seems most ready to fuse.

It is possible to repeatedly overheat the argentium and cause the
germanium oxide at the surface to go grey and granular. If you have
access to an acetylene/air torch, try that instead…I find a #1
Smith head useful. With any torch though, if you are seeing the piece
get orange hot, it’s too hot and you should back off the flame.

Hope this helps,
Kelley Dragon


#3

John,

I had this exact same set of troubles a while back- the lack of
fusing, the reddish and black patina, etc. I got lots of helpful
suggestions at that time- that thread starts here:

https://orchid.ganoksin.com/t/torch-for-argentium-granulation

After that, I worked on my own, and here are some of the things that
helped me.

The metal has to be REALLY clean, like Rhonda shows in her videos,
where water will slick across the surface, and not gather or bead up
at all. I thought I was getting that level of clean with similar
methods to yours, but I was never getting that wet sheet look with
the water test, until I started using green scrubbies as she shows.
There is something magical in the green scrubbies that doesn’t happen
with brass brushes and soap. I don’t pickle until after I fuse, and I
just use a citric acid and water mix in a little crock pot.

I was using My-T-Flux, too, but I started watering it down for all
applications, sometimes up to half water. That seemed to really help,
and made the water-bead-look moment much more visible, so I could see
when the fuse was happening. Like I said in my original post back
then, I am new to all this, but the right moment for fusing and the
indicator visuals for it are much briefer than I expected. And the
colour change in the metal is very subtle, much more so than the fine
silver I was working with before. It helped me to work in a pretty
dark space, with just one light pointing up, off to the side, so I
could see my area, but the work was in the shade. I found that when I
stopped looking for an orange glow, as I had seen with fine silver,
and understood it more as just a slight change to salmony-pink, I got
the timing right.

There has to be very good contact between the pieces, and it helped
me to practice fusing little flat chips to each other, wire side by
side, and simpler, more flat surfaces like that for a while before I
went on to granules and edges fused down (like with bezels).

I use a Meco Midget torch, and was thinking that might have been the
problem, but I’ve had success with it since I practiced some more. At
Rhonda and others’ suggestions, I took the tip off entirely, and use
it that way. The flame is really loose, bushy, even floppy- think a
bigger version of a gas stove flame. That made a big difference in
not warping and discolouring the metal, which I think was from
overheating. I think the key is to heat all of the metal evenly, none
of it too much, and even indirect heat if you can, bouncing it off
the charcoal block. Keeping everything moving really helps, too, so
you don’t get hot spots. I made a turntable for my charcoal block as
in Rhonda’s videos, and I spin it pretty good as I’m working.

I hope this helps- it was really frustrating until I realized I
could tap in here for help, and get tips to try again and have better
luck. So, I hope you stick with it, especially since your gemstones
are gorgeous and your family is begging for jewelry!

Micah


#4

Hi John,

The fact blackened surface sounds like the flux is burning off, or
that it is not completely covering the surface. Before you start
applying heat, be sure that the entire surface is covered with flux.
When it dries, if there is not white powder covering the surface,
then you need to put a bit more on with a wet brush, or small spray
bottle. Ideally, the metal is at the temperature that the flux dries
immediately as you brush it on. Sometimes, this means that you
altermate between a few moments of heat, and brushing on a bit of
flux, a quick bit of heat, a bit more flux, etc. until the surface is
covered.

If the flux “peels” off when the metal is heated, then it is not
clean enough. I have better luck with pumice and water than with the
brass brush and soap, myself.

Another possibility is that the propane is not hot enough if you are
working on very large, or very thick pieces. If the piece is large
work on an area at a time. Don’t try to do it all at once.

I hope this is helpful!
Best wishes,
Cindy
www.cynthiaeid.com


#5

Hi everyone, thanks for the tips on and off the forum!

I had some moderate success (made my first piece using fusing and
granulation) and hope to have more success once I improve my
technique more. Things I have learned:Silver doesn’t like Ammonia
(like I have in my Ultrasonic solution) it isn’t necessarily a
drastic reaction but it does create a few problems.Don’t make
granules and drop them into a plastic container, they are still hot
enough when they hit the bottom to partially melt into the plastic
and this might have been part of the problems with granule
cleanliness.I seem to want a semi “bushy” and less “sharp” flame, IE
not too much oxygen relative to the propane in the mix. This seems
to work well as long as I don’t take it to the extreme where it has
so little oxy that it doesn’t get hot enough.Probably want to use a
larger rather than a smaller torch tip (and flame) in general.The
best thing I did was just trying to fuse little bits of scrap to
each other over and over. It was a lot of fusing and it helped me
gain some experience and confidence. (Just as Micah suggested.)Kelley
suggested I use white vinager and table salt as a pickle, that
sounds good as it seems pretty safe, how does it work on other metals
(like gold) and does it lose its potency with time? (Since this is
sort of a hobby for now I often leave it for long periods of
time.)Kelley said, “if you are seeing the piece get orange hot, it’s
too hot and you should back off the flame.” Is this true even though
I turn off almost all the lights and thus the metal looks "orange"
even at lower temps than it would in a more lighted environment? On
Ronda’s video with low lights the pieces seem to look kinda orange
when fusing.

Per Cynthia Eid’s comments I may try using a bit more pickle too.
Learning a lot! Pics of my first piece using these techniques are
here.

Not totally proud of it but it is jewelry! :slight_smile: Any other important
things that I should know? Anyone have experience melting Argentium
scrap to make wire or sheet? I would probably roughly follow Jay’s
instructions and some other tips I have picked up here.

Thanks to all,
John Dyer
johndyergems.com


#6

You did a good job! I melted some scrap and rolled it. It melts fine,
but seems much harder than fine silver when rolling into sheet. It
requires much more annealing and quite a bit of arm strength on the
rolling mill. And beware the metal’s edges while rolling as they can
be very sharp and jagged.

Mary Partlan
White Branch Designs