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Argentium soldering questions


#1

Hi folks,

I have been reading the posts concerning the pros and cons of
Argentium with great interest. I have worked in regular sterling and
come to know it very well. I was intrigued by the possibilities of
no firescale or tarnished pieces, and had purchased some sheet, wire
and solder to play with. When I began reading about the differences
in soldering with argentium, I saw many comments about the “hot
short” properties of the alloy. As Jay Whaley has pointed out,
sometimes you want to shift an alignment, or may need to take
something apart to modify or repair it. I am also concerned about
overheating during annealing, and what may happen when you then
begin working the annealed piece. I certainly don’t want something
to slump when I solder a post or jump ring to it, or to have it
crack under routine handling procedures. So I have a few general
questions.

I have used a black sharpie marker as an indicator of annealing
temps, and try to keep low lighting in effect when I do anneal. I
use a charcoal block, and allow the red to dissipate before
quenching. Is the annealing procedure the same for argentium, only
being mindful of the lesser redness before annealing is completed?
Will the sharpie marker trick work with Argentium?

I purchased heavier gauge sheet and wire, figuring I could roll and
draw the smaller gauges as I needed them. Will this become an issue
that shows up when I go to use these smaller pieces? I am still
excited about trying this new alloy, so I am looking for some
guidelines on what differences I need to be aware of. Any
suggestions for videos or reading materials?

Thank you,
Melissa Veres, engraver
http://melissaveres.com


#2

Hi there,

For soldering Argentium use the latest solders EZ, med, hard which
now have a lower melting temperature and flow better than previous
solders,which makes me believe why some are having problems with the
soldering and unsoldering Argentium. Yes, do not touch or hold a
piece in the third hand only if you are fusing however it’s ok to do
so when you are soldering because unlike Sterling you don’t need to
heat the whole piece to solder, you can solder by just heating the
joint and the new solders are great.

Annealing and working not a problem at all, only wait for the metal
to cool down before handling it and Quenching (a low sssshh is ok
when you do so)

I recommend Ronda Coryell’s videos on Argentium and even better
taking a class or two.

I hope this has been helpful!

Good luck!
Vasken Tanielian


#3

I still consider myself a beginner. But I started on traditional
sterling in school, then took 2 short workshops with Cynthia Eid and
Ronda Coryell which focused on Argentium. I use a charcoal block and
a Sharpie for judging annealing. I occasionally notice that the
Sharpie mark does not completely fade after annealing, but by the
time the piece is finished the mark is no longer present. Most of my
pieces are flat sheet, 22 gauge, with pierced and sawn designs -
very little torching after the initial anneal, and the marks would be
apparent if they remained as the surface is large and flat (1-2.5
inch circles).

Ronda has a set of DVDs (Google Ronda Coryell DVD for several
sources) but because I took the class I didn’t purchase her DVDs, and
can’t speak to their contents.

Mary Partlan
White Branch Designs


#4

Hi Melissa,

I’ve been working with silver since 1970—starting in high school. I
was attracted to Argentium Silver in the 1990s when I heard about a
sterling without firescale. I have been working with AS since 1999.
I understand both your interest, and concerns. I hope that I can
answer some of your questions.

I don’t have a problem with AS slumping if it is formed. If you are
doing flat constructions, it is helpful to first anneal the AS, and
let it air cool. Always support any flat metal.

Black Sharpie marker is a good temperature indicator for annealing
AS. When there is nothing but a “ghost” of the marker left, the metal
is annealed. Because AS does not transfer heat in the way that SS
does, (the heat stays where the torch heated) AS anneals very
quickly. It can be difficult to believe that it happens so fast—so
it can be tempting to keep heating. Remember that for ANY silver, it
is better to under-anneal than to over-anneal. Overheating creates
large crystals, which make the metal more prone to cracking.
Under-heating simply means that you’ll need to re-anneal sooner.

AS has a softer, more golden glow that is difficult to see, even in
dim light, so I rely on the Sharpie. Other brands of marker vary, and
avoid the Industrial Sharpie, with the red lettering—these indicate
different temperatures.

I prefer to use Solderite boards. Ronda Coryell prefers charcoal.
(There is more than one “right way”!) My understanding is that it is
best to flux AS when using charcoal, since charcoal creates an
oxygen-free atmosphere. (If I am wrong on the protocol for charcoal,
I hope that Ronda, Vaskin, or one of their students will correct this
info!)

There is no problem with rolling down your thick metals. For several
years, prior to 2005, the only AS that I could obtain was 18
gauge/1mm thick from Finland, so I rolled down from that for thinner
gauges, and laminated for thicker gauge.

This post is already quite long, so rather than post my soldering
tips, here is a link to my soldering and fusing tip sheets:
http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/1td

A more extensive AS guide, written for Rio Grande is available for
download here: http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/1tc (PDF file)

best wishes,
Cynthia
http://www.cynthiaeid.com


#5

Hi Melissa,

After answering your questions, I went to your website—beautiful
engraving! You might enjoy looking at Jack Gohn’s work at
http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/1tf

He also may have insights for you.

Jack was interviewed about engraving on AS, and gave a few tips
here: http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/1te

I hope this is helpful.
Cynthia
http://www.cynthiaeid.com


#6

I have a quick question. I just fused an Argentium gallery wire
bezel. It slumped slightly at the joint but not noticeably so. I
want to attach the bezel to a 20g Argentium sheet. Do I need to use
solder or can I fuse it? If I need to use solder, which would be the
best? I will be fusing/soldering a few other elements to it such as
AG wire and possibly copper.

Michele


#7

As I don’t know the shape and the design of your piece and the fact
that you had a slight slumping situation, I would suggest soldering
to be safe. Use the latest Argentium solders from Rio Grande, they
flow very well. The medium and the hard are closer in temperature and
the color is great.

Have fun
Vasken Tanielian


#8

Hi All,

I have been watching this string with much interest. I use
traditional US Sterling, for years now, but there is so much about
the virtues of “As” that I have been reading, I have felt the pull to
switch over, or at least try it out. This string has been an amazing
education for me, with much being shared on BOTH sides of
the discussion.

Anyway… the more I read about the advances made in the areas of
Argentium solders, and the how much those actually informed about its
use have been able to do with it, the more I am pulled. I have become
very good at torch & heat control and always use denatured alcohol
with boric acid wash as an extra step to protect against fire stain.
I rarely have to deal with it, but I do still hate that rare
purple/gray shadow that of course only appears on the most important
and time consuming piece, (you just HATE to now have to start over or
depletion guild, but you still know it’s under there nonetheless!)

It’s that awesome quality of being resistant/almost fire stain proof
that is drawing me in more & more.

I have a couple of questions that I have not seen mentioned.

  1. Just how hard of a learning curve is there to switch over to As,
    if you learn about it’s characteristics do you have a good chance
    that a switch over will be fairly quick and painless?

  2. I am assuming that the price of the As and it’s solders is
    similar to standard sterling? Is there a price raise for argentium?

  3. From what I am reading, the malleability seems to be better. What
    about using As as thin strips for bezel wire? Has it been tried, and
    what, if any, are the benefits/drawbacks? (Typically I use fine
    silver but have occasionally used sterling. (Could this possibly be a
    money saving alternative?)

  4. For those that always use As, have you seen any reluctance on the
    part of customers not trusting it as a “New Metal”?

  5. Does As solder well with other metals, i.e. copper, gold & even
    brass. I am using more brass lately, for an affordable color change
    option in some of my work, as opposed to Gold. Can I get away with
    soldering argentium silver to brass with careful heat control and
    easy solder, and can I solder it to gold & copper, too?

  6. Do I need to change my pickling solutions? With Rio Pickle in
    particular, and will a “Super Pickle” (Rio Pickle mixed with
    peroxide instead of water) still work if I am cleaning a mixed metal
    piece? Is there still a white hazy “pickle skin” (as I call it), when
    you pickle argentium silver, and if so does is clean off the same as
    with sterling?

  7. Is there a decent supply of As findings being offered in the
    marketplace, such as tubing, stone settings, etc. I typically make
    my own, but sometimes I order them in. Are there some good supply
    houses to keep in my notebook?

  8. How does As perform with the use of conforming die applications,
    for embossing and forming? Do you see any major differences or need
    to make any major adjustments? (specifically in use of my Bonny Doon
    press and rolling mill applications, as well as with hand forming? I
    have read that it is really forgiving and moves really well.

  9. How about enameling and glass applications? I use sterling in
    enameling, being able to raise a fine silver layer is a really nice
    option with standard sterling, can you enamel onto As in the same
    fashion you would sterling, and is there a difference in the way you
    would prep an As piece to raise an enamel friendly surface? Can I
    form glass beads directly onto argentium tubing like I would with
    silver?

Is there anyone in the Toledo, Ohio area that is trained in the use
of As that might offer some training and advice, or give affordable
classes addressing the specifics of As?

I know this is a ton of questions, and I probably have more in this
brain of mine that I cannot think of right now. Please forgive me
that I have so many! I would appreciate it greatly if someone could
take out some time from their busy life to answer some of my
questions.

At this time I just cannot afford to purchase the CDs or pay for
classes, as I am working very hard to build my website & promote my
business and every single penny has gone toward that goal. I am truly
interested in getting on board with using Argentium Silver as the
benefits seem just too hard to resist. After viewing the gallery of
images posted by

I really want to give a thorough try, but just can’t afford to buy
it for experimentation. If I make the purchase it will be for making
a piece for my website inventory or perhaps this upcoming commission
I have. I am gearing up to do a very important and semi large piece,
(a full wrap bracelet that will be first embossed in the Bonny Doon,
then engraved, enameled, and as well will have some stone settings.

Thanks in advance
Teresa


#9

Hi Resa,

Switching to Argentium will be a good decision. Soldering on AS is
easier than soldering on SS and yes you will not have the problem of
fire scale. I see your questions list is long and I would love to
answer to all of them but I think that by just getting your questions
answered will not be enough to start working in it without some minor
problems. So I highly recommend that you take a class or two from
Argentium qualified instructor or at least get some instructional
DVD Like Ronda Coryell’s Argentium series. Which will answer to all of
your questions.

Good luck and enjoy AS.
Vasken Tanielian


#10
Switching to Argentium will be a good decision. Soldering on AS is
easier than soldering on SS and yes you will not have the problem
of fire scale. 

That is only true if one has no clue how to work with sterling
silver. You like AS use it, but do not invent something which does
not exist. Few words about fire scale. Fire scale is classical red
herring. Complaining about fire scale is like complaining about TV
set, which stops working after you hit it with hammer. The solution
is do not hit your TV set with hammer! If someone has problems with
fire scale, the one does not know how to use torch correctly.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#11

Hi Teresa,

I will try to answer your questions. I also suggest that since you
cannot afford a class or DVD, you do some reading. A good basic read
is the one I wrote for Art Jewelry magazine, downloadable from my
site http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/zd (under Publications), as well
as http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/136 Under FAQ, are my tips for
soldering and fusing. I recently updated and added to the more
detailed technical guide that Rio Grande offers as a download in
their Learning area http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/1v0

Just how hard of a learning curve is there to switch over to AS, if
you learn about it's characteristics do you have a good chance that
a switch over will be fairly quick and painless? 

I found it easy, but I think it may depend on your work habits.
People who are accustomed to pushing things to fit while they solder
seem to find it difficult to change to making sure that everything
fits and is ready to solder prior to applying heat.

2) I am assuming that the price of the AS and it's solders is
similar to standard sterling? Is there a price raise for
argentium? 

Yes, AS costs more than SS. When SS was $10/ounce, AS was about $11.
When SS is $30 or more per ounce, AS is several dollars more per
ounce.

3) From what I am reading, the malleability seems to be better.
What about using As as thin strips for bezel wire? Has it been
tried, and what, if any, are the benefits/drawbacks? (Typically I
use fine silver but have occasionally used sterling. (Could this
possibly be a money saving alternative?) 

AS is not as soft as fine silver. I still like to use fine silver
for a bezel, because then I can harden the piece before setting the
stone, and te fine silver is still soft.

4) For those that always use As, have you seen any reluctance on
the part of customers not trusting it as a "New Metal"? 

I have not had a problem. I simply say that it is a new, improved
sterling alloy that is highly tarnish resistant.

5) Does As solder well with other metals, i.e. copper, gold & even
brass. I am using more brass lately, for an affordable color
change option in some of my work, as opposed to Gold. Can I get
away with soldering argentium silver to brass with careful heat
control and easy solder, and can I solder it to gold & copper, too? 

No problem soldering to other metals. It was brought home to me how
easy it is during this past week, in fact. I have been teaching in
Anchorage, Alaska this week. The first workshop that I taught was on
Argentium Sterling—Fusing, Granulating and Soldering. A 19 year old
with no metal experience completed several AS pieces using both
fusing and soldering. In the second workshop, Synclastic and
Anticlastic Hammering (Shell Forming), he also made a number of
copper pieces on which he soldered Argentium Sterling.

6) Do I need to change my pickling solutions? With Rio Pickle in
particular, and will a "Super Pickle" (Rio Pickle mixed with
peroxide instead of water) still work if I am cleaning a mixed
metal piece? Is there still a white hazy "pickle skin" (as I call
it), when you pickle argentium silver, and if so does is clean off
the same as with sterling? 

You don’t need a different pickle. Yes, it comes out of the pickle
white, just like SS.

7) Is there a decent supply of As findings being offered in the
marketplace, such as tubing, stone settings, etc. I typically make
my own, but sometimes I order them in. Are there some good supply
houses to keep in my notebook? 

Rio Grande and gsgold have the most AS findings. There are not as
many available as for SS.

8) How does As perform with the use of conforming die
applications, for embossing and forming? Do you see any major
differences or need to make any major adjustments? (specifically in
use of my Bonny Doon press and rolling mill applications, as well
as with hand forming? I have read that it is really forgiving and
moves really well. 

You will find that AS works a bit better than SS for forming. Just
be careful when annealing.

9) How about enameling and glass applications? I use sterling in
enameling, being able to raise a fine silver layer is a really
nice option with standard sterling, can you enamel onto As in the
same fashion you would sterling, and is there a difference in the
way you would prep an As piece to raise an enamel friendly surface 

There does not seem to be any problem with opaque enamels. I am
currently working on AS transparent enamel experiments with Troy
Hines. We have had promising results, especially with leaded enamels.
It seems best to fire at 1400 degrees F, rather than higher
temperatures. We have had the best results, so far, when we prepared
the AS by putting it in the kiln at 1400 and then pickling to
deplete, two times.

Can I form glass beads directly onto argentium tubing like I would
with silver? 

I have no idea about this. Do you mean enameling onto tubing? Or
slumping glass? Or?

I really want to give a thorough try, but just can't afford to buy
it for experimentation. If I make the purchase it will be for
making a piece for my website inventory or perhaps this upcoming
commission I have. I am gearing up to do a very important and semi
large piece, (a full wrap bracelet that will be first embossed in
the Bonny Doon, then engraved, enameled, and as well will have some
stone settings. 

I do not think it wise to begin using a new material for a large,
important piece. Start with simple pieces for your website inventory.

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


#12

Leonid, at times you have annoyed the heck out of me with your high
minded approach, however, I believe in letting people know when I
totally agree with them. This time around, you have hit the nail on
the head with no problem. I totally agree with you. I’ve worked with
Sterling for over 25 years and the first time I encountered fire
scale and my instructor said “deal with it, you caused it!” I vowed
to try never to have it again. For the first couple of years that I
worked with Sterling, I would occasionally get firescale but on each
of those occasions, I realized all too late that I had simply
"torched" too hot too long! Once you learn, you learn, Don’t think
I’ve had a case of firescale in years now.

Loved your analogy not hitting the TV set with a hammer. Very clever.

Kay


#13

I have to say I’m pretty inexperienced with metals (most of my
jewelry is glass) but I love soldering with Argentium.

I went to turn in my scrap at a local refiner, however, and all the
Argentium was rejected, because it was “crap”. Their words, not
mine. Wondering if others are finding the same thing?

Kerry
celtcraftdesigns.artfire.com


#14

Hi Leonid,

That is only true if one has no clue how to work with sterling
silver. You like AS use it, but do not invent something which does
not exist. Few words about fire scale. Fire scale is classical red
herring. Complaining about fire scale is like complaining about TV
set, which stops working after you hit it with hammer. The
solution is do not hit your TV set with hammer! If someone has
problems with fire scale, the one does not know how to use torch
correctly. 

You can’t really appreciate Argentium if have no clue how to work
with Argentium. This is the same with any alloy, or element.

To prevent firescale does require heat control, but fire scale can
be avoided with an application of flux (a very handy trick to know).

Argentium is obviously easier to solder than sterling silver,
because you don’t have to worry as much about fire scale. However I
would recommend using sterling first then you’d appreciate Argentium
more.

We’re jewellers… metal smiths. Metal in any form is ours to
command.

It doesn’t matter what the metal is, we can use it to make things of
beauty.

If you can’t use some metal or alloy at the moment, put it aside and
come back to it later. A break from a technique or difficult alloy,
does wonders, later you come back to it fresh, and succeed. Become
it’s master.

Regards Charles A.


#15
"That is only true if one has no clue how to work with sterling
silver. 

Leonid, you are full of it! The finest manufacturers of sterling
like Tiffany’s plates their sterling to cover the fire scale their
master silver smiths have to deal with. A torch, however skilled,
will always bring some copper to the surface. You can minimize it by
careful torch work but you cannot prevent all of it.

Argentium silver is simply better for fire scale than traditional
sterling. You may not like the alloy for your own reasons but quit
making up facts to bolster your own arguments

Sam


#16

I agree with Leonid as well when it comes to dealing with firestain.
To this day, I don’t know why it’s so difficult for silversmiths to
deal with this. Many smiths I know in England and Denmark fine
silver plate over their firestained sterling, even after centuries of
experience dealing with the subject. These objects are very
difficult to repair if brazing is required (the plating blisters and
the piece/area must be replated). How about trying to refinish this
plated flatware? You’ll buff right through the plating to the
firestain! Pure insanity.

The advantages with Argentium is that you only have to flux the
joint. On larger pieces, this saves time and cleaning. But don’t
forget, the tarnish-resistance is what ALL buyers of contemporary
sterling jewelry, holloware, and flatware are looking for. I should
start recording my customers’ angst when they want to pass down their
traditional sterling flatware to their daughters who want nothing to
do with it because of the care issue. I could argue all day with the
daughters as to how to store their flatware to keep it tarnish-free,
but they don’t want to hear it.

My 10 cents,

Jeff Herman
hermansilver.com


#17
The finest manufacturers of sterling like Tiffany's plates their
sterling to cover the fire scale their master silver smiths have to
deal with. A torch, however skilled, will always bring some copper
to the surface. You can minimize it by careful torch work but you
cannot prevent all of it. 

I was going to reply agreeing with Lenoid when I read his post, but
was feeling lazy.

My personal experience in 40 years of working with silver is that I
have very little problems with firescale. Paste flux really helps,
large bushy flame really helps.

I also do a lot of soldering by heating the piece from the back,
usually holding the piece with tweezers, resting the edge of the
piece opposite where the tweezers are holding the piece on the edge
of a charcoal block, large bushy flame, don’t let the torch tip get
to close to the back, and remove heat as soon as the solder flows.

Soldering on a charcoal block also helps, it reflects heat rather
than absorbing the heat.

I don’t work on pieces larger than bracelets, so maybe larger pieces
are a different experience.

The care with which I solder is directly relational to how much I
dislike polishing…and there are light green silicone wheels that
can be used, very carefully, to follow the firescale and remove it.
Usually takes 2-3 minutes. Then use bristle brushes and fabuluster.

Richard Hart G.G.
Denver, Co.


#18
 I went to turn in my scrap at a local refiner, however, and all the
 Argentium was rejected, because it was "crap".

Find a new refiner. CIA


#19
The finest manufacturers of sterling like Tiffany's plates their
sterling to cover the fire scale their master silver smiths have to
deal with. 

I worked for Tiffany in seventies. I am at lost of words to describe
how absurd you statement is.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#20
I love soldering with Argentium. I went to turn in my scrap at a
local refiner, however, and all the Argentium was rejected, because
it was "crap". Their words, not mine. Wondering if others are
finding the same thing? 

That sounds like someone who does not know what he’s talking about
blaming his ignorance on the object. You will not have a problem if
you send it to a larger, more knowledgeable firm. I can recommend
both Rio Grande and Hauser and Miller from personal experience. I am
sure that there are others as well.

Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com