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Argentium Sterling: Annealing


#1

I have tried annealing the same Argentium wire (16 gauge) several
times. First discovery: Jumprings should be annealed in a single
layer. A pile of rings will get alarmingly red on the outside, while
the inner rings don’t get hot enough. I guess that’s because AS
doesn’t conduct heat as well as traditional sterling.

So I spread them around on the charcoal block and heated them
sequentially. That meant that the first ones had cooled a bit before
they were all dumped into water. The annealing was variable. Some
were quite stiff, and the softest ones were still a lot harder than I
had expected. Since AS is more ductile and malleable than traditional
sterling, I must not have annealed the rings properly.

How do you anneal AS? I.e., does it matter how quickly it is heated,
or how long it is held at annealing temperature? Is quenching
necessary, and does it have to be done as soon as the red glow
disappears?

Janet


#2
How do you anneal AS? I.e., does it matter how quickly it is
heated, or how long it is held at annealing temperature? 

Judging from the description of your annealing experience I’d say
that you’ve got to cut back and/or disperse the heat from your torch
a lot more.

With thinner wire, AS or not, you often have to heat it gently or
indirectly to avoid the problems you’re having. I use a bushy flamed
propane torch for this kind of thing, sometimes even with a flame
spreader on it to fan the flames out and get a gentler heat out over
a larger area. Another trick is to put the stuff you’re heating on
top of a mesh screen, or even two, and heat from below to break the
heat up and spread it around. Or you can heat it in a tin can but I
don’t personally like subjecting my AS to that kind of miscellaneous
oxides and such.

No offense Janet but this is pretty basic stuff. Ways to deal with
annealing thinner wire is in all the major references --I think I
could name at least 6 without even looking at my bookshelf-- so you
might want to put the torch down for a bit and hit the books. I’m
truly sorry if this sounds condescending or hurtful but RTFM does
seem to apply here.

Is quenching necessary, and does it have to be done as soon as the
red glow disappears? 

Yes quench. Yes, after the red is gone.

Again, all this stuff has been covered time and again. I’ve done it,
Marty has done it, I’m pretty sure it’s in Cynthia’s SNAG article
(which I believe Rio Grande is now hosting in addition to the copy on
her site http://www.cynthiaeid.com/argentium_1-5.html), and I’m
almost certain we’ve gone over this stuff before here so it’s in the
Archives too. It’s even in the basic fact sheet that AsCo has on
their site (ArgentiumSterling.com). Again, a little RTFM will serve
you well.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
Visit TouchMetal.com at http://www.touchmetal.com


#3

Hi Janet,

Here is an excerpt from the article that I wrote for SNAG News, which
is on my web site, www.cynthiaeid.com (There is also an updated
version at www.riogrande.com. I am working on a new article for Art
Jewelry magazine, which I think will be posted on Ganoksin.) I hope
this helps!

WORKING WITH ARGENTIUM STERLING SILVER
Tips and Procedures:

ANNEALING

Argentium Sterling has a melting point around 60 degrees lower than
regular sterling silver. Similarly, it has a lower annealing
temperature range, of 1050 F to 1150 F.

Argentium Sterling Silver displays a paler color when heated. In
practice, I find the color hard to see, and it is easy to overheat if
I anneal in a lighted room. Annealing and soldering in the dark make
it easier to avoid overheating. When that is not practical, I use
dabs of paste flux as a temperature indicator; when the flux is
fluid, but still a bit bubbly (not yet as runny as it looks when
silver solder is ready to flow) I figure the Argentium Sterling is
annealed.

Recently, Peter Johns told me that it is a good practice to use a
clean, new soldering board for Argentium, and to keep it separate
from the surfaces that are used for other metals, especially copper
alloys. This avoids the possibility of the Argentium Sterling having
its surface contaminated by oxides in the bricks, which could create
stains on the metal or other problems. Prior to this, I had not been
using fresh soldering surfaces, and had not noticed any problems. It
is sensible though, so I have now begun using a separate, labeled
soldering board for Argentium Sterling.

QUENCHING

Argentium Sterling Silver retains heat longer than standard sterling
silver. It’s important to wait for any visible red heat to disappear
from the alloy before quenching (this is best judged in a darkened
area, of course). In practice, if unable to work in the dark, then
wait a few moments for a small piece, or up to a few minutes for a
large piece. If in doubt, I suggest that it is better to wait longer
than to be impatient. The worst that will happen by waiting is that
the metal will be a bit harder. I find that it is still wonderfully
ductile and malleable, even if I air-cool it without quenching. If I
were doing soldered constructions that I did not want to warp, I
would air cool, not quench. In fact, I rarely quench any metal-it is
my general practice is to avoid shocking any metal that I am working
with-unless it is one of the gold alloys that require quenching, or
a steel tool that I am making. On the other hand, note that the
sooner the Argentium Sterling is quenched, the softer it
is-therefore, you may choose between softness and risk of
shock-cracks or warping according to the situation and your personal
sense of concern about those factors.

Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com


#4

Hello Janet,

How do you anneal AS? I.e., does it matter how quickly it is
heated, or how long it is held at annealing temperature? Is
quenching necessary, and does it have to be done as soon as the red
glow disappears?

You anneal Argentium in a similar way you would anneal regular
sterling - bring it up to temperature with a large bushy flame.
However, there are a couple of important differences. The annealing
temperature of Argentium is lower the Standard Sterling (1050 F Vs
1150 F) and the red glow that you get when annealing Argentium should
be much much paler. Bringing Argentium up to standard sterling
annealing colour would be too high. I tend to anneal in a dark
corner, so that I can see the colour change more easily.

Care also needs to be taken when quenching Argentium. Argentium’s
lower conductivity means that heat takes longer to dissipate from it.
As a result, quenching the alloy too soon after annealing can cause
stress cracks. Make sure all of the pale red heat has dissipated from
your piece. I wait longer before I quench to be on the safe side, I
tend to leave Argentium to rest for a good 20-30 seconds or so before
I quench it.

There are a couple of other tips about working with Argentium on my
website that you might find them useful:
http://www.evamartin.com/diary/data/ic_blogs/6/ Some other sources I
often refer to aRe: The official website for Argentium Sterling
Silver: www.argentiumsilver.com

Cynthia’s excellent article: www.cynthiaeid.com/Argentium_1-5.html
An article on the Society of American Silversmiths website:
www.silversmithing.com/1argentium.htm Trevor’s Blog:
www.touchmetal.com/blog/

Hope that helps,
Eva.
http://www.evamartin.com


#5

trevor,

Thank you for your comments.

I had really wanted to say the same thing but passed. RTFM! I get
really miffed at all of the stuff that ends up on this forum because
people aren’t willing to do their homework first or at all.

I am moving into Argentium. I am impressed with the malleability and
fusing! Before I ever put a torch to anything, I read your blog,
Marty’ blog, Cynthia’s article, Rio, Stuller’s tech info… the
Argentium Sterling website, and another refinery site, everything I
could find anywhere…not a lot out there yet. Then to the torch to
see for myself. After the first experiments, I went back and re-read
EVERYTHING again in light (so to speak) of what I saw under the torch
and hammer. The first project was a fabricated ring with 5 pieces, a
flush set 3mm Pink Tourmaline, and simple engraved leaves; all done
with Argentium Hard and Medium solder. Not a lick of trouble at any
point. This stuff is great, works a little differently, but not a
problem at all IF you do your HOMEWORK.

I in no way apologize for this rant. RTFM, do your homework, then
turn on the torch.

Bill Churlik
@Bill_Churlik
www.earthspeakarts.com


#6
this is pretty basic stuff...sorry if this sounds condescending or
hurtful but RTFM does seem to apply here. RTFM! I get really miffed
at all of the stuff that ends up on this forum because people
aren't willing to do their homework first or at all. 

I did read up on this topic before posting my questions. Of course
I did.

I read McCreight, the relevant Orchid archives, and the references
mentioned. But my results were not consistent with others’ results.
In fact, there were inconsistencies among these references. One
jeweler reports that AS solder flows well and has good capillary
action, while another says that ghosting and lack of fluidity are
known problems with these products. Several sources say to quench AS
as part of the annealing process; McCreight says that rapid cooling
creates a condition similar to work hardening, which would seem to be
the opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish.

So, I tried both methods to anneal AS wire and still ended up with
wire of varying temper, unlike when I anneal fine silver or
traditional sterling. Obviously I did something wrong, or at at least
different, so I posted my questions. Yes, these were elementary
techniques, but applied to a material new to market and having unique
properties. I had done the research, reading, and practice–surely
that counts as “doing your homework,” else I never would have posted.
I don’t like being the village idiot any more than most people like
the need to rant at one. Honestly, I don’t know what I was expected
to do.

Janet


#7
This stuff is great, works a little differently, but not a problem
at all IF you do your HOMEWORK. ". I thoroughly agree! 

I took a workshop this past year where one project used Argentium
Silver. The teacher was teriffic, but had not done any reading on
the metal. When the projects produced were cracking after using
sterling annealing/soldering methods, the teacher pronounced A.S. to
be “crap”. I’m so glad I waited to take a workshop with Cynthia Eid
this past weekend before passing my own judgement. Cynthia
thoroughly explained/demo’d the differences in the relationship of
heat to A.S. (and TONS of other great stuff), and then allowed us to
experiement. The atmosphere in the workshop quickly became
super-charged with enthusiasm as we saw what possibilities the metal
offers and people were producing remarkable things by the end of the
two days. It’s an apple next to an orange – I’m glad I waited to
savor the difference.

Tonya Miller


#8
I had done the research, reading, and practice--surely that counts
as "doing your homework," else I never would have posted. 

Indeed it does and in that case let me be the first to apologize.
From the nature of your questions, and the fact that no mention was
made of having done any outside research, it appeared as if you were
simply coming into this cold. I jumped to that conclusion and I hope
you’ll accept my apology for that.

I read McCreight, the relevant Orchid archives, and the references
mentioned. But my results were not consistent with others'
results. In fact, there were inconsistencies among these
references. 

That’s a key point in this discussion for several reasons, not the
least of which is that knowing that you’ve read the background
material allows us to deal with your question at a much "higher"
level. It’s one thing to be explaining to a novice how to solder,
it’s quite another to discuss specific soldering problems with a
knowledgeable and experienced person. I for one would’ve liked to
have known what background material you’d familiarized yourself with
and where you’d encountered problems with it. That puts your
question(s) in a whole different light. IMO the context of your
question is pretty critical to understanding your question.

Since you are familiar with the “reference” materials we’ve cited
previously then you’ll also know that virtually every single one of
them makes the point that Argentium Sterling (AS) is similar
but_not_the_same as regular sterling (RS). To the best of my
knowledge Tim McCreight hasn’t specifically addressed AS so his
printed material, which I own and love, isn’t particularly applicable
to your very specific AS difficulties. He’ll point you in more or
less the right direction but in order to deal with your AS issues
you’re going to have to get a lot more specific than that.

So in this new light I’d like to make a suggestion: name the
specific inconsistencies you’ve encountered in the "refence"
materials that are troubling you. Do a “Trevor says X here but Marty
says Y there” if you need to. I don’t think anyone is going to be
offended by that and I for one find the specific inconsistencies are
often where you’ll find the footy prints of the real problem. Let me
offer an example:

Some months ago Cynthia, I believe, mentioned that she was
successfully fusing AS and that it worked quite well. Previously I’d
claimed it wasn’t working. Why the inconsistency? It turned out that
she was using a hotter, compact oxy-gas flame and I was using a big,
bushy, cooler propane flame. Voila! By pinpointing and pursuing the
discrepancy we both learned something and I now had a very solid
reason for sinking some cash into getting my oxy-gas rig repaired.

The same has proven to be true more than once when it comes to
people adopting AS: flux issues, variance in AS casting procedures,
and so forth. The devil is in the details and IMO the sooner we can
zero in on the specifics the better… and the more likely you are to
get some useful insights into your particular AS difficulties.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
Visit TouchMetal.com at http://www.touchmetal.com


#9
sorry if this sounds condescending or hurtful but RTFM does seem
to apply here. 

I think this does sound hurtful-- and unacceptably rude. There is
no manual for AS, but more to the point-- call me an old fashioned
girl, but I don’t like, myself, to be told anything including even
just the “f” without the rest of the word, and I don’t think anyone
else does either.

I would respectfully submit that posts containing “rtfm” should be
edited out of this forum.

Noel


#10

sorry if this sounds condescending or hurtful but RTFM does seem to
apply here.

I think this does sound hurtful-- and unacceptably rude.... I
would respectfully submit that posts containing "rtfm" should be
edited out of this forum. 

As much as I normally hold your opinion in high regard Noel I have
to say that in this case I couldn’t disagree more. RTFM is pretty
much an accepted acronym in the Comp Sci and internet worlds and no
one normally intends, nor usually takes, offense. Ditto (more or
less) with SNAFU and a host of others. I’m sorry if this offends
you… but there you go I guess.

On a personal note I’ll say this: the day that something like this
becomes grounds for “editing” posts out of Orchid is the day I start
looking for another forum. There are things other people in the
forum routinely say, and assume is acceptable, which I don’t happen
to like much or agree with either, but I don’t assume that that’s
grounds for calling for the censor to get to work. “Vive la
difference” is what I remind myself. Perhaps that’s not your style
but I have some confidence that it’s not unfamiliar to our
moderators.

And while we’re at it I’d like to mention that I’ve received a few
rather nice letters from our fellow Orchidians, people whom I’m sure
you’d include in your own list of respected members, in support of
my bringing up the RTFM issue. It turns out I may have been a bit
hasty to have done so but the point is that it did appear as if
that advice applied to the case at hand. It most certainly has
applied in other similar cases in the not too distant past here on
Orchid.

There *is* no manual for AS.... 

Again we differ. AsCo itself provides a rather useful “Technical
Guide” in PDF format which can be found at their home site
(ArgentiumSterling.com). Our own Cynthia Eid has written an
exceptionally useful and informative document which was presented at
SNAG and is now available at both her site
(http://www.cynthiaeid.com/argentium_1-5.html) and off of Rio
Grande’s home page
(http://www.riogrande.com/images/ArgentiumSterlingSilver.pdf). These
two documents together must surely be considered essential reference
material for AS. If you add the informal available on the
blogs, my own and Marty’s (http://argexp.blogspot.com/), I think
you’re starting to get a pretty good body of directly accessible
knowledge on AS and it’s related issues. And if you add the
considerable amount of AS-related material in the Orchid archives I
think the case for a body of reference and instructional information
on AS becomes pretty convincing.

When it comes right down to it what more do you want? More of the
same to be sure but the body of material written and readily
available on AS is similar in content, if not in bulk, as to what is
readily available for other alloys with the notable exception of
reference materials like phase diagrams and the like. Not that those
would’ve answered the questions at hand anyway but so be it.

My point is that there’s a lot of good material on AS out there and
anyone wanting to get up to speed on the subject would be well
advised to have at it because it does in fact comprise "the manual"
on the subject to date. And it grows daily. I can think of no good
reason to ignore or dismiss this.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
Visit TouchMetal.com at http://www.touchmetal.com