I’ve made two attempts this week at a ring consisting of a wide band
with small granules evenly spaced in a lattice-like pattern all over
it. And rather than continue my trial and error frustration method of
solving this problem, I thought I’d appeal to all those more
knowledgable that I am. As of now, I haven’t been attempting the fine
silver fusing kiln and torch method – I’ve seen this demonstrated on
a video, but never tried it myself. If that’s what it takes, I’ll go
for it, but I’m hoping there’s another more straight forward (well,
less blindly experimenting) way.
What I’ve done so far: First i cut a width of silver for the band.
Then, using calipers I cross off a grid that will guide my palcement
of the granules. Then I make a divut in the places where the
granules should go (ok, i admit to having gotten lazy the last time
and only put in some of the divets so maybe that is part of the
problem) – then I form the ring, then I go through and with the pick
soldering method attach a tiny piece of solder to the area, pick up a
granule with tweezers, set tweezers on the melting solder and wait
for it to leap into place. If it’s off, I grab it and move it around
wiith the tweezers – a bit precarious, but I got close. The trouble
is post- pickle and tumble about 20% of the granules fall off and in
the midst of the soldering, some of them move just enough to annoy
Should I be soldering the granules when the ring is still a flat
band? Might be easier to get them to stay in exactly the right place,
but on the other hand, not sure how I’d manage to form it then.
Should I be using yellow ochre on each granule once it’s soldered?
I’ve heard that the firescale can be almost insurmountable with
ochre and sterling, but then again, I’m not opposed to having it cast
once it’s done since I’m really nervous about the granules coming off
even post tumbling which has happened to me in the past – I don’t
want my customer to go through that.
I’ve done things like this in high karat gold and it seemed to be
much easier possibly because the metal fused even without anything
fancy like a kiln.
Should I procede as I have been but with fine silver and then have
it cast into sterling?
Thanks in advance for any advice:)
If I understand your question, the approach I have taken in soldering
granules to either a curved or flat surface is to give them a landing
pad to settle with solder. It’s a project I give students during my
five day soldering workshops in gold, to give students confidence in
soldering gold without worrying how much it costs. Here are the
find a round ball bur that matches the diameter of your granule
very carefully, grind a small concave area to match the convex
surface area of your granule
flow a tiny, and I mean miniscule chip of solder and flow it into
the concave surface. This allows maximum contact between two
surfaces which will stick together very securely. Think of trying to
solder a beach ball onto the floor. The contact point is very small,
but grinding a receptor spot creating maximum fit will make those
tiny spheres stick beautifully. When you place your granule on this
area, once the solder flows, it will suck that granule right to the
You can’t get lazy with this, you have to be persistent and make
every one exactly the same to create a strong connection.
- solder. If you have wire solder, roll it very flat with a rolling
mill OR, with sheet solder cut a tiny chip. You can always add more;
it is impossible to add less.
This can be done when the ring is already formed and is easier
actually. Just work slowly and methodically around your ring. This is
good practice for soldering and when you finish your ring, you will
be an uber-solder expert!
Try fusing Argentium granules on the flat band. I have been very
successful with forming after fusing.
For an overview on how I do AS fusing, I have a handout on my
website. However, I highly recommend Ronda Coryell’s video(s).
Thanks so much for the advice! Completely makes sense - one question
- do I need to worry about the granules falling off once the ring is
turned for another row to be soldered? And also - do you place the
flux before you flow the solder and then place the granule much like
sweat soldering so as to prevent the granules from jitterbugging
their way out of their seats once the flux boils? Thanks again!
I make bands like this (I think, since I have some trouble
understanding your description).
First, I make the ring from sheet. I fuse the ends together - it’s
not really necessary to fuse the ends, but I am used to it now. Then
I make two’ washers’ from square wire and fuse them to the ring
(using eutectic solder is good too - it’s easy to make: 80 per cent
silver; 20 per cent copper). I paint the surface of the ring with
Blue-Stix - enamelists use it to position cloisonne wire to beads and
vertical surfaces - but any organice glue will do and put the
granules on the ring with a brush. Then I paint the granules with a
copper solution (it’s easy to make) and a bit of borax. It’s
essential to let it dry completely. Then fire it, using a torch with
a large, non-oxidising flame on a charcoal block. The granules will
not come off.
For a reason I do not understand, it seems to be easier to do in
gold than in silver.
For an overview on how I do AS fusing, I have a handout on my
website. However, I highly recommend Ronda Coryell’s video(s).
Great! Thanks so much – I’ll check out the handout and I’ve already
put the DVD into my shopping cart:) I’m very excited to try – I’m
thinking a cuff might be in order as well:)
Hi Alicia - Thanks so much! One question – what is the copper
solution and how do I make it? Also, (excuse my ignorance), what is
a non-oxidizing flame? I have an acetylene set-up – does this
If I’ve understood your design correctly (lattice pattern where all
the granules will be touching each other in a row to create the
pattern), I would recommend that you do the following:
Do your layout exactly as you have done thus far.
Instead of creating individual seats for each granule (very time
intensive!), simply use a grave to create a channel in which they
Coat the channel with just a bit of solder (you may need to recut
the groove to eliminate any rough areas where the solder may have
built up or not flowed as well as you would have liked.
Finally, dilute your flux with distilled water (no more than
50-50) and use it to “paint” your granules onto the groove.
Let dry and heat it up. If all goes well, the solder in the
grooves should catch your granules and the diluted flux should stop
them from “bubbling” out of place. With any luck, you should be all
Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions and
I’ll do my best to answer them.
Erich C. Shoemaker
It sounds like you are having to do way too much work to make this
ring.You should try Argentium as it is very user friendly for those
wanting to fuse. Fine Silver Granulation is sooooo much harder. And
it takes a kiln and torch, then is still Fine Silver when you are
done. And making divots and soldering sounds tricky.
When granulating a thick, wide band in Argentium, it is much easier
to do as much decorating flat as you can. Though I usually do
wirework flat then bend and decorate with granules after the ring is
shaped. Use a charcoal block and coat everything with flux before
fusing. There are some dvd clips on youtube that might help. just
look up argentium or ronda coryell and it should bring them up.
I do sterling and/or 18k gold granulation. I use to apply the
granules in the round but found that with enough support, I can fuse
a ring flat and then bend it.
I fuse a few 20 gauge wires to a 24 gauge sheet first. Wires that
mostly run parallel to the direction that the band will be bent work
best when first getting the hang of this technique. These can also
act as a frame for the edges of the band, which prevents granules
from being knocked off when worn and also is essential when working
with such thin gauge sheet to give the edge an appropriate thickness.
I use spit (redneck metalsmithing) to hold the wires and granules in
place on the sheet. The granules are then not only fused to the
sheet but also to the sides of the wire. The greater their surface
contact, the better they wear. Nylon ring bending pliers are a great
way to bend the band without worrying about deforming the granules.
You can see a video of me doing this technique on a flat piece on
HGTV’s show That’s Clever. The only catch is that the powers that be
at that network vetoed the spit and edited it out, so you’ll have to
imagine me applying some every time that I place more wires or
granules on the piece. No, I don’t actually spit on the piece. I lick
a dedicated fine brush. It’s lightly less gross.
wow! now that’s one i never heard (the spit technique:)) – can’t
wait to watch the video – i also just checked out your website -
i’m in love with your eastern repoussee pieces - truly gorgeous. you
might have just inspired me to get my pitch back out and have a go.
(just as soon as i finish these bands!) thanks so much - hilary
oh my goodness! advice from the much admired granule queen! i’m
overwhelmed:) i just ordered one of your dvds a couple days ago to
assist with this very project. i already have your fine silver dvds,
though i was hesitant to use fine silver for the rings since i hate
when they get all bent out of shape. i’ve been meaning to try
argentium for a long time as fire scale is my most loathed of nemeses
(the absolute only part of jewelry making that i detest is making
those sandpaper crazy glue tubes to get rid of firescale - crazy glue
and i just don’t see eye to eye very much of the time) - but i was
intimidated since i’m not familiar with its properties and i’ve never
seen it worked with. hence why i ordered your dvd. thanks so much!
Hi Erich - Thanks so much for the ideas! I’d never thought of
diluting the flux - what a huge difference that will make. As it was,
I was holding each granule in place with tweezers while waiting for
the solder to flow because they kept rolling out of place when the
flux boiled. Not very efficient!! (And not very good for keeping the
granules round either). The band I’m working on right now has the
granules not touching, so I don’t think the channel approach will
work, but the next band in my sketch book has a solid line of
granules so I’m pretty sure you just saved me a ton of frustration!
Thanks very much!
In a book called ‘Metals Technic’, John Cogswell has a very good
‘how to’ guide on granulation with sterling silver. Link attached:
thanks so much! One question -- what is the copper solution and how
do I make it? Also, (excuse my ignorance), what is a non-oxidizing
flame? I have an acetylene set-up -- does this qualify?
Hi Hilary, The copper solution can be made in many ways. Dip some
copper scrap in nitric acid for 3 seconds and put it away without
rinsing. A blue copper oxide will develop within hours which you then
can scrape off. If you don’t have nitric acid, boil the copper in
water with plenty of kitchen salt for 2 mins or so and then put the
copper aside in a wet bowl - the copper needs contact with air so do
not submerge it and the blue stuff will develop soon enough. You get
a non-oxidising flame by using more gaz than oxygen - a bushy flame
which does not hiss. The flame should cover the whole ring - it is
important. Just heat it up till the granules flash.
I've been meaning to try Argentium for a long time as fire scale is
my most loathed of nemeses - but i was intimidated since i'm not
familiar with its properties and i've never seen it worked with.
hence why i ordered your dvd. thanks so much
I took a workshop last weekend on Fusing and Granulation with
Argentium at the Mesa Art Center. With the difficulty I previously
had with fusing fine silver, I decided that a workshop was warranted.
I was pleasantly surprised at how easy Argentium is to fuse (either
to itself or fine silver). Clean metal, Firescoff flux (just a dab on
the granules or where fusing), and heat until the metal gets that
shimmering look (like mercury). No copper needed. The Firescoff acts
like glue for the granules, especially when it concentrates through
evaporation. We worked on hard charcoal surfaces with the torch on
the front of the piece. Since the fusing temp is close to where
Argentium “slumps,” it’s important to keep the piece well supported.
Finally, the only “trick” to Argentium is to avoid touching it while
it’s hot. So easy. No workshop is needed, but it was fun anyway.