Hi Sue, I’m going to try and tackle the fusing part of your question,
seeing as how many others have replied about reticulation. I do
fusing quite a lot and love the technique.
There are a couple of hidden “gotchas” when fusing. The first is
that the metals need to be really clean before you start. I usually
pickle and thoroughly rinse my pieces right before sitting down to a
session of fusing – that way, I can be reasonably sure that there
aren’t any oxides hanging around to interfere with the process.
Polishing compound or grease from your fingers will also interfere.
Next, I dip all the pieces in my denatured alcohol / boric acid dip.
If I were using Prip’s flux, I’d do that instead at this point. Once
dipped, I touch the torch to the pieces and let the alcohol burn off,
leaving my nice even layer of boric on all sides of the piece. This
cleans it a bit more, but also retards / prevents firescale, which
can be a real problem when fusing silver.
Now I arrange my pieces that I’m going to work with, laying them in
a flat dish where I can easily reach them. I’ve found that fusing
seems to work a lot better on a charcoal block than on a soldering
pad or firebrick. I believe the reducing atmosphere of the charcoal
helps the fusing occur without overdue oxidation – you get a cleaner
fuse and can do more layers without pickling than otherwise. Again,
that’s my personal experience – others may have different ones.
I place my backing piece, if I’m using one, on the charcoal block,
flux it completely, and use a medium-sized flame, fairly bushy, to
bring it up to temp. Because I’m not using a Little Torch, my tip
numbers won’t correspond to yours, so I won’t confuse you with them.
Basically, I’m looking for a mid-range flame size to bring the entire
backing piece up to temp fairly quickly.
Once the backing piece is at roughly soldering temp (I can tell by
my flux), I start adding my shapes and other pieces to be fused. I
dip each one in flux before placing it, taking care to keep the
entire base piece at a steady temp, right around soldering temp. I
"sharpen" the focus of my flame at this point, and actually reduce
the flame size slightly. When I place a piece, I concentrate the
torch on the area surrounding and including that piece, until I see
the “mercury flash” around the edge of the piece that tells me it’s
fused. Once I see that, I get the flame away quickly, let that area
cool a TINY bit while getting my next piece fluxed and positioned.
When I’ve got enough fusing done, I let the piece air cool for a bit
before quenching and pickling. I don’t want to hear a “sizzle” when
it hits the water quench, basically. The thermal shock of quenching
too hot on a fused piece can actually cause pieces to rip themselves
off, if the pieces fused are of dramatically different sizes.
Working this way, I’ve done 7 or more overlapping layers before
needing to pickle, and I very rarely have a piece come loose in the
pickle. When I do have one come loose, it’s usually a sphere or odd
shape that simply didn’t have enough contact with the underlying
surfaces to bond well.
I hope this helps – it’s a fun technique to play around with once
you get the hang of it.