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Frustrated reticulation & fusing


#1

I am a self-taught silver/goldsmith. I decided to experiment with
trying to reticulate the face of a piece of 16 gauge silver. I have
a Little Torch. I used Tip #6 and a large, bushy flame. I believe I
heated the piece for at least 30 minutes and could never get the
surface melted.

Also, this weekend I decided to try fusing some pieces to a sheet to
make a bracelet. The first attempt was 22ga backing with 22ga pieces
to be fused on the surface. I could melt the pieces and make the
curl up, but I could never get the pieces to fuse to the backing. I
used #6 tip and heated evenly both front and back–moving the torch
pretty constantly. I then tried to fuse the same 22ga pieces to a
backing of 32 gauge silver. Never made it!

Do I have the wrong torch for reticulation and large-scale fusing?
What else could be wrong?

J. S. (Sue) Ellington


#2
What else could be wrong? 

Try setting your O2 and fuel pressures higher.

Marta


#3

Sue, I had the same problem (with 22 ga and the little torch). I
found excellent about reticulation at the website of
Hoover and Strong (see ‘articles’ or do a search). There is also an
article on reticulation in their catalog, but the article on the net
is better and more into detail. It worked for me. Regards, Will


#4
    I decided to experiment with trying to reticulate the face of a
piece of 16 gauge silver. I believe I heated the piece for at least
30 minutes and could never get the surface melted. 

Reticulation:

  1. Use an alloy higher in copper than sterling; ideal for high
    relief is 82% silver. The higher the silver content, the less
    "disturbed" the surface.

  2. Deplete the surface of the silver by repeated annealing,
    pickling and brass brushing, until you have a dead white surface,
    usually 5-7 times. Do not pickle off the top surface or brass brush
    the last time, only anneal in fire and quench in water.

  3. Use thinner gauges of metal, 20-24 ga.

  4. For the final part, put it on a surface that will reflect the
    heat, such as firebrick. If you happen to have a small trinket kiln,
    this is an excellent way to bring the whole piece up to the proper
    heat.

  5. Start with a bushy flame to bring the piece up to heat (first
    red). When you notice the surface getting a sheen, then get a highly
    oxidized flame with a very sharp, pointed flame. “Paint” with the tip
    of the flame, moving it closer to the surface where you want hills,
    and pulling it away to slow down the process.

    Also, this weekend I decided to try fusing some pieces to a
sheet to make a bracelet. Never made it! 

Again, depleting the surfaces to be fused helps. Try using fine
silver wire for decorations. This metal will also need to be brought
up to first red before fusing happens, concentrating your heat on the
base plate, but there is a fine line between fusing and meltdown. Be
ready to cool the metal off quickly with a quick puff of your breath.

Good luck!


#5

Dear Sue, As far as reticulating sterling, you have to anneal the
sheet a number of times (at least 6 as I’ve read in a few books) to
build up a layer of fine silver on the surface of the sheet.
Subsequently, reticulation will occur as you heat the sheet and the
inner layer of sterling (which has a lower melting point than the
fine silver on the surface) is brought to its melting point. The
metals cool at differing rates and causes the surface to ripple.
It’s not easy to control, but is fascinating to watch. “The complete
Metalsmith” by Tim McCreight, and “The Design and Creation of
Jewelry” by Robert Von Neumann both cover reticulation, both gold
and silver, in detail. I can’t help you with the fusing as I’ve only
done that by accident (except for fine silver granulation), but the
topic is also covered in McCreight’s book.

Gail Middleton


#6

Hi Sue, The 16 gauge may be a little thick for the reticulation
pattern to show its self quickly. Did you depletion guild the piece
first? 16g probably needs at least 6-8 passes before there would be
enough fine silver to start the reticulation process. Metals
Technique edited by Tim McCreight has good instructions for
reticulation as well as the Oppi Utrecht “bible” I used both when
teaching my self reticulation. The other things I have found is to
have a draft free area, and use a brand new solderite pad or
charcoal block and use it only for reticulation. A very soft bushy
flame also helps. My explanations are not very technical as I am
mostly self taught as well. Reticulation is the best science project
ever…too cool. Good luck

Rene


#7

Sue, Before answering your question directly, more is
needed.

First, 16 ga is good thickness to reticulate though I prefer 18 or
20 ga. My real question though is how large is the surface area? If
its maybe 2 or three sq inches the Little Torch should handle it very
well with a #6 tip. I use a #5 on such pieces with no problem. If it
is over 3 squares…forget it and go to a larger acetylene torch.

Secondly, what alloy are you using? Sterling will reticulate but
you must use a concentration of borax powder on the surface to
preclude even the slightest oxidation. Best is to use an alloy with
slightly more copper in it. You can purchase reticulation silver
sheet from some manufacturers or make it yourself. I usually melt
sterling scrap and add a few grams of pure copper then roll it out.

Whether using sterling or reticulation alloy, you have to carefully
prepare the surface though heating/cleaning. I sent the procedure to
Orchid about a month ago…if you can’t find it in archives, let me
know off-line.

Do not use a large bushy flame. Use a tight oxidizing flame. This
brings the surface quickly up to heat and, when molten, you can use
the force of the flame to push the surface around as you like it.

The same goes for fusing. The plate ga sounds a bit thin to do good
fusing though and, in any event, ‘large scale’ fusing is not for a
Little Torch. Again, prepare the surface, keep all good and clean,
etc. I like to do reticulation and fuse items into the reticulate
simultaneously…gives some great effects.

Check the archives and get back to me if you still have problems.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut1.


#8

Not only must you anneal the silver but it must be pickled to a
white color as well. This etches away the copper from the surface
leaving the pure silver on top and the sterling alloy beneath.

Marilyn Smith


#9

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.

Karen Goeller
@Karen_Goeller