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Fusing argentium sheet


#1

Hello!

My first post!

I’m new to working with sheet and having a grand time! I tried to
fuse a small flower cut out (26 ga Argentium) to a cuff (20 ga
Argentium) last night, with no luck. I used a small torch the first
time and somehow cut the petals off the flower (and the base of the
flower didn’t fuse). Then I tried a larger propane torch, again,
heating the centre of the flower, as well as trying to heat from
different sides (behind the petals). Not much happened. So then I
tried sitting the flower on a thin piece of 26 ga argentium and
melted the whole flower (didn’t fuse either).I had sanded both pieces
lightly before trying to fuse them. Should I have been trying to heat
the large piece (the cuff) more? Or should I be using a heavier gauge
for the flower?

Thanks so much in advance,
Ros


#2

Glad you posted, keep asking questions, that is what is the strength
of Orchid!

Fusing argentium is a tricky venture. Fusing any formed pieces is
begging to have the unsupported pieces break off while the flat piece
don’t get up to fusing temperature. That is because the pieces
standing up, like I imagine your flower is, heat up much more quickly
than the base of the bracelet did. Argentium is brittle when heated
to fusing temps. I have lots of welding practice with steel, fusing
is welding in other words. I would think that to attach a flower to a
bracelet soldering would be better or riveting. Fusing any sheet
argentium is best done flat piece to flat piece or butt joints since
the sagging that occurs when the sheets heat is enough to cause the
argentium to break when heated. I have been able to fuse sheets
stacked on top of each other, overlay. I have been very successful in
fusing wires but constructed pieces or pieces that have height I
wouldn’t think would do too well for fusing.

I have found that pieces which need to be adjusted whole soldering
are best done with regular sterling but, I have also had success
moving argentium when it is a certain temp, which I cannot measure.
It can be pushed or adjusted while hot but great care must be taken
and there seems to be a temp range that this is best done at. Keep
experimenting, it’s fun, no?

Sam Patania, Tucson


#3

When trying to put different weights together, soldering can be a
touchy task. I have from time to time attaches light weight silver
tubing to the light item, maybe two to keep centered and used the
tubes like rivets. Drill the heavier piece to tube side fit carefully
and leave 2 mm above surface and burnish the tubing to tighten to
main piece. many older pieces of jewelry use this when torch might
destroy the work. It is easier to solder tubing to the light part and
rivet has no fire scale. Polish every thing before riveting.


#4

Thank you Neil - excellent and helpful advice, which I will digest
and try to follow. Before receiving your replay, I tried fusing a 24
ga sheet Argentium flower to the 20 ga sheet Argentium cuff
yesterday, tipped over the cuff in the process and ‘broke’ a bit of
the cuff. What do you think would happen if I turned the cuff over,
onto the flower and heated that way? Skilled with a torch I am not,
unless one counts enthusiasm as a skill.

Thanks again
Ros


#5

Ok, I am taking a risk here, putting my noobie neck on the line,
but… Argentium is a strange creature, as previously mentioned. It
can be brittle, and I have had it “pop” due to the heat differential
while using a tweezers soldering for example. One needs to develop a
skill set when working with it, IMHO. As for flipping the piece…
maybe, but, it sounds like you may be in over your head a bit in
desire. IMHO, torch/heat control would be critical, you might want to
consider a cold join of some sort. Can you blend the aesthetics of
the join to the piece at hand? It is hard, depending on one’s skill
level, to fuse a formed object using different gauges, again IMHO. I
have to be honest, Argentium is the only "precious(?) metal I’ve
worked. I feel that I may spend my life and never “master” it… but
then again… I enjoy its’ challenge and the reward in the end. As
always… practice, practice, practice, practice, and when you think
you have it down, practice some more! peace


#6
Skilled with a torch I am not,unless one counts enthusiasm as a
skill. 

Heat control is the basis of success with fusing and soldering. In
my opinion, it makes sense to learn soldering on traditional
sterling, which is more forgiving at soldering temps than Argentium.
Once you are comfortable with that, move to the harder jobs like
fusing or soldering Argentium.

In addition, the job you describe doesn’t sound like a natural for
fusing, unless you are trying to applique’ a flat piece to the
bracelet, which could be done before shaping the cuff, but even then,
it would be easier to solder.

If the flower is 3D, then I agree with the poster who suggested
riveting. The rivets can be anything from very decorative to
impossible to see at all!

Life is hard enough without doing things in a harder way than
necessary!

Moel


#7

Hi Rosamind,

Congrats on your first post!

When fusing or soldering any metal, it is always important to get
both pieces of metal to the same temperature. So, in this case, I
would apply the heat in a circle around the flower, and perhaps
behind it, but no heat at all directly onto the small flower.

If you want to learn how to fuse Argentium Silver, I recommend Ronda
Coryell’s first AS video. In the meantime, here is a summary:

FUSING ARGENTIUM SILVER By Cynthia Eid

Argentium Sterling is wonderfully easy to fuse. My understanding of
why AS is easier to fuse than Fine Silver is that because FS is a
pure metal, it has a very short temperature range at which it melts
and fuses. Alloys have wider ranges of melting temperatures, and AS
has a very wide range of temperatures at which it melts and fuses.
The large temperature range makes AS fairly “forgiving” for fusing,
compared to most other silver alloys.

Process Summary:

[] Prepare the joint so that the metal is clean, and meets well.

[] Flux the joint.

-My favorite flux for this is Rio Grande's My-T-Flux, but
Battern's works too, and when I taught in England last summer, I
thought that Auflux worked fine. 

-Though it is possible to fuse dirty metal that does not touch
well, without flux, those are not ideal conditions for consistent
success. 

[] Use a heat-reflective soldering surface.

-- My favorite is solderite; Ronda's favorite is charcoal.
Honeycomb blocks and firebricks are also quite heat reflective,
but the rough surfaces they have may have an effect on the
surface of the AS. 

-- It is best to use a block that is used only for AS, to avoid
contaminating the surface, thus preserving the
tarnish-resistance. 

[] Do what is necessary for you to see the joint well when it flows.

-- I like to set things up so that the joint will be near my eye
level. I do this by raising the soldering surface, or lowering
the chair, or both. 

-- I like to wear a magnifier so that I can see the joint well. 

-- I like lots of light, but Ronda likes to dim the lights. What
is right for you is what works best for you. 

[] Heat the areas adjacent to the joint.

-- Be sure to use a large enough flame. I find that it is better
to use a larger flame quickly than a too-small flame for too
long. 

-- Watch the flux-it is a good indicator of temperature. 

-- Here is something I learned from Ronda Coryell: When the flux
separates into tiny droplets, then you know that the metal is
almost at fusing temperature. 

[] When the metal fuses, the joint looks to me like it has been
soldered

--- I see a "fillet" of molten metal at the joint. That is what
I watch for, whether I am fusing a joint in a ring, or a granule
to sheet. The surface of the silver often melts and looks liquid.
Some people say it looks like mercury. 

[] Do not be afraid to bring it back to fusing temperature, in order
to be sure that you have a good joint. It is also perfectly ok to
re-do the whole thing after pickling and rinsing well, if the joint
did not fuse well.

[] Remember that AS is fragile when red-hot.

-- Allow it to cool to at least black-hot before touching it
with tweezers. 

-- Both quenching and air-cooling are okay. 

  ---- If you quench, it is okay if the metal sizzles when it
  hits the water. If there is a more explosive reaction, then the
  metal was too hot, which may make the metal more brittle. 

  ---- Fully air-cooled silver is not much harder than silver
  that has been quenched at black heat, in my opinion. Therefore,
  I recommend patience before quenching. 

[] Pickle, rinse well, and finish the piece. (See other articles for
finishing tips to maximize tarnish-resistance.)

Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com/
(leaving for England tonight—demonstrating AS at the Association for
Contemporary Jewellery, and then teaching at the jewelry school in
Birmingham.)


#8
Before receiving your replay, I tried fusing a 24 ga sheet
Argentium flower to the 20 ga sheet Argentium cuff yesterday,
tipped over the cuff in the process and 'broke' a bit of the cuff. 

I just answered the fusing question you asked the other day, but
something else which occurred to me is that it would probably be
better to fuse the elements onto the cuff bracelet while the cuff is
flat, then bend it to the cuff shape afterwards. Otherwise it will
be difficult to support the cuff, as you’ve already found.

Helen
UK


#9

Hi Ros,

Should I have been trying to heat the large piece (the cuff) more?
Or should I be using a heavier gauge for the flower? 

You’ve answered your own question. When soldering/fusing one piece
to another, you have to get both pieces up to the soldering/fusing
temperature at the same time. With any type of silver (including
Argentium), it is more difficult than gold, for example, because
silver is such a good conductor of heat, so it “sucks” the heat away
from the area in question. With gold, you can heat the pieces more
locally than with silver, so don’t need to heat the whole piece. But
with any metal, where you are soldering/fusing two pieces of very
different mass, you have to supply MUCH more heat to the larger
piece, than you do to the smaller piece, and (with silver) heat the
whole of the piece, not just the area where fusing will take place.
If I was doing it, I would avoid the small, thinner gauge flower, for
a good while, and heat the main cuff bracelet from underneath, with a
large, bushy flame, until it is at fusing temperature. Sometimes when
doing that, it is enough to get the smaller piece up to temperature,
just because it is in contact with the larger piece which is being
heated. But mostly, just at the last minute, you have to quickly move
the torch flame up to the smaller piece, after the larger piece is
already at temperature, then hopefully the two will fuse
successfully.

As has been mentioned by someone else, Argentium sterling is quite
fragile at fusing temperature, so everything needs to be supported
well and pieces not disturbed whilst hot. Also mentioned, was the
fact that soldering may be an easier option than fusing your two
pieces together. But if done properly, supplying enough heat to the
larger piece first, fusing two bits of Argentium sterling together
is not that difficult. I think it’s just down to the fact that the
two components are of vastly different mass, and you weren’t aware of
the fact that you need to supply far more heat to the larger piece,
than you do to the smaller piece.

I hope it works for you Ros.

Helen
UK


#10
Fusing argentium is a tricky venture. Fusing any formed pieces is
begging to have the unsupported pieces break off while the flat
piece don't get up to fusing temperature. That is because the
pieces standing up, like I imagine your flower is, heat up much
more quickly than the base of the bracelet did. Argentium is
brittle when heated to fusing temps. 

When I want to fuse Argentium that is standing up to a sheet of
Argentium, I try to approach it with the torch from below. Put the
sheet of Argentium on titanium sheet and heat the titanium from
below. This keeps the Argentium from slumping. Also, sometimes I’ll
fuse Argentium to .999 or regular sterling if I’m really concerned
about a feature slumping. Argentium fuses easily to anything. It just
depends how important it is to fuse something versus soldering it.

Jamie


#11

Hi Ros,

I’ve been doing a lot of work with Argentium lately and I can
definitely sympathize with your problem. I’ve had most success using
argentium when I can do the heated work flat and then bend it
afterwards.

I can foresee a few problems with what you’re attempting.

(1) You need to get the cuff and the flower to exactly the same
temperature which means that you’re going to have to put a lot more
heat into the cuff which is a higher guage than the flower. There
are a few ways to do this, some easier than others, but they all have
pitfalls. I’ve had some success when working on cuffs by putting a
piece of charcoal under and inside the cuff. It concentrates the
heat and helps you to heat it from both above and below at the same
time, almost creating a kiln effect.

(2) Your flower is going to want to wilt. This is probably the
hardest problem to solve. Unless it is very small in which case it
may not pose such a big problem. One thought would be for you to heat
the cuff until you see the flash that signifies fusing then very
quickly position the flower (while taking your torch momentarily off)
and then reheat the whole piece until the flower fuses. That should
keep you from overheating the flower.

(3) Try the above method with the cuff piece flat – attach the
flower, then form.

(4) You might want to try making the flower in fine silver rather
than argentium. No firescale, but it won’t wilt in the same way.

(5) I also think the riveting idea might be your best bet.

Good luck!!
Best,
Hilary


#12

Thanks everyone for your advice and thoughts. Riveting does seem
like the sensible approach…but…say I were absolutely determined
to try, thoughts about using something like hide glue so that I could
heat the cuff while it is on its side? Without the flower falling
off the cuff? I don’t know anything about hide glue and wonder if
burning off in a kiln is a necessity? Fusing when the cuff is flat
would most likely causeproblems when forming the cuff? I had done an
anticlastic shape, using all of the wrong tools, of course, and a
flower would have been pounded off in the process, no doubt. Maybe,
for strength, fusing the flower is not the best idea. But for a
pendant? Hmmmm…Again, I’d be interested in hearing thoughts on
using hide glue to keep the flower from falling off. Thanks so much
for taking the time to respond! Much, much appreciated.


#13

I have experimented with using something called “Extra Hands”. Rio
Grande carries it. It is reusable also. It looks a bit like paper
mache. If you use it to hold your piece, you should be able to spot
fuse it. It will take a hotter flame as the Extra Hands can be a bit
of a heat sink. Rio also carries something called Soldering Clay
that is like soldering investment but it sets up very quickly.

ronda coryell

(currently still in the hospital, but now able t use my hands and
check Orchid… sure have missed it)


#14

Thank you so much everyone for your comments and advice! I will spend
the next few days reading and rereading the posts. I’ve ordered some
My-T-Flux and Ronda C’s first video. I’m also planning to order some
Argentium solder and try playing with that too. I’ll research
soldering surfaces a bit more. Currently using a flat stone like
thing, reminds me of a stone for baking bread. I am keeping the
copper items separate by turning the stone over when using for
copper. Yes, the very basic flower was meant to be 3-D, though it is
looking a bit wilted with my attempts. I will hunt thru my scrap bin
for my next victim. I have managed to fuse Argentium, alas, by
accident, and can certainly attest to its strength! I bent, then
broke, the tip off a small screw driver, trying to get the piece
apart, to no avail. I have found that Argentium wire will stick
nicely to copper sheet, though I suppose that since copper conducts
heat so well, it was easier to cook the piece from underneath and
bring the Argentium up to a melting temperature. I have noticed the
mercury like look to Argentium, usually a split second before I melt
the piece. I find this to be absolutely fascinating, and am very
grateful for this forum and advice received.

Ros (and bon voyage Cynthia - sounds like an exciting trip!)


#15

Ronda,

Welcome Home. Everywhere I see you post brings a big grin to my face.
That you are able to communicate and use your hands shows the depth
of your perseverance in conquering your GB. You go girl, nothing can
hold you back.

Hugs,
Terrie


#16

Hi,

I fuse FS only, I haven’t ventured off to AS yet.

However, I’ve discovered purposeful heat sinks are extremely handy.
I have various sizes of metal rods that I use and I carefully lay
them down on the pieces I don’t want to melt away into oblivion when
I’m trying to fuse a different part of what I’m making.

I haven’t seen a picture of what the original poster is trying to
fuse, but it sounded like the flower may have been vertical to the
cuff bracelet? if that is the case, perhaps she could you a 3rd hand,
on purpose, to draw away some of the heat, to prevent the flower to
melting completely. I’ve never used a 3rd hand, or something quite
that large, as a heat sink, but it sounds like it may be warranted in
this case.

Also, someone else suggested using Fine Silver instead of Argentium
Silver for the flower, due to its unpredictable behavior at high
temperatures. I would tend to agree, in a situation like this.

Just my 2 cents worth.

I’m self taught, so if I got something wrong, I apologize, please
don’t lash me with a wet noodle :slight_smile:

Sandra B

P.S. I donated to Orchid, and I am going to donate again next month.
Have you???


#17
currently still in the hospital, but now able t use my hands and
check Orchid.. sure have missed it) 

Sorry to hear you’re in the hospital, glad you have a laptop to help
pass the time!

Elaine
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com


#18

Not to hijack a thread… but WELCOME BACK RONDA. You have been
missed and many of us have had you in our thoughts and prayers.

Loyal Friend and Student,
Leslie


#19

I really like your suggestion of purposeful heat sinks, Sandra. I
tried fusing a simple ring tonight and failed, so I’m obviously doing
something differently than in the past (and by differently, I mean
wrong). Will review and try on some scrap bits.

Ros


#20

You know you can rent Ronda’s DVDs at
http://smartflix.com/store/video/6605/Argentium-Granulation.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Argentium and then some.
Just an FYI in case you didn’t know already.

Michele