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Fusing Sterling to Sterling


#1

Hello All,

All this talk of fusing jump rings in Fine Silver has got me in the
mood to do a couple of cuff bracelets in sterling. So far with not
so successful results. I had done this technique in my college
jewelry fabrication class, but have forgotten a few tricks I guess.

I am using 18ga Sterling sheet 3/4"w and 6" in length for the base
of the bracelet and I am then lying 5 mm to 10 mm squares of 18ga
Sterling on top of the base piece, and I am fluxing all surfaces
with a paste flux. I have laid the bracelet out on a fire brick,
which seemed to work as a giant heat sink and then on a mesh screen,
which has worked the best so far. I believe we had used a charcoal
block in class, however I do not have one long enough on hand and
was thinking of using a soft ceramic block, so the piece lies
flatter then it does on the mesh screen for less of a chance of it
distorting to the shape of the screen when heated, since the screen
may have a bow or two in it.

My first attempt seemed to go well until I started filling and
polishing the bracelet and noticed that there was a lot of pitting
in my applied squares. I stack the squares 2 to 3 high and then file
them down to give it a heavy nugget or organic look. And only apply
one layer of squares at a time during fusing. So, I fuse one layer
of squares then pickle clean flux apply a second layer of squares
and repeat the said process until I achieve the desired height of
squares for carving. I also make sure I bring the entire piece up to
the same temperature at the same time.

My second attempt seemed to go a lot smoother, again until filing
and polishing when I noticed that some seams where still visible
between layers meaning that the pieces where not completely fused. I
did not bring the piece up as high in temperature believing that I
overheated the first piece, which might have caused the pitting.
Anyway in my aggravation at this point I tried to re-fuse the piece,
accept I forgot to apply a flux or fire protection to the piece and
got a bad torch texture on the entire piece, which is now scrap.

My question then is, do you heat the piece until you see the silver
change to the glassy state and then remove the flame? I can see as
the silver comes up to this temperature and the whole piece is
coming up to this state at the same time. Or is this already to hot
for the piece, which caused the pitting of the first bracelet. Also,
what is the best surface to attempt this process on; a charcoal
block, a mesh screen, ceramic block or fire brick?

I know it is torch and heat control, but if someone can tell me at
what state during the heating process the silver actually becomes
fused? Does it have to reach this glassy flowing state? It would
greatly help me in my efforts.

Thank You in advance for any tips,
Joe


#2

Hi, Joe, I am fairly new to fusing, but have been doing a fair
amount of it. You’re right, it’s all heat control. I prefer to use
much thinner metal, and generally like the texture, which makes it
easier, but do some that is thicker and smooth. I found this
virtually impossible with my Smith acetylene/air torch, but now use a
Meco Midget propane/oxy set-op. I do all heating from the front, with
a large bushy flame-- a large tip set fairly low-pressure. The trick
seems to be to heat the backing as much as possible, keeping the
torch moving all the time. The fusing takes place when the surface of
the backing begins to “sweat”, just short of melting. With great
attention, the sweat is brushed toward the top piece, and you should
see the liquid run along the seam just like solder. Beware-- the
center is not always where the action is. While you are staring just
in front of your flame, the workpiece may actually be hottest in a
circle half an inch or so away! You may have better luck using a back
layer that is a step lighter than the added pieces. If you pickle
between, be sure to neutralize with baking soda. But, believe it or
not, you don’t need flux or pickle until you’re done! I learned
fusing at the Revere Academy, from Marne Ryan, and we never pickled
until we were done for the day, and we only fluxed when fusing gold
to silver. It may also help you to run each layer lightly through
the roller mill after fusing it. I have to ask, though-- if you don’t
want the texture so unique to fusing, why not solder or even cast?
Pretty tough to do multiple layers without getting texture. HTH

–No�l


#3

Hey Noel, Let me first congratulate you on your awesome Flashy Tea
piece you created there, it looks great as does your other works
posted in your gallery here on Orchid. And thanks for your advice, I
will try the fusing process that you have suggested. I did not
realize that a texture was part of the fusing technique. Is the
texture like a torch texture, which kind of looks like sandpaper for
lack of a better description? My professor never seemed to get a
texture on his pieces when he demonstrated this process, however he
has over 25 years under his belt working with a torch. Nor did he
mention that fused pieces were to have a texture, it was actually
thought of as an unsuccessful piece if it became textured. We were
taught using a Smith acetylene/air set up, since that is all the
university had for us to use. And I was taught to fuse by applying
the flux to all the pieces on all sides and heating from the top
with an acetylene/air torch in circular a motion bringing the entire
piece up to temperature at the same time. I think the only reason
for the use of the flux was to prevent the torch texture since we
were heating from the top and perhaps to help the silver flow like
solder does when fluxed. Then of course after the flux turns to
glass we then have to pickle it to remove the flux from the piece.
Believe me I would much rather eliminate the pickling process I hate
the waiting. And as far as me trying fusing instead of soldering or
casting the piece, well I guess I know I can solder the piece and I
know I can cast the piece, both of which would have been much
simpler and less frustrating I might add. But, I figured I have not
fused to many pieces, so this seemed like a good experiment for me
and to play a little. Except it turned out like that TV show on TLC
When Fun Goes Bad. The technique that you described seems to make
much more sense with the lighter gauge as a base then the one I was
taught and I will give it a whirl tomorrow. One question though, how
does running the piece through the rolling mill help in the fusing
process? Thanks Again for the info Joe


#4

Hi, Joe, Thanks for your kind words. The piece is actually “Just My
Cup Of Tea”–the thread was “flashy tea. The torch texture is one
reason to fuse-- the texture can be very funky, a combination of
reticulation, bubbles, craters, all kinds of things, partly
depending on the forms you start with, and increasing with each
"layer” of fusing. Take a look at the work of the woman who was my
teacher for this technique, Marne Ryan
http://www.marneryan.com/index.html. On the other hand, fusing can be
done without any texture at all, as in granulation. I’ve done pieces
with rectangular wire laid on edge on a back sheet and fused, with
gold balls scattered among them. But doing this without texture and
without melting the upper layer takes more luck, mpre practice, and,
for me, the Mecu torch. I did it at the workshop, but then just
couldn’t get it to work at home with my Smith acet/air. It still
isn’t all that easy with the Meco and propane/oxy (we had natural
gas/oxy at Revere) but it is much better, maybe because you have
more variables to adjust, to get a fluffy but intense flame. Marne
uses a Hoke. At Revere, she had use work with no tip at all on the
Meco, just the pipe. With propane, this seems too hot to me. I would
say that fusing one layer is a lot easier to avoid creating texture
than with multiple layers, if only because you tend to trap air
between the layers, and when you heat it again, the air swells and
makes blisters. The rolling helps even out your surface and squeeze
out air so contact is solid and helps limit high spots that will
make your next heating harder to keep even. Oddly, the silver flows
smoothly without flux. It turns black, and you are always told that
this will inhibit flow, but I’m here to tell you it works, though I
haven’t used such thick material. I use mostly quite thin-- 26, 28
and 30 guage. You can put two blackened pieces together and fuse
them. It is important to have good contact, though, or parts
sticking up will almost surely melt. High karat gold fuses on quite
easily also, very smooth, but the trick there is to keep the silver
from flowing over the gold and making it disappear.

I hope I touched on all your questions, and that this helps. Fusing
is a lot of fun, especially if you like the funky look, because it
is never ruined. At worst, you run it through the mill until it
cracks, then cut it up and fuse it together again.

–No�l


#5

Noel, Thanks for showing us to the Marne Ryan site. I love her work.
Remember Carrie Adel? She made these wonderful stone shapes out of
what would seem to me to be the fusing of silver with gold also.
When I’ve attempted to fuse 18 or 22k onto sterling the gold stays
in the shape it started with but I’d like to achieve the organic
look Marne and Carrie have done. Maybe I haven’t stayed with it long
enough to melt the gold to pool more. I’m afraid of it melding into
the silver and having it disappear. Can you advise me? Annette


#6

Carrie did not fuse her metal she soldered it on very well and then
put the whole “landscape” through the rolling mill. I was a good
friend and collector of her work and I worked with her in her studio
when I was visiting her or she came to my place and our “fun” was
working. Micky Roof


#7
Carrie did not fuse her metal she soldered it on very well and then
put the whole "landscape" through the rolling mill. 

Micky, How wonderful! Do you know if any of her pieces are still for
sale somewhere out there? Annette


#8

Patina Gallery in Santa Fe has some of Carrie’s work.

K Kelly