I have been working with argentium sterling silver for over a year.
I wonder if someone can offer some advise regarding the best way to
harden round wire. Here are my questions:
I recently tried to harden some 21 gauge wire (the project I am
working on won’t allow me to go any thicker). As suggested here on
Orchid, I heated treated the argentium in my oven at 450 degrees
(the hottest it will go) for about 2 hours. I did not anneal it ahead
of time (some info I have read suggested this doesn’t make a
significant difference). I did notice it was harder but not nearly as
hard as when I recently tried twisting it with my drill. Does twisted
wire typically have a harder end result than heat hardening or am I
not heating it at a high enough temperature?
I generally work as I go with smaller lengths of wire (let’s say
1 - 2 feet). When twisting the wire in my drill, I clamp the wire
into the chuck and hold the other end with a pair of pliers until
taunt and then start to twist. The problem is I don’t know how long
to twist or how many rotations. I have read that you can twist the
wire until one end breaks but I am worried that over twisting will
make the metal brittle. Also, is there any advantage/disadvantage to
twisting in one direction and then reversing the drill in the other
direction (toggling between the two)? While twisting I have noticed
under magnification that the surface of the wire is not as smooth
with tiny breaks on the surface. I assume this can be polished out
but not with just a final polish (I am guessing at least a two step
When making jump rings I am coiling around a mandrel, hardening
the coil in my oven (as described above), polishing the coil and then
cutting into rings. I now wonder if I should be hardening my wire by
twisting it first and then coiling around a mandrel as this seems to
achieve a harder end result. I prefer the heat hardening method
because it does not distort the surface of the metal.
I rarely need to post questions as I usually find the answers in the
archives from all of you (my Orchid teachers). It always amazes me
the generosity of time that Orchid members give.
Any suggestions or input are very much appreciated.