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I'm In A Pickle!


#1

I am new to sterling chain making, and am still in the process of
trying to purchase everything I need for the craft. One thing I am
having problems with is deciding what to use for pickling. I have
seen quite a few different threads on your site on the subject
already, but the only one that actually had a “recipe” was for the
citric acid pickle. I have no clue what I am doing yet. I have a
book that I am using (‘Making Silver Chains: Simple Techniques,
Beautiful Designs’ by Glen F. Waszek), and for pickling, all has on
the supply list is “pickle granules”. It later says that when mixed
with water, the granules form a sulfuric acid or similar solution.
That’s it. Nothing else about what to use. I have two small children
(2 and 4), and animals, so I need to know what would be the safest
and easiest to use around them. Easiest meaning easiest for
preparation, least amount of pickling time required, and readily
available. I live in a VERY small city, and the closest findings
store is in Seattle, which is 100 miles south of here. I bought PH
Decreaser at WalMart, but then saw that one of the threads about it
said that it should be the dry acid formula, which is 95% Sodium
Bisulfate, and what I had mentioned nothing about dry acid, and was
only 5% Sodium Bisulfate. WalMart does sell PH Minus in HUGE
containers very reasonably priced, but I don’t know how well it
works, or how to mix it for use. So I would REALLY appreciate it if
everyone would give me their opinion on what would be the best thing
to use (with kids & animals), works best, is low cost, and most of
all, RECIPES!!! As long as the chemicals used for the pickling
doesn’t produce a lot of toxic fumes, I would be interested in the
recipe just in case the safest items to use are not available in my
area. Oh–also, I bought the least expensive crock pot that WalMart
had, which is only a 1.5 quart capacity. So it needs to be something
that will fit in that without overflowing and making a huge mess.
Thank you all sooooo much for your time!! I really do appreciate it.

Heather Plessner


#2

Hi,

I have only been making for just over a year and when I started,
having two cats and being on the clumsy side myself was worried about
using anything dangerous. I started using and still use alum, which
is available in most chemists and if they don’t stock it they should
be able to order it for you. It comes in powder form and you mix one
tea spoonful of the powder with half a pint of water; put it in your
crack pot and keep it on the lowest heat possible, and it’s as simple
as that. It takes a little longer than pickle but the results are
the same and with out the risk!

Hope this is of some help.
Karen


#3

I am a frugal cooking by the throw-it-in and see what happens recipe
person. So for me it is about a handful of the PH down in a coffee
pot of water for hot pickle. Pickle pot is and old coffee maker that
leaked. I cut off plastic top and use the hot-plate base and glass
coffee pot. Used pickle goes in 5 gallon bucket for cold pickling
larger pieces.


#4

first step, especially with kids and animals, is having a secure,
labelled, storage space (locked cupboard, chest), and telling the
kids point blank what is in that space (and why they shouldn’t
touch)–most pickles are acidic so can do a number on skin…while
you’re shopping at Walmart, pick up “quick dip” (acid cleaning
solution for silver implements) as it’s basically hydrochloric (but
correct me if i’m mistaken)–perhaps not ideal for pickling…but by
itself can be easily put away from little fingers

although when it comes to chains, hand-polishing with subsequent
sudsy washes then rinses renders a previously dirty chain clean and
shiny for a good while

hope this helps, and good luck!
erhard


#5
WalMart does sell PH Minus in HUGE containers very reasonably
priced, but I don't know how well it works, or how to mix it for
use. 

I use this stuff all the time, it works very well and lasts a long
time for me. I fill my “crock pot” about a quarter full of water,
and add about 3 TBS of the PH Minus.


#6

If it helps any, according to the label on sparex, 2.5 pounds makes
up a gallon of pickle, with instructions to dilute it from there if
weaker solution is desired. For smaller amounts, just divide the
above number. for example, for a quart, according to the above
recipe, it would take ten ounces of pickle. I rather expect this
is a stronger pickle than I usually use, by the way. But in any
case, Sodium Bisulphate purchased in other forms, like "ph-down),
will be the same in terms of how much you use to make up the pickle
solution.

or my part, I just dump in some powder and stir to dissolve, then
touch the tip of a finger to the solution, and just touch that to my
tongue. It’s a good way to judge the acidity. I want it quite
astringent and sour tasting, but not to the point of pain or
anything. (Then rinse your mouth to get rid of the taste, and the
acid.) Very low tech, and quicker than bothering to weigh out
the powder.

Peter


#7

Heather

I use a product I found in a hardware store but can be found in most
stor es that sell silver cleaner. It is called Tarn X and is a weak
sulfuric a cid solution. It works well as a pickle but comes along
with warning. I h ave two cats and so the pickle stays in the black
bottle until I need it. When I am going to solder something I pour
the Tarn X into a bowl and wh en I am finished with it, I use a
funnel and pour it back into the bottle . Wear gloves when you use it
because it has a carcinogen in it so I woul dn’t get it on my hands.
I hope this helps.

Anna Alsgaard


#8

That is scary stuff, I handle the sparex with latex gloves and
plastic spoons. As a general rule NEVER introduce chemicals into your
mouth. As for the concentration when using sparex, I dump 6 full
spoons of the stuff into a pickle jar and pickle cold. Less fumes
this way and it works quite well. I’m not a chemist but have basic
knowledge of chemistry, therefore tasting anything thats states
"POISON CAUSES BURNS" such as sparex would be suicidal. I’m
unfamiliar with the PH- and since sparex does such a great job will
continue using it.

Jonathan Brunet
Montreal


#9
It is called Tarn X and is a weak sulfuric acid solution. 

Anna, Tarn X is NOT a sulphuric acid solution. It’s Thiocarbamide,
also known as Thiouria. It’s a specific solvent for silver or copper
sulphides, which is what tarnish is. It’s not so effective on actual
oxides, but will remove some of them over time. It’s not really a
pickle, though, since it works by reducing the sulphides back to
metallic form. While not caustic like sulphuric acid or Sodium
bisulphate pickles, it is neverntheless harmful if you ingest it,
and you shouldn’t splash it in your eyes. The stuff is sold as a
silver cleaner, to remove tarnish, which is mostly silver and sulphur
sulphides, not oxides.

Still, if you like the stuff in place of pickle, and it works for
you, then fine. It’s most common use is removing “antiquing”, such
as what one gets with liver of sulphur or other such chemicals.
Ordinary pickle has little effect on the sulphides, while TarnX takes
it right off again. Handy.

If you like this and use more than occasional amounts, though, you
might wish to go straight to the source. The TarnX brand is just a
repackaged jar of a relatively weak solution of the chemical, with
fancy labeling and advertising budgets behind it. The actual
manufacturer of the chemical the TarnX folks use, is another company,
Vin Rock Inc 3024 Fontenay Rd Cleveland, OH 44120-1729 Phone: (216)
991-9593 They call it “CQ-2 silver cleaner”. They sell a pound of
the dry chemical for (ten years ago, at any rate), around ten or
fifteen dollars, and it goes a long way. I don’t have a web site URL
for them, and don’t actually think they’ve got a web address, so
you’ll have to use that old dinosour of ancient technology, the
telephone… That pound of chemical makes up a gallon of the full
strength solution, or if you want it the way the TarnX folks package
it, several gallons (packaged TarnX is mixed weaker than the
manufacturers recomendations, and doesn’t last all that long as a
result). I got that tidbit on their dilution rate, from the Vin-roc
sales people when I bought the stuff by the way, and can attest that
mixed to the proper strength, it works a LOT faster. The stuff does
have a faint sulphur smell, which some people don’t quite like, but
it’s not especially harmful or anything

Peter Rowe


#10
I just dump in some powder and stir to dissolve, then touch the tip
of a finger to the solution, and just touch that to my tongue.
It's a good way to judge the acidity.  I want it quite  astringent
and sour tasting,  but not to the point of pain or anything. 
(Then rinse your mouth to get rid of the taste, and the acid.) Very
low tech, and quicker than bothering to weigh out the powder. 

And what happens Peter, if, perchance, you do mix it to the point of
pain? Not sure I like your low-tech method.

I used to use Sparex but a later mentor got me started using Ph
Decreaser and said just to make a saturated solution. It works just
as well when it is cold (just takes a bit longer). I’ve used
PhDecreaser for some years now with no problems.

Kay


#11

A followup on my comments regarding Tarn X.

I forgot to mention, if you’re using this, you should read the MSDS
on it first. Look up Thiourea on the web. There are several
references. The main points are that chronic exposure is bad for a
number of organs, and skin exposure can cause irritation. Inhaled
dust causes lung irritation. So be careful. The MSDS also calls the
health hazard rating a 3, or severe, due to the fact that it’s a
SUSPECTED carcinogen. Shown in some animal studies to be such, but
never proven in humans, or conclusively. So it’s wise to assume there
may be some risk. As with most such things, the risk depends much on
frequency and duration of exposure. If you use this all the time, be
quite careful with it. Face shield, gloves, etc. If you use it
once in a blue moon, then don’t worry too much. For what it’s worth,
I found the stuff when in grad school, where a tub of the solution
was under the sink for use by students, including the inexperienced
ones, for removing black antiqueing from liver of sulphur. They
trusted students not to be dying off from the stuff, though perhaps
the research wasn’t as complete in 88 as now. I don’t know. Also,
note that Tarn X is sold over the counter in grocery stores. So it
might be inferred that the suspected risk is probably not extreme, or
someone would by now have been sued over it… By the way, the most
common uses for the stuff is in photographic chemistry, as a fixing
agent, if I recall correctly…

Peter


#12
      And what happens Peter, if, perchance, you do mix it to the
point of pain? Not sure I like your low-tech method. 

Never made it to “pain”. Just “real sour”. At which point you spit
it out or rinse your mouth. Obviously, it’s easier to just know how
much to measure in for a given volume of water, but sometimes I don’t
happen to have the needed measuring method available, especially in
the shop at work, where people are always misplacing things. . Do
remember the stuff isn’t as caustic as actual acid, so a solution of
the stuff which you expect to be good for pickling won’t eat holes in
your mouth. While this is certainly not normal good lab practice, I
don’t think in this case it’s dangerous to do this. It’s not, for
example, particularly toxic, other than it’s acidity. I don’t, for
example, test my cyanide plating solutions this way… (grin. Though
perhaps some might wish I did…) And remember too, I’m only just
tasting the tiniest wet spot on a fingertip. The strongest i’ve ever
tasted it still isn’t any worse than a good strong dill pickle. And
when my boss dumps a couple teaspoons of chemical in a beaker of
water, and only then wonders if he’s added enough, my method is an
easy way to find out.

   I used to use Sparex but a later mentor got me started using Ph
Decreaser and said just to make a saturated solution. It works
just as well when it is cold (just takes a bit longer).  I've used
PhDecreaser for some years now with no problems. 

I fully agree. As far as I’m concerned, Sparex is a second rate
overpriced product. It’s impure with some sort of brownish waxy gunk
that makes a real mess of the pickle pot, to no apparent benefit.
The ph decreasers, including brands like ph down, spa down, and
others, frankly work better than sparex simply by making up a clean
solution. And often they cost less too.

Peter


#13
That is scary stuff, I handle the sparex with latex gloves and
plastic spoons. 

Appropriate for the dry chemical, if you’re the cautious type. Dry
chemical contacting a bit of moisture would make a quite caustic
solution that could cause burns. You might also consider a dust
mask. If, in pouring the chemical, you get airborn dust, then that’s
not good at all for your lungs. I’d guess that might be an even more
intellegent precaution than the plastic spoons and gloves. Also, you
don’t need plastic spoons though they’re fine if you wish. But
stainless steel is also fine. Don’t leave it soaking in the sparex,
since it will slowly be etched, but just for mixing up the stuff? no
problem.

As a general rule NEVER introduce chemicals into your mouth.  

It helps to know about each chemical, and it’s risks. Some
chemicals are exceedingly toxic even in tiny amounts, but remember
that sugar and salt are also chemicals, and I enjoy putting both in
my mouth. Also, it has a lot to do with concentrations. I can go to
the photo darkroom supply store and buy glacial acetic acid. That
stuff will cause severe burns faster than you can yell, if it hits
skin. but diluted down to about 5 percent, you’ve got it in your
kitchen labeled vinegar, and then it tastes quite good in a salad.

You are certainly right that the general rule about not getting
chemicals in your mouth is true. But in this case, my practice is
not, as i’ve said, particularly risky. It’s all about
concentrations, and the specific chemical involved. You DO have to
know what you’re doing. I don’t taste the pickle pot if I think
it’s too strong. Just to get a quick check on whether I’ve got
enough in it yet. Often, what seems like it should be enough is
only a mildly sour taste, and then I know I need more… Please
don’t get the idea that I’m actually ingesting this. that would be
overstating what I’m doing, carefully and gingerly.

    therefore tasting anything thats states "POISON CAUSES BURNS"
such as sparex would be suicidal. 

I’m not dead yet. And see above Re: vinegar and acetic acid.

   unfamiliar with the PH- and since sparex does such a great job
will continue using it. 

Sparex is Sodium Bisulphate. As packaged, it seems to be a rather
impure form, perhaps a repackaged industrial by product source, and
certainly not a particularly carefully prepared product, as evidenced
by the ugly brown scum it forms in a pickle pot. Ph-down, spa down,
and similar products are less expensive, yet apparently pure formes
of the same chemical, and sold in hardware stores and the like. They
work exactly the same as Sparex, except they don’t leave the brown
residue on your pickle pot.

Peter


#14

I am a complete beginner. I’ve never touched a torch to silver. I
want to use vinegar and a fist full of salt as pickle. I would be
willing to use alum and water, or citric acid. I want to use
vinegar. Am I starting out wrong by using vinegar?

I would also be willing to use pool acid, if the all of the above
pickles would be a very poor choice for a beginner.

UPS says my wire and solder should arrive TODAY. Can you imagine,
can you remember how excited I am? I won’t have time to do more
than look and touch today, but that will have to be enough. That will be enough.


#15

I move that we drop further discussion of “pickle” as at this point,
a search of the Orchid archives brings up 1,675 listings of opinions,
truths and fantasies, and recent discussion proves that no usefull
is being added to the archive.


#16

Oh for goodness sake!

Pickles, acids of all kinds, PH Pool powder, yes, of course they can
be dangerous if you rub them into the cat, swallow them like gin and
tonic or put them in the bath instead of bath oil…

Generally speaking though they are no more dangerous than the common
cleaning materials you leave under you sink - bleach, Mr Plumber,
ammonia and so on.

You won’t get cancer if it splashes on your hands, you won’t die if
it gets on your finger and you happen to lick it off - nasty taste
though! It will eat through your clothes and leave a mark on your
skin if you don’t wash it off so be sensible - but please don’t treat
it is if it radioactive industrial waste that glows in the dark and
turns diamonds blue!

Fluoric (HFl) acid however - that’s another matter. That stuff gives
even me the heebie-jeebies.

Tony Konrath
Key West Florida 33040


#17

hi all- I see noone else has mentioned it, but for “safe” pickle, I
use citric acid. you can buy it in a natural food store, or grocery
store I imagine as well. I use it in a crock pot, heated. it works
with great results, although it may take a bit longer than sparex.
but it’s the safest, most non toxic thing I can think of. for that
matter if you had the patience you could squeeze lemons for juice,
and add water as well. I haven’t tried that experiment yet though.
:slight_smile: ande STAY HUMAN!!!


#18

Dear All, I mentioned this a few years ago. It’s worth a re-tell. The
first jeweler I apprenticed under, Ray Grobe (still making jewelry at
about 89 or so) said when he apprenticed back in the 30’s they used
real sulfuric acid. The apprentices would mix the pickle. Again real
sulfuric acid and start with a bowel of water. They would add the
acid and stir with their finger until the mix got worm. At that point
they had enough acid. I’ll say with sparx. I got about ten cans of
the stuff a few years ago and usually mix up about one batch a year.
I’ll probably never buy pickle again for the rest of my life.

Best Regards,
Todd Hawkinson


#19
 I am a complete beginner.  I've never touched a torch to silver. 
I want to use vinegar and a fist full of salt as pickle. 

Interesting choice. Just out of curiosity, what do you expect it to
do? While you’re at it, why not also try every other household
chemical you can find just to try it out as well. when you’re done
with all that, you might wish to do a little reading in the archives
as to which household chemicals actually are able to dissolve copper
oxides, which is the main purpose of pickle in silversmithing. The
other is the removal of flux residues, but even hot water usually
does that. I expect you’ll find that vinegar doesn’t do much more
than smell like salad dressing. For one thing, vinegar is an
extremely dilute version of acetic acid. So dilute that it’s not
likely to function all that much as an active acid. If you want to
give this a real test, go to the photo stores carrying darkroom
supplies and get a bottle of glacial acetic acid. this is the
concentrated form of the stuff. I still don’t think it will work
all that well as a pickle, but I’d be more willing to expect a 10 or
15 percent solution of that, to have an effect than the very much
more dilute solution already in your kitchen. Do note that as
glacial acetic acid, it’s strong enough to be dangerous if handled
carelessly. Read the label.

    I would be willing to use alum and water, or citric acid. 

Either Alum or citric acid do work as pickles, safer than
traditional ones, but slower. Better choices.

I want to use vinegar.  Am I starting out wrong by using vinegar? 

I’m really curious what led you to this desire? Just 'cause you’ve
got it already? But hey, like I said. Try it if you like. No harm
done.

   I would also be willing to use pool acid, if the all of the
above pickles would be a very poor choice for a beginner. 

If you go to the local hardware store, in the pool chemicals, find
the chemical used to reduce the ph in pools and spas. Usual names
are things like “spa-down”, or “ph-down”, or the like. Make sure it
says Sodium Bisulphate as the main ingredient. (There are several
acids used in pools. The others are not what you need) THAT is the
standard chemical used for pickling silver. It IS an acid, and
should be treated with respect, as the solution will damage clothes,
especially cotton, if it’s spilled on them.

Peter Rowe


#20

salt and vinegar will be fine - that’s all I used for the first 5
years I enamelled

Al Heywood