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Making your own Charcoal blocks


#1

<edit - Message split>

  1. Charcoal blocks are scary expensive. How do I make my own? Is
    there a way to compress a block while I’m making it, so it lasts
    longer? If that proves impossible, how do I preserve the block I
    have for as long as possible? Mr. Brain’s article says to stick it
    with investment to a metal box, but I don’t have investment or a
    metal box of the correct size, and anyway how does one clean the
    block once it’s in the box and shorter than the sides? Also, where is
    the least expensive/highest quality place to obtain firebricks and a
    soldering pad, and what is the most durable and fire-resistant (also,
    easily obtainable and inexpensive) surface to use for a bench? I’ll
    probably be putting said surface on top of a table or desk.

#2

when you figure out how tomake charcoal blocks let me know. I have
tried every method known to mankind, and still haven’t gotten nice
blocks of either grade…i have been trying for 30 years! In India
they made millions by stacking bricks beehive fashion which i was
told had been in place for over fifty years at the same location,
then they put rough hewn wood into it and ignitined a very hot fire
and then cut off the O2 and the wood totally carbonized into the
soft charcoal readily available ( they did ot make the hard type
there)…then with band saws cut it to shape,packed and sent the
blocks on their way…I’ve tried muffles,kilns,pressurized closed
systems,kachelofens,putting wood in a screwpress then into the
masonry stove…nada!..so if anyone says just put it in a
campfire…don’t listen- they don’t know what they are talking
about…sure you’ll get charcoal bits but not what i have had to
purchase for 35 years!..the cheapest place i have found for blocks
has been Contenti,only lately because their soft blocks ( and small
at that) have been on sale, Rosenthal,Indian Jewelers supply and
Thunderbird come in 2ed, and the highest is Rio…( as if we
couldn’t have guessed that!).

As for your other questions- everyone has a preference s to what
they want touse for a soldering board…I use different ones for
different heat applications.Contenti has the cheapest firebricks too
at the moment-What you get at a brickyard IS NOT the jewelers soft
firebrick, but a brick to line stoves with (wood stoves),Firebricks
can be sawed quite easily with a hacksaw…

the most durable and fire resistant surface is a 1" x30x36 square of
steel…however most jewelers prefer a wood surface for a
benchtop…just buy an annealing pan or use an old cast iron or
preferably cast stainless steel skillet (with handles cut off by
torch,saw, or cut-off wheel on a drill for an inexpensive way to go)
with silicon carbide grain, or small pumice available at most
hardware and home centers in the gardening dept. to place your
soldering board(s) in while you work…it’s not like you’ll be having
a torch on more thasn a few seconds at a time unless you’re melting
metals then its as matter of minutes at most…just buy a fire
extinguisher and if you’re very concerned a gas leakage alarm placed
relative tothe type of gas you plan on using…propane = a foot from
the floor, acetylene and mapp and hydrogen ( don’t use hydrogen as a
beginner!) = a foot from the ceiling…voila’ protection.

you will have to research the kind of board you want for your budget
and the type work you are planning on doing…solderite is cheap,two
sided can be stuck with hold down pins to place a workpiece and has
a side for low temp operations and a gray side for high temp
operations.but they wear out if you over apply flouroborate type
fluxes (neon green liquid usually)…there are hard boards of
refractory materials that just require periodic cleaning to remove
flux glasses and other goo, rather like a giant tile of bonded clay
or siliquar -a ceramic material compound…they seem to last however
the honeycombed style breaks quite readily being pierced all
over…just get out a couple of catalogs or go online and browse the
soldering section of various dealers for what most fits your budget
and space requirements…some still use wire wigs with excellent
results and there is probably no cheaper way to make a soldering
surface than binding wire (use stainless and not iron binding wire if
possible) crushed crumpled and fit into a circular pie pan,and
eventually after building it to about an inch deep and 6-8 " dia. you
have a nice cheap wire wig…

Wrap your charcoal with wire about 5 turns or so, to help it last
without Charles Brains metal box idea - which i find a waste of most
of the surfaces on the blocks…and when you buy them go for the more
expensive hard or compressed type as they really do last 3-4 times
longer than their cheap counterparts…and if you can afford it buy
in as much bulk as you can because you will,( provided this is not an
hobby phase…) use them.and as for firebrick buy ing those too in
bulk or splitting an order witha colleague is a great idea…you will
use them…and if you need to recoup some money they can always be
resold provided they are stored in a dry environment.

R.E.Rourke


#3
Charcoal blocks are scary expensive. How do I make my own? Is there
a way to compress a block while I'm making it, so it lasts 

You don’t have to use one. But if you do, wrap it with binding wire.
That’s supposed to make them last longer.

Check if magnesia blocks are cheaper. Both last a long time, so don’t
freak about it.

Okay, a soldering pad goes underneath it, yes. If you are setting up
your place at home you could see if there is a pottery/kiln place
near you and get some fire bricks. Oh wait, haven’t folks said you
can get those someplace else? Like a fireplace supply store?

Anyway, that’s one way.

If you’re concerned about safety, and no doubt you are, double up,
double up. Triple up.

A pizza stone is basically like a kiln shelf. Though not cheap, but
if you have one you want to convert, or find one at a garage sale,
you could use that. Lots of people use ceramic tile too. You should
be able to get a 12 x12 tile for 99 cents. You could line your table
with stainless steel.

All this is overkill, as I’m sure someone will post, but whatever
you want to do. You’re protecting your home, so nothing is
unreasonable.

So, overkill method: buy a sheet of stainless steel, put that on your
table, on top of that, the pizza stone or ceramic tile. On top of
that your soldering pad, then, your charcoal or magnesia block.

And yes, folks, I know, I know, it’s not necessary, but if that’s
what she wants, that’s what she wants.

What do I use? My bench has a built in steel insert, on top of which
I have a soldering pad, and a magnesia block. If I were doing
something really big, I wouldn’t do it there, I take it outside or
to one of my art centers.

Best of luck, have fun, be safe!

Elaine
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay


#4

Hi

I solder on a charcoal block which rests on top a discarded ceramic
tile

Kim Starbard
http://www.kimstarbarddesigns.com


#5

Hi Monica

I just received Rio Grande’s 2007 Tools and Equipment catalog. With
the exception of the last few pages, I looked at every page. (My
newest “Christmas list” is on a pad to be ordered!!!)

All the things you are looking for (soldering block, charcoal, etc)
are in that catalog. On a number of pages you will find directions on
how to use some of the featured tools. Great, handy catalog. They
surely would be able to satisfy your needs. You can call them
1-800-545-6566 to request a catalog, or it looks like riogrande.com.
I have been a customer for 30 years and have never had a problem.

As for those little dapping punches you are pursuing…why would you
go to all the trouble of chasing down the steel rods and ball
bearings? Except for a challenge! At Santa Fe Jewelers Supply on
page 117 of their catalog are listed Dapping punches which can be
purchased separately ranging in price from c2.40 to $12.95. This
price might be subject to change. I have found that I don’t use all
the ones in the PEPE Dapping tool set and would recommend getting
just the ones you need to start with. Santa Fe Jeweler’s number is
1-800-659-3835. Another satisfied customer,

RMChristison


#6

Monica,

You can find firebricks at most home supply place. They are soft and
can be cut Into smaller pieces. Also check the phone book to see if
there is a place that makes Firebrick in your area… I have made the
area where I do my soldering fireproof by laying down several
12"squares of Tile, also found at any home supply place such as Home
Depot or Lowes. You can sometimes get Discontinued styles and colors
as low as $1 each. I don’t mortar them in. I just butt the edges
Against one another. Works. Fine.

Alma


#7
Charcoal blocks are scary expensive. How do I make my own? Is there
a way to compress a block while I'm making it, so it lasts longer? 

For small stuff I have used bricks of barbeque charcoal with a flat
surface sanded on. Awkward but it can be done.

if that proves impossible, how do I preserve the block I have for
as long as possible? Mr. Brain's article says to stick it with
investment to a metal box, but I don't have investment or a metal
box of the correct size, 

Wrap it with binding wire.

...and anyway how does one clean the block once it's in the box and
shorter than the sides? 

When the surface gets rough sand it flat.

...and what is the most durable and fire-resistant (also, easily
obtainable and inexpensive) surface to use for a bench?.. 

Try second hand hardwood flooring from a used building materials
place.

Cheers,
Hans Durstling
Moncton, Canada


#8

Hi Monica,

Also, where is the least expensive/highest quality place to obtain
firebricks and a soldering pad, and what is the most durable and
fire-resistant (also, easily obtainable and inexpensive) surface to
use for a bench? I'll probably be putting said surface on top of a
table or desk. 

There are 3 types of FireBricks. There are the Charcoal FireBricks,
there are the really light firebricks you can get at the jewelry
supply houses, and there are the Brick FireBricks used to line
fireplaces.

I have been buying expensive charcoal blocks and soldering pads for
years, until last year.

Last year, I went to study with Orville Tsinnie, an Indian
Silversmith in New Mexico. He was using an unusual block to solder
on. Turns out it was a firebrick. Not the ‘light’ ones you can buy
from the different jewelry houses, but the ones that are used to line
a fireplace. A brick firebrick. Turns out, they cost 79 cents apiece,
are about 12 inches by 6 inches by about 2 inches thick. You can buy
them at the local brick yard, where I also found cotton gloves for
$1.00 a pair, great to protect your fingers while polishing and
buffing.

At less than a dollar apiece, I bought several…(5)… I can do
anything with them that I do with a charcoal firebrick. I can drill
holes for pins to hold jobs. I use the Foredom tool with a cutting
disk to cut valleys and grooves to pour silver for ingots. I solder
on them, and being three times bigger than most charcoal blocks, I
can set up several soldering jobs at one.

They are relatively easy to cut with a diamond tool. I cut out shapes
to fit a project, if I am going to make more than one of an item. I
then have that setup permanently. When I do the same with a charcoal
block, after using the setup a few times, it has ‘burned’ out, and I
have to create a new one on a new expensive charcoal fire brick.

If the top get dirty or chipped, I just use a file, take off a
layer, and its like new. They don’t split like charcoal blocks, and
they will ‘hold’ the heat like a charcoal block does. They just don’t
deteriorate like charcoal does. I think you could probably cover a
table top with firebrick and then solder anywhere on the table. I
have soldered on the fire brick for quite a long time, using very
high heat, then checked the reverse side, and it is barely warm if
at all.

The one thing I haven’t done with the brick firebrick is alloy gold.
I use a charcoal firebrick, cut a hole it the top, and put in my 24
ct gold, my copper and my silver to make my different alloys of gold.
I think I need the charcoal effect to prevent oxidation, but I have
not tried this one process on the brick firebrick.

Love and God Bless
randy
http://www.rocksmyth.com


#9

I bought a bag of farriers hardwood lump charcoal it is in larger
chunks than BBQ briquets and can handle a higher temperature to the
point that I can steam cast in it It was very cheap and I use for
soldering as well

I had my local Agway order it for me 2 bags were 22 dollars

Teri
Silver & Cameo Heritage Jewelry
www.corneliusspick.com


#10

Wellll,…you can make charcoal blocks quickly and easily using a
2x2" piece of soft pine board! I use one often when I am
demonstrating (cheap) steam casting.

Simply get the piece of wood, when casting, hollow out a shallow in
the center and play your torch over the wood. Do not allow it to
burn…just char. Works great.

If not casting, you can do the same thing on a flat surface but,
again, as you play the broad soft flame over the surface, do not
allow it to burn…just char. The charred surface is not necessarily
very deep but deep enough that you can solder on it.

Cheers from Don at the Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry!


#11
Okay, a soldering pad goes underneath it, yes. If you are setting
up your place at home you could see if there is a pottery/kiln
place near you and get some fire bricks. 

This seems like a good time to reiterate-- a really cheap way to
cover a surface with fire-proof material is to use a piece of cement
board from a home center or lumber yard. This is used under tile
floors, and I bought a scrap at Home Depot for a couple of bucks
(you sure don’t need a whole 8’ x 4’ piece, unless you want to lay
it on the floor under your bench). It has little bubble holes in it,
but it is cheap, fire-proof, cuttable with a box knife… and it
absorbs and neutralizes spilled acid!

My “bench” is an ancient oak office desk, and I covered the whole
top with this stuff. My soldering pad or fire brick sits on that,
and when I use a charcoal block (really, only for fusing), it sits
on the pad.

And, by the way, the air intake for my vent sits on the bench too,
right behind my soldering area. I made it out of galvenized
ducting, dryer vent hose, and a squirrel-cage blower from American
Science & Surplus (Grainger has them). Works great, cost almost
nothing!

Noel


#12

Wrapping a soft block with wire will keep the pieces together after
the block breaks but why would someone want a crack running thru
their soldering surface? Try a hard charcoal block. I’ve been using
the same block for at least four years, when it gets icky I just
grind it on a slab of cement. That amounts to hundreds of solders per
penny. In the catalog I have in front of me, hard blocks are cheaper
than soft, less than $10 each.


#13

Hi, German charcoal blocks far outlast the others available. I have
several that are still almost flat and have no cracks after 8 years
of frequent use for filigree, granulation, and fusing chain links.
The slightly higher cost is very much well worth it. Rio sells them.

Best wishes,
Victoria


#14

I extend the life of my hard charcoal by spraying it with water
after I solder. It extinguishes any smoldering within.


#15

Hi Gang,

You can find firebricks at most home supply place. They are soft
and can be cut Into smaller pieces. 

Be careful getting firebricks from home centers. Usually the
firebrick they sell is the hard variety used for lining furnaces etc.

The fire brick you want is made of a magnesia material. It’s much
lighter in weight than the firebricks typically sold at home
centers. The ‘soft’ firebricks are usually called silversmiths
firebrick. They’re soft enough to stick a straight pin into… Try
sticking a pin into the brick before you buy it. If you can’t, it’s
probably not the one you want.

Dave


#16

I don’t know where the notion of making dapping punches comes from,
and any of the ways I could think of to do it would all cost more and
be inferior - key stock to begin with is essentially putty - junk
steel. Well, not junk, but the key is designed to break before the
part, let’s put it that way. And there’s a reason the commercial ones
are made in one piece. But if you want to… But as for the
charcoal block part, Otto Frei and I’m sure others have a compressed
charcoal block they call “European” that costs more, but I’ve used
mine for at least 1 1/2 years now, daily, and it is fried on top but
it’s whole, solid and one piece, and the same size and height. Very
nice thing…

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#17

I’ve just glued my charcoal blocks back together when they break-
usually with Elmer’s… Wipe off the excess and they are good for a
while longer.

Rick Hamilton


#18
You can find firebricks at most home supply place. They are soft
and can be cut Into smaller pieces. Be careful getting firebricks
from home centers. Usually the firebrick they sell is the hard
variety used for lining furnaces etc. 

Check out ceramic supply stores. They carry what they call oven or
kiln bricks. Some of them are the light and soft kind.

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
Colorado Springs, Colorado
http://home.covad.net/~rcopeland


#19

It seems to be a lot of talk about nothing. Charcoal blocks, fire
bricks, blah blah blah. Charcoal block range from 5 to 10 bucks. I
use mine EVERY day and its about 3 years old. So it costs me 3 bucks
a
year. When it’s too worn I get a new one out off the drawer. It sue
seems a lot of trouble to save what? That’s my 2 cents worth.

Hans