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Maximum number of annealing cycles


#1

A kind soul out there decided to send me some boric acid for making
the Pripp’s flux. I found actual TSP at my hardware store. But no
Boric acid… the Silver Valley just doesn’t stock it!

While I’m waiting for it I have a side question: I read online that
the maximum number of forging/annealing cycles for sterling is 5, as
opposed to unlimited for fine.

I have an ounce of casted sterling, the result of a lesson I had
under a Dine’ silversmith. I think it’s actually time to use it as
sheet and wire.

I have a rolling mill of course, but if I have to observe the limits
on cycles, how do I get the wire small enough without embrittlement?

Thanks,
Andrew Jonathan Fine


#2

Hi Andrew,

Don’t sweat it. Go for as few heating cycles as you can, but it’s not
a big deal unless you’re radically overheating the silver, or
over-oxidizing it while you overheat it. I think some of my fancier
holloware has had ?20+? heats on various parts of it before it was
all done. No problems.

It’s a little more fussy about melting cycles, but that’s just
because it really has a jones for oxygen. It will suck down loads of
O2, which makes it brittle. If your torch control is good, you can
get away with murder, in terms of heating and/or melting. Just make
sure there’s very little hot O2 anywhere near your silver, and
you’ll be a happier camper.

Anyway, all that to the side, it’s always best to strive to minimize
the number of heating cycles.

For whatever that’s worth.
Brian


#3
While I'm waiting for it I have a side question: I read online
that the maximum number of forging/annealing cycles for sterling is
5, as opposed to unlimited for fine. 

Nope that is nonsense, as long as you treat the metal correctly you
can almost work it indefinitely.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#4
While I'm waiting for it I have a side question: I read online
that the maximum number of forging/annealing cycles for sterling is
5, as opposed to unlimited for fine. 

I will give 2 versions of possible answer to the question.

Version One is for the members of the Hugi-Kissi society: While limit
of 5 is the suspect, there maybe some conditions like on some distant
planet in another galaxy, or inside a black hole that 5 might be a
limit to the number of times that silver can be annealed.

Version Two is what I really want to communicate: To be that stupid
as to set 5 as some limit to the number of times silver can be
annealed, the person was probably dropped on his/her head in
childhood and left to suffer the consequence without any medical
intervention.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#5

Hi Andrew,

Just keep annealing your silver between either rounds by hammering
or rolling mill. I haven’t ever run out of annealing cycles. Silver
and other metals get hard and brittle when working it. Annealing it
relaxes the molecules.

Jennifer Friedman
Ventura, CA


#6
I read online that the maximum number of forging/annealing cycles
for sterling is 5, asopposed to unlimited for fine. 

Sorry Andrew, but that’s about as nonsensical a thing as I’ve ever
heard post online. This is what happens when people take classes from
people who took classes from people who took classes, and nobody has
ever actually worked.

If that were true, there would be no silver business, Tiffany
wouldn’t exist, and the world would be a very different place. You
can forge and anneal ~forever~, as long as you don’t over-forge or
over-anneal. It’s just a little crystalline engine - hard, soft,
hard, soft, on and on.


#7

The problem is the distribution of the copper in the silver. The
metal will on continued annealing produce uneven granularity.

Nick Royall


#8

I would be totally up the old creek without a paddle if the five
cycle thing was true. I have been making Russian filigree pieces for
many years. I sometimes solder 20 or more little wires into a piece
before I;m finished. What i have found and rely on is that with all
those soldering passes, I don’t worry about fire scale. It raises the
fine silver to the surface. I can only speak for my experiences and
not being told any different in any of my classes and doing tons of
silver work over the years.

Aggie
wanting to dry out in Fl.


#9
A kind soul out there decided to send me some boric acid for
making the Pripp's flux. I found actual TSP at my hardware store.
But no Boric acid... the Silver Valley just doesn't stock it! 

I buy mine from a chemical company in town.

While I'm waiting for it I have a side question: I read online
that the maximum number of forging/annealing cycles for sterling is
5, as opposed to unlimited for fine. 

I’ve been making jewelry for over 35 years and have never heard that
(although it still could be true) but since I’ve never heard it I
never followed it and never had any problems.

Paf Dvorak


#10
The problem is the distribution of the copper in the silver. The
metal will on continued annealing produce uneven granularity. 

Nonsense, When heated to annealing temperature copper becomes
completely soluble in silver and with proper annealing the result is
a homogenous distribution of copper in the silver matrix.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#11
While I'm waiting for it I have a side question: I read online
that the maximum number of forging/annealing cycles for sterling is
5, as opposed to unlimited for fine. 

It just goes to show that you shouldn’t believe everything you read
on the intertubes…

The issue with over annealing is mostly that too frequent annealing
will give you more grain growth than you may wish… Metal with
larger grain sizes isn’t as strong. So the answer to your question is
basically, anneal the sterling when it needs it. If it’s become too
hard to work, or is in danger of fracturing or splitting, etc, then
anneal it. There is no hard and fast maximum number of annealing
cycles. The metal does not remember how many times it’s been
annealed. It only “knows” it’s current state. It doesn’t keep
count… If that state consists of highly distorted and stressed
crystals, then annealing properly will allow those deformed and
stressed crystals to break up into smaller new crystals without that
strain and distortion. This new structure, with more, smaller, and
more homogeneously mixed crystals is stronger and better for most of
our uses.

Now, there are also caveats, but these apply whether annealing once
or dozens of times. When you anneal the metal, especially if in air
without protection, you are oxidizing some portion of the copper,
possibly giving surface layers, after pickling, of first, fine
silver, then layers with imbedded copper oxides. That layered
surface, giving you what we call fire scale (the surface black oxide)
and fire stain (the reddish tinted silver/copper oxide mix of the
metal under that scaled surface). These are not something that
additional annealing helps, but rather, can make worse, and are
changes you normally don’t want (exception, when doing reticulation,
that structure is what makes it work). That incorporation of copper
oxides into the surface can make the metal weaker, more prone to
surface cracks in working, as well as giving major problems when
finishing, as the oxide containing surface layer is a different
color/appearance from the clean sterling under it. Also, annealing
without protection from oxidation like this means you are, over
repeated annealings, reducing the percentage of copper in your alloy,
so it becomes higher in silver than 925/1000.

As well, if you anneal for too long a time, or at too high a
temperature, after your metal recrystalizes, then those crystals
start to combine and grow into a structure with larger, fewer
crystals. Normally, you don’t want that (exception, if you’re doing
something like etching the metal to show that crystal structure, and
want the larger, more decorative crystals). The lesson there is that
proper annealing technique, ie protecting the surface as needed, and
not annealing to too high a temperature, is what’s important, not
some supposed maximum number of anneals.

One rule of thumb with sterling silver is that you can reduce the
metal by 90 percent before needing to anneal. That’s more a
suggested maximum than it is some amount you must reduce the metal
before annealing. If, for example, you’ve reduced it by only 30
percent, but it’s become too hard to do what you’re trying to do,
don’t feel you must continue just to get a higher percentage of
reduction. If you need to anneal it, then do so.

Peter


#12

Hello,

The problem is the distribution of the copper in the silver. The
metal will on continued annealing produce uneven granularity."\ 

This is one of de reason why one should learn to read phase
diagrams. Remelting a metal starts with a new (not alway’s fresh)
liquid mixture of all alloy’'s. During the cooling phase, new seeds
(startingpoint of crystalforming), new crystals and new boundary’s
will be formed NOT based on the previous old crystaline structure of
that metal.

Knowing what to do and when with a given alloy is key. This has
nothing to do with oneven granularity.

Have fun and enjoy
Pedro