Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Picking my starting project


#1

Mr. Peter Rowe,

Okay, I read your article thoroughly, and those of several others,
and letters from some other people.

I agree, neither of us are ready for that intensive I was proposing,
and so I had better focus on practicing first, as you say.

I’m going to set an objective for myself: I will make a coarse
dimension “money chain” out of sterling which I melt myself, out of a
token of local Sunshine Mine silver.

I’ve researched the design: this is also known as Spanish chain or
Gypsy chain, where the links are individually made and hook over each
other mechanically.

My plan of attack will be as follows:

  1. Use my 30 Ounce Kerr Electromelt, with graphite sleeve, and use
    your formula to convert a troy ounce of Sunshine Mine fine silver
    into a proportonately larger amount of 925. From what I understand, I
    need to add copper filings, silver chunks, and a pinch of borax. In
    that order?

  2. I recently chatted with a Dine’ master, Lyndon Tsosie, who I knew
    back in Gallup. We had walked me through a vertical casting three
    years ago at his studio back when I was living in Sanders. He
    reassured me via echat that my silver should suffer no ill effects if
    were to simply use the CNC to carve a thin horizontal line (.05 inch
    wide line by.1 inch down?) into a tufa slab, heat the slab lightly,
    and pour the silver into it: capillary action would do the rest.

The line would then be an annealed thick wire which I could use as a
starting point for the money chain, or later bezel in some future
project.

  1. I’ve got small bits of silver solder wire, easy, medium, and hard,
    although I lost the labelling on them. I’ll have to try soldering
    with each of the three types to close the lines into loops, unless I
    know a better way. I’ve never done jewelry soldering before, just
    electronics soldering. If all I have is the borax powder, should I
    just make it into a slurry paste with a little bit of water?

  2. I have dry Sparex for pickle, but I’m very seriously considering
    buying citric acid instead at the drug store, because I don’t want
    Sparex fumes rusting all of my tools. I remember citric acid being
    very important as a canning preservative, and I have a crock pot I
    can use for the citric acid.

  3. I’m going to follow other peoples’ advice and set up a polishing
    hood to my new shop vac, to polish the links before final assembly.

Refinements to my self-study lesson plan, anyone?
Andrew Jonathan Fine


#2

Andrew,

I have a small box of copper scrap that I was going to recycle. Could
you use this? I can stuff it in a priority mail box and get it to you
end of this week. Well, actually we are forecast to get 12" of snow
tomorrow. Give priority mail a few more days to get out of here.

What a great analogy of the roast with carrots and onions!

Best,
Mary


#3
1) Use my 30 Ounce Kerr Electromelt, with graphite sleeve, and use
your formula to convert a troy ounce of Sunshine Mine fine silver
into a proportonately larger amount of 925. From what I
understand, I need to add copper filings, silver chunks, and a
pinch of borax. In that order? 

Yes, but I’d recommend that you do not use copper filings. The
reasons are that for one, filings have much more surface area, so any
oxidation will more quickly affect a larger amount of the copper.
Also, when you file metal, you are also often breaking off a few file
teeth bits. You can run a magnet through the filings to get rid of
most of the extraneous bits of steel, but you never quite get it all,
and iron that might alloy with your silver will tend to make your
metal more brittle. Instead of filings, take scrap electrical wire,
and clip pieces off onto a scale to weigh out the right amount.
They’re larger pieces, so the melted metal will need to sit there a
bit longer to be sure all the copper dissolves, but that’s not a
problem with the electromelt, since it’s covered.

2) I recently chatted with a Dine' master, Lyndon Tsosie, who I
knew back in Gallup. We had walked me through a vertical casting
three years ago at his studio back when I was living in Sanders. He
reassured me via echat that my silver should suffer no ill effects
if were to simply use the CNC to carve a thin horizontal line (.05
inch wide line by.1 inch down?) into a tufa slab, heat the slab
lightly, and pour the silver into it: capillary action would do the
rest. 

If your mold is too narrow, you may have some trouble getting it to
fill, and the tufa, as I recall, has a distinct texture which might
impede metal flow, but I’m sort of guessing here, as it’s been a
VVEERRYY long time since I last did anything with tufa.

I've never done jewelry soldering before, just electronics
soldering. If all I have is the borax powder, should I just make it
into a slurry paste with a little bit of water? 

yes, but you’ll have even better luck if you mix it up with boric
acid too, half and half should work. Add sodium phosphate (mono, di,
or tri phosphates all work. TSP is the cheapest) in a mix of 3 parts
boric acid to two parts of the other two, and you’ve got Prips flux,
useful when sprayed or brushed on to prevent fire scale and fire
stain on sterling, and also a reasonable though not especially active
soldering flux. Better than borax alone. Check Orchid archives more
more extensive discussion of Prips flux. If you can afford a small
container of Handy flux or Dandix flux or similar, these much more
active silver soldering fluxes (any welding supply shop should have
them, usually cheaper than at jewelry supply shops) will make your
soldering experience a lot easier. But you can, if you need, get by
with just the boric acid and borax mix. Borax alone, if you must, but
it might not work as well with easy grades of silver solder.

4) I have dry Sparex for pickle, but I'm very seriously
considering buying citric acid instead at the drug store, because I
don't want Sparex fumes rusting all of my tools. I remember citric
acid being very important as a canning preservative, and I have a
crock pot I can use for the citric acid. 

Citric acid is safer, but if you keep the pickle pot (crock pot)
covered and only warm, not boiling, you shouldn’t have a problem with
Sparex. However, next time you need to get pickle, do yourself a
favor and don’t buy the Sparex product. It’s crap, with some sort of
brown waxy contaminant in it. For less money, you can get sodium
bisulphate products sold in hardware stores or pool supply shops, as
the agent used to lower ph in pool and spa and hot tub water. Less
expensive than Sparex, works just as well as pickle, and without the
nasty gunk messing up your pickle pot.

While the Orchid community has many people who’ve opted to use
Citric acid as pickle instead of sodium bisulphate, in truth, if
you’ve got any sort of reasonable ventilation / air flow in your shop
area, and you keep the pot covered as above, you really don’t have a
safety problem with Sparex. If you’ve already got it, I’d suggest
using it.

Refinements to my self-study lesson plan, anyone? 

I’m not completely sure what type of chain you’re planning to make.
Have you got a link to a photo? That would make suggestions easier.

Also, it occurs to me that if this is among your first attempts at
jewelry making, a chain isn’t exactly starting at square one. If I
were teaching a beginner, I’d start not with actually making a
serious object, but with making sure the student had some exercises
in the proper use of files, jewelers saw, and basic soldering and
annealing on scrap pieces. Maybe a little basic forging practice too.
But on the other hand, you’re probably not starting with a project
thats intrinsically beyond the basic levels of craftsmanship, so if
this is how you’d like to proceed, go for it.

In beginner level classes I’ve seen, though, the usual first
products start with usually commercially produced sheet metal
(usually brass or bronze, not yet silver) with some cold work methods
such as sawing, filing, and exploring means to texture metal, put
various types of tool marks on the metal for decorative purposes and
how the marks made when working the metal can thus also be part of
the design. Then one explores joining metal by cold joints, ie
rivets, wrapping, etc, before introducing soldering and a torch. The
idea is that one starts with basic processes and the fewest basic
tools, sees what they can do, and then adds tools and methods. if you
start all the way up with pouring ingots or bars to make into wire,
you’ve jumped more than a few of the basic steps. But then you’re
also not starting at square one with working materials so perhaps
much of that basic material may be info you already have in some
form, and if you’re comfortable starting with that chain, then do so.

Keep us posted, and ask questions when something isn’t behaving as
you expected.

Peter


#4

Andrew…isn’t this a bit of being insulting to Peter and his
knowledge!

Start at the bottom, simply, as the rest of us did, and you will
learn by practice. I am still learning new tricks after 40 years.
Some of these weird concoctions you are coming up with, really don’t
make much sense!

Have stepped on your toes, but really am bored with all the jargon!

My 2 cents worth on a very cold night in Denver.
Rose Marie Christison


#5

Andrew,

My current roommate makes pieces with silver, copper and jeweler’s
bronze. For inspiration take a look at the gallery located at the
following link: http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/2n

She uses no solder, just fuses the pieces. I LOVE the heart.
Keith Hible


#6

Hello Andrew,

You say you will use fine silver. Fine silver will fuse nicely, so
the use of solder is not necessary. Fusing is a useful skill and this
seems like a good opportunity to learn how to do it.

Judy in Kansas, who is waiting out this mega-storm until the plane to TUS
leaves tomorrow.


#7

Hi Andrew.

A couple of suggestions.

I’ve never worked tufa, so take this with a bit of salt, but I
suspect that a slot.050"x.100" will be too fine to get a decent ingot
out of. There’s a reason why most wire ingot molds are about .250x.250
at minimum. (Surface tension, among others.) You might want to
try .200x.200 or so.

You might also want to relax on the precision too. Carving tufa with
an NC mill is roughly akin to…I can’t even think of an analogy,
but it’s radical overkill. A butter knife and a ruler will do you
just fine, without getting abrasive grit into your machine’s guides.
(and trashing a cutter.)

(CNC is cool, but they’re not always the best answer to every
question. You have hands. Learn to use them. (That’s the end goal
here, yes?))

As for the size of the groove, rather than worrying about
thousandths accuracy, about the size of a chopstick is about right.
You’re going to have to do some forging on the wire anyway, so the
exact size of the ingot is largely irrelevant. (Cast wire isn’t the
most regular thing in the world. If you want it to behave, it’ll
require a bit of forging down to even it out.) Might as well make it
bigger to make it easier to get a good ingot.

Your melting plan sounds feasible. Make sure you’ve got plenty of
borax.

As far as soldering & pickle go, use the sparex you’ve got, then
switch over to “PH Down”. You can get it from pool supply places.
It’s actually a higher grade of the same stuff (sodium bisulphate),
and costs about 1/3 as much. (higher grade in that it’s more refined
(food grade). Doesn’t cause the brown gunk that sparex has.)

What I do to keep track of which wire silver solder is which, is
bend a code into the end of the wire. That way the tags can’t come
off. (as you’ve discovered.)

My easy has a loop at the end that looks like a cursive “E”, the
medium has an “M” and the hard has a crank-handle looking bend
that’s half of an “H”.

If you don’t have any flux (borax powder only counts post
apocalypse) get down to the local welding supply place, and get a
small can of the white Harris paste flux for brazing. (silver
soldering is actually brazing as far as welding types are concerned.)
Should look like kindergarten paste. Pick up a couple of cheapo
little acid brushes for putting it on with, and you’re in business.
(Tell the counter guy you’re doing ultra high percentage silver
brazing, and ask him for whatever flux they’ve got. Odds are it’ll be
the harris stuff.) Please believe me on this one: trying to learn
soldering on your own, without real flux is going to set you up for
weeks of frustration and melted parts. It is possible to solder using
just borax & spit, but it’s not easy, and it’s definitely not
something you want to try to do first time out of the gate.

As far as the soldering itself goes, practice with some copper
first. Please.

Best of luck,
Brian.


#8

Mary,

I have a small box of copper scrap that I was going to recycle.
Could you use this? I can stuff it in a priority mail box and get
it to you end of this week. 

I won’t turn it down! Question for you: If I pour molten silver with
flux mixed in, on top of cold copper, will the silver stick to the
copper?

Andrew Jonathan Fine


#9

Andrew,

I buy wire and sheet sterling and wire and sheet copper because I
wear a brace on my right wrist. Sorry, I can’t provide an answer. I
do remember in casting jewelry classes that all the metals were (very
hot) liquid and poured at one time.

Keep trying everything, and, remember that you will learn even when
you don’t have a sterling success.

Best,


#10

Fine copper granules are best imo, copper wire is okay, but not all
wire is copper wire, so you have to keep an eye out. Filings can be
used, however you will be skimming the melt, due to oxidisation and
impurities.

Just out of interest Peter how long does it take you to alloy some
sterling?

Regards Charles A.


#11

Judy,

I think you might have read my lesson plan too fast. I was strongly
considering mixing up a batch of 925 in my Kerr Electro-melt, per
Peter’s advice.

Unless you are counseling that I should not bother, and instead use
fine silver?

Andrew Jonathan Fine


#12
Refinements to my self-study lesson plan, anyone? 

If your goal is to learn to actually make jewelery this is what I
suggest…

Sell your furnace
Sell your silver
Sell your cnc
Sell whatever other interesting but not terribly germane equipment
you may have

I don’t know the value of what you have but for sake of argument
let’s say you net $3000. For three grand you can get off to a pretty
good start with equipment and material that will get you moving on a
track to actually make some finished goods instead of contemplating
how to play with your toys. Don’t buy more tool bling, buy the
basics. Be frugal but be smart. You don’t NEED a buffing cabinet to
get started. A 2 speed dual spindle motor is good enough for now, See
you just saved enough money to buy a foredom and some burs. I
guarantee you’ll use burs more often than a furnace.

Sorry to sound whatever but you’ve invested a bunch in what you have
now and you made ONE pair of earrings in the two years or so that I
could find your posts. Dude, you are making terrible progress. And I
get the feeling that you are relying on tech to do it for you. You
need to forget that you’re an engineer and begin thinking like a
mechanic. You know, the guy who get his hands dirty but gets the job
done.

As to why to sell your stuff. They all limit you.You can only use
that $value for certain tasks. $1400 to melt. That’s an expensive
melt don’t you think? What’d ya make with that $1400 investment? Your
plan amounts to using the furnace and cnc to make an ingot with your
silver. You spend all that time and money and still haven’t made a
thing.

You’ve made a significant monetary investment but I don’t see any
personal investment. You want an intensive mentoring program. But
where do we see an intensive attempt(failures included,in fact extra
credit) by you do make anything? Afraid of failure? Failure is your
best friend. Taste it, hate it, embrace it so you never have to
again.

Again I’m sorry to sound stern. Ask Leonid about his stern master
back in the day. THAT’S stern. I’m just telling you what you need to
hear. This from a guy who stood in similar limbo more than thirty
four years ago. I still remember it. Its up to the individual, One’s
whole life is up to the individual.


#13

As for labelling silver solder I use old plastic film cans (if they
are still available somewhere it just goes to show how long I’ve had
the current set) or similar such as plastic pill bottles. Poke a
hole in the lid and coil up the solder with the end poking through
the lid. You then just label the container. I just use red, blue and
green electrical tape for hard, medium and easy respectively. In
practice I use hard as much as possible and rarely use easy.

All the best
Jenny


#14
Just out of interest Peter how long does it take you to alloy some
sterling? 

What is there to it? Weigh the fine silver, punch numbers into a
calculator to figure out how much copper to add, weigh it out, and
melt it. This doesn’t take all that much longer than just melting the
silver in the first place. The big time waster comes in turning the
melt in usable sheet metal, because you pour your ingot, roll it all
out, and then have to spend time after annealing, marking and
dissecting out any blisters or defects you might find. That annoys
me, since then even before I make anything, there’s a bunch of scrap
needing to be remelted.

So. I don’t do a whole lot of alloying of sterling silver. Virtually
all the silver I have in my shop is already sterling. Because of the
problems I find when trying to make my own sterling silver sheet
metal, I prefer to buy sterling silver sheet already as sheet. So the
silver I may need for wire or for casting comes from the leftovers
and scraps of that sheet metal. I believe the extra manufacturing
costs I pay to buy sterling silver sheet instead of fine silver and
then alloy and pour my own ingots to roll into sheet, are well worth
that cost. Again, this is primarily due to the higher percentage of
defective areas in silver sheet I make myself. I have no trouble
making my own wire, and of course with gold or platinum, I make my
own sheet and wire too. I alloy my own gold alloys as well, most of
the time, since doing this lets me keep a smaller inventory of gold
on hand and still have whatever karat and color I need for a project.
With silver, this situation does not exist, since I use silver
almost exclusively as sterling, not fine. Platinum is similar, I use
exclusively 10 percent iridium platinum for hand fabrication work
(and casting too, when I need to do it), and given the difficulty of
alloying that metal without more sophisticated equipment than I have
on hand, I don’t mind buying my platinum already alloyed.

Now, with that said, if I need sheet metal in sterling silver, and
already have a bunch of scraps or similar pieces, I don’t just go buy
more new. I do then melt it to an ingot and roll it out and make my
own. Otherwise I’d be just buying extra metal I don’t need to buy,
which is silly. But given the choice, I prefer to buy and use
commercially rolled silver sheet instead of buying casting grain in
fine or sterling silver and turning that into sheet myself. But
that’s just me. Others I know are more willing to put up with silvers
idiosyncrasies than I am.

Peter


#15

Andrew,

It has become obvious to me that you do not prefer to actually
experiment in your studio, but rather to ask people’s opinion on this
forum, instead. You’ve got to actually work with the metals to see
what they will do. Real that you will retain comes into
your brain through your fingers, by working with your hands. Printed
or verbal cannot come close to experiencing something
yourself, with your own hands and eyes. Besides, I have read and
heard many times that I know, from personal experience,
NOT to be true. Be very careful that the building blocks of
that you lay down as a foundation for all your later
work are personally provable and repeatable.

My larger question about what you are asking is this: What are you
creating by pouring hot silver onto copper? Just want to see if it
will stick ? (most likely, it won’t) TRY IT !!

My advice is to make a plan first. Don’t just start pouring molten
metals onto other metals to see if they stick. Figure out what it is
you want to make, then go about making it.

I have a bit of advice I tell my students quite often, and I think
it may help you.

“There are 2 parts of making jewelry: 1. The design 2. The execution
of that design.”

Hope that helps.

Jay Whaley


#16
See you just saved enough money to buy a foredom and some burs. I
guarantee you'll use burs more often than a furnace. 

Geez, Neil… ;} Jo-Ann says that’s a little
TOO strict, I have to agree a little, too. But the fact is that all
of what Neil said is more or less true, even if the tone could be
kinder.

~I~ have tools. I have 20 hammers, 40 gravers… I have 12
whetstones ferchrissake. And all the gizmos and gadgets that most
jewelry people ache to have, too. Well, most of them.

All day, every day, except for once a month or two, I reach for:
jeweler’s saw, ring mandrel, hardware-store ball pein hammer,
leather mallet, chain nose and round nose pliers, lightweight
shears, tweezers, side cutters, steel block and my files. I have 3-4
setting tools that I use most often - pusher and some burnishers and
setting pliers. And I use the flex shaft as much as anybody, but
except for drilling that’s a thing that can be done without unless
you are spoiled by it, as most of us are. And of course a good bench,
torch and light. A prestolite rig or similar will do you just fine
for some years - it did for me. That’s it. I can make most anything
(except casting) with those tools alone. And polishing.

So, here’s what you do: you swing the hammer, you squeeze the pliers
and use the ring mandrel to make rings. You light the torch and make
things hot. That’s all the jewelry-making lesson you really get. The
rest of it is HOW you swing the hammer and HOW you squeeze the
pliers, and that comes with training and practice. Lady had a $25K
watch with a loose catch. I picked up a hammer and went THWACK,
once, and it was fixed. Know ing that comes after 165,982 hammer
swings. Next comes WHAT those things are done to - design and
sophistication (make a necklace without jumprings, again…)

First you’re in the first grade, then you go to second grade and
then third. You don’t/can’t expect to go from first grade to
college, it just doesn’t work that way with anything in life.


#17
Geez, Neil......................... ;} 

Well, if I have to apologize for being a straight shooter, OK.

Andrew wants to become a professional, as in make money. Sometimes
the transition takes understanding things in a real world way, even
if its a bitter pill. This biz is super competitive and I’d like to
see him start off in a productive direction which I would suggest is
to concentrate on acquiring ‘now’ skills. Stuff that benefits him in
the now or the soon to be now. Stuff that he can build upon so that
he can perhaps hope to sell something in the near future.

So sorry, Andrew, if the kick in the pants stung.

Throw rocks, make me watch MTV, I deserve it.


#18

Jay,

It has become obvious to me that you do not prefer to actually
experiment in your studio, but rather to ask people's opinion on
this forum, instead. 

I’m sorry that I don’t think like an artist, but instead think like
an engineer I wasn’t trained to be a cut and try empiricist. I prefer
to attack a problem analytically.

When I undertake any project, I prefer to:

  1. Gather written intelligence, that is, online research or books
  2. Gather human intelligence, that is, opinions from other people
  3. Formulate a plan of attack to develop certain skills
  4. Check the plan against my network of mentors
  5. Execute the plan in my laboratory, what you call studio.
  6. Compare the intended plan against the results
  7. Record the lessons learned

And, while my laboratory is presently a outdoor shed with space
heater and with the current weather being about 10 to 15F, I have no
choice but to spent more time on intelligence gathering than on
experimentation.

This week, however, I did buy a charcoal block and some Harris flux
to stock my lab with.

Andrew Jonathan Fine


#19

I have melted sterling silver onto copper. Yes, just to see what
would happen. What happened was something serependitius. Nice,
freeform silver overlay on copper discs and other shapes. I like
them. Have made bracelets and a necklace from the discs - connecting
them with jump rings.

Claire


#20

Yo Andrew! Pheww - Relax man, jewelry making should be fun, your 7
steps to enlightenment - from gathering intelligence to execution -
would help you to set up a factory in China. Now, How about you just
bring yourself to sit down and make a simple 6mm half round band
ring to start with?

Andrew. You must think out of (your) box and learn to release the
artist within. Without him you will be doomed forever to create
meaningless reproductions of other people work… and that will
not offer you the edge you need to be commercially competitive.

so just relax man and start making…fun