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Pitfalls working with Niobium and titanium


#1

Hi,

Would appreciate it if you could share some tips about working with
these materials, including pitfalls and negative aspects. I would
like to make some chain maille from these jump rings.

Thanx and keep shining,

Devora


#2

Greetings:

The biggest problem with the reactives for chain mail is that the
oxide colors are tough, but will eventually scratch off from the
constant rubbing that mail unavoidably generates. Not a problem for
small jewelry objects worn for special occasions, but a big problem
for daily wear items.

Cutting it will be fun. Both Ti and Nb have lousy heat transfer
rates.

This means they hold heat right at the point of contact, rather than
dissipating it through the whole piece. Use lots of lube on saws or
drills. I’d recommend using shears to cut it. Channelock used to
make (and maybe still does) a really wonderful high-ratio shear that
was perfect for mail work. (Channelock #308 shears. Special order
most places, but worth the wait.) I cut…?40,000? steel rings
once before I had to sharpen them the first time.

They leave a slight divot on the OD of the ring, but the cut is
straight, and butts up well.

You can’t solder any of the reactives, so all the mail will have to
be butted. (Or riveted if you’re really crazy.) (Laser welded
perhaps, but spendy.)

Nb is more easily bent than Ti, and Ti is springier, but just bending
them into a loop isn’t stressing either of them much. Beware of
spring-back making your rings bigger than you expected.

Have fun.
FWIW
Brian Meek


#3

Devora,

If you heat niobium (also known as columbium) or titanium in air
(oxygen) it will oxidize rapidly. I once heated niobium wire without
thinking about this, and ended up with a pile of white powder. It
does develop nice patina at room temperature over time.

John
Mackinac Designs


#4

Talking specifically about chainmail, here are my thoughts:

Titanium:
Very strong (comparable to steel). Very light (comparable to
aluminum).

I personally find the strength to be a good thing, but the lack of
weight to be a bad thing. Jewelry made from titanium doesn’t have
the solid “heft” that I like in my pieces. But that’s personal
opinion.

It’s quite tricky to find titanium with a smooth finish. The
manufacturers almost invariably etch it after drawing to get rid of
the lubricant residue. The “frosted” finish can be a nice contrast to
more polished metal, but the colors of anodized titanium are always
somewhat muted.

Cutting titanium jump rings can be a bit tricky - I’d recommend
investing in an All Metal Saw (made by Ray Grossman, inventor of the
Jump Ringer). You can also buy pre-made titanium rings, but I do
absolutely recommend saw-cut for jewelry. Otherwise your time is
"wasted" on a piece that will never look truly professional.

Niobium:
Roughly the same weight/strength as sterling silver. (Very roughly.)
The finish is usually MUCH smoother than titanium, yielding much
more vibrant colors. I use niobium for almost all the color in my
chainmail pieces. Again, it’s personal preference, but I enjoy
working with the shiny, brilliant colors. Niobium is much softer
than titanium though. You can’t expect the same strength from the
finished piece and you may find that your pliers scratch the surface
of the metal, gouging away the colored layer. I’ve heard that Tool
Magic (or any of the other tool dips) does wonders for preventing
niobium scratches. I’ve never used it though, since I don’t grip so
tightly that it’s ever a problem in the first place. Cutting niobium
can be a little entertaining since it likes to “smear.”

Anodizing:
They’re both good candidates for electrical anodizing, though with
titanium you really ought to etch it briefly before dropping it in
the bath to knock off the titanium oxide that LOVES to form. The
color range is pretty much the same, though (as I mentioned) the
niobium colors are always a bit “stronger.” I can’t tell you much
about heat anodizing, since I stick with electricity. The heat
anodizing isn’t repeatable enough for me and the colors aren’t as
brilliant (at least not that I’ve seen).

-Spider (mostly a lurker, but actually knows something about chainmail)