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Pits in sterling silver


#1

Hello all -

I am a hobbyist who has been subscribed to the list for about a year.
I have learned many useful things here and I greatly appreciate the
service that all of you provide by sharing through Orchid.

Recently a problem has developed that I hope you may be able to help
me with. I have begun getting pits in sterling silver that I have
coated with Prips flux. I am using using acetylene + air to solder (a
prest-o-lite). I use Prips flux as an anti-oxident and use Battens
flux at the joints. The pits do not develop in the joints, but rather
on the exposed surfaces of the sterling. I was pickling in pH down,
but switched back to Sparex in case that was the problem. It was not.

I also stopped cleaning my metal with steel wool and switched to a
nylon pad in case that was the problem. It was not.

I mixed up a large batch of Prips flux about a year and a half ago.
I used Peter Rowe’s formulation (1qt water, 120gm Boric acid, 80gm
trisodium phosphate, 80gm borax) and stored it in a glass chemical
bottle with a bakelite lid. The flux was stored, in my shop, at
between 65 and 68 degrees F. Over time, solids have precipitated out
of the solution and have come to encrust the bottom of the bottle.

I have tried several dispensers and the most dependable one I have
found formerly housed “Revitalique daily protectant,” which is a hair
care product containsing collagen, protein and sunscreens. The bottle
was thoroughly washed before the flux was added. The plastic of the
bottle is labelled #1 - PETE.

Initially, there was no problem in using the Prips flux. The pitting
has developed only in the last month or so which is why I thought it
might be due to my switching from sparex to pH down. Unfortunately, I
am at a loss to isolate the problem. I am, however, assuming that the
precipitation removes all components of the flux equally; producing a
weaker, but still equally-proportioned (3:2:2) flux. A recent post
suggesting that the order of applying borax and boric acid separately
could matter has prompted me to wonder if the precipitation has changed
the proportions of the flux. Anyway, as there are many variables here,
I am asking someone wiser than I to direct my search for a cause.

Finally, when I use the prips flux, I apply a light but even coat of
liquid and gently heat the metal until the water evaporates leaving a
white coat over the surface. Under heat, the prips becomes clear and
then red (?). Is this correct? It seems to me that it used to turn a
sort of brown color. Finally, the areas with the pits are often
associated with a greyish, glassy buildup of the flux.

I am sorry this is so long, but I’m not sure what is
really important. I look forward to hearing your advice.

Cheers & thanks Debby Hoffmaster in sunny 70 degree Michigan
@Debra_Hoffmaster


#2

Debra ! I strongley sujest that you find some one in your erea to
teach you silversmithing before you get your self HURT . You did not
say what solder you were useing , the prest o lite torch is fine as i
have one that is over 30 years old made by Smith with 5 tips with it
among other torches for melting Silver and Gold for Castings. And yes
i have a Little Torch but never found anything its good for. Tell me
what town you live in and i will see if i can find some one in that
erea to help and teach you. also check with your local Collage and
see what they have in the way of metal work in gold and silver and
Audit the class . Tell me what you are trying to do and i will help but
i am not much on TYPING . Hang in there Bill D. PS E-MAIL ME


#3

Debbie,

Is it possible that you have a contamination problem? Have you used
any low temp alloys such as pewter or any tin, lead bearing alloy? If
so make sure that your work area and soldering area are cleaned
thoroughly.

Timothy A. Hansen

TAH Handcrafted Jewelry
web-site : www.home.earthlink.net/~tahhandcraft


#4

apparently the applications for fine work have not been approached
…I have a little torch and it is indespensible…I run oxy
acetelyne and it’ works great on small repairs… especially good
for platinum… so takr it or leave it…just my experiance…ringman


#5

To all -

Sounds like there may be a combination of problems, one of which is
Overheating . . . you also neglect to tell us what kind of solder
you're using.  The kind of solder may be another problem. 

Oops. The solder I am using is sheet solder cut into bits. It was
purchased from Rio Grande.

I may be overheating, but the problem only appears when I use the
prips flux, never when I use boric acid in alcohol. I believe that I
solder in the same way using both approaches.

and Timothy Hansen tahhandcraft@earthlink.net asks

    Is it possible that you have a contamination problem? Have you
used any low temp alloys such as pewter or any tin, lead bearing
alloy? If so make sure that your work area and soldering area are
cleaned thoroughly. 

Tim - yes, I have used pewter, but never in my shop, only as a
demonstration at shows or schools. Also I have never used my own
tools on pewter. However, the silver sheet that I am currently using
came to me via the death of another silversmith and I do not know of
the conditions in his shop. However, I do clean my metal before using
it. I am currently cleaning it with a tuffy plastic pad. Could
residue of plastic be causing the pits?

text of origonal post follows Hello all -

I am a hobbyist who has been subscribed to the list for about a year.
I have learned many useful things here and I greatly appreciate the
service that all of you provide by sharing through Orchid.

Recently a problem has developed that I hope you may be able to help
me with. I have begun getting pits in sterling silver that I have
coated with Prips flux. I am using using acetylene + air to solder (a
prest-o-lite). I use Prips flux as an anti-oxident and use Battens
flux at the joints. The pits do not develop in the joints, but rather
on the exposed surfaces of the sterling. I was pickling in pH down,
but switched back to Sparex in case that was the problem. It was not.

I also stopped cleaning my metal with steel wool and switched to a
nylon pad in case that was the problem. It was not.

I mixed up a large batch of Prips flux about a year and a half ago.
I used Peter Rowe’s formulation (1qt water, 120gm Boric acid, 80gm
trisodium phosphate, 80gm borax) and stored it in a glass chemical
bottle with a bakelite lid. The flux was stored, in my shop, at
between 65 and 68 degrees F. Over time, solids have precipitated out
of the solution and have come to encrust the bottom of the bottle.

I have tried several dispensers and the most dependable one I have
found formerly housed “Revitalique daily protectant,” which is a hair
care product containsing collagen, protein and sunscreens. The bottle
was thoroughly washed before the flux was added. The plastic of the
bottle is labelled #1 - PETE.

Initially, there was no problem in using the Prips flux. The pitting
has developed only in the last month or so which is why I thought it
might be due to my switching from sparex to pH down. Unfortunately, I
am at a loss to isolate the problem. I am, however, assuming that the
precipitation removes all components of the flux equally; producing a
weaker, but still equally-proportioned (3:2:2) flux. A recent post
suggesting that the order of applying borax and boric acid separately
could matter has prompted me to wonder if the precipitation has changed
the proportions of the flux. Anyway, as there are many variables here,
I am asking someone wiser than I to direct my search for a cause.

Finally, when I use the prips flux, I apply a light but even coat of
liquid and gently heat the metal until the water evaporates leaving a
white coat over the surface. Under heat, the prips becomes clear and
then red (?). Is this correct? It seems to me that it used to turn a
sort of brown color. Finally, the areas with the pits are often
associated with a greyish, glassy buildup of the flux.

I am sorry this is so long, but I’m not sure what is
really important. I look forward to hearing your advice.

Cheers & thanks Debby Hoffmaster in sunny 70 degree Michigan
@Debra_Hoffmaster


#6

Ringman, you are absolutely correct. We use the Little Torch every
day(my partner has been using for 20 years) in all aspects of gold
and silver fabrication and repair, including very fine repair.
Oxy-Acety works for us. Guess is just a matter of choice and what a
bench jeweler is comfortable with.

Gary Dirks
Janine’s Jewelry
Redding, Ca.


#7

It seems to me that to discover what is contaminated, you may want to
do a series of tests to isolate the problem. Do tests of all
different combinations, varying only one element each time. For
instance, try the same flux and solder on a sheet of silver from a
different source. And the same flux and silver you’ve been using, but
a different solder. If you use all the suggestions from this forum at
the same time, you’ll probably solve the problem, but never figure out
the cause so that you can avoid it in the
future. Alana Clearlake, Emeryville, CA