Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Pitted ball ends on sterling head pins

I’m making my own ball-end head pins by melting sterling wire in a
torch flame.

I know it’s possible to get a smooth, rounded surface but don’t know
how. After cleaning it’s obvious that the balls I make always have
large wrinkles or divots in them - they are not smooth.

I’ve looked in the archives and can’t find a documented fix for this
specific problem.

I’m suspending the wire over the torch flame with tweezers so the
ball hangs downward and

I’ve tried several fluxes.

Does anybody know what I’m doing wrong?

Thanks in advance for your help!
Elizabeth Johnson

Elizabeth. It seems to be a real problem to get smooth sterling
ball-end pins. For this reason I usually make mine out of fine
silver, as they ball up nice and round and smooth.

Sometimes, I I manage to get smooth sterling ones when I draw the
wire through the flame from the hottest end to the coolest very
rapidly. Unfortunately, sometimes is does not work.



I’ve had and get that too. It seems to be all about the flame type.
Too hot and it bubbles, too cool and it doesn’t ball properly. I can
only offer the advice of experimenting with the flame. I’ve also
used an old ball phrase the right size and created a half sphere in
my charcoal block. Smelted a ball in there and while it is still
liquid pushed the pin in. Works too.

Good luck and happy, em balling? Leza


Attachment removed:

How can I share files and pictures with the list?

Or… send the files to the attention of and
we will upload them for you…


If you plan to make a lot of them, just switch to Argentium wire.
The balls will be perfect.

Vera Meyer

I have experimented quite a bit to get nice rounded balls on the ends
of SS wire and have found the way to do it easily and it works (well
most of the time). The ball appears to accumulate 02 as the silver
pulls into a ball. If you remove the flame too quickly it 'bubbles’
out and creates a dimple in the ball. So, when you reach the size
ball you want, don’t jerk the flame away but pull it away slowly.
This precludes the bubbling activity and the ball comes out nice and

Cheers from Don in SOFL.


Both fine silver and Argentium Silver melt into round, un-pitted
balls more consistently than traditional sterling silver.

Cynthia Eid

I always have this problem with sterling. You can finish the ball
with the appropriate sized cup bur to even off the balled end.
Sometimes I’ll just take a fine cut file and clean up the wrinkles.
But if you use Argentium wire you won’t have any wrinkles in the
balled ends. Argentium balls up beautifully. Just be sure you know
how it differs a bit from regular sterling in handling–quenching,

Hope this helps.

If you use fine silver you won’t get pitting.


I'm making my own ball-end head pins by melting sterling wire in a
torch flame. I know it's possible to get a smooth, rounded surface
but don't know how. 

As you said, clamp the wire and heat from below, after the ball is
made quickly turn off the oxygen but keep the gas flame on the ball.
It will be perfect. (This doesn’t work with oxy/ace. I’ve only been
successful using LP or “home” gas.)

To add to what Pat Dvorak said about this - I also learned that the
way to do this without any dimples or wrinkles of any kind was to
watch closely and once the balling up started, clamp your hand over
the air intake (this only refers to your torch handle if you are
using acetylene/air which I do) so that only the acetylene burns and
then keep that on the ball for a split second or so, this keeps it
from dimpling or wrinkling. I think it’s probably that the cooler
flame engulfs the ball as it is cooling down (I think cooling too
rapidly is primarily what makes it wrinkle in the first place.?). If
I’m wrong, somebody please tell me. However, right or wrong, this
method does work.


I too like balling Argentium wire the best but if you still need to
ball the end of a regular sterling wire, just wait until the ball is
beginning to form and then turn off the oxygen. Hold the gas flame on
it another second or so and you will get a nice smooth ball. This is
just another way of cooling it slowly. I am using a propane Little
Torch and it works beautifully whenever I do it this way.


Do people generally ball up the ends with or without flux? I always
dip the wire in flux first, and I also do it with the ball pointing
down - that way, it’s the surface tension that makes it into a ball,
instead of the weight of the molten silver. I haven’t noticed a
problem with sterling, but I haven’t tried to do it with fine or
argentium. Am I missing a treat here?

Jamie Hall

Hello Jaime,

I have not used flux when balling up the ends of wire. I just stick
the wire end in the flame (ball down) and then pickle after the ball
has formed. Judy in Kansas, where we’ll experience more triple
digits today and (yea!) I found another missing turtle. Maybe the
little darlin’s are hiding out underground in this heat.

Thanks so much to all who replied. I now have three good solutions
to the problem. Will try the fuel-only trick for the sterling wire I
have, and when it’s all gone will switch to Argentium or (where
strength is not an issue) fine silver.

Elizabeth Johnson

I am surprised nobody has mentioned the obvious, you are merely
reticulation your sterling silver. Try to do some reticulation, and
you will recognize the appearance. That is why fine silver will make
a perfect ball. No real way around it, you bring the copper to the
surface and pickle it away, and the fine silver left on the surface
will wrinkle. Good Luck.

Tom (Heavy Lifter for Designs by Suz) Parish

Well ya know, you could be just getting it too hot. I use my minor
bench burner cause it’s easy to make dozens at a time, but it just
takes a pass through…usually balls up perfectly and I can hold them
upsidedown so gravity makes the ball…I agree you are probably
reticulating it…which of course is fun too, at least on sheet