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Preparing a charcoal block


#1

I just received my new charcoal block for making perfect fine silver
balls. I would now like to know how to prep it for use.

I read somewhere that I need to wrap it in binding wire. I couldn’t
find iron binding wire but I did get some stainless steel binding
wire.

Do I wrap it horizontally around the sides of the block? What
exactly does this do for the block?

Also, I read where I need to “anneal” the block first. Is this like
annealing metal? Do I get it red hot all over? Will I set the house
afire?

Thank you all for your help with this.
Gratefully,
Roberta


#2

Roberta,

I used baling wire bought at a hardware store to wrap mine. Baling
wire is used in hay baling but finds many other useful applications
because it is soft yet of a large enough gauge to have decent
strength.

Here is a Wikipedia link for baling wire:

Mike DeBurgh, GJG
Henderson, NV


#3

Hi all:

I’d suggest black iron stovepipe wire. (available in most hardware
stores.) The reason for the preference is that bailing wire is
frequently galvanized. Not exactly what you want around your torch.
(If you torch the wire, the zinc will burn off. This could be bad,
both for you and your metal.)

Regards,
Brian.


#4

I bought, six years ago, a compressed charcoal block. It doesn’t
need to be wrapped. You can bore shapes into it. You can use it for
splash casting such as nugget designs. I use it quite often and it is
a good today as when I bought it.

The only thing to keep in mind is that you cannot easily put a pin
(for instance) to hold parts down if needed when soldering. You may
have to drill a small hole to accept the pin first.

I believe I got it from AllCraft or some such supplier.

Larry Silva


#5

I have soldered on a charcoal block, but I have never prepared one
for use.

Will you give me step by step instructions on how you prepare one
for use.

Thank you.
Angela


#6
Will you give me step by step instructions on how you prepare one
for use. 

Here’s my step-by-step procedures:

Remove block from paper, place on desk, use.

Is it gonna break?
Yes.

Will wrapping it with wire prevent it from breaking? I don’t know,
nor do I care.

Paf Dvorak


#7
Will you give me step by step instructions on how you prepare one
for use. 

Because of the continuing rise in costs for charcoal blocks (along
with everything else) I try to get the most out of each block.
Although I am all but retired, I used to get months of extreme use
outside very carefully with binding wire of some kind to help hold it
together. I use probably 22 Ga/ 20 Ga annealed bronze round wire, but
almost anything can be used. Work with your hands to get it as tight
as possible, working all the kinks out of it, and carefully bend it
to a good fit on the corners. Then gently twist the two ends while
pulling tight, (it will cut into the corners), then I use the long
sides to twist a partial bend in each side to make it good and tight.
Pick one side for doing most of your soldering on, and as you make
holes with hold down pins, and carve divots out of the charcoal to
fit things for evening up sides for the solder process, this side
will become sort of lumpy. As it wears away in different spots,
sometimes from the flame, sometimes from pushing earring posts, or
odd shaped projects, it seems to become more and more useful. When it
gets really bad, just take a wood rasp, go outside and file off the
worst of the damage. In the meantime, the other side stays pristine
and perfectly flat. Works great for soldering large bezels onto flat
backs for free form stones of size. Lots of uses for a good clean
flat surface to solder on each day. BTW, when you have rasped it
several times, and any flat spot has long gone, unwrap the bronze
wire and save what then will be odd shaped chunks to prop those odd
shaped wire and sheet pieces for soldering. If you have any big
enough you can carve little simple one sided casting impressions into
them to get rid of some of that scrap in an original piece. I have
used charcoal for my soldering base more than any other material. I
personally think it is more cost effective to buy the biggest blocks
you can afford, in a year or so you’ll have more small pieces than
you know what to do with. You can clean the pieces up and grind them
into uniform dust for making granules with. With the resources of
Orchid, I am sure you find other materials that are just as useful.
Look forward to each day, and the opportunity for yet another
project. Thomas III


#8

I am going to try the method in Tim McCreight’s metalsmithing book
with the charcoal blocks. The silver can be melted right in the
charcoal block rather than having to be poured from a crucible into
a mold. Even if the ingot isn’t perfect, the learning process will be
valuable.


#9

Hi Angela

We did a blog for our blog “The Studio” on how to do that. You can
check it out at the following link

I hope this is of some help.
Mark Nelson
Rio Grande Technical Support
1-800-545-6566


#10
I am going to try the method in Tim McCreight's metalsmithing book
with the charcoal blocks. The silver can be melted right in the
charcoal block rather than having to be poured from a crucible
into a mold. Even if the ingot isn't perfect, the learning process
will be valuable. 

There are smart folks on here that can probably explain why, but
I’ve always had difficulty milling ingots that were not poured from a
crucible into an ingot mold.

Paf Dvorak


#11

When I have a new charcoal block I do bind it with a thick black iron
wire which was available from florists, about 1.2 diameter. Just one
turn around the block and a tight twist to secure / tighten the wire.

The block will eventually crack, then the pieces can be put to other
uses. dont be too precious about your block.

I do like a whole big block for certain uses, so I do care!

David Cruickshank (Australia)
jewellerydavidcruickshank.com.au


#12

Another slick trick for leveling and flattening a used charcoal
block is: Find a piece of flat concrete outside. just use the
concrete surface like you would a piece of sandpaper, and run the
charcoal block over it. You don’t need to press down hard at all. It
will take the bumpy used surface off and leave you with a nice flat
ready to go surface. Just remember to hose off the concrete after you
do this.

I also find the wire around the block not to my liking. The only
place I found a tray for charcoal blocks is at Otto Frei. Currently
they are out of them. I put my block in the tray, which allows me to
move the block without really handling it directly. The second part
of my set up is the square 6" rotating little soldering table I got
from Rio Grande. I love that table! It can hold the charcoal block in
it’s tray, or even larger 12" square solderite boards. It is second
nature to me to just use my pinky to turn the table while I’m
soldering to get all sides of what I’m working on.

Aggie now able to lift my cat without my back killing me.


#13

I remember always wrapping with binding wire and then soaking them
in water for a few days. That seemed to help with the cracking
somewhat.

Russ
TCInstitute.


#14

Maybe you don’t get the metal hot enough? I do it frequently with
both gold and silver with no problem. I sprinkle boric acid on it,
melt until the surface is swirly and quickly pop a small smooth
bottomed steel weight on top, leaving it there for a minute or so.

Jerry in Kodiak


#15
I am going to try the method in Tim McCreight's metalsmithing book
with the charcoal blocks. The silver can be melted right in the
charcoal block rather than having to be poured from a crucible into
a mold. Even if the ingot isn't perfect, the learning process will
be valuable. 

You don’t even NEED perfect charcoal blocks. My nearest supply of
bulk charcoal is from an art supply store for drawing, which has a
pretty rough surface even if moderately level.

So, I dig a square recess in the charcoal and pour my silver in. I
have no trouble with the resulting billets, either fine or sterling.

OBTW, I just mixed up my first batch of “local” sterling, using a 1
ounce Sunshine mine ingot plus enough bits of copper wire to make the
purity 925, in my electric melter.

Sterling is TOUGH stuff to forge!!! I’m developing blacksmith’s
muscles even as I speak.

Andrew Jonathan Fine


#16

I am new to this thread so someone may already have written about
this.

I wet my charcoal blocks down with water so they don’t continue to
smolder. Being wet has never seemed a problem with soldering and it
helps them last longer. The wire wrap is always a good idea.

Sam


#17
Maybe you don't get the metal hot enough? I do it frequently with
both gold and silver with no problem. I sprinkle boric acid on it,
melt until the surface is swirly and quickly pop a small smooth
bottomed steel weight on top, leaving it there for a minute or so. 

I’ll bet you burn through charcoal blocks! I like to pour into a
"book mold". I get very consistent ingots every time.


#18

Hi Agnes,

I also use a ‘turntable’ to rotate my soldering block. I used a
square one for years and was always annoyed that the corners kept
bumping into things on my soldering bench. I switched to a small
round annealing pan filled with pumice and set my soldering blocks
(magnesia or charcoal). These can also be filled with soldering
grain.

Many suppliers carry these, but here are two sources:

http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/ep7zz9
http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/ep7z4a
http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/ep7zza

Source for my magnesia block
http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/ep7zzb

Hope you find this useful,
Linda Kaye-Moses


#19

As for the preparing a charcoal block - I keep mine in a beat up
square pan, again from the thrift store. Easy.

Ooh, have you tried Rio’s natural brush sticks? SO cool!

Blessings,

Sam Kaffine


#20

Hi all,

I am getting into this conversation a bit late, so I am unsure if
anyone has mentioned this product, but about 12 years ago I began
using a European Charcoal Block. I still have and continue to use
that particular block. I eventually carved several grooves into one
surface and use this for melting and alloying metal for the rolling
mill. When the surface became irregular I picked up my second (about
5 years ago). They don’t crack, or fall apart and remain fairly flat
on the surface. 12 years and only 2 charcoal blocks, both of which I
am still using isn’t too bad in my opinion.

Good luck.
Jim