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Proper care of Charcoal blocks


#1

Hello, I would love to get some feedback on the proper care of a
charcoal soldering block. I am using the block to make fine silver
granules for granulation. Some say extinguish the block with a spray
bottle after using, as the block is like a charcoal briquette and
will smolder and fall apart quickly unless extinguished. Others say
spraying with water will cause the charcoal to quickly crack into
pieces due to the steaming out of the water. Anyone have an opinion
on this matter? Thank you,

Chelsea Stone
Eye Candy Jewelry Company - Prescott, Arizona


#2

Hello Chelsea;

First, when you get a new charcoal block, carve a notch, on the edge
of each corner, midway between the two larger flat sides, about 1/8
inch deep. Wrap light gauge iron binding wire around the block a
couple times and twist the ends closed. Then, with a large torch
tip, slowly heat up the entire surface of both sides, just barely
bringing the surface to show a red glow under the flame. Then use a
wet sponge to wet these surfaces. This will cure the block and
prevent early cracking. And yes, when you have been working on a
charcoal block with a torch, you’ll get more longevity from it if you
extinguish the burning surface with either a light spray of water or
blotting with a wet sponge.

David L. Huffman


#3

Chelsea,

I do most of my work on a charcoal block. It is hard to beat the
reflected heat and the reducing atmosphere generated. Great for gold
work. When done for the day I always wet the work surface lightly.
These blocks are meant to be expendable, even the compressed
charcoal blocks. I would rather go through blocks faster than have a
smoldering block set my bench and shop on fire.

Try tying wrapping a wire around the block to hold it together even
if it cracks. This does help. The “compressed” charcoal blocks seem
to ignite much less easily even with heavy usage. I also work with
the block set on top of a ceramic pad. In case I leave the bench for
a period of time, this will keep it from setting anything on fire
should it happen to be smoldering. It also helps to keep the work
area cleaner.

Bill


#4

Dear Chelsea The way I was tought was to first wrap your block with
binding wire several turns to support the ends and sides then just
let it burn out . HTH Ron


#5
    Others say spraying with water will cause the charcoal to
quickly crack 

Chelsea, My charcoal block has wire wrapped around the perimeter,
with the ends twisted together. One end is about four inches long
and bent into a hook so I can pick up the block after use and dunk
it into water.

It hasn’t cracked, but perhaps that is due to the type of charcoal
block that I bought. It is advertised as being denser and finer
grained (read: more expensive) than standard charcoal blocks. I
don’t know how much of a factor that plays in durability.

Janet


#6

I understand that you can cover the hot charcoal block with a metal
pot or something similar that is inflammable, this will starve it of
oxygen. I haven’t tried it, but it makes sense.


#7

I recently took some classes from Jim Frape, long-time jewelry
teacher in Pittsburgh. He doesn’t use charcoal at all for making
shot - he uses dental investment set in a cat food can - says it
lasts forever. Myself, I’ve been wondering whether garden-variety
charcoal briquets wouldn’t work as well as a fancy charcoal block.
You could put the briquet out with water or sand when you were done
making shot, and then you could use the briquet to grill hamburgers.
Mind you, I haven’t tried this…

Joanne Murray


#8
        These blocks are meant to be expendable, even the
compressed charcoal blocks. I would rather go through blocks faster
than have a smoldering block set my bench and shop on fire. 

I have a bunch of charcoal blocks - some new compressed one and lots
of old ones, even small chunks of left over worn out ones that I can
stack adjacent to what I’m soldering to help hold it in position. I
did discover that if your charcoal block gets pits and cracks in the
top and becomes very rough and worn, simply take it outside and rub
it on a brick or old concrete block - acts like sanding paper but is
quicker. In short order you have a nice smooth surface to work on
againl And the charcoal blocks continue to live for another day.
And I have always spritzed mine with water at night when I’m finished
just to be sure. A friend who was a raku potter, burned his studio
down because he “thought” he had doused the sawdust he used for
firing the raku pots - he said it “looked” like it was thoroughly
"out" but it was smoldering deep inside and during the night erupted
in flames and burned his studio almost to the ground.

For that reason I keep an old cookie tin by my workbench and after I
have spritzed the carcoal blocks, they get put inside the cookie tin
and it gets closed up. Never had a problem this way.

Kay


#9

All, The best way to get added life out of charcoal blocks is to
periodically rub them across the broad side of a concrete block.
This removes any accumulated residues and it planes the surface of
the charcoal perfectly flat.

Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos Ca.


#10

I use a squeeze bottle with a pointed spout to squirt my block with
water. It has been going on for months and has not damaged the block
at all.

LaVerne