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Reticulating brass and silver

All, I am leaving this country (the USA) in less than one week,
starting a new life in Ireland. I made more than a couple of good
friends here on Orchid and many have been extremely helpful to me in
solving all sorts of technical problems - and sometimes not only
technical ones (thank you, Dan Grandi). There are so many people I
want to thank that I am sure that if I would produce a list I
certainly would forget some. And, of course, thank you, Hanuman, for
this great initiative.

A week or so ago, Katherine Palochak told me that it is possible to
reticulate red brass, so I ordered some and tried it out. She is
right. It reticulates beautifullly. There is no need for any
preparation. Just heat the sheet to a much higher temperature than
you would do with silver and then just go on - I thought for sure
that I was going to burn a hole in the thing, but it simply doesn’t
melt. The reticulation is there. I am curious about this. I know why
silver reticulates, but what causes brass to reticulate. Is there an
analogous mechanism involved here or it is actually (more like) torch

I have been reticulating Sterling silver as well as reticulation
silver quite a lot during the last weeks in order to try to make
sense of the process. I used weak pickles and strong ones, hot, very
hot and not so hot flames. I depleted the silver 4, 6, and 8 times
(which is, in my opinion, unnecessary). I can reticulate, but the
results are still unpredictable. I know someone who can almost get
herringbone (? - like the ‘spine of a fish’) and other designs in his
reticulation, but I find this completely impossible to do. Would
someone have some tips to share about this? Actually, I strongly
begin to suspect that the sheet gets poluted here and there,
according to the design wanted, before the final heat up for the
reticulation. I tried this with carbon but to no real avail. Strange
as it may sound, I do not see a difference between reticulating
Sterling and reticulating reticulation silver (80 - 20 alloy). Best, Will

it is possible to reticulate red brass, so I ordered some and
tried it out. She is right. It reticulates beautifullly." 

A note of warning, I’ve had students end up in hospital from metal
fume poisoning from reticulating brasses. The ‘red brass’ (Nugold,
Merlins gold, jewelers bronze) metal contains zinc (at a lower
percentage than standard brass-5-15% instead of 35%zinc), and the
zinc fumes should be vented properly. Charles

Charles Lewton-Brain/Brain Press
Box 1624, Ste M, Calgary, Alberta, T2P 2L7, Canada
Tel: 403-263-3955 Fax: 403-283-9053 Email: @Charles_Lewton-Brai1

Hi, Will,

Good luck in your transition and new life! Though I’m sure you’ll be
away from us for a while, we’ll expect you back, to tell us how it’s
going. First, I, for one, would be interested to know your
conclusions about flux, torch/flame type, etc. I am surprised to hear
you say that depletion isn’t important. Are you getting “relief map"
type reticulation, or just the attractive but relatively subtle
wrinkling typical of torch-textured silver? In my own experiments, I
have found the preparation quite important, and had much better
results with the higher-copper reticulation metal than with sterling.
With similar depletion (alternating between nitric for the silver
content and pickle for the copper) I have reticulated 14k gold.
However, control is something I have not really achieved. But years
ago, before I was really advanced enough to benefit much, I was at a
demo with Don Friedlich, a master of the process. I watched him make
straight rows, spirals, and other controlled patterns of raised
"mountain ranges”. He used an oxy/acet “Little Torch”, with no extra
tricks, just the usual depletion and brass brushing. It was awesome
to watch. So I fear there’s no shortcut, just try, try, try. But I
wouldn’t mind being wrong about that! Oh! He did tip the torch so
that the force of the flame pushed the metal in front of it as it
progressed. Again, Good luck!


Hi Noel, Thank you for your wishes as well as for your response to
the reticulation process. I never said that depletion is not
important. It’s obviously essential. I noticed not much - if any -
difference between pieces which had been depleted 5 times and pieces
that had been depleted 8 times. I don’t think that this is necessary.
As for your question which type of reticulation I got - well, this is
the problem. I got rather subtle spots as well as spots which were
very reticulated, but I didn’t manage to get one sheet which was or
subtle or deep, I always get everything at the same time. And I
can’t control the process. As for the difference between Sterling and
a 80 - 20 per cent alloy, I know that the reticulation silver should
reticulate better, however, I did not see any difference between
Sterling and the reticulation silver. One of the things I would like
to do is to heat the pieces up with an oxy-ace little torch - I use a
little torch with propane now. Perhaps this will make a difference.
Propane needs more oxygen to reach a high temperature. Best, Will

I use a soft flame from an acetylene air torch to do the annealing
and pickling with. I also don’t notice much difference between five
and eight times. I also like to brass brush between annealings. I
switch to a smaller tip to do the reticulation. Think of the flame
tip as pushing the metal ahead of itself.

Marilyn Smith