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Reticulation problems

Hi Folks, I’ve successfully reticulated sterling sheet in the past,
but am now having trouble trying to get the results I want. First,
let me say I know 820 or 800 silver is available and can produce
better results, but sterling has worked well for me before, and I
want to use stock I have on hand. I also read that 24 ga. sheet might
be considered to be on the thin side, but again, I just want to
reproduce the success I’ve already had.

I started with two pieces of 24 ga sheet, torch heated with an
oxidizing flame for several minutes, air cooled, then pickled.
Repeated about three times, increasing the length of time the sheet
“soaked” in the flame each time. When I attempted to reticulate,
rather then getting a wrinkled pattern to evolve, it kind of
blistered and bumped. The result is probably best described as frog
skin. I suspected I was impatient, and should have repeated the
heat/cool/pickle cycle a few more times.

Two more pieces of 24 ga. Cycle through the process 6-7 times,
burnishing the surface of the sheet about every other time. I’m
starting to wonder if the sheet is to thin that I have actually
leached ALL the copper from it - including the core. Dismiss the idea
as ridiculous, but store it away with all my other insecurities and
uncertainties. Results are virtually identical to the first round.

Maybe I was lucky in the past, and should heed advice to use a
heavier gauge. Take two pieces of 20 ga. sheet. Do the
heat/cool/pickle/burnish process 6-7 times. Results are slightly
better… one area developed a bit of the wrinkled effect, but more
puddling and bumping. It seems like the fine silver on the pools
together on the surface… looking like mercury.

A couple details. As I prepare the metal I’m doing my heating on a
wire rack, so plenty of air gets to the surface on both sides. I’m
using an oxy/acetylene Little Torch with a #5 tip and a big hissing
flame. To reticulate I’m placing the sheet on a clean, preheated
piece of magnesite (?) block or solderite pad. The first round I was
actually trying to reticulate in my Ultralite kiln. My suspicion was
that my problem was due to the sheet not being able to cool rapidly
enough due to the heat of the kiln. Subsequent test seem to show this
wasn’t the problem. My pickle isn’t “fresh”, per se, but it’s working
fine for other pieces and seems to work effectively develop the fine
silver skin. The flame I’m using to reticulate is a sharp hot
flame… play all over the sheet to bring up to temperature, then
move it over the sheet in a linear pattern as the surface starts to

Okay… that’s about it. Any ideas what I’m doing wrong? The
resulting sheets may be useable, but I need more wrinkles to complete
the bail for a reticulated pendant I made from sheet I did a few
years ago. I hate to keep throwing more metal at the problem, trying
to solve it by trial and error.

As usual, all comments and ideas are appreciated!

Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)

Dave, I don’t know if this will help at all. Some time ago I was
trying to get a surface effect and used a rolling mill with the
green scrub pads for effect. I was not quite satisfied and then
tried reticulation. for me it worked very well. The uneven surfaces
reacted differently while I flamed the piece. don’t know if i was
just lucky, or if the rearranged structure reacted to the flaming.
HTH, Teresa

Thin sterling seems to work for me. I heat it to a dull red with a
bushy flame (acetylene /air) and hot quench it in pickle. In the
past, I just did this for four or five times and then used a small
flame to do the wrinkling. Now I also brass brush it between heats.
I’ve never used oxygen with a gas to do this so I can’t tell you much
about what kind of flame you should have. Did you use the same torch
set up in the past?

Marilyn Smith

Hi Dave,

I am behind on my e-mail, so this is my thoughts a question that was
posed a couple of weeks ago regarding problems reticulating. I have
had this same thing happen to me with the blistered metal when
trying to reticulate. I fixed my problem by using 2 torches, one
bushy flame to heat, then fairly sharp point to reticulate. While
still preheating next area to reticulate with the bushy flame torch.
I have also found that a flat surface free of pits and cracks that
is completely free of flux works the best. I have one side of my
pad that I use for reticulation only.

I hope this helps, Becky