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Steel Jewelry


#1

Hello, I am trying to make jewellery with steel,and I dont know much
about it. Does anyone can help me? Is there a special flux for
soldering steel ? (I am soldering with silver solder) Is there a
special pickle to clean the steel once it’s been anneal ? What kind of
patina can I use ? How to prevent rust ?

Thanks, Catherine
bechard@cam.org


#2

Catherine,

I have made a piece using steel and silver. What I used was borax
flux, plain old sparex pickle and to protect the steel as well as to
bring up a contrast was gun bluing. The gun bluing I used was rubbed
onto the piece after I had heated the piece with the steamer. The
steel I used was called key stock, it was a square rod,galvanised with
zinc ( which I had to file off ) so I am not sure exactly what type of
steel it was, and whether that would change anything.

Hope this is helpful
Brigid Ryder


#3

I’d recommend when soldering steel, that you use a paste flux, like
the “Handy-Flux” sold by a number of jewelry tool suppliers. It’s a
thick, white paste. The “self-pickling” fluxes won’t absorb the kind
of oxides produced by heated steel. Silver solder of the type used
in silver fabrication is excellent for steel. You can also use
"brazing rod" of bronze or brass, but it will require higher
temperatures and is more prone to forming its own oxides. I
generally prefer not to “pickle” steel. You can clean it with a
product containing phosphoric acid, such as “Navel Jelly” and it can
be cleaned in dilute muriatic acid or lye solution (sodium
hydroxide?). Problem is, when steel is fresh out of these solutions,
even when it is rinsed throroughly, it begins to rust immediately.
Probably better to clean by physical abraision such as sandblasting
or with unitized wheels. As for rusting, it will. You can use
commercial gun blueing preparations such as “Perma-Blue”, sold in
sporting goods departments, which will impart a blue-black color, but
these will need to be at least lightly oiled. I suggest “Renaissance
Wax” or Johnson’s paste wax (original formula is my favorite). There
are also gun “browning” solutions such as “plum-brown” (can’t
remember the manufacturer offhand). Be REAL careful with those, and
the blueing solutions as well. The blueing solutions often contain
selenium, which is deadly poison, and the browning solutions contain
water soluble mercury compounds, which are both poisons and an
environmental hazzards of the first order. You can achieve a good
brown by applying ferric chloride, sold in some electronics stores
for etching circuit boards. After the dilute ferric chloride has been
washed on and allowed to set for a couple days, neutralize it with
ammonia. As for blue, try photographer’s hypo, but be careful with
that stuff too. I think it contains sodium thiosulfate if I remember
correctly, which is toxic. The best solution for a good blue is this.

  1. clean to bare metal and wire brush the surface with steel brushes,
    rotary or hand-held. 2. heat slowly until you get the blue you desire.
  2. seal it with wax after it has cooled to the point where it doesn’t
    make the wax sizzle, only smoke a bit.

Now if you use stainless steel, you can get a good blue, albiet a
grayer variety, that is amazingly permanent with no further treatment
at all simply by heating the cleaned metal till it darkens
sufficiently.

I have sealed heat-blued steel with polyurethane and had it last for
years, but it will break down under sunlight’s ultraviolet. Shellac,
acrylic, any clear finish will work, as long as the metal is clean
and dry when it’s applied.

Consider the book, “Decorative and Sculptural Ironwork” by Dona
Meilach, published by Shiffer and recently re-released. Also, go to
http://www.abana.org and enter the wonderful world of the Great
American Blacksmith.

David L. Huffman


#4

David,

Why do you prefer not to pickle steel? WHat about surgical stainless
steel, would you reccomnd to use Navel Jelly and Perma Blue if that
portion of the steel was going thru the earlobe?

Thanks
AnastasiA


#5

Steel is quite porous. The acids (or alkali, depending on the
pickle) tend to stay in the grain of the metal and continue working.
When the steel is exposed to air with these corrosives present, it
very quickly takes on a “smut” which, although it can be washed off
the surface, tends to stay down in the porous surface. I definitely
would not use Perma Blue on anything which will come in contact with
skin, mucous membranes, or piercing holes, and especially the
bloodstream. There can quite possibly be residual silenium, which as
I said is very toxic. By the way, on most stainless alloys, chemical
bluing agents and chemical pickles will have little or unsatisfactory
effects.

David L. Huffman


#6

Catherine, I have forwarded your message to Andy Vida, a friend from
the ArtMetal News Group site.

He is currently making some wonderful steel jewelry, I have a
bracelet he sent recently. I believe he will contact you directly.

Teresa


#7

I am currently doing a fair amount of this sort of work, though I am
using pure iron rather than steel. Let me begin by recommending pure
iron over steel for the following reasons.

First, pure iron is far and away easier to forge (assuming you are
forging it) than even 1008 mild steel. That 0.08% carbon makes a big
difference in the ease with which one works this material.

Second, the material is FAR more forgiving than any steel. You can
hammer and bend and file and upset and do all sorts of things to this
material that you would never, ever get away with in steel.

Last, pure iron appears to offer superior resistance to corrosion
over steels. There are metallurgical reasons for this. In a
nutshell, the presence of carbon in iron provides one of the strongest
migration paths for corrosion. Because pure iron contains 0.0002%
carbon, it is effectively carbon free. I have a 1" bit of pure iron
that I cut from a bracelet that was too long. It has been sitting in
the weather for a good month and I just picked it up today and noticed
that there is almost no rust on it at all. It had been pickled in
muriatic acid and was free of scale. I was impressed and happy to see
it. More on corrosion later.

Flux: I use simple borax. Get a box of 20 Mule Team at the store
and you will have flux enough for 500 years. You should need nothing
else. You could put about 20% boric acid into it too. Some smiths
swear by it.

Pickle: #1 Sparex is for steel, though it may be for stainless
only. I have n never used it so I cannot say for sure, nor can I say
how well it works. I use muriatic acid. This works like a charm,
however I warn you to use it outside or in a station made for such
materials. The fumes will rot your tools quickly, so do not use it
inside. Get a snoot full of the fumes and you’ll want to kick your
mother for ever having said yes to your father. It is indeed very
nasty stuff, so be careful, use properly and give it its due respect.

Patinas: there are a million (OK, not really a million) patinas
available for steel and iron. There’s a company whose name present
esscapes me, that makes a good variety of very nice patinas for these
metals. Another avenue is gun bluing salts. You could take your work
to a gunsmith and have them hot blue the work for you, or you could
order cold bluing salts from a company such as Brownell’s (see their
site). They go on cold and produce pretty nice results, though I
find that hot blued iron/steel produces finer, deeper colors and a more
durable layer.

Rust: I am currently experimenting with finishes. I do not under
any circumstance care for clear lacquers and varnishes, especially for
a piece that will be in motion and may undergo wear and tear. I am
playing with recipes using carnauba wax, beeswax, and linseed oil.
Carnauba is hard as a rock and has an almost glass-like quality about
it. This makes it very difficult to use in its pure form. Melting it
and adding some beeswax and/or linseed oil softens it wax considerably
and renders it more easily applied. I appliy it by rubbing a little
onto highly polished surfaces and then buff out by hand with cotton.
It provides a very thin coating that mucst be reapplied regularly, but
in my opinion this beats the daylights out of a lacquer that chips and
gets ratty looking in time. For unpolished, tectured surfaces, I
would melt the wax mixture, dip the work in, and wipe away the excess,
let cool and polish by hand as per above.

If you or anyone else is interested in pure iron, please go to

http://www.artandmetal.com 

There you can purchase Pure Iron bar in various shapes and sizes. It
is a very good product that I believe holds the potential to
revolutionize the world of blacksmithing.

I am not affiliated with Art and Metal except that I know one of the
owners, a poor degenerate beer guzzling so and so. Nonetheless, the
product is tops.

:slight_smile:

I hope this helps.

Question: what sorts of things are you making? Are you forging or
just fabricating?


#8

can anyone recommend any “how to” books for steel jewelry? i have an
idea in mind for a blackened steel ring with 22k gold soldered to it.

kim holland
st john virgin islands


#9

I’ll bet ya that books on decorative gunsmithing or sword making
might have some interesting tid bits.

R