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To quench or not to quench, that is the question


#1

Hello all,

As you know I have not had any training and as such am sort of
making it all up as I go along. So, when I am making something, I
will solder a joint and be eager to move onto the next bit. I will
therefore sometimes plunge it into water to quench it so I can move
on quickly. As a result, sometimes I end up making it too brittle and
what I am working on cracks and breaks. Sometimes it works and
sometimes it doesn’t. I can’t work out when I’m supposed to quench
and when I’m not supposed to. Please can someone tell me if there are
any rules regarding quenching?

Thanks,
Helen


#2

With my filigree, I quench it between nearly every soldering without
having any brittleness issues. The only time I get brittle solder
joints is if I leave the piece in too long…say, I forget to take
it out of the pickle on Friday and don’t get back to it for a few
days. If I didn’t quench it between each soldering, but rather waited
for it to cool, put it in the pickle etc, a 2 hour job would quickly
grow to 2-3 times as long while waiting for the silver to deoxidize
in the pickle.

Jeanne
http://www.jeannius.com


#3

Quenching while the metal is red hot will temper it, yet quenching
when it is gray hot will make it 25% softer than air cooling it.
(Gray hot just means really hot but not glowing red any longer.)

If there is a layer of fine silver built up on the piece, it can be
difficult to recognize that the piece is actually red hot because it
will appear white. When my students run into this issue, I tell them
to turn off the torch, and count to 5 then pick up the piece with
tongs and quench it in water. That usually does the trick.

Good luck!
Victoria
Victoria Lansford
http://www.victorialansford.com


#4

Basics… think about what you are doing to the metal. when you heat
to solder you are making it softer

I was taught solder, quench, pickle, rinse next step

If you are getting pieces brittle because you are overworking htem
when it starts to get too stiff you need to anneal it then quench
pickle and work on

It takes some practice to learn how far you can push metal. I made a
silver shot glass from a one inch disk of 18 gauge just to see how
far I could push it I hammered annealed hammered annealed and learned
by doing :slight_smile:

Teri
Silver & Cameo Heritage Jewelry
www.corneliusspick.com


#5

Quenching introduces huge stresses in the metal during the quench
due to the very rapid shrinkage of the metal while cooling. Varying
thicknesses cool at different rates and this compounds the problem.
And sometimes we don’t get the whole piece in the water at the same
time also making for uneven stress. It is not surprising that this
can occasionally cause problems.

What metals are you working with? Sterling is “hot short” meaning
that at high temperatures it is brittle if you quench it at above
1100F you run the risk of cracking it. So let it cool to a black
heat. The hotter it is when quenched the greater the likelihood of
cracking it. Other metals like 18k red gold will crack if you don’t
quench. White golds are worse in that some need to be quenched and
some don’t.

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550


#6

its not the water breaking the joint unless you are quenching when
red-hot… wait until the solder has flowed over the well fit and
well cleaned join, and the metal turns gray, before quenching- IF you
have NO OTHER SOLDERING TO DO ON THE SAME PIECE, otherwise…after all
soldering, for example bezel to a backing, is done, and you have
checked with a light to make certain it is 100% solidly set, then you
can toss it into the pickle, or quench if you want to, to cool in on
your trip to the pickle pot ( in case you drop the piece on the floor
when still hot…)…after doing the soldering for a while in a low lit
environment, you’ll be able to skip the checking witha light
source for complete joins step…R.E.R.


#7
sometimes it doesn't. I can't work out when I'm supposed to quench
and when I'm not supposed to. Please can someone tell me if there
are any rules regarding quenching? 

Brass = never quench

Other metals, quench only when it reaches 700 degrees. Can’t tell?
That’s why I don’t quench.

I’ve taken heat for that on Orchid before, apparently lots of people
like to quench. I never, never, never do, and my stuff anneals like a
dream.

I used to teach my students to quench, their stuff wasn’t
annealling, I went to the bench jeweler next door from where I worked
and said, what’s up with this? He said, tell me what they are doing.
I did. He laughed, and said don’t quench.

Works for me.

Elaine
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay


#8
Quenching while the metal is red hot will temper it, yet quenching
when it is gray hot will make it 25% softer than air cooling it.
(Gray hot just means really hot but not glowing red any longer.) 

Tempering is a term for a heat treating process in steel and means
to make softer and tougher by heating the steel to somewhere between
300 F and 1100 F after it is hardened.

If you are talking about sterling silver the softest you can get
sterling is to quench from about 1382 F at which point all the copper
is fully dissolved in the sterling. By quenching from this
temperature you lock the sterling into a single phase form and this
is the softest it will get. This definitely is a red heat. At this
high a temperature there is a danger of fracturing it if its crystal
structure is not in very good shape such as from improper annealing
or other mistreatment. This is hotter than most solders can tolerate
and they may be partially or fully molten so it is not normally safe
to try this high a temperature heat treatment on soldered work.

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550


#9
I was taught solder, quench, pickle, rinse next step 

Funny, I was taught the same thing. But differently, I guess. “Next
step” is after soldering, ie. “next step” is everything but solder.
Which, of course, does not want to say that you won’t solder again.
But quench and pickle ? How often do you want to flux ?

For me this is: flux, solder, next, solder, next, solder, quench
(maybe), next, solder, next, solder, pickle, next, next, next,
polish, sell.

It seems that many see quenching as a way to cool down the piece
faster, so they can touch it sooner. I see quenching as a production
technique that I use when appropriate. Quenching as a time-safer,
what a strange idea.

Andreas


#10

Hi James,

What metals are you working with? Sterling is "hot short" meaning
that at high temperatures it is brittle if you quench it at above
1100F you run the risk of cracking it. So let it cool to a black
heat. 

I’m using sterling silver at the moment but want to do some work
with gold soon. Thanks for your advice, it makes perfect sense.

BTW, your mokume gane work is absolutely stunning.

Helen


#11
Other metals, quench only when it reaches 700 degrees. Can't tell?
That's why I don't quench. 

the 700 degrees rule could explain why I haven’t had this problem.
With my filigree, it’s so airy (open, lightweight) that it cools down
rapidly after the flame is removed, so it probably drops down to
below 700 deg. before I can quench it most of the time.


#12

Victoria,

Quenching while the metal is red hot will temper it, yet quenching
when it is gray hot will make it 25% softer than air cooling it. 

You are so correct on this one. Also, quenching right after
soldering is not recommended. You are creating a fragile join between
two pieces of meta. Throwing it into cold water immediately causes
thermal shock. Tossing it into the pickle, even though it is hot, in
time will cause pitting in the solder and aiding in cracking along
the soldered seam.

-k

M E T A L W E R X
School for Jewelry and the Metalarts
50 Guinan St.
Waltham, MA 02451
781 891 3854
www.metalwerx.com


#13

Hello,

its not the water breaking the joint unless you are quenching
when red-hot.. wait until the solder has flowed over the well fit
and well cleaned join, and the metal turns gray, before quenching 

It’s not actually the solder joins that are breaking, it’s the
actual silver. My joins are usually good. All the advice regarding
waiting until the silver is no longer red hot seems good and logical
if I’d taken the time to think about it. That’s typical for me
though, opening my mouth before thinking.

Thanks again.
Helen


#14

Hi Elaine,

I used to teach my students to quench, their stuff wasn't
annealling, I went to the bench jeweler next door from where I
worked and said, what's up with this? He said, tell me what they
are doing. I did. He laughed, and said don't quench. 

That’s another option, not quenching but then things take so much
longer. If I’m getting a cup of tea, I’ll let it cool down naturally,
otherwise I’m keen to move to the next step, although waiting a few
seconds before quenching wouldn’t hurt.

That is another question, annealing? I anneal before working with a
piece of silver but haven’t re-annealed it later on. Is that my
problem? I know I run the risk of asking yet another stupid question,
but if a piece is being heated up slowly in order to solder, isn’t
that the same thing as re-annealing? (Wait for the influx of replies
from people who actually know what they’re doing!).

Helen


#15

Hi Andreas,

I started this post as I am new to all this. The books I have read
have not really explained the purpose of quenching. So for me it has
been exactly as you’ve described, ie. a time saver so I can handle
it and move onto the next step. When and why do you quench? It
obviously has something to do with the crystalline metal structure
but I’d like to understand exactly when and why.

Thanks.
Helen


#16

i am thinking about the alloy in the silver. everything in metals
these days is moving towards those focacta nonoxidizing things, that
stuff will split crack or just create heartache in a general sense.
if you can use some good old fashion sterling just silver and copper
mixed together you shouldnt have any problems . get it red stick it
in the water and go. you wait and see one of these days in the
future, craftsmen are going to figure out all these " rodeo drive
fancy designer alloys " will go by the wayside and people will say we
should have just stuck with the good ole standard stuff ! call daniel
over at PMwest and he will fix you up with the 100ND alloys start out
with new crucibles and your bead setting elbow will thank you -

goo


#17

James,

You obviously know a great deal about metallurgy with the work you do
and your reply. I am working in sterling silver. To go back to the
beginning, regarding annealing, a book I have talks about taking the
metal to cherry red to anneal it, whereas another source said not to
take it that far but rather a sort of yellow/brown colour change.
Which would you recommend? And also how often should I anneal a
piece?

Regarding quenching. My book says to quench in water, whereas people
mention quenching in hot pickle. The hot pickle sounds better than
cold water. Is this the case?

Most of what I have made has involved constructing pieces using thin
sterling sheet (0.3mm) and sterling wire from 0.8mm to 1.2mm. I
mainly now use medium solder. A few things I’ve made have involved a
bezel with two wires soldered around the base of the bezel and then
granulation resting on the inner wire. This I have done by I think
what orchid articles refer to as fuse welding, ie. taking the
temperature up to the liquidus point of the little silver balls so
that they fuse with the other silver. This has certainly been up to
the point of the whole piece being red hot. Luckily, up to now all
the solder joints have held true whilst doing this. After such fierce
heat I have let it air cool rather than quenching it.

The thing I had most trouble with regarding cracking was a ring I
made from much thicker sterling (1mm thick). I suppose it is probably
a case of me not annealing it enough and therefore the silver being
too stressed. I guess a combination of not annealing often enough and
quenching it in cold water after soldering was just plain stupid of
me and asking for trouble.

I would appreciate your input. Thanks.

Helen


#18
Regarding quenching. My book says to quench in water, whereas
people mention quenching in hot pickle. The hot pickle sounds
better than cold water. Is this the case? 

I’ll get mail on this one but Never, Never, Never quench in hot
pickle - or cold for that matter - unless you don’t like your clothes
or your lungs. Or unless you’ve got a great fume exhaust in your
studio.

I personally am unconvinced that a hot bath is as effective as a
cold one for quenching in the first place. What you want to do is
"freeze" the crystaline structure in the relaxed state it achieves at
1200 degrees F. The colder - and quicker - the better.

Argentium and all age hardening golds I’m aware of are a different
matter. Heat to a good red but let cool until the color just
disappears then quench in cold water.

Les Brown

L.F.Brown Goldwork
www.goldwork.com


#19

regarding quenching in hot pickle- It has always seemed like a good
way to splash acid on my skin. I’ve never allowed it in a group work
space.

Kirsten
www.kirstenskiles.com


#20

When you heat up a metal to a certain point the crystals that make
it up will grow and reorientate (smaller ones absorbed into larger
ones). When you quench the metal, the rapid freezing keeps the
crystals in this enlarged state which allows for greater lattice
deformation and hence ductility than you would have otherwise. In
practical terms it allows you to work the metal more because it is
softer. As you work it, it hardens because the crystals are getting
more deformed and less ductile. The crystals get smaller as the
deformations create new grain boundaries and limit the ductility.

If you did not quench it is likely that the grains would
predominantly restore themsleves to their original state by ageing
which in this case refers to the minor compositional changes you get
in an alloy upon slow cooling would lead to a harder metal and more
but smaller crystals.

Nick