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Torch for Argentium granulation


#1

Hello everyone!

I’m new to hot jewelry work, but I’m having some trouble, so I
thought maybe I could get some tips here.

I’m working to learn granulation, Argentium since it looks much
easier. I have Ronda Coryell’s videos, which are awesome, and have
been following along through the series, watching and then working.

I read on these forums that Revere academy uses Meco Midget torches
at all benches, and Otto Frei verified this, so I got one with an
oxygen & propane setup (no natural gas in my area). On Ronda’s
videos, I see that she uses another torch, but I’m assuming in her
classes at Revere, it’s the Meco.

I’m having a heck of a time getting anything to fuse onto the metal
sheets. I can make granules and fuse rings and links just fine, but
when I try to get them onto the sheet, either they don’t fuse, or
they more like melt, the sheet distorts and bends, and the whole
thing is a mess. I’ve followed all the video instructions as to
flux, etc, so I think maybe it’s a torch issue. I’ve tried with all
the tips I have, from N-00 up to N-4, still no luck.

It’s very possibly just the bad technique of a newbie with a
learning curve, but I’d love some troubleshooting help, especially
with getting this torch to work for me, as I can’t afford another
one.

Thanks!
Micah


#2

Take the torch tip off. Light it right at the threads where you
screw the different tips in. You’ll get a much larger flame and be
able to spread the heat more evenly throughout the piece.

Willis


#3

Hi,

The Revere Academy does provide Meco torches for the student
benches, but for the granulation classes, Ronda doesn’t use them.

I’ve taken her granulation classes, and in those she uses a Smith
acetylene/air torch. I have a Prestolite in my own studio, which is
a similar, but older, design. The advantage of these torches is they
produce a very soft, brush flame that provides gentle heating, but at
a high enough temp to do the fusing, thanks to the acetylene.

You can do it with the Meco, but I would advise not using any of the
screw-on tips, just the torch tube, and adjusting it for a
low-pressure very soft flame. It should work.

Are you using a beehive kiln as a work surface? That makes things
much easier, as well.

Regards,
Bob Edwards
Chromis Designs
San Francisco


#4

I missed the original post, but this was forwarded to me by Ros
Bain. Thanks, Ros.

I'm having a heck of a time getting anything to fuse onto the
metal sheets. I can make granules and fuse rings and links just
fine, but when I try to get them onto the sheet, either they don't
fuse, or they more like melt, the sheet distorts and bends, and the
whole thing is a mess. I've followed all the video instructions as
to flux, etc, so I think maybe it's a torch issue. I've tried with
all the tips I have, from N-00 up to N-4, still no luck. 

Well, what is your soldering surface? Are you using a compressed
charcoal block? It makes a difference. A standard one or other
soldering surfaces I have tried do not seem to get the same results.
I find fusing the base sheet on the compressed one much easier to
control. Try taking the tip off the torch to get a more bushy flame.


#5

Hi, I too have hit or miss with Argentium granules (but not fusing
wire to sheet) and I’m now wondering if unclean granules isn’t part
of my problem. I find that sometimes, bits of charcoal block are
stuck to the bottom of the granules and I haven’t tended to pickle
the granules after forming them, as they are small and hard to find
in my pot. Do you drop yours into water after being formed, like
Ronda does? I’ve been lazy and let mine cool on my charcoal block.

I think that your torch is plenty hot enough if you are able to melt
the sheet and distort it.

You’ll notice in her DVDs that as soon as the pieces reach
temperature, that she moves the flame off (my tendancy has been to
try force to cook the pieces on there - ha! - which isn’t the right
way to do it). I’m going to try cleaning the granules (better), then
cleaning the sheet properly, fluxing, placing the granules, waiting
for the flux to dry and then fusing. If I don’t see the tell tale
signs of being at fusing stage, I’m going to stop, clean and try
again. Let me know how you make out!

Ros


#6

Aside from starting with clean granules, another thought occurred to
me - what thickness of sheet are you trying to fuse them too? A very
thick sheet might be harder to get the right temperature?

Cheers,
Ros


#7

Thanks for the tips so far, everyone!

A few people suggested lighting it without a tip at all, so I’ll try
that. Sounds tricky, and possibly hard on the torch- any notes on
pressure?

Bob, thanks for clearing up the torch types for the classes for me-
that’s not what Otto Frei said when I specifically asked them about
Argentium granulation, but it could be they didn’t know Ronda had
her own setup. My husband has a Smith acetylene he uses for casting,
so I may try that, in addition to trying the Meco with no tips.

Ronda, I’m so thrilled you chimed in here to help! Except for the
torch difference, everything I’m doing is exactly as in the video. I
am using a German compressed charcoal block, and I see the
difference in how easily I can fuse jump rings on it, compared to my
old firebricks. I recall in an older post you said that using a
beehive kiln is necessary with fine silver and gold, but not
Argentium- but do you think it might help?

Ros, it’s possible things weren’t clean enough in some tries. I did
roll the granules off the block, as in the video- maybe I need to
clean them a bit, too. It was tough to get the sheet clean enough to
see the water sheeting and the flux spread out evenly. I did get it
to, but it took a lot of scrubbing. I tried moving the torch away as
soon as there was a bit of a glow, but in those tries, the granules
didn’t fuse at all. I haven’t been able to see the “wet look” she
talks about, with the flux collecting in droplets, not sure why.

Thanks everyone, I will keep plugging away- even melted silver is
valuable, nothing lost but my time, right?

-Micah


#8

Thanks, Cindy and Ros for forwarding this thread to me. Not sure my
response from yesterday made it to the post. Willis is correct about
taking the torch tip off with the Meco Midget torch for the fusing
on the base sheet. The larger, bushy flame helps bring all the metal
up to the same temperature at the same time. The tips are great when
doing smaller jumprings or bezels, but I still use a smaller, bushy
flame with. I think the Meco Midget torch is one of the most
versatile.

What thickness base sheet are you using? If using thin such as 26ga,
I find using the compressed charcoal block here makes the difference
on being able to control the way the metal absorbs the heat. A
regular charcoal block or other soldering surfaces and a compressed
charcoal block absorb the heat differently.

I am currently posting short clips to show various tips and
techniques with the Argentium. I feel education is the key to
understanding Argentium and not really sure people understand just
how important it is to the industry. The entire World Market is
changing. I seldom work in 22k granulation anymore, but sure love the
combination of Argentium and gold. If you go to YouTube:

http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/5n

(I would appreciate feedback)
ronda


#9

I have done Argentium Granulation on charcoal block and it worked
well. I have also done Argentium granulation with Titanium sheet
supporting the sheet of Argentium and heated it from beneath on a
tripod. Never had a problem either way with the exception of going
beyond fusion - which is melting…I always dim the lights so I can
see the nice peachy glow at fusing temp. The largest piece I did was
3x4 inches and I did that on a sheet of Titanium from underneath.

Hope it helps :slight_smile:
joy


#10

Ronda,

I did see your earlier reply, it made it to me at least, but I
appreciate you checking in and adding to the info!

I double checked, and I think I am using the right block- it’s from
Otto Frei, and it’s described as "Large European Charcoal Block -
Made of Compressed Charcoal - Denser, Longer Lasting"
http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/5s

so that sounds right. I’m using 26 gauge sheet now, doing the earring
project from the first video.

I’ll try the torch with no tip, as suggested, this weekend when I
have a few hours to just sit and make it work. I’m glad to hear the
Meco is a good one, I do like working with it, it fits my hand well
and I find it very easy to maneuver.

I watched a couple of the short clips on your YouTube channel- they
look great so far. The one with Argentium vs. Sterling was useful,
to see the colour difference in the glow side by side. I’ll watch
the others, too, thanks for sharing that link.

I am really excited about the Argentium, too. I’ve done some fusing
in fine silver, and even with the recent trouble I’ve had, I can see
that the Argentium is much easier to work with and more suitable for
what I want to do. Eventually, I hope to get to gold, also, and that
work with the Argentium looks really promising.

Thanks!
Micah


#11

Joy,

Thanks for the tip on heating from underneath. So far, I’m working
with lighter gauges and small pieces, but I can see how with larger
pieces some heat from underneath might be helpful.

Your work is lovely-
Micah


#12

Hi Micah,

The fact that you said you have not seen the droplets of flux, or
the wet look of liquid silver on the surface makes me wonder whether
you are getting the flux applied to the entire surface of the sheet.
As you heat the metal, it should look like there is dry white powder
all over the surface, and then that begins to liquefy, and then to
separate into droplets. Heat slowly, and watch the flux dry into
powder. If the flux does not cover the surface, you can add more flux
with a wet brush (use a natural bristle brush, which can tolerate
heat better than plastic bristles) or a sprayer.

The flux keeps the metal clean, acts as a heat indicator, and helps
the metal flow at the joint between the granule and the sheet.

Also, it is important to have the surface covered with flux when
using charcoal with Argentium Silver. Since the charcoal creates an
oxygen-free atmosphere, there is a risk of firescale, since germanium
oxide is unlikely to form without oxygen. The germanium oxide is what
prevents the oxygen from penetrating the surface of the silver, and
creating firescale/firestain.

Cindy
http://www.cynthiaeid.com


#13

Hello Micah,

My sister, Nancy Howland, used a Benzo-O-Matic Pencil Torch and
propane from the hardware store for all her granulation projects
with Argentium. You can see examples of her work on her website:
http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/5z

Her bracelets and earrings with granulation are very beautiful.

Enjoy,
Lois


#14

Hi Cynthia!

When you say to cover the surface of the Argentium when using a
charcoal block: Also, it is important to have the surface covered
with flux when using charcoal with Argentium Silver. Since the
charcoal creates an oxygen-free atmosphere, there is a risk of
firescale, since germanium oxide is unlikely to form without oxygen.
The germanium oxide is what prevents the oxygen from penetrating the
surface of the silver, and creating firescale/firestain. Do you mean
coat both sides? I find, using a low heat (?) torch like a propane
plumber’s torch, that the underside (the portion against the
charcoal block) gets covered in black/oxide. If I am soldering, all
portions look darkened, and I need to pickle. But if I try to fuse, I
notice that the top side becomes a beautiful matte silver at a higher
temperature.Is any of this a concern if one pickles afterwards?

Or should I be looking to protect the metal better? (I’ve been
assured that my new home insurance, allowing me to set up my new
torch, should be in effect by the end of this month, and may not be
as much of anissue with an acetylene/air torch but am still curious).

Cheers, Ros


#15

Hello everyone!

Well, so many great tips piled up in my notebook that I couldn’t
wait until the weekend, so I spent yesterday working on this whole
problem, and finally had some success.

What I changed:

-I took the tip off of the torch, and turned the flame to very
gentle & airy

-I worked even harder to clean everything very well. I started with
a new batch of granules, from cleaner wire, made on the nicer side
of my block, and then scrubbed them a bit on a scotch-brite when
they were done

-I diluted the flux with water, using 50/50 everywhere. I think the
straight flux was getting too gunky.

-I worked with smaller pieces of sheet, and just paid better
attention to the look of the metal as it glowed, surface changed,
etc. Watching some of Ronda’s new video clips helped with this.

I was able to get some good work done- rings fused and very simple
granulation done to one piece, and a stack of rings fused together.
I think of the 12 granules I did on the first pass after the
changes, only two didn’t fuse properly, and even the previously
non-fused wires corrected themselves.

Cynthia- thanks for chiming in, I’ve copied your tips down, great
insights as to the charcoal/oxygen interactions. I was seeing that
frosted look before, but I think with the hotter and sharper flame,
the “wet” look was just evaporating off too fast to see, and going
right to a burnt and rusty crud of flux. Since I made the changes, I
have been seeing the droplets, in fact, they happened right as I was
thinking the piece looked just about fused, so I’m happy to have
that as a backup indicator.

Lois, thank you for that link, and the torch tip. I have actually
looked at Nancy’s site quite a few times, and been very inspired by
what I saw. I downloaded the bead book a while back, so thanks for
making that available. Even though she passed some time ago, I’m
sorry for your loss of such a talented person- wonderful that you
help her work live on!

Thanks to everyone who took the time to help me- I’m feeling much
happier about the whole thing now!

Micah