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Using silver at workshops


#1

Just had an eye-opener this afternoon, Silver is now at about $18.43
oz. When my community college here in Toronto asked me to teach 9
months ago, silver was only at $14.00 oz. What a rude awakening,eh?
We have to now revise the funding to the students, no more extra
rings for them to practice on. Even to a point of requiring only
what we need, if the caster in his infinite wisdom gives me extra
rings to use. I must return them, why? It’s not the extra rings, it’s
the taxes, CZ’s and extra casting fee’s to boot…all of these little
extras could get me into a ruddy mess with my school. As I was
writing to my department-head an hour ago, I’d rather have some
students give me a sour face than to have the school and the board be
displeased with me…simple as that!

I even suggested to put the blame on the silver-traders, and not the
school. This economy has had a ripple-effect even on the applications
of students wanting to learn. In the good olde days we used to have
well over 20 students in each class, now its shrunk to below 10 on an
average. I wonder how the rest of the teaching community is dealing
with this situation.

Gerry Lewy!


#2

Gerry, if the price of silver is such a problem, why not start off
with brass (or copper)? The basics are pretty much the same, and the
price of base metal means you can use it with abandon and really
enjoy experimenting.

Judy Bjorkman


#3

Judy Bjorkman Ever tried bending brass, or filing brass claws? How
about burring holes or bezel setting for oval stones? The effort
over the hardness of brass is not worth the effort of those who are
learning for the first time. Casting copper is lot’s easier, but
imagine casting copper rings. That is just why I stick with silver,
easy to file, easy to move the metal. This gives the student a decent
confidence level as other cheaper metals does not allow this.

Gerry!


#4

Judy, Years and years ago, when I was in college, taking a metals
class, we learned many techniques in which we used copper and brass.
However, we did use fine silver for our bezels. We learned piercing,
repousse, nitric acid etching, how to anneal, made all kinds of
rivets, and cold connections did delicate soldering, as well as sweat
soldering and also did forging using both copper and brass.

For casting we used what I believe was bronze casting shot. We
learned how to handle carving wax, build-up technique, spruing,
proper investing, weighing investment as well as the metal needed for
the casting, burnout, and using the centrifuge.

True, we did not make anything that required prongs, but we
certainly learned how to handle a saw, torch, hammers, flexible
shaft, polishing machine, etc… The skills I learned using copper and
brass, were easily transferred to my working with silver.

We did all this with a minimum outlay of money. I owe a lot to those
wonderful humble metals.

Alma


#5
Judy Bjorkman Ever tried bending brass, or filing brass claws? How
about burring holes or bezel setting for oval stones? The effort
over the hardness of brass is not worth the effort of those who
are learning for the first time. 

I personally hate the way brass feels. It is simply unpleasant to
hold. I once worked for company as a model-maker. It was the
shortest employment in my life. They were using brass to construct
models instead of silver. I worked half day; asked if I can use
silver; the answer was no; I collected my tools and got out of there.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#6

The first, second, and third semesters at TIJT were devoted entirely
to use of brass and silicon bronze.

This was training for the fourth semester which was exclusively 14
k. yellow and white gold along with platinum.

First semester was fabrication primarily using brass.

The second semester was casting and finishing using silicon brass
brazing rods with an addition of 4 % fine silver. ( I am quoting from
memory so email TIJT )

http://www.parisjc.edu/tijt

The third semester was spent setting stones in the jewelry we had
cast and finished. The work was done to Jewelers of America
standards.

The addition of the 4 % fine silver to the silicon brass brazing
rods was to get the castings to flow properly. We injected and
finished all of our own waxes, sprued them, poured our investment,
burned them out, and cast them. We used both vacuum and centrifugal
casting machines.

Even 14 k. white gold was more pleasant to work, but what we
learned, we carried over.

All metal was the property of the State of Texas. Gold loss was
figured at 1/100 gram. You lost it, you paid for it. I paid app $
200.00 - $250.00 as I remember.

TIJT is a technical trade school where the term " jewelry boot camp
" was first used. I used it.

A very good 2 year college to start with. For design you need to
continue elsewhere. I am still glad I went.

Robb.


#7
......Ever tried bending brass, or filing brass claws? How about
burring holes or bezel setting for oval stones? The effort over the
hardness of brass is not worth the effort of those who are learning
for the first time. 

Gerry, in my experience (30 years with brass, copper, and
nickel-silver; occasional use of sterling silver), brass is not
appreciably harder to work with than sterling silver. I bend brass
all the time (I make a series of pins I call “folded pins”) and,
when I get around to it, I have no trouble bezel-setting an oval or
free-form cabochon. As I have mentioned elsewhere, the big
difference I find between using silver or brass is that I have to be
careful not to overheat the silver when soldering (since I am used to
soldering/brazing at higher temperatures, on base metals).
Nickel-silver is definitely harder to bend, but I still use it
frequently for constructing rings, bracelets, pins, and pendants
because I like the color contrast between it and any applied brass
or copper elements. Of course it does not have the wonderful glow of
silver, but for those of us who like bigger pieces of jewelry and who
like to experiment, it’s not bad.

Thanks, Alma, for confirming my experience on the usefulness of
beginning with base metals:

The skills I learned using copper and brass, were easily
transferred to my working with silver.... We did all this with a
minimum outlay of money. 

Judy Bjorkman


#8

Hello Leonard,

Interesting - the business of “feel” of various materials.

I once quit a job in a library - a dull job anyway but I could have
held on, I sure needed the dollars - but I developed a steadily
increasing aversion to the touch of paper on my fingers. I the end,
which was not long in coming, touching paper was to my fingers as the
sound of fingernails on a blackboard is to my ears - impossible to
endure.

As it happens, I am working with brass a lot these days, making
hardware for my boats. I don’t mind the feel of it at all. A little
"greasy" feeling but not aversive.

How does brass feel to you?
marty


#9

Wow, holy Flashback Batman!!! :wink:

During college we only had to reimburse for our metals used, so that
if we cast with silver we wrote a check at the office, produced a
receipt on the last day of class, and our grade went through. If you
didn’t pay, you didn’t get a grade for the class! HAHA

Things changed by the time I was in my teaching internship; the
program was not able to buy the silver shot for the beginning
students to use. I was able to schedule in enough time that they were
able to band together as a group in college and purchase silver for
their casting projects. (estimated by weight of their wax model when
sprued)

We were also VERY lucky to have a guest artist workshop on stone
setting and got to practice with pronging, gypsy setting, tube
setting, and the old stand-by bezel setting. We saw some pave and
bright cutting, which I would LOVE to try, and also saw him do
channel setting with a fantastic little jig he had. I guess we were
pretty lucky that we had a guest artist every semester to do 2 day
work shops in which we got a TON of hands on learning. We were always
given a list of supplies we needed to have on hand for the weekend
workshop, and on that list was some essentials: (bezel wire, silver
sheet, etc.) and also things that the studio purchased (a bag of a
certain amount of “ready set” prongs and a couple bags of CZs or
whatever stone. These were figured into the price we budgeted for the
workshop.

What I would suggest if you aren’t fluid enough to purchase the
silver and be reimbursed by the weight they use, is to set up ahead
of time a “supply list”: some essentials supplies, as well as some
supplies that are optional. Not every technique we were able to watch
was one that everyone got to try. It’s a balancing act with the way
you set up your presentation in the workshop.

Just my two cents! :wink:


#10
I personally hate the way brass feels. It is simply unpleasant to
hold. 

Well now, Leonid, there’s a complaint about brass which I’ve never
heard before! Personally, I love feeling brass. To each their own!
For example, I don’t like platinum because I think it’s ugly.
People’s differences are fascinating.

Judy Bjorkman


#11
How does brass feel to you? 

My skin goes very dry and looses a lot of sensitivity. Feels like
working in thick gloves.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#12
......Ever tried bending brass, or filing brass claws? How about
burring holes or bezel setting for oval stones? The effort over
the hardness of brass is not worth the effort of those who are
learning for the first time. 

Not all brass is created equal. I’d agree with you if you’re
referring to 464 Brass (aka Naval Brass), which is only about 60%
copper and 39% zinc. On the other hand, 230 Brass (aka Rich Low
Brass or Jeweler’s Bronze) is ab out 85% copper and 15% zinc, and
behaves nicely in jewelry making/practice.

Jamie


#13
I personally hate the way brass feels. It is simply unpleasant to
hold. 

Maybe I’m hypersensitive or my olfactory senses are affected by my
mental perceptions but I don’t like the way brass smells and how my
hands smell after handling or working with brass. For that reason I
don’t like working with it either.

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
rockymountainwonders.com


#14
My skin goes very dry and looses a lot of sensitivity. Feels like
working in thick gloves. 

How interesting! If brass felt like that to me, I wouldn’t want to
work with it, either. Do you get the same feeling from copper or
nickel-silver?

Judy Bjorkman


#15
How interesting! If brass felt like that to me, I wouldn't want to
work with it, either. Do you get the same feeling from copper or
nickel-silver? 

No, I am fine with copper, have no experience with nickel silver. I
suspect it is reaction to zinc.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com