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Working in zinc


#1

I recently bought some zinc sheet and I’m interested in seeing what I
can do with it. Does anyone know how to solder zinc for jewellery?
Can you use silver solder? I have heard that you need use citric
acid.

Penny @ Talking Jewellery


#2

Be careful. There is an occupational disease called “Metal Fume
Fever” caused by inhalation of metal fume or fine dust. Its not a
terrible thing, symptoms are like the flu, fever, muscle and joint
pain and such. Usually goes away in a few days if exposure is
discontinued. I don’t know if normal soldering or brazing is hot
enough to create zinc fume but as the old saying goes, “better safe
than sorry”. Use a respirator (a NIOSH certified dust mask should be
OK) and good ventilation when soldering cutting or sanding zinc or
galvanized metal. Could be an issue with brass or bronze also.

Be well Jim


#3

I am not an expert on sheet zinc but it would usually be joined by
conventional tin lead soldering. The standing steel roofs of old in
the US and the typical roofs in Paris were tern metal which was a
steel coated with a tin lead alloy. The roofs in Paris may be zinc
sheets ( excuse my memory) There is a new steel coating called Tern 2
or NU tern that has a zinc coating over steel. This is better for
environmental reasons particularly where water is collected for
drinking.

A good guide for soldering zinc probably is :
http://www.follansbeeroofing.com/products/TerneII.aspx

You may also use acid core solder and flux but the newer version
suggestion is probably better. You can color the zinc with
prismicolor pencils or markers . There are some conversion coating
techniques that may work ok but try prismicolors first. There is a
New Mexico artist doing flower art I believe using prismacolors. she
used to show at: http://www.mariposa-gallery.com/

Zinc sheet is also a classic base metal for etched art printing
plates. I can furnish info on this.

jesse


#4

High Tin content solder is best for zinc as zinc has a relatively low
melting and tin does too. Lead solder is not something you would want
on you skin, but I pretty much feel the sam way about zinc.
Personally I would not make jewelry out of it. I doubt that you
could ever solder zinc with silver solder as the solder temp is way
too high. Citric acid, like most any acid would “clean” the zinc pre
solder, but you couldn’t “solder” zinc with it.

John Dach


#5

At atmospheric pressure zinc vaporizes at 907 C, 1665 F so unless
you heat it to above that temperature you will not get any
appreciable amount of zinc vapor. Since zinc melts at 419.53 C,787.15
F It is highly unlikely that one would get it hot enough in trying to
solder it to vaporize it.

Now if you are working with it in alloyed form (silver solder, gold
solder, brass, some bronzes, nickel silver etc) or galvanized steel
and heat it up to braze or weld the alloy or base metal in the case
of galvanized steel then yes it is a hazard to be aware of and a good
reason for adequate ventilation in the soldering area. If there is no
ventilation then a temporary solution is a respirator but respirator
use should not be considered a permanent solution to inadequate
ventilation. A NIOSH dust mask is not an ok alternative as it is a
vapor one is concerned with here not a dust particle.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#6
Be careful. There is an occupational disease called "Metal Fume
Fever" caused by inhalation of metal fume or fine dust. 

Actually, I believe zinc poisoning can be lethal, depending on how
much exposure you get. Good ventilation and a respirator are good
ideas. If you start feeling flu-like symptoms, drink milk and
consider getting yourself to a hospital.

Mostly: be sure to do more research on this before you get started.


#7

Zinc has low toxicity but many people are allergic or sensitive to
it (zinc oxide plaser allergy). Soldering with tin or white metal
solder will work but your joints are likely to fail after a couple of
years because of the differing expansion/contraction coefficients of
the metals. There are special solders that contain
tin/zinc/copper/lead but are difficult to obtain.

Nick Royall


#8

Hi Pamela,

Mostly: be sure to do more research on this before you get
started. 

I’ve had “Zinc flu”, where you get flu-like symptoms for 48 hours.
It was a noob mistake when melting 1.5kg brass.

It’s heavy metal poisoning, and I can assure you that milk does not
help, but the hospital trip would be the best course of action. I
knew what the effect would be so I rode it out, as the poisoning was
only minor.

Regards Charles A.


#9
I believe zinc poisoning can be lethal, depending on how much
exposure you get. 

A well known blacksmith named Jim “Paw-Paw” Wilson died five years
ago of metal fume fever. He devoted a great deal of time writing
tutorials for “iForge” on the popular blacksmithing site Anvilfire.
As a memorial, his friends posted one final tutorial in his name,
discussing the dangers of heavy metal poisoning.

http://www.anvilfire.com/iForge/tutor/safety3/index.htm

The danger of working with zinc is not knowing what precautions to
take, same as any hazardous material a jeweler could expect to find.
After the cadmium fiasco a few months ago, I’d think that the public
might be rather wary of things made out of other heavy metals…

Willis Hance


#10
A well known blacksmith named Jim "Paw-Paw" Wilson died five years
ago of metal fume fever. He devoted a great deal of time writing
tutorials for "iForge" on the popular blacksmithing site
Anvilfire. As a memorial, his friends posted one final tutorial in
his name, discussing the dangers of heavy metal poisoning. 

Breathing zinc oxide vapors is hazardous but not normally fatal. Jim
Wilson foolishly tried to burn off the zinc on a large number of
galvanized pipe pieces in a forge. He chased the other folks out of
his shop while he was doing this because it was dangerous! He knew
the dangers but ignored them. But the main reason it killed him was
he had emphysema and the combination of a severely compromised
pulmonary system from smoking combined with a huge amount of zinc
oxide vapors just overpowered his lungs, within a few days he
developed pneumonia and died. A very sad and totally avoidable
situation.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#11

Hi James,

Breathing zinc oxide vapors is hazardous but not normally fatal. 

This is something that people should be careful of, heavy metals
have a tendency to stay in the body, chelation may or may not help
depending on the level of poisoning.

I think the best way to not be poisoned is to avoid the toxin or to
guard against it.

The time I had Zinc Flu, this was the situation :-

I had hear of Zinc Flu, and I was going to melt 1.5 kg of brass, I
had melted this quantity of brass before with no ill effects.

I that “thought” that I had taken adequate precautions.

As the brass was being melted I was being poisoned, there were no
visible vapours or odours (the odours were there but due to the slow
increase of intensity I didn’t notice them).

I poured my brass this was when I saw large volumes of thick white
smoke, which I avoided.

I stood back after the pour, and then the fresh air hit me, and I
became very ill very quickly.

I was sick for a further 48 hours, then I recovered.

It was a hard lesson, but one I will never repeat and I hope that
someone else will not make the same mistake I did.

Regards Charles A.


#12
The danger of working with zinc is not knowing what precautions to
take, same as any hazardous material a jeweler could expect to
find. After the cadmium fiasco a few months ago, I'd think that the
public might be rather wary of things made out of other heavy
metals... 

Todays penny’s (USA) are almost all zinc, only enough copper to give
them the copper color.

People seem to be willing to accept them.

Just do not let a child swallow one, they become a jagged mess in
the stomach, the resulting damage will require surgical repair!

Mark Chapman


#13
This is something that people should be careful of, heavy metals
have a tendency to stay in the body, chelation may or may not help
depending on the level of poisoning. 

I am a stickler about proper ventilation in the studio and do not
believe any soldering or melting should be done without a well
designed, functioning ventilation system.

That said you actually metabolize zinc, not a lot but it is a needed
nutrient so you will eventually process it out of your system. This
is in contrast to other metals like lead and cadmimum that you don’t
flush out of your system. But too much zinc is not a good thing and
can definitely cause health problems. Inhaling zinc oxide it is
never a good thing.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts