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Working with 316LVM surgical steel and PTFE


I’m a college student hoping to graduate in December in Jewelry and
Metals, and I have my senior show to be worried about…not sure
about dates or anything.

Introduction aside, I was curious as to where I can find 316LVM or
316L steel, because I would like to make body jewelry…I’m not sure
where to find it, how to work with it, what kind of flux to use, or
if these is anything I need to know, e.g. can it be drawn down in
size, is there a different kind of solder to use, etc.

Also, where do I find PTFE rods or sheet?

If anybody knows anything about making body jewelry (plugs and
tunnels specifically) any would be GREATLY appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

316LVM austenitic stainless steel can be found at many specialty
metal suppliers, just look in your area or the internet. PTFE is
basically teflon and can be found at many plastic supply houses
again depending on your location.

You can solder the SS with silver or gold solders though for body
art you would probably want to use a laser.

General rule with SS is the higher the number (over 302) the harder
it will be to work, form, polish or what ever.

If you are doing body art that pierces at or near the eyes, mouth,
genitals, or any mucus membrane, you will also want to consider an
autoclave for your final cleaning, or taking your work to a medical
lab that does sterilization for doctor or dentist with the packaging
done immediately.

Daniel Culver


This is something I know about on the practical level but not the
technical level.

Mcmaster-Carr online sells stainless alloys in many forms some of
which I have worked with, including one listed as 316L, but this is
for industrial use which may or may not make a difference. this is
what I use but i don’t do body jewelry beyond rings. No doubt there
is some available elsewhere that is designated for body jewelry or
medical use. Some GOOD hardware stores will know what grade of
stainless they carry in washers etc, they are likely to have either
316 or 304 or both. Some washers are actually imprinted with the
type. I’m not sure what kind of stainless they sell at hobby shops
but they usually have stainless tubing etc and I think you could
inquire or order online from the distributor which is usually K and
S Engineering.

Any grade of silver solder on stainless works with generous paste
flux or better yet use the black high temp brazing flux from a
welding store.Like all steel it looks like a mess when you are
soldering. HOWEVER there may be problems with electrolytic corrosion
between silver and stainless when worn as body jewelry perhaps a
gold solder would be better hopefully someone will comment on this
issue. My damascus (regular carbon steel) rings with silver liners
are fine after six months of constant wearing but ask me in ten
years. Stainless may not have the same issues.

I also like to use 304 stainless which is the same as the 18-8 used
in cutlery. Its a really dark grey for good contrast with silver. I
made some “washer” rings using this and sterling washers with
regular hard silver solder, they soldered perfectly. I tried
argentium silver and solder too but the solder seams cracked even
when air cooling (but then it wasn’t designed for that).

The 300 series of stainless is hard but probably not as hard as you can flush and even bead set, they don’t work harden but
it’s hard to drill and grind down.Remember that most tools we use
for jewelry like drills and gravers are made from tool steel and
will work fine when used properly. I’ve done flush setting diamonds
and at work some more advanced setters have bead set it and
surprised themselves, but then we are used to setting in the hard
white golds.

Stainless can be contaminated by particles of regular steel causing
corrosion so you need to keep a separate area and abrasives and
files and the like if you also use regular steel It can be tig welded
or laser welded, not sure about torch. Its surprisingly light thats
all I know about stainless



One thing you should be aware of is that the term ‘stainless steel’
is often misused to cover two types of steel. There is ‘Stainless
steel’ and ‘Rustless Steel’ which are both often just referred to as
’stainless’. The difference is that some ‘Stainless’ steels will rust
but are resistant to staining from chemicals etc. while 'rustless’
steels may stain but will not rust… 316L grade stainless is the
type normally used for body jewellery and this is what you should
look for.

Best wishes,
Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK (the home of the best steels!)