Sunday, 14 June 2015

Reticulating Sterling

Fire Up That Torch

I have a couple of items to create (a pin and a pendant) with reticulated silver. To be efficient with a somewhat time consuming process, I cut a strip of 18 gauge sterling sheet large enough to make both items.

Heat and Repeat

And Repeat

To prepare the sterling for the actual reticulation, I have to bring it to annealing temperature a minimum of seven times (personally, I feel more sure of a good result with eight firings). Each cycle takes only a few minutes but, as with any repetitive task, it's easy to lose track of how many times you have done it. A scorecard is essential. After each heating, I quench the piece in water, then put it into the pickle pot (mild acid bath) for two to three minutes and let it dry before the next round.

Now, Melt and Move the Surface

The repeated heatings bring a layer of fine (pure) silver to the top of the silver and copper alloy that is sterling. Once that is done, it is possible to bring that fine silver layer to melting temperature and use the torch flame to move and manipulate it. It takes a steady hand as you must get that layer flowing but you must not melt holes in the piece. Well, not unless you are after a really distressed look!

Kinda Ugly, Isn't It?

I took this photo so you can see the way the metal looks after I finish the reticulation process but before the final pickle bath. I just turned the torch off and let the piece cool a bit before quenching it. All that intense heat has left the surface very dark — it kinda looks as if I burned it. The first time I did this, I was a touch horrified when I saw this!

Nothing Beats a Nice, Hot Bath

Amazing: give that ugly mess a rinse and a few minutes in the warm pickle pot and see how pretty it gets.

I absolutely love this look.

 Come back in a few days to see what I'm doing with this. ;-)