Earrings On Fire Tutorial Question

by Joanne
(Sound Beach, New York)

Good Morning from New York!

The earrings on fire tutorial looks very interesting and is a direction I've been wanting to explore. I currently use a small butane kitchen type torch. Will the reticulation techniques you discuss in this tutorial work on 22 gauge sterling with this type of torch? I can get silver red hot with my torch using 9/16" disks. Thanks for your interesting tutorials and sharing your advice.

Warm wishes


Stacy's Answer:

Hi Joanne!

There are a lot of different butane torches available out there and they do not all work well for basic soldering or jewelry fabrication projects. I used a MaxFlame butane torch for the tutorial. The MaxFlame torches look very similar to the butane kitchen torches I've seen at gourmet kitchen shops. Even though I have a propane/oxy set-up in my personal studio, I use the MaxFlame for class and tutorial projects so that I know the projects can be successfully made using one. Butane torches are a popular, affordable and comfortable choice for a lot of folks.

Can you melt silver into a ball with your torch Joanne? If so, you should be OK. Sterling silver will melt (reach it's liquidous stage) before copper does which is important for the fused earrings and after the temp necessary for reticulation. To reticulate Sterling silver, you need a pickle pot or hot pickling solution and your torch needs to be able to bring the silver to the very hot orange stage which is right before the puddle stage. :-) If the torch heats the metal to those temperatures, then the much cooler blush color necessary for soldering Sterling silver should be no problem.

22 gauge is a nice thickness for the reticulated earring project, but you can use 20 gauge also. 24 gauge will reticulate, but because of the metal thinness combined with the small discs, it's easier to melt rather than reticulate. I call that good torch control practice!

I hope you give the projects a try! If you run into more questions, just ask. I'm just an email away.

Comments for Earrings On Fire Tutorial Question

Click here to add your own comments

Oct 19, 2015
Earring Tutorial
by: Joanne

Good Morning Stacy,
Thanks for your speedy and through reply. I have a studio set up, (pickle pots the torch we discussed, etc.) that's fairly well stocked with the items you list. I'm going to give your tutorial a go! In answer to your question, I can make sterling balls with my torch, no problem. This is of high interest to me with this project. Sometimes the balls come out kind of crinkly. I'm guessing I'm over heating. Your tutorial sounds right for me as I am beginning to zoom in on heat control with my torch. One question, if I cut 24 gauge disks that are large that the 9/16th size I mentioned am I still at risk for melting?
I'm not seeing anything in your wonderful Q&A or blog about studio ventilation for soldering set up. I'm falling very short in this area in my home studio. I'm wondering if that might be a future subject you might consider covering in your blog.

Oct 25, 2015
Creating Smooth Sterling Silver Balls
by: Stacy

Hi Joanne!

Venting is important when working with hot metals and fluxes! I have a well ventilated room with 24 foot ceilings and large windows above my soldering station. But even with that, I have a small fume extractor that uses a replaceable charcoal filter right behind my torch. It also catches the misty fumes from my pickle pot. In my home studio, I have a small mini-torch set-up and use propane/oxygen. You may want to consider investing in some sort of venting if you're going to be doing a lot of soldering.

In the teaching studio, we use Acetylene/air and Acetylene/oxy torches and have a professional venting system with a vent for each torch station, the kiln and pickle pots. The fumes are sucked up into a special duct and released outside after passing through a filtration system. Gotta move that bad air out and keep a safe, healthy environment!

24 gauge discs will heat up and reticulate at a faster rate than a thicker gauge. So you must really watch your metal so you don't over-heat it and end up with a puddle. With a butane torch, you'll want to use a smaller flame and distance to help control your heat.

As to the making of those balls.....here's a great tip to help insure you get perfectly smooth Sterling silver balls! Fine silver and Argentium create nice smooth balls, but if you only heat Sterling silver until it pulls into a ball, you are likely to get one that's pitted. When metals are assayed for purity, it's heated until it spins and the different metals such as those found in an alloy like Sterling silver are separated.

For perfect smooth Sterling silver balls, place your Sterling silver bits on a hard charcoal block. This will create a ball with a flat back, perfect for soldering to something. (there's a different technique for creating round spheres) Heat until the metal reaches its liquidous state and pulls into a ball. Keep the heat on the ball until you see it spinning in place. You'll notice tiny bright orange bits like dust zooming around the ball, especially near the bottom. This is the copper. Remove the heat and you can really see the ball rotate as it continues to spin for a second or two. The copper bits will seek the hottest area which is under the ball.

You'll notice a skin of silver form over the surface. Quench once the color goes back to black and then pickle. The resulting "ball" is smooth and has a surface that looks like a pearl. No pits or wrinkles!

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Jewelry Q & A.