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Monday, 18 August 2014

Fusing Metal Experiments

I've been making stuff by fusing metal together without solder, some of it quite simple, just a copper shape with some silver wire melted onto the surface. Yesterday I tried creating a 'cage' of wire for a piece of sea glass.

This is the result.

You might be able to see in the lower picture that a small section of the glass has become clear and shiny, as it would originally have been before it's time in the sea. I'm slightly amazed that a blowtorch could produce enough heat to apparently melt the surface of the glass. A friend tells me this is probably quite impure glass if it did that. The fusing is more obvious in this image too.

This is quite a nice technique, it works most easily with pure silver wire. You can create jump rings this way but it's tricky to do as part of an existing piece of jewellery, because of the chance of fusing other parts of the piece.

The basis of the technique is to play a blowtorch flame over a piece of silver wire that has been formed in such a way that two or more sections of the wire either touch or cross each other.

You need to use the end of the inner paler blue cone of the flame. This is the hottest part of the flame:

My technique, very technical, is to play the torch onto the piece until it gives in and melts. To begin with it should glow bright red and at the melting point it will become shiny and slightly shimmery, let it stay like that for a second or two and then remove the flame. Watch carefully, if you don't want it to run over a surface (as in the pieces below) keep a close eye on it. With luck, and practice, the wire will be fused.

Most of what I've done up to now has been these sorts of things, using pre-cut metal blanks in copper and brass:

The star has an old bone counter behind it, held in place with a copper wire loop.

This technique works with sterling silver too, it's not so easy as the melting point is slightly higher. The wire cage at the beginning of the blog is made using eco silver - recycled silver wire, it doesn't say sterling but I guess most silver scrap will be sterling.

I love this technique, it's very unpredictability is it's attraction for me. Have fun playing but be careful with blow torches they are not toys! Use a soldering or charcoal block to heat your work on, and keep flamable items clear obviously.

As a last tip, I use a mixture of cream of tartar, water and lemon juice to clean the firescale off the pieces, leave them covered in a solution the thickness of single cream overnight and voila! Of course pure silver doesn't tarnish but if you're fusing to copper it will go black.

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