Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Tutorial Tuesday - silver nugget earrings

I've been preparing this tutorial for my beginners silversmithing class tomorrow night, and I thought I may as well post it on here for you as well!

These earrings are really easy and fun to make, and what's more they're made using scrap silver! It's not often that you get to melt silver on purpose, so why not make some last minute Christmas presents?

The equipment and materials you will need are quite simple:
  • scrap silver (obviously!)
  • o.8mm wire
  • butterfly backs for stud earrings
  • easy solder paste
  • flux (I use liquid Auflux)
  • a charcoal block
  • wire cutters
  • large blowtorch
  • reserve action tweezers
  • safety pickle
The first step is to gather a small pile of scrap silver. Cut any large pieces into smaller bits and pile them up on a charcoal block.

Add a couple of drops flux (the yellow liquid that you can just about see on the silver) - I find that the flux helps the metal to melt into a smoother ball.

Now comes the fun bit! Light your torch (you will need a large torch to be able to generate enough heat) and melt the silver! The silver will start to ball up and draw together as it melts.....

and will then draw into a ball. I like to make the ball 'spin' in the heat but holding the flame on to for longer than is needed to just melt it (I couldn't get a photo of this bit as all you'd see would be a bright glowing ball!) as I find that this helps to even the silver into a smoother ball.

Due to the heat there will be alot of cleaning up to do so pop the ball into the pickle after quenching it.

Once the balls have been cleaned up you can file and sand any rough parts if you wish, but I prefer to leave them more organic! I do file the back if they are very rough so that it's easier to solder the earrings fittings on.

To turn your silver balls into stud earrings, turn them over to the flatter side and use easy solder to solder a small jumpring (mine are 2mm) and then a 1cm length of 0.8mm wire into the middle of the ring. I find that the jump ring helps to strengthen the pin that you have just formed.

Once you've pickled and rinse your earrings, use a cup burr or a needle file to round off the end of the wire post and then polish!

These earrings look good with any finish. An oxidised finish highlights the 'organic' look.

A couple of points to note:
  • I melt the silver on charcoal as this helps to absorb some of the oxygen in the flame. If you turn the the ball over once it's cooled down you'll see that there's not much firescale underneath as the charcoal has aborbed the oxygen and prevented the copper oxide (the blackness) from forming.

  • Charcoal blocks only last for so long! Eventually they do crack and break apart like the one below. Some people like to wrap binding wire around them to hold them together for longer but I find that that gets in the way of my work.

  • There are a couple of ways of helping to make even sized balls for a pair of earrings - the simplest is to weigh the silver but you need to use more sensitive scales than kitchen ones. I prefer to make lots of balls at the same time and then choose the ones that match the best!

1 comment:

  1. Thats a lovely use for the pile of scrap silver I always have about, thanks for sharing :o)


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