Greetings, everyone, and thanks for visiting my blog! In today's installment, I'm finally going to get you all caught up on that "Marriage of Metals" project that I've had brewing in my silversmithing class since the beginning of the year. This project is part of my ongoing pursuit of my "add more dimension and depth to my work" New Year's Resolution. I started the project when I began taking classes at the Craft Guild of Dallas again back in January. I had seen a fellow student's work, and thought it was pretty cool, so when my teacher Marilyn chose the technique for a class project, I jumped on board. Boy howdy, what a process!
As you may remember from a few months ago, the process begins by choosing your materials. I chose copper, nickel, and brass for the contrasting colors. Then you slice the metal into strips using this behemoth of a metal shear, and then line them up:
Once all the strips are tightly (and I mean TIGHTLY!!!) butted together, then comes the laborious process of placing lots and lots of little bits of hard solder on the joints. The point of this exercise is to flood the surface with solder so the joints all stick together without gaps or pits. This is easier said than done. For one thing, you need massive amounts of hard solder. I think I may have used a couple of feet worth of 20 guage hard solder wire. It was quite something. Then, of course, you have the heat to consider, and the different metals heat at different rates, and yada yada yada. You have use a very flat surface to rest your pieces on, and try not to breath on the solder bits, or they'll roll off and you'll have to chase them around and start all over again. Ask me how I found that out.
You repeat this process of adding solder on the back in order to draw the solder evenly in the seams. This makes quite a mess. This is normal. Solder gets everywhere. You start questioning whether or not this was a really good idea to do. You may or may not scorch your bangs at some point. That last bit is definitely optional.
Once you get all the seams filled and thoroughly coated in solder, then you go back to the big metal shear and cut more strips. Then you line up the strips once again and the result is a sort of patchwork pattern. I confess I really didn't plan the placement of my strips very well, so the patchwork wasn't as varied as I would have liked, but oh well. That's how you learn.
Once again, the strips are placed on a flat surface and more solder is placed on. You basically repeat the original steps to get the first round of strips put together to do this part. It takes a lot of hard solder. Once completed, it's time to pickle, then decide what to do. Since I really had no clue what my plan for this giant chunk of hardware was, I decided to take my teacher's advice and add a 24 guage silver backing.
To put a backing on requires sheet solder. When using sheet solder in this process, you have to roll it out very thin, which means you have to anneal it and make it soft and fold it to gain surface area. I confess that it's been a while since I performed these steps, so I honestly can't tell you if I rolled the sheet solder in between two copper plates, but I don't think that was the case. I do recall having to fold it a bunch of times to help gain surface area.
Once I got the sheet solder at a reasonable amount and thickness to cover the silver backing, my teacher helped me set up a soldering rig so I could get my flame underneath the piece to heat the silver. The goal was to get the silver hot enough to melt the sheet solder (which, if I remember correctly, was easy solder) and let the metal conglomerate on top to sink down onto the solder and bond with the silver. And of course do all this without letting the hard solder run out of the seams and make a mess. Ha ha. I didn't take pictures of this process because it was quite an adventure, and I learned that I have been pushing solder with my flame instead of pulling it. This is not conducive to control of the flow. So remember, kids, lead the solder with your flame. Don't chase it. Here is the end result. Note the amount of solder all over the place:
After soldering was completed, there was another round in the pickle to clean up any remaining flux. Then we put it through the rolling mill (you can see from the above picture that I got a LITTLE crazy with the rolling mill on that front edge). Once rolled through, part of my copper cracked (I'm guessing it was either metal fatigue or air pockets between the silver and the marriage of metal piece above it). I kept going, put a curve it it (which caused more cracks, alas), and began the laborious process of filing and sanding. I did not take pictures of this process because it was horrifically tedious, although I guess I should have. Honestly, though, it was difficult to tell that I was making progress until a couple of days ago. Anyway, this past Wednesday I finally got the go ahead to make a final decision on what to do with this magnificent hunk of metal I created. I cut shapes from in between the cracked pieces. Below are the results, seen here with Baldwin's patina applied to oxidize the copper and brass.
Behold the newly formed metal cabochons! I intend to use the square for a big statement ring. I'm going to make it a size 7 so it will fit on my pinkie finger, or the ring finger of a lady with hands that aren't giant like mine are. I am going to use the large oval for a pendant and the two small ovals for earrings. I'm excited to see how these will turn out. Will I be doing this again? Uh, no. Most likely not. It was a good technique to familiarize myself with, and maybe I can figure out a way to incorporate it on a small scale somewhere down the line. As of right now, though, these are it. Whoever decides to buy these from me will DEFINITELY have one of a kind H. Karlsson Jewelry Design pieces!
Bonus pictures: the pendant completed!