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Hi every one I have been asked buy a couple of ORCHID members to talk
about reticulation. Frist I am not a expert on any technique in
jewelry. I have only been playing with jewelry for 30 mounths so I am
hardly an expert. But I like to play and just go for it and push
myself hard to learn new stuff. I am lucky that I learn fast. I have
been very lucky to have been in a couple of grate work shopes with
some fantasic people. Like Harold O'Conner and Charles Lewton-Brain,
both have inspired me and help me get where i am now. So I oue them
grate thanks!!! In Oppi Untracth book there is a lot of good info on
So here is my humble thoughts on this technique. This is much harder
to explane then it is to show.. Frist the metals, sterling or
reticulation silver. sterling you should be familer with, reticulation
silver have a higher copper content They well both reticulate but
they well give you differnt effects, reticulation silver gives more
dramadic effects at least for me. sterling I like useing 16 to 20 gage
. Reticulation silver 24 to 26Ga. workes best for me.
Hears what I, do I heat the metal (do not flux you want the copper to
oxadize) to a little above analing temp.and keep it there for about a
min. then quench it in water to cool, then put it in a strong pickel
10% to 30% . After that rinse, and scrub it with a soft brass brush or
sinthic steel wool not the real steel wool you don't want any steel on
the silver. It also helps to do this under water for lubercation. I do
this at least 4 times on the forth time I do not clean the surface
with the brush I just pickel. The prossess I just explend is called
depiltion gulding. What you are trying to get is a surface of fine
Now for the reticulation part, somthing I should mention is that the
shape of the sheet you start with well effect how it well reticulate
so experment with shapes. The best hint I can give you is tourch
control it seems to work best when you can matain the right temp. Its
like walking on a razer. It works best when you use a reflective
surface like charcoal brick or I like a solderite pad. now with a farly
hot flame If you have a oxy fuel , use a small tip with a oxadizing
flame ,if you have a fuel air torch you will have to play with it to
find the tip you like. I use a small tip but others that I know like
larger ones and if you are useing a thicker gage silver you well need
more heat. Below is the technique I use for reticulation silver.
Now heat (if you use charcoal pre-heat it befor you place your metal
on it) slowly with the flam far away from the metal and slowly bring
it to temp. whin it starts getting to temp. you can play with how
close you get the flam. What you are trying to do is get the core
molten but not the skin and you realy don't want the core to migrate
to the surface. so becouse of the differant alloys in the silver the
core well melt at a lower temp then the fine silver skin and the
surface tention well cause it to ripple I like to stay in the same
place tell it starts to reticlate and then start to move the flame.
sterling is closer to fine silver you have to walk a finner line. (It
is very close to just melting it into a big blob) so whin the core get
molten pull the flam away for a split second and whin it cool it well
ripple and then move on inch by inch, so you are useing more torch
control for sterling. Some people use two torches for this. You well
just have to go for it and play I went thrue about 40.00 of silver
befor I started to get it. And most of it is up to god on how it well
ripple. then pickel it and scrub with a soft brass bruch under water.
as far as ploshing it if you over cook it it well be harder to get a
good shine I only worry about the high spots you can also depiltion
guld it a bit that well help remove some of the copper? but be carfel
you don't want to get it to hot, just oxadize the copper that has come
to the surface!! Brushing it after you are done reticulating , well
get rid of most if it. I also like tumbling it. I don't relly have a
good answer for ploshing it I like to have the fire schale in the
lower parts, it patinas better sorry about the spelling I don't have
Below are some questions Roxan asked me and they may shead more
light on this.
Roxan-First let me tell you that you have done a good job explaining
this progress to me. I do have a few more question so please bare with
me. In answer to your questions, I quench in acid pickle. Should I be
quenching it in water first then each time putting it into pickle?
Keith-THE REASEN I guench in water first I was told that the hot
metal is more pouress and the asid fills the pours so whin you reheat
it you get the acid fumes so I make it a habbit to cool all my work in
water befor I pickel.
Roxan-I am not clear on this part. Should it be a quick quench,
getting into the water or pickle as fast as I can? or do you let it
cool down a little before quenching? I use either 28 or 26 gage
Keith-I have not though of in that way I just guench it right after
heating. I do let it cool after reticulating but not complety becous
it is so soft and close to melting. With thinner gages it is very
inportent to heat slowly!!!!As your heating it and the core gets
molten, it well just start rippling in front of your eyes it seem like
magic. But I have not gotten grate results from thin sterling I like
thicker sterling, and seems to happen more on the surface. But ret.
silver workes grate with thinner gages. They are two differnt beasts
and work totaly differnt.
Roxan-I think one of the problems is that I may have used flux
Keith-Flux well not let the copper oxadize
Roxan-from time to time and I may not be keeping above the annealing
point long enough.
Keith-I am not tring to anneal just oxadize the copper in the silver
so the pickle well remove it. so if it get a little hotter is ok you
just don't want it to start to reticulate befor you are ready.
Roxan-I have, on occasion, got it too hot and melted holes in the
piece, which sometimes adds interest to the work. Creative happenings
are good sometimes, there are no mistakes just a new opportunity to
incorporate it into your work.
Keith-You are totaly on target with this I have had some realy cool
stuff happen That way. But I also try to think of the reticulated
silver as raw material to hack and cut up for what ever I need it for.
Roxan-When I do the reticulation I think I am getting the skin too
hot before the inner core is hot enough,
Keith-Be patchent when heating it takes time .
Roxan-I will need to hold it a little further away and be more
careful next time. It seems to be a hit and miss thing with me.
Roxan-Sometimes a piece turns out better than others.
Keith-what's your point, just a joke!! that is just the nature of the
thing. Some times it takes me 5 or 6 times or more before I get
somthing I like.
Roxan-The other problem I have is keeping the piece hot enough so I
can work on a small area to reticulate. You are right that it can turn
to a blob very quickly, but I love the challenge. May be I am using
too large of a torch, but if you use a smaller one I have trouble
getting enough heat.
Keith-That is why you need something to reflect the heat back into
the metal I have found that a solderite pad does that the best I have
also have had good luck with a charcoal brick, If you use charcoal
preheat it first with your torch, fire brick is just so so but on
thicker gage it well work ok.
Roxan-I do clean the piece with a soft tooth brush but not with a
Keith- Get a soft brass brush in water the ones at the harware stores
are to stiff and well leave scraches. I like the finest sinthitic steel
wool(its made by 3M it sort-of like a schochbrite pad) and am able to
get it at the hardware store.
Roxan-and only at the end of the reticulation. I didn't know you
clean it between each heating. So this is another thing I am not doing
Keith-I think it helps remove the copper but I am able to reticulate
if I don't clean between heatings but it works much better if you do.
the last time I pickle befor I reticulate I don't brush.
Roxan-I use a fire brick but not a charcoal brick, I also have a pan
with granulation of something not quite sure what it is, but it holds
heat and allows me to place things in it. I bought it from someone's
estate through a friend that knew the person who owned it. It swivels
and make it easy to work on a piece.
Keith-If you want you can get a lazy susan at the hardware store to
put under your soldering pads.
Roxan-May be the polishing thing is because I am over heating the
piece. I am not sure,how do I tell if it has been overheated short of
it turning into a blob of metal? And are you saying that if this has
happened , I should re anneal it again after the reticulation is done?
Do you the brass brush again at the end of the reticulation?
Keith-Over heating lets see on reticulation silver it well kind-of
get crystaly looking, also whin the core migrates to the top you have
more copper in it and copper makes firescale???
Roxan- May be I am not sure of the term depletion guild which I have
understood to be bringing the fine silver to the surface. I thought
the copper stayed in the center. Gee now I am getting confused. I will
have to do some more reading on the subject.
Keith-Ya I think I realy don't know what realy happens I think of it
as removing the copper from the skin and leaving fine silver I think
the heat oxcadizes the copper and not the silver and whin you pickle
it it removes the copper oxcides and leaves the fine silver??
Hope this is ok and helps a little Thanks Roxan for your help.
Keith G. Hale