This aricle is first of two parts Fine Silver Granulation Project by Sandra Buchholz.
Advanced Project Granulated Fine Silver Earrings
Granulation is the process of fusing tiny metal spheres of silver or gold, in a decorative pattern, to a surface of the same metal. It is an ancient technique that produces a beautiful, delicate effect. When making Granulated jewelry, all connections are fused instead of soldered.
This project is to make a pair of round earrings in Fine Silver, with a granulated pattern on the surface and a small stone set in the center. It is an advanced level project, and assumes basic skills such as soldering, stone setting, etc.
It is important to read the entire set of instructions before starting out, to get an overview of what you will be doing. Then go back to the beginning and take it step by step.
Overview of Fusing
Fusing involves raising the temperature of both the backsheet and the granules and wires to be fused, to the point at which they melt just enough so that they will adhere permanently to one another. This is a very delicate operation. If the correct temperature is not reached, the items to be fused will not hold properly, ecessitating the reheating of the whole piece, in order to replace them. If the temperature gets too high, too fast, meltdown can occur, which is irreversible. Therefore, lots of patience is needed and both the backsheet and the object to be fused need to be brought to the appropriate temperature very slowly.
Items to be fused in this project are the bezel ends, bezel to backsheet, circular wires around bezel and outside rim of earring, and the granules, and will be done in the following order:
- Bezel ends
2. Bezel to backsheet
3. Round wire around bezel and around outside rim of earrings
General Process for Placing Items for Fusing
1. Prepare a mixture of 10 drops of water, 2 drops of hide glue and 3 drops of liquid flux. This will be applied sparingly to all surfaces to be fused, and act as temporary glue to hold the items in place until they are heated. Once heated, the hide glue burns off and the items are no longer glued down.
2. Turn up a comer of the backsheet with small pliers, so that it can be easily grasped with tweezers. This will enable you to move it easily and without tipping it. This piece will eventually be cut off.
3. Using the 000 sable brush, apply the mixture to the item to be fused before placing ft on the backsheet. This mixture is also water soluble, so if you want to make a correction in placement, flood it with a small amount of water. This will dissolve the glue and you will be able to move the piece.
4. After placing the item, give it a little time to dry? -especially when placing the granules ? so it cannot be easily moved by accident.
5. Once the item to be fused is air dried, start the heating process very gradually:
- Put the earring on the small piece of ceramic tile and place it under the kiln for a few minutes to warm up.
- Place the metal kiln cover on the kiln, and put the tile with the earring on it for two or three minutes to continue to raise the heat gradually.
- Then, remove the tile and allow the earring to rest directly on the metal cap of the kiln until the glue mixture begins to turn brown.
- As it heats up, the hide glue will begin to turn dark brown. (Don’t worry, this will burn off). Place the earring in the kiln and cover it with the metal cap while you light the torch. Check it fairly quickly to see if all the glue has burned off. Once the glue has burned off, the earring will look radiantly silver, but the objects on top of the backsheet are all unglued and loose, so don’t jar the kiln or move anything too suddenly.
The next step will be fusing the bezel and wires to the backsheet.
General Information for Fusing
- Use the torch tip that will produce a large, soft flame. Keep your arm high above the kiln with the torch at right angles to the surface so that only the very feathery tip of the flame touches the earring.
- Start to heat the entire piece with a slow, circular motion around the outside of the periphery of the backsheet. This will build up a cone of heat around and above the entire piece, allowing it all to rise to the same temperature at the same time, while the kiln is providing the necessary bottom heat.
- When the outer edge of the silver begins to show signs of shimmering, pass the tip of the flame closer into the area you wish to fuse. Use a gentle, sweeping motion and do not concentrate the flame in any one spot. As you do this you will actually see the surface of the silver shine and “run” ?a little like solder does and you can usually see the surface change right up to the edge that needs to be fused. Withdraw the heat quickly and turn off the torch.
- Give the piece a few seconds to cool, then quench in cold water. Test the parts that were fused with a sharp pointed instrument (tweezers etc) to see if they have been completely fused. If some areas are still unfused repeat the whole procedure over again as many times as necessary to get everything solidly fused.
TIP: Do not try to hurry the heating process by bringing the flame in close, or concentrating on any one spot. Work slowly and carefully
Step by Step Instructions
STEP 1. Preparing the Back Sheet
- Cut two pieces of 24 gauge Fine Silver sheet, each one approx. I 1/2?inch square.
- Flatten the squares between two steel blocks, annealing them if necessary. Be sure that they are perfectly flat.
- Sand and tripoli the backsheet, eliminating all scratches. Then clean it very well, making sure to remove all traces of the tripoli. From here on in, try not to get fingerprints on it. Any extraneous material on the surface of the metal, such as fingerprints or polish can interfere with the fusing process.
- Coat the back of the backsheet with ochre to prevent overheating the piece when fusing takes place.
STEP 2: Preparing and Fusing the Bezel
In this sample, we are using 6 mm. garnet cabs.
- Cut the bezel wire to the correct size to contain the stone, but make it slightly higher than you will need. This will give you an extra edge of metal in case the bezel become deformed by the flame during repeated heating. The bezel can be filed or sanded down to size before setting the stone. FUSE the ends of the bezel together. This can be done on a piece of charcoal outside the kiln if the kiln is too hot for the thin bezel. Please read the section on Fusing before continuing. Do not solder the ends. Since fusing occurs at a higher temperature than soldering, all fusing operations must be completed before any soldering takes place.
- To fuse the wire into a bezel, abut the ends just as you would if you were soldering them. Place them in the kiln, which has been heated, or on charcoal. Using only the feathery tip of the large flame, heat the bezel piece by creating a circle of heat around it and then gently and quickly pull the very tip of the flame over the seam. The silver becomes shiny and you can see the silver shimmer and run together. Quickly remove flame?all this happens very fast!
- File gently over the seam in the bezel until it disappears. Tripoli the bezel itself until the scratches are removed and it looks shiny and finished. Once it is fused to the back sheet, it will be very difficult to correct any blemishes.
- Gently ochre the very top rim of the bezel. Since you will probably heat and reheat the piece several times, this will help prevent the bezel from accidentally burning around the top.
- Find the exact center of the backsheet and mark it to indicate where the bezel should be placed.
- Fuse the bezel in the center of the square of silver.(See Fig.1 on page of Figs 1-5.)
STEP 3: Preparing and Fusing the Decorative Wires.
You will need two circles made of round wire. One will surround the bezel; the other will be at the outer circumference of the earring
- Using the 22 ga. round wire, shape a ring that will fit exactly around the bezel.
- Fuse the ends together and reshape it on a mandrel to be sure it is perfectly round.
- Check the fit of the ring around the bezel. To fuse properly, it must be an exact fit, leaving no spaces either around the bezel or between it and the backsheet. If necessary, flatten the ring between two steel blocks.
- Place it over the bezel and fuse it to the backsheet.
- Using the 22 ga. wire, make a ring with a diameter of 7/8″ and fuse the ends together. This will demarcate the outer edge of the finished earrings.
- Shape on a mandrel so that it is a perfect circle and if necessary, flatten it between two steel blocks so it lies perfectly flat on the backsheet.
- Place it on the backsheet so that it forms the outer edge of the earring. Make sure that it is placed so that the bezel is at the EXACT center of the outer ring.
- Paste it down temporarily with the Hide Glue mixture as described in the section on Fusing. 9. Fuse the larger ring to the backsheet. (Fig 2.)
The next step will be Granulation.