The blog was quiet last week as I started a new, intensive class and my entire schedule was thrown into disarray. But, no class shall best me and I am back!
Last week I finished my second project in the jewelry making class and got it turned in. The project was to create a cuff (or very large pendant) using wire as the main component and only solder joins. I drew up a number of designs, trying to keep it simple and not so complex as my first project, but I think I failed at that. The design I went with was pretty much flat, but had about 120 solders in it. Once I got started, I was able to shave that down to just under 100 (I think 92?) but still, that was probably too many solders for a beginning project like this. Oh well, it is done now and it looks pretty good.
Here is the finished cuff, right before I turned it in. I used copper wire, mostly because it is cheap and I’ve squeezed my credit card getting supplies and tools for this class which I’d not budgeted. The cheap part helps not only with the cost, but with the learning. There were a number of pieces that refused to solder, repeatedly, and sometimes I would get so tired of pickling and sanding them clean that I’d simply cut new pieces and try again. Doing that with silver wire would be costly and weigh on my mind and stress me out. So, yea copper!
After soldering the whole thing, I filed down any spots, shaped it, gave it an overall sanding with 400 grit for a matte texture and then copper plated it. Yes, copper plating! Exciting!
Here is the piece after the solder, before the plating. Lots of silver solder that needs covered up.
Copper plating is very easy to do with basic household items and chemicals. Since I didn’t have any old, used pickle, I stopped by the hardware store and bought some cheap copper sulfate pentahydrate – AKA root killer for drains and pipes. It is an electric blue crystal of high copper content. I threw some of that in a small container (dip-sized Crock Pot) of pickle and let it dissolve. This charged the pickle with free copper ions. Then, I took steel binding wire and wrapped it over the cuff and dropped it in the copper-charged pickle. The steel (non-stainless, or you could use iron) creates an electrical reaction in this situation. I’ve also heard this called immersion plating, but you get the idea. You can also use batteries or whatever, but steel wire does the trick! The silver solder, as well as the existing copper, then sucks up the free copper.
The cuff was plated for three sessions of five minutes each, with a rinse and wire brushing in between. I wanted a heavy copper coating to cover up those 100 solders, as well as to create an allover, even color and matte finish. After it was done, I finished it with an acrylic matte spray. I usually finish my pieces with a coat or two of Renaissance wax, but there were too many and too inaccessible surfaces for wax.
I turned the piece in at the last Thursday class and was glad to be done with it. For most of the work time, I hated it. There were too many solders and I could not do any of the work at home since my tiny butane torch couldn’t get all the metal hot enough to solder. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on a serious torch, I was determined to do all the solder work in class, which I accomplished. I really only started to not-hate the piece when it was finished, sanded, shaped and ready for the plating. Plus – I got to do copper plating, which was actually quite fun and easy. My final opinion is that of not-hate, but I don’t think I’ll ever love it.
P.S. If you didn’t notice yet, the design is based on fingerprints. There are five, enclosed in boxes similar to those on a form for having fingerprints taken.