Monday, July 25, 2011

How to Patina your Metals for Jewelry

I was asked to do a tutorial on using Liver of Sulfur, and why anyone would ask me is beyond me - but they did, so here I am.  First of all, I need to tell you that not only am I a self taught metallurgist, but my husband, a retired dentist, also lays claim to that title for my business,  Linda Sudimack, artisan.  Since my college degree was in Chemistry, we constantly bicker over who has more claim to that title. I am also a compulsive reader - I will even read a cereal box occasionally if I am desperate I have read every little thing that I have been able to find about how to patina your metals without using a torch.

I have to say here that I love copper - I love working with it - I love it's consistency when bending it - I love the price as compared to sterling....but I am not an orange person.  I do not like the color of copper, but I do love it with a patina. The first jewelry that I made was with copper wire and it was patineed, not very well, but even then, I knew what I wanted!

The product itself, Liver of Sulfur, comes in both liquid and rock form and although I have purchased the liquid form, we have so far only used the rock form.  There are also some other products out there, Rio has one and  Jodi Bombardier mentions in her book that she uses because it doesn't smell as bad as LOS...but she urges you to take it outside, so we have stuck with LOS, because I really don't need another product to cope with.

I think that every one who writes a book, has their own recipe for the LOS mixture, the more anal ones actually measure their water, John would never do that and he does all my oxidizing for me.  Just to be a little technical - that is actually what you are doing - you are oxidizing (or tarnishing) - the metal that you hope to darken.  Again, lots of opinions on water temperature, we have settled on very hot tap water because the rock melts quickly here. John is a natural conservationist ( he's cheap) so he adds as little LOS as he can get away with. You want your liquid to be darkish brown and it does stink like rotten eggs.  We add 2 to 3 drops of household ammonia to this for better colors. We purchased a plastic rectangular bowl at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, that is only used for LOS and it has it's own lid, it is about 4" x 10" x 5" deep and it works for everything I've done so far.  They say that you must use glass or plastic, not a metal pan and that makes sense to me.

I purchased a flat ladle thingie with holes for fast dipping small things - I also made a similar one from wire that is much smaller.  I also bought a wooden toast lifter (tongs) from B,B, and Beyond which is much cheaper than bamboo tongs for jewelers. We use this to hold the things that are being dipped and to pick fallen goodies off the bottom.

After your piece is oxidized to your liking, you will want two bowls with cold water to stop the process.  We use 2 large cottage cheese containers both filled with cold water.  The first dipping is into the cold water that has a couple of tablespoons of baking soda in it and then they go into plain cold water. The baking soda halts the oxidation process by neutralizing the acid.

Now comes the hard part - taking off what you have just worked so hard to put on - but done artistically, of course.  I use one of two products, either 0000 steel wool, from your local hardware shop, or a 3 M product that I buy at Rio.  I think that I prefer the steel wool, but it does leave little threads on your work that are hard to remove, even in the tumbler. The 3 M product does a great job, but I think that it is more work, they are like sanding pads in 4 grits that are rubbery on one side.  I often use a brass brush, from Rio, to scrub the interior of my pieces. I don't like to tumble after oxidizing because it usually takes off too much.

You can cover your LOS solution and as long as it has color it will work.  It is non toxic, although odiferous, and can be disposed of in a garage sink.  You could put it down your kitchen drain too, if you want a good reason for eating out for the next few nights.

That's about it - we tend to wait until we have several pieces to do, and spend the morning on the patio...oxidizing, and cleaning and cleaning and cleaning.  This is truly a labor of love so don't attempt it unless you really, really want to do it.  I don't oxidize allot of sterling, I spent too much time over the years cleaning my silver, so intentionally tarnishing it is mentally very hard for me to do.  I have read that if you are doing both metals to do your silver first and then do your copper.  I have also read that you can get some great colors like with a torch by putting the copper in a 300 degree oven for a few hours.  Haven't tried that yet, but I will. I do not use a torch - I have this vision of me, in the garage, torch in hand...and the house in flames...I don't even flame creme brulee, so my copper is going to have to wait.

I think that I have tried every lacquer on the market and have not been happy with the results - I've even gone the renaisannce wax route and John bougth a product that was quaranteed for like 27 years on outside cupola's - that other than costing allot did not do the job.  I was using nothing for a while and then I tried  an artist's fixative....meanwhile, I read about a new product in an article by Connie Fox which the jury is still out on...but I will let you know if it works as well as I hope. If the product is half as good as the company is in it's attention to detail, it will be a winner.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Beam Me Up, Scotty

Okay, I think it's a pretty well established fact here that I am definitely a techno tard - I try, I really do, but it just ain't there.  A few weeks ago, I got a new computer, because my husband's had crashed and since I am now the one with the business, I got the new puter.  I love it and getting it up and going was tougher than I would have liked, but basically I got there, between me and the geek squad ( God bless them).

I elected to not have them make my recovery disks - it was a $90.00 charge that I didn't want to pay after all the new stuff and softwear and backup, etc., etc., etc., that  I needed for the puter.  During one of the numerous trips that we made to Best Buy - my personal geek told me that I really needed to do something about recovery disks - that if my baby crashed, I would basically be up old sh...t creek without them.  So on my next trip I told the geek, Jason, who was helping me that I thought I needed to do something about recovery disks - and he said, no big deal, I'll sell you the disks - it's easy, just go into the program menu and it will be under the section on your computer --- just click on the part about "recovery disks".  He said that it was time consuming, but easy.

Just once I wish what someone told me about computers would be true - unfortunately, it was relatively fast, but not so easy.  I started this travail,because there was nothing about recovery disks in my computer, out by calling Best Buy to talk to the geek squad - and was put on hold. A very annoying voice told me that I was second in line and fool that I am, I decided to wait. Well wait I did, and after about 1/2 hour I was put through and immediately, cut off. I waited about an hour and then called again, this time I was third in line and decided not to wait. A few hours later, I called and got through - unfortunately, the person that I spoke to needed to be fired.  Believe me when I tell you that this man did not finish first in charm school - because he was alone, he would not go look at a computer like mine so he couldn't answer my questions. He told me that I needed to call technical support and I said that all the help my husband and I had received up til now was from this store and this geek squad and that's who my sizable check had gone to.  He proceeded to inform me that I was in this mess because I was too cheap to pay the $90.00 for them to do it, and that the person who had helped me, was not a geek squad member, just someone who answered the phone.  By  this time my patience was wearing  a bit thin - I said something to the effect that this person had on a geek squad shirt with his name on it, and I was supposed to know that he wasn't qualified to do this by ESP???  He'd already given me the next phone number so when he started off again - I did a rude thing, my mother would have frowned at...but it felt good. I told him that he really needed to try and learn some people skills and hung up

I got technical support rather easily - too many thingies to push, but I got there and spoke to a very nice woman named, Civica,...I wondered if this might be an omen that someone was going to treat me politely...and they did, but she had no idea in hell what I was talking about and told me that she was going to connect me to the command deck.  I felt like I was on the starship Enterprize and Capt. Kirk was waiting around the corner to help me.  It was actually Daniel on the first call and Dustin on the second, they filled in for Scotty and Mr. Spock, but they got me where I needed to be and I now have 3 recovery disks if my baby  gets fatally ill.

I have come to the conclusion lately, that nothing is ever easy anymore - and some people take a perverse pleasure in trying to make things worse, but if you can see the funny side (and there usually is, at least one funny side) your life will be allot more enjoyable.  As soon as that picture of the Enterprize entered my head, I knew that I was going to get through this thing, and I thought that it needed sharing and that's what I'm doing...have a good one all and come visit my shop - it's more fun than my computer.