Tuesday, August 23, 2016

DON'T SCRAP IT - By Karen McGovern

If you are like me, you have a few containers, boxes, drawers, cups, whatever--full of bits and pieces of metal left over from various projects. Considering how expensive copper and silver are these days (I don't even talk about gold--that is WAY outside my skill set and beyond my pocket book's wildest imagination), you don't want to waste a bit of either material. So, what to do with all that scrap? There are practical options, like melting the silver down or sending your scrap to one of several online storefronts that will pay you by the gram for scrap metals (Rio Grande is one of the better known venues for this). Whatever you do--KEEP YOUR SCRAP. 


Beyond basic recycling, there are many other options for scrap and I have just recently begun fooling around with my containers of scrap silver and copper. Number one for me at the moment is fusing scrap silver to copper. I had NO IDEA how EASY this is, how great the results are and how fun the process is. Silver and copper are highly compatible metals. To fuse silver to copper all you need to do is clean your copper (sand, de-grease with soap and water, wipe dry), lay some bits of scrap silver on and heat in the torch till the silver flows and reticulates. I use a hand-held butane torch for this and it works beautifully. It's really amazing! You end up with a very organic silver pattern full of ridges, swirls, bumps, etc. fused fully to the copper base. This is great for SO MANY THINGS. I've been making cuffs, discs and rings and adore the organic look of the molten metal on the copper base. I am a fool for fusing!

To make a sterling silver/copper fused band-style ring I set a copper ring blank (cleaned and sanded) in the jaws of a third hand on my solder board. I snip small lengths of sterling wire (gauges matter--I usually use scrap 16 or 18 gauge), bend the wire and lay it on the ring. Heat everything with the torch until the silver melts! It will run down the ring. Quench, clean a little, add more silver if you want, etc. You never know how it will turn out, which I find really interesting. This is such a quick and easy way to create!! No need for flux or anything...super-cool. I did the same for the cuff. Placed my clean copper cuff blank on the solder board, then added a few pieces of scrap on the length, heated in the torch and watched the metal flow. Quenched, cleaned, then bent in my bracelet bender. A bit of liver of sulfur then VIOLA! The other rings shown were made with scrap sterling and copper wire soldered together then soldered to the band. The pendant was made using scrap copper sheet and washers I made into "pods" lined with fused sterling silver. Most of my designs are rustic--that is what I love to create and working with scrap is a great way to stretch your imagination in a new direction. So far I have made a couple rings, working on a pendant at the  moment. I like the twig "bundle" look and fusing or soldering scraps together creates some really interesting shapes. There will definitely be more of these designs in my future...



This is a real learning process for me--you cannot predict the outcome exactly. I accidentally discovered what happens if you try to fuse a heavier gauge scrap of sterling sheet on a thinner gauge piece of copper...The silver will melt right through the copper while fusing. In the video below you can see what happened when I first fooled around with fusing and put heavier gauge scrap silver on a thinner copper disc. I thought I had messed up and initially hated the result UNTIL I TURNED IT OVER. The silver had melted through to the other side in a really beautiful way. SCIENCE! ALCHEMY! MAGIC! I made a super-cool leather bracelet with that bad boy....

video

Leather cuff with fused sterling and copper discs. ROCK ON!

Scrap silver and copper are also great to turn into granules--those little balls so wonderful for use as accent on just about anything. I simply snip up scrap wire or sheet into small bits, arrange them on a fire or charcoal board (smooth surface) heat to melting with the torch and they form into balls! Fool around with this--you will see that if you over heat the balls may "boil" and form air pockets (which can result in some interesting shapes) and the longer you work with this technique the better you will get at forming perfectly round balls (learning just when to pull the torch back and when to quench) or balls with a flat back (which I prefer because it's easier to set them later). 

Puff of Smoke ring made with sterling silver granules created from scrap silver.

Bottom line, there are a million things you can do with scrap! Dump out a pile and start playing. Let us know how it goes--we love to hear about and see what you are working on. Now, GO MAKE SOMETHING AMAZING!

10 comments:

stacilouise said...

Love it. I have been using my silver scrap to make balls for rings and other decorations around my bezels. I kinda love melting silver

Karen McGovern said...

Isn't it fun???

Bijoux Gems Joy said...

Looks like so much fun. I had trouble with my little micro torch, bad butane, so stopped trying things. Finally got my torch cleaned out, just need to buy proper butane now. This looks like an exciting way to start up again.
Mona

pam said...

HI I love the leather cuff with flower. Is that for sale somewhere? thanks

pliccb said...

Oooo, gotta try this, so many ideas of things to do with it! And your washer pods give me ideas too! Thank you so much for sharing.
Carol

Karen McGovern said...

Hi Pam! The leather cuff is made to order and will be listed in my Web shop later today. Glad you like it!

Karen McGovern said...

www.beadkeepers.com

Karen McGovern said...

Hi Pam! The leather cuff is made to order and will be listed in my Web shop later today. Glad you like it!

Nicky Morson said...

Nice ideas! Like the smoke ring and leather cuff. Thanks for sharing!

mairedodd said...

i adore scrap and fusing is one of my most favorite things! the work is beautiful.

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