Creating Color on Copper with Heat
Now, on to silver...
Reticulating Silver with Heat
This process is similar, but very different from working with copper. You can't shape your silver prior to reticulating. Heating the silver like this sometimes shrinks the metal, so you should actually start with a disc slightly larger than what you plan to end up with. It's very hard to reticulate small pieces of silver, they simply shrink away under heat, so start big. Remember, you can always cut and shape the piece when you are done.
First, clean your silver. Again, I use a medium sanding sponge, give both sides a good sanding, then rinse and dry. Place the disc on your ceramic fire-block and turn on your torch. Heat the metal evenly with the flame, moving the flame around the surface. What you are actually doing is heating the surface of the silver almost to its melting point. The silver usually turns dark first, keep moving the flame around, DON'T STOP. Don't leave your flame stationary either--if you point it too long in one spot you can burn a hole in the silver! The surface will begin to get really shiny and glow a bit red--you're getting close! When the silver is shiny everywhere it will actually go liquid on the surface--you will see the surface begin to "boil" in teeny-tiny bubbles. That's when the reticulation is beginning! Keep that flame moving and all sorts of things may happen. Bubbles may form that lift the metal in places, ridges and valleys may form. Bumps and lumps will appear everywhere depending on how you move your flame, etc. At this point stop, turn off your torch and quench the silver by picking it up WITH PLIERS and dropping it in your cup of water. When you take it out it will be an ugly, flat grey/black. That is the impurities in the silver coming to the surface. You have two choices here. You can "pickle" the metal chemically using a crock-pot (again, search this on Etsy--all questions will be answered) or you can do like I do (ever the impatient girl) and go at the silver with your sanding sponge. The black will come right off. Sand, rinse, sand, rinse, etc. till you can really see what you have. If you want more texture simply set the silver back on your fire-block, turn on your torch and get busy. Each time you quench, sand, and rinse, the silver it will heat easier and reticulate even quicker. You can do this several times till you get the effect you want. When I am totally done, I sand, clean and buff the silver with a dremel tool. Tarnex, yes, good old fashioned Tarnex, works really well as a final, super fast cleaning agent. Now you can shape the metal VERY CAREFULLY if you wish. Reticulating silver makes it brittle, so if you want to curve it be careful, hammer very lightly. You may find that the edges are especially brittle, bits may even break off, but that's part of the beauty of the effect--simply file your edges smooth.
Here is an example of a ring I just made with reticulated silver fused with sterling silver shot, set with an amethyst. YUMMY!!!!
Now it's your turn! Get online, get some tools, then start creating. I'd love to see what you make. Send me some photos and I'll post them here. If you have any questions about the processes described here, please contact me! Have fun playing with FIRE!