Oxidizing With LOS

22 11 2010

If you like to create mixed metal jewelry like I do, you’ll soon discover that oxidizing the pieces really give them some depth and enhance the texture. Last week I got an order for a a bangle bracelet that a customer liked, but needed made smaller, so I figured it would be a good time to write up a tutorial on how to use liver of sulpher (LOS) for oxidizing. LOS is great for creating an antiqued look on copper and silver  – it works on brass too, but has a weaker affect.

One Oxidized, One Shiny!

Here is the original bangle, oxidized and “aged” to a beautiful warm patina, shown with the “brand spaking new” bangle I just finished. You can clearly see the difference in the finish – the oxidized bangle (top) has the detailed texture and stamping highlighted, whereas the new one I made doesn’t show the depth.

In Rock Form

I use the solid LOS – I’ve been using it for years, and I’m pretty used to it, but you can also buy liquid form and gel form, which is easier to use, but has a shorter life span. Solid LOS comes in rocks, and the container is cloudy to protect from direct light. It is very, very, very important to keep LOS stored in a way to keep moisture from getting into the container – moisture will make LOS useless. I always tighten my container, put it in a ziplock bag, and place that into a brown bag – protecting it from light, and moisture. To use, I take a small rock, and put it into a glass bowl, then add very hot water.

Dissolved...

Make sure not to use a metal bowl or it will contaminate the solution, and mess up the bowl too!  The LOS will dissolve in the hot water, becoming a greenish yellow color. Please note – LOS is a chemical – it STINKS like sulpher (duh…), and some folks are sensitive to it. I don’t have any issues, but I try to keep it off my skin, and use a piece of copper wire as a hook to dip items into the LOS.

Like Magic!

I just drop the bangle in, and very quickly, the bangle turns black. It only takes a few seconds (really!) to completely change the copper and silver. I always make sure that I use a copper hook, so I don’t need to fish it out with my fingers!

...And 10 Seconds Later...!

Once I get the coverage I want, I remove the piece and rinse it in cold water. You want to be sure that you don’t leave it in the LOS too long, because if you “over” oxidize, the black will actually solidify, and flake off. The LOS will continue to work in heat, so it is important to rinse in cold water, and dry completely.

Yuck!!

You can really see how black it gets when you compare the bangles! It’s hard to believe, but in just 15 minutes, these bangles will look like twins! But to get there, we need to get down and dirty…

Take it off, take it off, take it all off!!

There are several different ways to remove the excess surface black. Basically, you need to gently scratch it off, to expose the surface underneath. These are the three products I used for this bangle: 3M Scotch-Bright green scrubbies (for some reson, generic scrubbies just don’t work!), a fine sanding sponge block (you can get these from the hardware store), and 3M Crocus Cloth, which I get from jewelry suppliers. First I use the green scrubbie  and rub it over the surface, getting as much black off as I can. The sanding block can be a bit scratchy on the surface, so make sure to practice using this on scrap metal to get used to it. I also use the green scrubbie to get the inside cleaned up, and then I use a strip of the crocus cloth to buff it up and soften any scratches. Crocus cloth is a denim material with a fine sandpaper paint on one side. It will dissolve and make a big mess if it gets wet, so make sure your piece is dry.

Just like the other one!

And here’s the final “twin bangles” – the original is on the bottom (you can see the word “DREAM” on the inside back), and the new one is up top. It is still a little bright – it will take a few days for the copper “pink” to age and take on a beautiful warm color. I will rub a little oil onto the surface, which protects the piece a bit, and adds to the patina. Over time, the new owner will need to occasionally rub  the piece clean with a green scrubbie, because the copper will continue to oxidize naturally.

I rarely make 2 items like this EXACTLY the same. I usually stamp a different phrase or texture, so this was a great chance to compare all the steps in the process with the final bangle. I hope this helped to show folks that using LOS is pretty easy, and the results are great!

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First Show of the Season

13 11 2010

Please excuse this blog interruption for a brief advertising announcement!

I love meeting people and talking about my work and my teaching – the best place to do that is at shows, because part of the reason people come to shows is to meet the artist/artisan. On the other hand…. I absolutely HATE setting up and tearing down the booth, so I only do a few shows every year. Tomorrow, I’m doing a new show that is only a few miles from my house – I hope to introduce my classes to some potential new students, and make a few sales too!

Holiday Boutique - Sunday 11/14/10

If you’re local, I’d love for you to stop by and say hi!! Since I have now pulled all my consignment from shops, I’ll have quite a full stock of items out!





In My Previous Life

11 11 2010

In Honor of Veteran’s Day

Today, I am a jewelry designer – I create and sell my jewelry, I teach classes in a variety of jewelry techniques, and I’m even the inventor of a specialty jewelry tool. But like most folks, I’ve changed directions a bit in my life. I’ve mentioned before in my blog that I came from a corporate background – I was a marketing manager, a program manager, a product launch manager, even an engineering and communications technician. But what I haven’t shared online yet is the path I was on BEFORE I joined the corporate world…

Introducing..... Airman Randi!

Yes – that’s me! I found a few photos from my days in the military, and scanned this in, to honor Veteran’s Day. Despite the “oh where did she get that perm” hair, and those HUGE glasses (really, at the time, they were very fashionable!), I swear, it’s me… a very young me! I’m not in costume for Halloween, but in full combat ready gear – flak jacket and helmet, ready for “war games” activities while stationed overseas. I may not look it now, but I was a proud member of the Air Force, and so much of what I am today, I attribute to what I learned back then.

On Veteran’s Day, I always think back to that time, and I remember the people I knew, and the places I traveled, and the values I learned.

To those that have served, and those that still serve, I am honored to be counted among you. And to those that have sacrificed, and those who have lost loved ones, my heart goes out to you, with humble thanks.





Gotta Have It… Soldering

8 11 2010

Wanna Solder??

People are always looking to add to their skillset – learning new techniques is how we expand and grow our craft. And the one area that jewelry designers always have concerns with is soldering:

  • “It’s too complicated”
  • “It cost’s too much”
  • “It takes up too much room
  • ‘I’m afraid I’ll burn the house down”

These are the basics that most people come up with. So I’m going to write a few posts explaining soldering in a “real” environment – mine! This first post will look at the tools you need, and later on, I’ll post more about the techniques and how-tos.

Not as Much Space as You Thought!

I have a very, very, very, small workspace – it’s actually in a closet! So I am very careful about what I buy, making sure it is absolutely necessary. And this photo shows the items you absolutely must have to get started: You can see the can of butane (the fuel) and to the right of that is the mini torch (aka: creme brule torch). Behind the torch, you’ll see a small crockpot – this is my “pickle” pot, where I keep the pickle, which is an acid used to clean up metal after soldering. To the right of the torch, on the worktop, is copper tongs (use these when removing a piece from the pickle pot), some tweezers and pics, and tubes of solder paste. I use solder paste because it mixes the solder with the flux (a solution used to help solder flow), and in a small space, I prefer to make it as simple as possible! There is a small tripod, which has a screen laying across the top, and a charcoal block on top of that:

On the Block

The tripod is great for raising your pieces to working level, the screen is both a working surface (useful when you want to torch the piece from underneath), as well as a shelf for the charcoal bloack. I like to solder on compressed charcoal, because it holds the heat from the flame, making it easier to get your piece to come to soldering temperature. As you can see – it can get pretty messy and ashy, but it still works fine. I occasionally rub the surface of the block to even out the surface and make it flat.

This is really it – a torch, the fuel, solder/flux, something to solder on, tweezers to move and pick up the item as it heats up, and pickle to clean off the firescale.

When 2 Hands Aren't Enough

Another item that is handy (but not necessary!) is a 3rd hand, used to hold an item in position. In this photo, the ring is being held firmly on a square of silver so it doesn’t shift when the torch is applied.

Not as complicated as you thought…. and this set-up is perfectly fine to get started. I have been soldering for many years, but my space is limited (a closet – remember!), so I cannot have a more elaborate set-up. And this simple set-up is sufficient for almost all the work I want to do.

In my next Soldering post, I’ll explain more about the tools and materials, and in future posts, I’ll show how to set up your projects for basic soldering techniques.