Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fine Silver Headpins

Fine silver headpins can be made quite easily with a small butane torch.

This photo shows my simple set up for making headpins. I use those disposable aluminum cookie sheets for a base and backdrop. I also have a small firebrick that I use mainly when fusing fine silver. It's not really necessary for making headpins. In the foreground is a pair of cross-lock tweezers. Off to the right are 4" lengths of 22 ga fine silver.

Holding a piece of wire with the tweezers, place the bottom end of the wire in the hottest part of the flame. That spot is at the very end of the blue section of the flame. You can see how that cookie sheet comes in handy as a backdrop.

The fine silver will begin to ball up after a few seconds. You will need to slowly lower the wire as this happens. As soon as the ball is the size you want, remove it from the flame and put it on the cookie sheet. It will be hot.

If you leave the wire in the flame too long, the ball will most likely fall off. Then you will be glad you started with 4" of wire, because you still have enough to make another headpin!

The resulting headpins are about 3 1/2" long. If you use 24 ga wire, this will be different. It will take a bit more wire to achieve an adequate size ball.

Here are the completed headpins. This can also be done with sterling silver, but the copper content in sterling silver will cause it to darken (firescale). Also, whenever I've done this with sterling, the balls on the end have been pitted. I suspect that using flux would minimize this problem, but I'm not set up for that in my studio.

Please be sure to read the instructions that come with your butane torch and follow all safety precautions.


Pricilla said...

You are the master!

Mia Sophia said...

Very pretty! removing sterling slowly from the heat will reduce pitting as well. (caused by the inside cooling slower than the outside causing pits and cave ins)

Your fine silver is gorgeous!

Leah said...

Another option besides regular sterling is argentium - it balls up nicely, and doesn't darken much. I use it all the time, with no flux or pickle.

Orion Designs said...

Thanks for your input! I will try your suggestions next time I make a batch of headpins.

Faye said...

What do you use for the polishing process to get rid of the dark colour on the silver after heating up? I have all the equipment except acid or pickle. Would there be a way of doing it without?

Orion Designs said...

Faye -- By using fine silver instead of sterling, the dark color just never happens!