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How to anneal sterling silver – 7 BASIC STEPS

How to anneal sterling silver - 7 BASIC STEPS

Annealing is the term for softening metal so that it is malleable. The process involves heating the metal and then cooling it. Cooling the metal can be achieved through air cooling, quenching and sometimes both.

Sterling silver is heated to a dull red(900F). Let it lose its redness and then quench in cool water. (Presto you have soft metal). There are a few steps before you can heat the baby up.

The metal should be coated in a protective substance called a “Barrier Flux”. It is made up of boric acid and 91% isopropyl alcohol.

Many people use denatured alcohol. I discovered it’s toxic and the human body does not metabolize denatured alcohol.

This means it doesn’t leave your body very easily once you have absorbed it. Kind of scary. That is why I recommend 91% isopropyl alcohol because it’s less dangerous.

The 91% isopropyl alcohol burns off nearly as well as denatured alcohol. I do not recommend the 70% isopropyl alcohol.

You can mix the boric and isopropyl solution 50/50 for a thicker solution. This will provide a nice thick coating for your metal. This is good for annealing. If you are soldering you can use 25% boric and 75% isopropyl alcohol.

Use a glass jar with a lid. I use an old pickle jar or you could use

a mason jar. The lid will keep the alcohol from evaporating.

*Tip (If you try to anneal after you have soldered, your project may fall apart at the solder joints. Plan ahead and perform this step before you solder your piece together)

Step 1. Make sure all metal surfaces are free of dirt and grease.

Step 2. Gently shake up your solution and dip your metal into the jar.

Step 3. The metal piece must be coated with boric acid and isopropyl and fired.

Step 4. Heat the metal to a dull red. Keep it at that temperature for a few seconds.

Step 5. You can quench it in water or let it air cool on your solder pad or steel bench block.

Step 6. After it has cooled you need to remove the boric acid that is on the metal. During the heating process, the boric turns into a glass-like substance. This glass protects the metal from fire scale. Fire scale is a coppery color that appears on silver and gold if it has been overheated. (You will find out that fire scale is a bummer) You can soak your metal in a pickle solution or warm soapy water.

Pickle solution is a strong acid that quickly removes boric. It is usually heated in a small pickle pot similar to a small crockpot.

The pickle solution should be used in a well-ventilated area. If you choose to use it read all of the safety instructions. It is a serious acid and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Many of the goldsmiths I know use an ultrasonic cleaner with soapy water. It works great and is very safe.

Here is one a good one on Amazon. There are a few different sizes so pick the one that is right for you.

I usually get one that is a little larger than I need so I can grow into it.


Step 7. Clean the metal with an old toothbrush and rinse under water. Inspect the metal for any boric glass that may still be attached. If it looks good you are ready to start making your masterpiece.

This is a basic look at annealing. For more information on annealing, here is another good article.

Mark Nelson’s Tips: Mixing Boric Acid Barrier Flux

Here is another about fire scale that is helpful to know.

Dealing with Fire Scale

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North House Folk Schools – Free PDF – Agate Cutting Class – On The Rocks!

Free 'How To' lapidary basics PDF

I spent the last week up north in Grand Marais, Minnesota teaching two stone cutting classes back to back at the North House Folk School. What a great couple of groups! I have offered this class a few times and it continues to develop and get better and better. The classes both cut jaspers, agates and petrified dinosaur bone. Here are a few photos of the cabochons they made. I can’t wait to do it again!


If you are interested in cutting stones or would like a FREE PDF of the “how to” steps of cutting a stone, stone hardness scales and more, click the link and DOWNLOAD the file. It’s free! Continue reading North House Folk Schools – Free PDF – Agate Cutting Class – On The Rocks!

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Wax carving -Lost wax casting

This is the most important part of your jewelry wax carving. I will say it again. This is the most important part of your carving. Do not miss these steps!

Step #1

The most important part of the wax carving process is making sure every thing is square. By square I mean all of our angles are at 90 degree angles. Yup, everything! It doesn’t matter if your design only has curves in it or if you are carving a miniature 2 x 4 piece of lumber. Everything on our wax must be square to start. I will also say this is the most boring of all the steps but necessary.

Step #2

When picking a piece of wax to carve it should be big enough to hold your design. Make sure if you were to cut out your design that it would fit on the block of wax. If you are lucky enough to Continue reading JEWELRY WAX CARVING- 12 STEPS TO SUCCESS!