Metalsmithing Projects and Tips to Recycle Your Leftover Silver from Scrappy to Sassy
After watching Janice Berkebile’s new video about recycling fine silver scraps and using them for metalsmithing projects to turn them into jewelry, I remembered how much I love to recycle my own silver. So I spent a large part of Sunday in the studio making some gifts and immediately recycling my sterling silver and fine silver. I think I was more excited to recycle each scrap I snipped off my projects than I was to actually make the pieces themselves. I absolutely love watching all those little scraps turn red and then wiggle and collapse and form into a gorgeous swirling shiny liquid silver ball. I feel like part alchemist, part magician when I melt silver–at least when I do it on purpose!
Here’s a quick rundown of how to recycle your own silver scraps, from Janice’s video and some of my own lessons learned:
1. Keep fine silver and sterling silver scraps separate to be melted separately.
2. With your scrap silver in small piles on your soldering brick, heat it with your torch until it turns to a liquid state, pushing stray pieces into the molten ball with tweezers or other tools until all pieces are absorbed. You can “wipe off” the silver that sticks to your tweezers on the brick and easily nudge the slightly cooled bits back toward the molten metal.
3. Remove the flame and allow the piece to sit a minute or so, until you see no glow, before quenching. Quench carefully–that metal is very, very hot. Even after quenching, these very solid, thick pieces can still remain hot, so leave it in the water a moment before touching with your bare hands.
This little molten silver blob is recycled silver that you can now form into all kinds of interesting organic shapes using metalsmithing tools and techniques–or form it into sheet and then cut it into more specific shapes with shears or your jeweler’s saw. Begin forming it into sheet by hammering it with the flat face of a hammer on a steel bench block. After every few whacks, you’ll have to anneal the flattening blob, quench, dry, and continue hammering. Be careful not to melt the silver to a liquid state again when annealing.
Do you know how to anneal metal with a Sharpie? I didn’t, but here’s a great tip I learned from Janice’s video: When annealing fine silver, mark the metal with a Sharpie marker (anywhere, any kind of mark is fine) and apply the torch. When you can no longer see the mark on the glowing metal, remove the flame–and voila! The metal is annealed. If you keep the flame on the metal much longer, it will melt.
Fun with Forming and Fusing
In addition to demonstrating how to recycle your own scraps of fine silver and then form them into workable pieces of sheet for metalsmithing, Janice takes the process a step further. She shares how to turn your recycled silver into jewelry: earrings, rings, and pendants, all with a pretty lily pad design that is easy to form from the organic shapes of the recycled metal.
During the project tutorials, Janice also covers a variety of metalsmithing techniques–basics like fusing, annealing, hammering and texturing, dapping/doming, patination, filing and finishing, even some wirework–as well as handy little skills like how to create and use balled head pins as decorative elements and connectors to join metal pieces without soldering and wire weaving techniques to create a bold cocktail ring. And like soldering, fusing has its own nuances and special considerations. Janice shares expert technique instruction and tips for fusing fine silver, so that you can take advantage of those special nuances and not melt your work.
There’s so much more to Janice’s video, Dapped, Forged & Fused: Ring, Necklace, Pendant & Earring Designs with Janice Berkebile, than just recycling silver and making the designs in each one. Plus you can get this video, Janice’s similar video about making earrings, and Lexi Erickson’s dapping-focused hollow forms DVD all in our special value Dapping Techniques bundle, all for the price of one DVD!