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Some notes on loop-in-loop chains and Argentium - Metals Geekery

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March 1st, 2009

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05:02 pm - Some notes on loop-in-loop chains and Argentium
In general, I'm definitely enjoying making classic LinL chains using Argentium rather than fine silver. For thinner wires- especially 24-ga. and smaller (0.5mm), Argentium is a LOT easier to fuse than fine. The difference between the melting point and the flow point is a huge help here. (It's also kinda fun to see what happens when one overheats an Argentium link- usually instead of the join splitting and the ends beading up, the whole ring just magically SHRINKS. And yes, I am easily amused!)

I also really like the fact that the whole bracelet can be hardened after it's made. Bracelets take an amount of abuse second only to rings, and the sturdier I can make them, the better!

One small downside of using Argentium rather than fine silver, though, is that it does behave differently. For example, some LinL chains' specifications for gauge and mandrel size are less effective with Argentium than with fine silver. Fine silver tends to stretch in the forming process- and Argentium doesn't. This can leave one with links that are slightly too small to make weaving a chain easy, and even if one does so, one ends up with a denser chain than desired. Thus far I and others I work with have had reasonably good results keeping the mandrel size the same and decreasing the wire gauge 2 sizes (example: using 22 ga. rather than 20 ga.), OR increasing the mandrel size when winding the wire for the loops.

It is also advantageous, when fusing links at 20 ga. (0.8mm) or larger, to flip the rings over and make sure the other side is fused as well when using Argentium. I have generally not found it necessary to do this for 22 ga. and smaller.

In short: I am increasingly fond of Argentium for fusing applications. For me, it's been both easier to use AND makes sturdier results than the same techniques in fine silver.

The worst downside- apart from but related to its lower melting point- is that Argentium is not especially compatible with enamels- another love of mine.

(2 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:March 2nd, 2009 04:33 pm (UTC)
I hate to admit this, but I've never tried fusing. Do you have any recommended reading on the subject? I'm guessing it can't be done on sterling, which is what I have, but I think I have some fine silver laying around here somewhere.
[User Picture]
Date:March 2nd, 2009 10:10 pm (UTC)
Fusing is fun! OK, sometimes frustrating, too, but also fun. It's so magical!

And no- sterling doesn't fuse, because the copper in it oxidizes too readily. That's why granulation on sterling is a lot trickier than on fine. (There's a trick that can make it work, but not as reliably as it does on fine.)

Both of my loop-in-loop chainmaking books have some info on fusing- the classic one, and the new Lansford one. The Lansford one
has better photos but no diagrams; the Stark one
has minimal photos, lots of usually-helpful drawings, and a LOT more types of chain. Both are kinda pricey, unfortunately. I think the Stark is a better value in general, but the Lansford definitely has more on fusing.

What are you interested in fusing? The techniques etc. vary a lot depending on whether you want to do loops like for chain (as above), or granulation/wire fusing onto a flat sheet, or bezels, or whatever. I'd be happy to post some about any of these if you're interested!

Oh- and there's one exception to the "can't fuse sterling" rule: take scrap with no solder, flux well, and fuse bits to each other or to a backing sheet by just heating the heck out of them until they melt to each other. This is very unpredictable/"organic" in results! but it can make a nifty on-off THING, and is a fun way to use sterling scrap. :)

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