Sunday, March 15, 2009

Meltin' Metal

I talk about being green and recycling metal, but I don't show you the process. So I thought I would document the fun part... meltin' metal.

Honestly, I love melting metal. It is fun. Yes, if you don't know what you're doing, you really shouldn't be playing with large flames and molten metal... but I know what I'm doing (and take all of the proper precaution.)

We're starting with three 14K Yellow gold wedding bands...

The rings have been cleaned and stones removed and cut into small pieces...

We clean the metal to make sure no contaminates get mixed into the metal when melted. Also, any visible solder is cut out because it melts at a lower temperature and contains different alloys than plain 14k, which can both cause pitting in the final piece.

To begin the melting process we clean the ceramic kiln. To do this, we heat up the kiln and add a VERY small amount of powered borax. When the borax is heated, it creates a fine glass layer over the ceramic to keep the metal from being trapped in the porous ceramic. Any extra borax is heated and poured out of the kiln.

To melt the metal, you start with the largest pieces first. This is because they will take the longest to heat up. If you start will small pieces and add a large piece, it will freeze the metal and the overall process will take much longer.

And the above photo is just cool. Seriously, I love melting metal!

Okay, so you can see a small piece of told in the tweezers in my right hand. Each piece is added one by one. The metal in the kiln balls up when heated to a molten point and when that ball is seen with the surface 'dancing' it is the time to add more metal.

If you look carefully at the above photo, you see a 'ball' of metal glowing at the bottom of the kiln. That is the metal! This is the point when you stir the gold with a carbon (or quartz) rod to remove any contaminants from the ball. The contaminants will float to the surface and stick to the rod.

And finally this is me making new 'grain' from the molten metal. The metal is poured into water to form small pieces. Look carefully, you can see the glowing metal! The reason for this process is to mix all the golds together. Each jewelry manufacturer uses a different alloy (recipe) for their gold... this blends them all together.

Most of the time I will not be making grain, I usually make new stock (sheet, wire, etc.) But this gold will be mixed with new gold and used to cast a ring.

And finally... this is what the rings turned into...

There you go! Meltin' metal!

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