Making sterling silver headpins without a torch  

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The other day I was making headpins and I ran out of gas for my little torch. Since I'm making headpins on the kitchen counter, next to the counter is the cooking appliance. I thought to myself, let's try it, why not. And it worked beautifully! Below are a few steps with pictures on how to do it with your regular cooking appliance.
Note: this is only applicable if you want to make headpins. It DOES not work if you want to solder :) But for a quick fix, if you ran out of gas and you're in the middle of the gorgeous pair of earrings and don't have any headpins left, it works :)

1. Cut your wire to size and put them in the flux (mine is some yellow borax liquid from the local jewelry supply shop). I prefer the flux to touch the whole pin, not only the part to be in the fire

2. Take the wire and hold it similarly to how I hold it in the picture, relatively vertical if possible, so the wire blobs up nicely in the middle. You see the bottom becomes after 1-2 seconds strongly yellow. Right after this it curls up into a nice round blob.

3. Take it away from the fire and inspect it briefly. If the blob is not in the middle, or is too small, or not to your liking, put it brieflyback in the fire and repeat the procedure. IF all is good, go to step 4.

4. In the meantime have hot (but not boiling) water in a jar of some sort, but make sure that the dish is not metal. I use a bowl that I bought yoghurt in a while ago. Then put a teaspoon full of pickle. The brand I use is in this picture.

5. As you finish with each pin, put it in the jar with the pickle. You see as the pins are in the container, they are all dark, ugly, oxidized. If you hadn't used flux before, it would be much much worse! Make sure that if you are using anything metal
to put the pins in the container, the metal does not touch the pickle. On the other hand, do not throw the pins in the pickle carelessly either, as the pickel is acid, and although it's not a strong one (yeah I tested it with my finger once, just coz...), it's still acid and not very healthy for your skin (or god forbid your eyes).

6. Leave the pins in the container for anything btw. 5-10 minutes (at least in my experience), until the headpins are nice and white. They are all coated with the film that will be removed during polishing stage.

7. Take out the pins from the pot using anything but metal. I have a copper thong just for this particular task.
My way of polishing the pins is with a Lortone tumbler. Use stainless steel shot of different forms, add a few drops of dishwashing liquid. The US folks recommend Dawn, but as the rest of the world might not be equiped with Dawn, you can use any regular liquid. I'm using in general Palmolive, as this is the one I have in my household. Before that I used a no-name liquid that you buy in the supermarket in larger quantities, as it's cheaper. It worked just the same.
Leave the pins for about an hour or so in the tumbler, and when ready, take them out, rinse well and enjoy using your new home-made pins :)

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