Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Our Beloved Copper and Learning About Gun Blue - Lesson Two

To start out, I'm giving kudos to Szarka Carter of Magpie Gemstones. She is the one that turned me on to gun bluing for copper. Not personally, but I remember when I first started working with copper wire years ago, reading something she wrote about using it to oxidize her copper. And let me tell ya...I ran right out and got some, cause I really did not like using LOS (Liver of Sulfur)! It stinks, it's finicky, and well...you basically do not want to inhale it. More on LOS next time.

Today's topic is Gun Blue, and using it on our lovely copper creations. First of all, let's talk safety. I know there are peeps out there that don't wear gloves, masks, etc, but I'm here to tell you that on Birchwood's Safety Data Sheet they have a Hazard Section that says, and I quote "DANGER! MAY INTENSIFY FIRE; OXIDIZER. TOXIC IF SWALLOWED. TOXIC IF INHALED. MAY CAUSE SEVER SKIN BURNS OR EYE DAMAGE. VERY TOXIC TO AQUATIC LIFE WITH LONG LASTING EFFECTS." Gun Blueing is a chemical solution, made up of 2 acids, a sulfate, and water. If you would like to download the Data Sheet for yourself, you can find it here.

I never never never take a chance with any chemical, not on my skin, in my nose, or in storage. I wear rubber gloves from the dollar store, after I take off my rings and other jewelry...just to be safe. Who wants to accidentally darken their rings or watch, right? As far as not breathing in the stuff, if you have  a window close by, you can open it slightly. If you have a fan, it would serve you well to use both of them, especially if you have any sort of lung issues. I have one and one-half lungs. Trust me, if you are standing over it for a half-hour or so, you need ventilation or a mask. And please, wear the gloves because of your skin, too. Why take the chance. I know, I make it sound really caustic, don't I? I've been using it for years, but with the safety measures I take, so far, so good.

Perma Blue, the brand name for the Birchwood product, is also not good to be leaving around where the kids or your pets can get to them. I don't have to worry about that so much. I don't have kids around or pets right now (so sad). Perma Blue products do have child proof lids on them, but take extra measures to make sure your loved ones are safe, too.

Like I said, I buy the larger size, which seems to last forever. When it comes (and they may not ship it to your PO Box, so just be aware of that.), it will come with a metallic seal. I do not peal the whole thing off; I poke a
hole in it large enough I can squeeze some of it into my glass container. Use a screw driver or a sharp knife. Just remember to wash it off well, after your done...the knife or screw driver. Okay, you  knew that...I just poke a hole because in my mind, it might help to keep the product fresher longer. I cannot, however, document that.
Use a glass container to store the Gun Blue you are using in...one with a good lid, preferably metal. Get a container large enough to dip your items in. I use a wide mouth jar from Hobby Lobby. I keep the rest of my unused large bottle in a resealable plastic bag, just cause I like to be extra safe. Keep that out of reach of children and pets, as well. I cannot stress enough...there is no home remedy for swallowing this stuff. It would be an immediate visit to the ER!

Here is my set up, which I will talk more about when we actually get to using your Gun Blue. And, as you might notice, my wide mouth jar has a baggie between the jar and the lid.
Here's why. My first jar's lid had a liner in it. I think it was some sort of coated pressed cardboard. This new container's lid did not. What I had was bare metal, but I thought...okay...I will give it a go.

Here is what happened.
 Nice lid, huh?
Yep, for some reason this product can sweat, which it did, and it started to rust out my lid, probably my cheap lid, so I decided to use a baggie to give the lid a little more protection. I've been doing that for over eight months now and it's working. No problem.

So...Here is the list of things you will need to work with Gun Blue on copper wire, besides the wire:
  • Gun Blue...like, no kidding, Gail
  • Rubber or Nitrile gloves
  • Glass jar with a wide mouth
  • Some sort of handmade copper hook ( I forgot this, but it's to dip your product in the Gun Blue. More on that later)
  • Ventilation and/or a face mask (not one for Halloween!)
  • And a towel to work on
I guess that is about it for your introduction to Gun Blue. Yeah, you wanted more, didn't you? Baby steps, kids. Next time I will be discussing using Liver of Sulfur, much the same way as I did here. After that, we get to work. We will be using both side by side and you can be the judge. On paper, at least. I get stuck with the smell. Love you all. Don't forget...
Stay Wired Up!!!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Introduction to our Beloved Copper and a Little Bit on Oxidation - Lesson One

I've seen a lot of question on Facebook and the Internet from different skill levels of people working with copper wire or plate about why copper does what it does, like kink and break. I've worked with copper wire and copper items for about seven years now, and decided to share some of my research to possibly help any of you along in your quest to work with copper. Some of this information may seem a little too "scientific" for your personal taste, but I figure if we are really going to understand what we are working with, we need to know it inside and out, and I'm starting at the beginning, cause I'm a "why" person.

Copper, as you probably know, is a soft or malleable metal, and one of the few natural metals not silver or gray in color. It is highly conductive to electricity and heat (meaning both travel easily through copper), but copper does not easily corrode. That should mean something to us that use Gun Blues or Liver of Sulfur on our copper wire or sheet, but we'll talk about that later.

The simplest answer I could find about why copper is softer than some of the other metals, and why it is so conductive, is because of its molecules size and shape. They are all the same size and shape, and cubic in nature, so they move easily against and around each other. So...copper is soft because the molecules move easily inside the copper structure, wire, etc. When we work with copper, like bending over and over, it begins to get harder to use. We call this "work hardening."

Work Hardening happens because the copper molecules start to become strained and/or deformed in shape, and defects form in the molecular structure.  And...like a great friend, if we push it and push it, it WILL break down. Copper will say, "I've had enough of you!" and break. The moral of this little story for you copper users is to bend your wire or work with your metal slowly. If you are in too much of a hurry, and push your metal or wire too fast, it will work harden much quicker, it will bend, kink, and break, as I said earlier, because all that movement deforms the molecular structure. Be patient with your wire and metal, and you will be rewarded.

Then there is Annealing, which is a whole different thing. Annealing, in my terms, is a healing process. When we anneal copper, usually around 700F degrees  (make sure you have an annealing pan, please!), it actually causes the metal to grow new grains that are free of stress within the existing molecular structure. I used to think that the molecules just spread out, making it easier to work with again, while in all actuality, with heat, the metal grows these new grains, which do away with all the molecule deformities previously a part of our wire or metal. Ya gotta love physics!

Corrosion vs. Oxygenation:
Liver of Sulfur causes copper to oxidize quicker than it would normally. Here's the difference; Corrosion is rust, like you might see in iron...it's that dark scaly and flaky layer, which is the actual breakdown of the metal. However, Oxidation is when the metal is exposed to oxygen and/or other atmospheric conditions and chemicals and becomes patinated. The natural patina on copper is copper oxide, and like on the Statue of Liberty, is a greenish or a green blue color. This natural patina actually acts as a protective layer to copper. It keeps the bottom layers of the copper from breaking down.

Liver of Sulfur is basically an Oxidizer, moving along the oxidation process on copper, silver, and some other metals. However, any wire or metal that is "coated" or non-tarnish will not respond to LOS, for short, because the chemical cannot get to the actual metal's surface. If you are buying craft wire, it will, most likely, NOT oxidize, as most craft wires are coated or non-tarnish. LOS does not corrode the copper. It merely leaves it with a brown to black patina.

Gun Blue is another product you can use to oxidize your copper, but I will write more on that in a day or two. Promise...unless I get run over. :-P

While I'm not the best at keeping up with blogging, I think my muse is back. Yeah, I've said that before and have been a real dolt about it, but I was a trainer by trade for many years, and it's time for me to get my crap together and be more helpful to others and not just creative.

This is going to be an ongoing study, so stay tuned. In the next couple of days I will be talking about using Gun Blue vs LOS on our wire, not just copper, but sterling, etc. I will also be writing about how to use these two chemicals effectively, the use of distilled water vs. tap water, cleaning of your jewelry, and so on. Stay tuned, my friends! and...

Stay Wired Up!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Pantone Colors for 2017 – Wow! It’s Greenery!

You can find this post on my website here:

If you've subscribed to the blog here, it is still safe to read it off my website. Sign up on https://ggchambers.com for all my new posts. There are more to come! Thanks for your patience and being a loyal follower.

Stay Wired Up!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

New Posts on the Wire Rapper Blog

 While my main blog has moved to my website: ggchambers.com, I will continue to post links to the new blog posts here. I hope you enjoy them. Have a wonderful day, and...Stay Wired Up!

Working with the Pantone Colors for 2016
Wire Weaving and Refining your Toolbelt - Part 1

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Never Give Up

Depressed2You know...I've struggled with blogging as of late. There are a couple of reasons, but mostly just feeling "stale" in my thoughts. I try to make lists of things to chat about, and trust me, I do not lack for things on my list. I guess it is just a matter of feeling like someone might want to read what I write, that anyone would value my thoughts. After all, I am just like the rest of you, a struggling artist trying to make a living at what I love.

I did a show this last weekend, and actually it wasn't a huge show, but just a local festival, the Texas Wine and Art Festival. I have done this festival for four years, with a break in there when we lived in Florida for a year. It has always been an absolutely wonderful show for me from the get-go, and has always yielded me some of my greatest sales. Not only that, but I have met some wonderful people and wonderful friends. Some of us have booths next to each other every year, and all of us hug and chat when we see each other.

What I want to relay  in this message is this: I have been weaving wire for four years now, and it is starting, finally, to be more than just a love for me. Not only am I making money at it (not huge money. Don't get me wrong.), but I am starting to see return customers. And even more importantly, I am seeing people who truly appreciate the art that I represent. I see the real love for what I do. I get so excited when I hear someone remark that they have never seen anything like my work, or that they love the designs and the neatness, or that they just can't live without a piece for their collection. I also love to see that husband set down his credit card when he sees his wife fall in love with that special piece of jewelry she would just love to have. Many wives or girlfriends have walked out of my booth with tears in their eyes. How can I not want to be a part of that???

Have I struggled? You bet!! I've struggled to the point of giving up all together. Many a time have I sat in tears, wondering if I should just give it all up. After all, what I do is not cheap. Wire and stones are all expensive, and to keep stock so I can keep working at a consistent pace is a struggle, as well. Many of you may be chuckling at this point, because you know that I am a complete and utter cabochon addict and know I will never ever run out of stones to wrap! But, like anything, there are costs to what I (we) love to do.

I thank God every day that I have a husband that supports my love for art, and it doesn't hurt that he is also an artist. Not everyone is as fortunate as I am. Not every artist can do shows, and not all of us display our work as we should to get the kudos we all deserve.

My recommendation to you all, whether you display your work or not, is to keep on keeping on. If you love what you do and want to keep doing it, check out your local art galleries. You would be surprised at how many are more than willing to not only display your work, but to sell it for you. I know it's a big step for some of you, but it will help your confidence level to do so. It doesn't mean you will sell tons, but it doesn't mean you won't, either. Can't afford a tent? No biggie. Find some shows that are inside, and not all shows are expensive. Shoot, I have to save money just to accumulate enough to do the shows I do! You can do it, too. Whatever it takes, right?

And it depends on where your gallery is at. Tourist areas are the best, because out-of-towners like to take something home with them that reminds them of their trip. I have some work in a local gallery and don't sell a lot there, but once in a while a piece or two goes home with a new owner. It's the exposure and the wonderful feeling I get when something finds a new home! Getting a check translates not only into money, but into the pleasure of knowing someone else valued my work. I also have work in a rock shop some miles away, just as another suggestion.

My point is, don't give up. If you are struggling, put your work in a shop somewhere and value your own work. If you don't, no one else will. This was probably the most difficult thing for me to absorb...that I was worth it...that my work was worth it. The struggle builds character, and character creates value. Not just the value in your work, but the value in yourself. Value yourself. Feel good about YOU, not just about what you do, but if it takes valuing your work first, start there. Then, let it seep into your soul until you can place value in yourself.

imagesI love you all, and am so grateful for all of you that are in my life or are just reading this blog! Remember, value comes from within. Now...never give up! Never, ever give up!
Stay Wired Up! Gail

Sunday, October 5, 2014

To Seal or Not To Seal; That is the Question.

This necklace was sealed twice.
I know a lot of you are reading the posts about using sealers, so I want to pose this question to you all, and to others that create or collect beautiful cabochons. Here is why.

I choose to seal almost all of my jewelry projects with ProtectaClear to help protect the patina of the wire and to make my copper and sterling silver more desirable to buyers. I have done lots of shows where people love the antiqued copper but are afraid to buy until...I tell them I sealed it and discoloration should not be as big of an issue as they think. I do not lie to them. Sometimes discoloration does still happen, even though it might not be to the extent as it would had it not been sealed. And...I will reseal my items a second time for free if requested, and before it is shipped. Buyer's discretion.

Some are afraid of copper turning their skin green. Some are afraid it won't hold it's color over time, and with sterling...well, the normal customer just doesn't want to deal with keeping sterling bright. Those issues and the issue of sensitive skin is why I started to seal my jewelry, even those that contain show or gem quality stones.
This was sealed once.

I want to know what "you" think about this. When the normal person buys a piece, they want it sealed. But out there are people who "collect." What I want to know is what do you think? Do you think that show quality or gem quality rocks should be sealed? And if not, is it because you believe it will harm its value?

I want to hear from you. I will post all comments (unless you write really naughty comments that others might not want to read). I am impartial here, but this is something that I, personally, want to know from my readers. Let me know what you think, and I thank you for your time in advance.

You know what I always say...Stay Wired Up!!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

My Sealing Setup; Or How To Make the Most Out of Limited Space

Hey, I'm back! Just like a penny, you can't get rid of me. The moved sucked a lot out of me, but I decided "not" to let it get me down, and now I need to catch up.

I still get a lot of questions about sealers, what to use, what it means to "seal" a jewelry piece, and my set up. So...I decided to let you in on a little secret of mine in relation to my setup. I use about 2 foot of space in my (what used to be my) kitchen to patina and seal my hand crafted jewelry. Here it is:

This is my little setup and it actually works quite well for the space I had available to me. I lived in 525 square feet, so I had to make the best of what I had! Just to be clear, the items in the background that aren't on the towel were "not" part of the setup. That's normal kitchen stuff, of course. I suppose you could use a blender, but the end result would not be pretty...enough humor.

The wide mouth glass jars to the left are what I keep my ProtectaClear sealer and gun blue in. FYI, I got them at Michaels in the wedding department. They were $5 each and have a good seal in them. That is a must, especially when storing gun blue. I stored the gun blue in a plastic container for a while and it seemed to sweat or something and became a little too messy for me. You don't want to store your ProtectaClear in plastic either. It is a solvent based product, and according to the manufacturers plastic storage is not a good idea. They recommended glass to me when I talked to them so that is what I use.

You will also want to keep a supply of paper towels around. I buy them in bulk and write them off, cause I use a ton of them. Of course you will want gloves of some sort. I will tell you this, You might want to get them in bulk, too. The ProtectaClear can eat through those pretty quickly, at least the way I work. I am a slob and get stuff everywhere. If you are pretty careful not to get ProtectaClear on your gloves, they will last. I tried regular kitchen rubber gloves and they lasted longer, but like I said I am touchy feely, so my gloves don't last very long at all. We should all probably invest in some lightweight chemical gloves, right? Oh, don't get me wrong. The ProtectClear is non-toxic! It just likes to make dinner out of latex, rubber, or plastic.

Next up is my 3-tier bracelet holder. I wrap wax paper around the arms and tape it. When I dip bracelets or necklaces, they hang from there to dry or cure. As gooey as ProtectaClear is, it doesn't stick to the wax paper. Yeah!

I also use a couple of handmade hooks. I made these out of 18 or 16 gauge wire and use them to retrieve the jewelry pieces from jars. You can make them as short or long as you want, and you can use them over and over.

The entire set up is on two layers of old towels (I'm paranoid and I rent!) and a layer of wax paper. I keep several layers of paper towels next to the jars. After dipping, whether in gun blue, LOS, or ProtectaClear, you want to dab off the excess on the paper towels. I let the piece hang on the hook for a few seconds over the jar, because waste not want not. Then I place it on the paper towels face up for just a few seconds to soak up any remaining extra, and place the item on the bracelet holder.

What about earrings, you say? I use the cupboard knobs over my work area and a nice metal shirt hanger. I hang the hanger from the cupboard over the wax paper area, and wallah! Earrings will dry like a dream floating in the air.

The really great thing about a set up like this is it's easy to use and easy to store. I leave the wax paper on the bracelet holder for several uses. I just rotate it around the arms until it looks spent. That goes in the closet...or behind the sofa. The jars, lids tight, go back in the cupboards. If you have kids, you might want to label them poison and put them up where they can't get to them, but then you probably already knew that. My gloves, if they lived, stay on the towels and wax paper, as do the hooks, and any reusable paper towels. I fold them all up together and put them in a drawer or on my work table till next time. No need to waste the wax paper. It's good for several uses. Oh, and you can write that off, too.

So, see, it isn't that complicated. All you need is:
2 feet of counter space
Glass jars with a good seal
1 or 2 old towels
Paper towels
Wax paper
Bracelet holder of some sort
Rubber or latex gloves
1 or 2 handmade wire hooks
Gun blue, LOS, and sealer
An understanding husband, partner, or roommate (this one is essential!!)

Have fun and Stay Wired Up!!