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!