1.11.2008

Is It Still Granulation??

So, the traditional process of granulation usually involves fine silver or gold sheet and tiny balls of the metal. Through a careful heating of the metal to within a few degrees of its melting temperature, the metals fuse together creating a beautifully embellished surface. It is very difficult to get the metals to fuse without having a complete melt down.

I studied metalsmithing in college, but with all of the processes I did learn, I never learned how to weld. But, a couple of years ago, I signed up for a welding class at a community college. We covered torch, ARC, and (my favorite) TIG welding. Although my goal was to learn how to work BIG, I found myself trying to see how small I could actually weld. Then I started taking in my scrap silver to see what would happen. My instructor was great - and is on the list of the best teachers I've ever had. He never said "you can't do that" or "that won't work" - he just let me try anything.

Anyway, pretty much by sheer will, I figured out how to granulate sterling silver using an electrical current. This process uses no solder, and instead of a number of balls being fused at once, I can only affix one at a time. But, this also allows me to not only fuse them onto the base piece, but also stacked on top of each other.

Here are some progress shots....

This is me balancing one ball on top of another. My lips shrink to half their normal size when I'm really concentrating.


Then, I have to brace my hand holding the torch just the perfect distance above what I want to fuse. That little needle looking piece (sticking out of the pink thingy) is called the tungsten - It is what directs the electrical current.

Then I weld this way.....


....and that way......


....and then that way again...
I have to be careful not to get the silver too hot or else it will completely melt into the base, yet getting it hot enough to form a bond. I have to hit each ball with the current many times at many different angles, and hopefully it works. I think that each individual ball takes me anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes just to affix it to the ring........ plus I have to make the rings, make all the balls ....... and the rings have dozens of balls... so you do the math.


But for some strange reason, I really love this process. It is tedious, meditative, frustrating, and rewarding - all in a pretty equal, chaotic balance.
I hope what results shows that.

5 comments:

dandelion blu said...

I love seeing these pictures of you in action! I learned to weld when I made frames for my MFA photo thesis- I can't even imagine doing it on such a tiny scale and having such beautiful control. Awesome!

Catherine Chandler said...

Good work Julie! I had no idea those were welded! They look fantastic, and I love hearing about your process!

Chocolate and Steel said...

That ring is really beautiful. I enjoyed reading about your process and seeing the pictures. This was a great post!

Lana said...

How exciting!

barb michelen said...
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