FUZHUN!

Blog-“FUZHUN!”

 

“FUZHUN!” aka fusion… Once you discover the passion of fusing one metal to another, either like or unlike, a transformation often comes to one’s being, and a lifelong addiction can ensue and perpetuate with this “fire-play”.

 

I found my love of fusing silver on silver, gold on silver, and gold on gold in my second year of metalsmithing. Studying at Revere Academy in 2002, I took two 5-day workshops with professional long-term metalsmiths that were torch masters working with fusing and granulation. That “OMG” moment is still with me today. Over the course of the next few years, I studied with two other master fusers/granulators and learned some other approaches to fusing.

Most of the attached images are in 18 and 22K gold and were created from 2002-2008, but similar type work can be done in sterling silver with some gold enhancement. Of these pieces, 6 of them were sold prior to 2011. I focused primarily on rings prior to exploring steel and gold fusing.

 

A few more upscale pieces that were primarily fused, mostly working in gold, and were created prior to 2010. These were a few competition pieces I created.

 

16,000-18.000 hours of practice and exploration were dedicated to working with silver on silver, gold on silver, and gold on gold. The alloying of specific alloys of gold in my home studio created an even greater understanding of various golds and their properties, and how best to approach designs that would be gold alloy specific. Often the actual alloys were not possible to find at the normal gold suppliers., so they were alloyed and milled in my home studio

 

There was a certain sense of accomplishment creating and selling work that was mostly fused and had minimal or no solder content.

 

It was all about the torch, and perfecting torch control. And which torch? Smith acetylene/air? Meco Midget propane/oxygen? Little Torch propane/oxygen? Hoke Torch propane/oxygen? Swiss torch propane/oxygen? Plus some other less known torches.   Adeptness with a torch, and understanding what heat desired and torch tip required was a whole other exploration over several years.

I found it possible to fuse various gold alloys to mild steel in 2009, using home cooked flux. Some of the alloys proved to be more effective for excellent gold coverage, and some of the torches and fuels were more favored. Once I really understood the processes, it became apparent that teaching the techniques was the next step for me. So 3 ½ years later after teaching mild steel/fused gold workshop in all 4 corners of the US, the Caribbean, and in Australia, I decided to drop back and teach a few select courses of fusing/granulating the more commonly used precious metals like silver and gold.

 

Some may find that steel and fused gold is not for them or their buyers, but they would like to learn more about fusing. I decided to add a few 5-day workshops in silver and gold mixed in with my normal Ferrous Musings mild steel/fused gold workshops. June 17 will be the inaugural day for this first new series of classes.

 

I will be teaching two other “Fuzhun and Rings!” workshops this summer in my home studio in the pines of Pagosa Springs. I look forward to sharing the techniques I have learned and refined, and most likely will be creating several new pieces in my “old metals’.

 

It is interesting that after fusing gold to steel where there is almost always a black “mask” of flux obscuring the actual flow of gold, there is a lot more awareness and focus of watching the surfaces of silver and gold change as they are brought to fusing temperatures. While the fusing of gold on steel often becomes more intuitive, it will be most interesting to watch the silver and gold fuse with surface textures changing, often with using little or no flux. Much less heat with a softer flame will be necessary-not a very hot blasting oxidizing flame to bring the steel and gold to over 2000 degrees F.

 

It will be fun to share fusing of silver and gold, plus granulation in my new Workshops. I can only expect that it will open up new ideas and techniques and approaches to my new students. And that students will feel that same “OMG” that I felt in April, 2002.

Attached is my workshop schedule for the rest of Summer, 2016.

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Workshop Description and Registraion can be found on the Workshop page of my website:

 

www.urban-armour.com

 

Happy metalsmithing!!!

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Frequently Asked Questions About Working in Iron and Gold

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People always ask the same questions about working with iron and gold:

“Don’t I need a huge forge?”

“Don’t I need specialized tools?”

“Don’t I have to be very strong to work with iron?”

My answer to these questions is: “No, none of the above.”

In the images below are about 80% of the tools used for most of the work I do in iron and gold. No forge necessary, only hand torches.

There are no massive hammers here, or any specialized tools, except possibly the anticlastic stake, and the hammer hand piece.

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Assorted tools with Smith torch, Meco Midget, and Hoke torch.

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The iron I work with is actually mild steel, with over 98% iron content. It is a very friendly metal, and highly available in its various sizes, shapes and thicknesses.  I use no specialized tools, other than the tools I work with when creating in gold and silver. Generally, since the metal has a very low carbon content, it will not damage my normal bench tools.

Some texture samples done with Japanese hammer and chisels and punches, and also some textures created with a hammer hand piece.

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Students at work with the torch fusing gold to iron, and an image of me casting a gold ingot in preparation of getting it ready for the fusing process.

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I have two forges.  One is a propane burning “Whisper Momma” and the other is an old riveter’s forge that burns coal.  I used them early on when I was working with iron, but forging the hot iron out on an anvil created more imperfection in the metal than I was looking for in metal that would applied to jewelry application.  I seldom use my forges today, other than when I am making tools and chisels, and prefer to use hand torches when heat is necessary.

I favor propane/oxygen fired torches like Little Torch, Meco Midget, and my most favorite, the Hoke.  Acetylene/oxygen jewelry size torches are also productive.  I will also use the acetylene/air Smith torch, but often find it does not give me the heat I am looking for when fusing golds to iron at temperatures close to 2000 degrees F.

The mild steel in gauges I use for jewelry application is generally purchased as cold-rolled.  I work in gauges from 16 gauge to 24 gauge. An interesting point is that iron is 25% lighter than silver, and volumetric pieces can be created in one gauge lighter than one would use if working in sliver, and the pieces hold their form better than a piece made in silver.

I find that texturing the iron with small chisels, punches, and hammers is quite easy. Forming the pieces with small hammers is also quite easy.  Brute force is not required. It is about moving the metal gently with finesse rather than needing to really bash it.  I like the iron because it will hold textures much better than texturing silver, and it provides just a bit more resistance to the chisels and punches. This allows the development of much more intricate textures and patterns, which the fused gold loves to play on.

I use standard forming tools, often using a hydraulic press, dap punches, hand made punches, anticlastic forming stakes, and a variety of hammers. Generally the textures and fused golds have been applied before forming operations, so I may favor using nylon or delrin hammers or forming tools so the textures and golds are not obliterated.  I can work the pieces for long durations without the need for any annealing, as the pieces can take quite a bit of intense activity before becoming work hardened.  Generally, the only time I will anneal is after I have fused gold to the piece at very high temperature, and then quench in water directly.  I will then go back and take the piece to annealing temperature and then let it slowly cool.  It is then in a soft, workable state.

The tools used for cutting or filing are my normal fabrication bench tools.  Standard jewelry saw blades are used in my favorite German saw frame. Intricate piercing can be done with finer saw blades, and larger, more general cuts can be made with coarser blades.  If good quality blades are used with wax or lubricant, they will often last as long as if I were cutting silver, brass, or other softer metals.  Again, this is because there is a minimal amount of carbon in the grade of steel I use.  It takes only a bit longer to cut a piece of mild steel than it does a piece of sterling silver in the same gauge.

The files I use are from “0” cut to “6” cut (Swiss), in a variety of shapes depending on the task. I use no lubricant with them.  When they get a bit clogged, I tap them on my bench drawer, and the filings are knocked out. Generally the files will not clog, unless a lubricant were used.  I have found that the iron impacts the file sharpness by very little, and do not hesitate to use any of my files that I use for other metals. When done filing or sawing, I simply use a large magnet to remove the filings from my bench drawer.  Generally the filings are not sharp and there are few instances when one might find a steel sliver in their finger, unless it was something sharp when produced when cutting with hand shears.  Silver will create similar slivers, so there is basically no difference.

One thing I like to really emphasize is that a person does not to be huge or super strong to work this grade of ferrous metal.  It is the technique and the control and understanding of the tool that does the work.  When I teach others, I share the principles of working metal that do not require extreme force or extreme strength.  It is a relaxed and focused way of moving metal or working metal with finesse that will not make the metal or your arm scream.

Interested in learning more? My workshops for 2014 still have some seats available. Sign up for the FERROUS MUSINGS?FUSINGS II iron/gold workshop to be held at Farrin O’Connor Design In Pasadena, CA on my Urban-Armour website. Please go to the link  for more information and to sign-up. 

ferrous musings fusings  II iron/gold workshop

FERROUS MUSINGS FUSINGS II iron/gold workshop

Some examples of work: a commissioned neckpiece, a student’s work with piercing, and another collaborative piece where my friend etched and I fused gold to the piece. Also, a collection of pieces on my bench that were getting ready to be completed to go to some shows.

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The beginnings of Urban Armour

Urban Armour BLOG, September 21, 2013

 

Okay this is my first official blog….

So, do I talk about my dog, the 30 or more years that I did not make metal objects, or some other random subject.  I could talk about my favorite places to travel, my favorite restaurant, or some other inane subject.

But I will talk about my passion. IRON!!

I began working in iron in 2008, after working in hand fabricated hi-karat gold jewelry since 2002. It was a bit of a fluke. I took a 5-day workshop at Revere Academy at the Master’s Symposium in San Francisco. The instructor was not hero you monitor.  Thanks, Dragon Dictate, that should have been Naohiro Yamada. At the time, my intention was to learn how to make tools, and more specifically micro chisels.

I became captivated by the gentle tap-tap of the small Japanese hammer when striking small handmade tagane (chisels). And found it relatively easy to carve a channel in iron with the micro chisels in which 24 karat gold could be inlaid.

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An assemblage of chisels, gold, silver, and a water cast shibuichi ingot.

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Annealing steel cut nails for making chisels.

I went home and with a bit of experimentation created several pendants in iron and gold in what I called my “brainfartz” series. These were my first iron pieces that were shown in a juried art festival. I received first-place in the 3-D category at the show. A Kansas farmer thought I was a rock star and bought two pieces. And he subsequently ordered six more for all his grandchildren.

Thus my fire was lit, to create more iron and gold pieces. A good friend, who was then my greatest critic, and now one of my strongest supporters, said no one would buy iron as a jewelry medium since it would rust. But that did not discourage me. That was in 2009.

I continued to create, and in May 2010, made an interesting pendant using iron and gold, set with a ruby. A friend tried it on and said when she wore it she felt protected. And she said that she would be equally comfortable wearing it riding her Optibike in the mountains, or wearing it to the Santa Fe Opera. We chatted back and forth and the words “urban armour” came up, and the piece was named. And Urban Armour became the branding of the jewelry line.

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“Urban Armour1” 2010  Iron, 18 karat, 22 karat, ruby.

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“Urban Armour2” (2012) Iron, 18 karat red, 20 karat, 22 karat golds, ruby.

Incidentally, she wore four pieces for several months in all activities and never experienced any oxidation (rust). There was the question “Why?”. Over a period of time with multiple sales I have discovered that people with low alkaline body chemistry generally do not cause oxidation on iron jewelry.

So might this not be called the litmus paper of jewelry? And we certainly know that we are much healthier, and less apt to create tumor, when our body is in an alkaline state.

And now as I am writing this, I am on the plane flying to Boston, and then will drive to Wilmot, NH, tomorrow for a 4 week course studying traditional Japanese metal work with Ford Hallam.  Just off the plane in Denver and fired this off.

Stay tuned!!  And thanks for reading this…

Posted in Iron and gold jewelry, Jewelrymaking, Metalsmithing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments