How To get In Touch with Allcraft Tools

Hello Studio Jewelers–

In my last post, my  promise to you was to answer your questions and help you in any way I can.  Believe it or not, my most requested question is not about techniques, soldering, or stones.  It’s how to find Allcraft Tools. It seems that every time I recommend  my favorite tool supplier,  I am besieged with questions of how to get in touch with them. Some of you think Allcraft is very hard to find any info on.  In fact, one reader even thinks I made them up and they don’t exist.  Believe me, they are very real.

Allcraft Tools is owned by Tevel and Sarah. They are two of the nicest people in the business that you will ever meet. Sarah usually answers the phone and runs the finance part of the business.  Tevel answers your jewelry equipment questions and takes the orders.  Their associate, Sue, pulls and ships the orders, and is very knowledgeable about what they have in stock.  That’s the entire company–one of the largest suppliers in the US–and 3 people run it!  Pretty self-sufficent.  When you call Allcraft, you are speaking with the owners, not an order-taker or someone in customer service.  You get personal service from the owner of the company.  That’s pretty impressive.   Tevel is honest and will ask questions about your choice,  and may give you other options you didn’t know about.  He will tell you, to the best of his knowledge, exactly what tool you need for whatever it is you need to do. and if he does offer an option,  it may be less expensive than one you originally thought you wanted.  With the price of jewelry-making tools, that’s unusual to hear, and very welcome advice.  But enough of a sales pitch for Tevel.  You will learn that on your own. Here’s the info you want.

Allcraft Tools is located at 135 W. 29th Street, New York, New York , 10001 if you choose to visit the store.  This is not a wander around the store and look at everything he has (because I sometimes wonder if he knows everything he has!) It’s basically on the 2nd floor, you can walk up or take the “picturesque” elevator, and it’s easy to find on the 2nd floor.  Go to the counter, and see all the boxes stacked floor to ceiling, and you tell him what you want  He can go right to it—usually. (grin)

If you prefer mail order, the phone number is 1-212-279-7077 OR 1-800-645-7124.  This is NOT the biggest secret in the jewelry world, but I get at least one email a day asking how to get in touch with them.   They are working on a web page, and they do not have a catalogue listing everything they have.  Allcraft has been known for their hammers and anvils for several decades, but they have so much more than that.  During the year I will be writing about some of my favorite tools that I purchase from Allcraft.   These tools will make your jewelry making much easier and more fun, and besides, I’m very much a tool person. I usually know of the newest on the market. I’ll share that with you, too.  So if you don’t know exactly what it is you want, but you know I have recommended it, just tell Tevel you want “what Lexi uses”.  I’m sure he hears that several times a week.

So I hope that if you have not tried Allcraft Tools, please do.  I know that you will find what you need, and if they don’t have it, they will lead you to who does. Just remember to tell them “Lexi sent me.”

Have fun with your new tools,

Hugs to you all,

Lexi

Lexi

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A New Year with New Goals and Ideas

Welcome 2013!

Ok.  I’m a bit late in welcoming the New Year, but I have been very busy giving a workshop during the 2nd week of the month and then spending a number of days rearranging my studio for better traffic flow.  So far this year I’m teaching in Canada, at my home studio, and will be teaching at the Santa Fe Beadfest. I always enjoy a trip to Santa Fe, and this year will be especially great as two good friends from my Pennsylvania Society of Goldsmiths days will come for a visit.

Last year was especially wonderful, with every week filled with workshops or teaching or traveling.  It was great, but exhausting.  The  year ended with 3 packed workshops at Beadfest Texas and the filming of my next DVD, “Artisan Bails”, which will be a much less calorie filled Valentine’s present  from your loved ones than a big box of chocolates.  So order soon to avoid the rush of first day orders!  (Shamless promotion here!)

Also, on a sad note, the Beadfest Texas is no more.  I know there will be much gnashing of teeth, but the choice was not mine, and I have already heard from many students who are heart broken.  I am, too, because I loved the drive back home every year.  I will miss all my Texas students–a lot!  Let’s try to keep in touch and no telling what will happen–maybe a Texas reunion someplace.

So I will try to make it up to some of you by posting more often.  Last year’s schedule just prohibited me taking the time to write posts, so my promise to you is to keep you updated on jewelry trends and tips on jewelry making.  Nothing fancy, I’ll continue to write just as I talk, so I will be sitting right alongside of you, helping you though any technique you wish.   But let me know what you want.  If I don’t hear from you then you may just get boring stories of life with 3 cats.

As this issue’s tip, I want to share how I design.  There is a bit of info coming out in the April issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist with my ammonite earring design.  I show a bit in the Artisan Bails DVD, too, but I don’t have time in either place to fully explain it.

It basically works like this:  You draw a design in your sketch book, and use tracing paper to alter the design.   Lay the paper on top of the design, and redraw with the addition of an element, say a small spiral.  Now fold the tracing paper over that drawing and redraw, maybe making the spiral a bit larger.  Keep doing this, changing the design each time, until you are happy with an idea.  Then redraw this in your sketchbook, adding all the details such as stone color, textures, noting different metals, etc.  I have found that when I am really stumped, this helps. What is more important, if I am working with a stone I find the process easier to draw around the stone and just play with ideas.  Yes, I do have days when something just won’t work out…and I do have days when I write in my sketchbook, “These all look horrible.”  Its ok.  We all have days like that, but just don’t give up.  Change stones.  Look at your old idea book.  Look to nature (She’s my greatest inspiration.)

We will discuss this more later in the year. I just want you to get started.  I have so many goals this year, and one is to help you in any way I can.  I’ll share ideas and tips with you as we travel though 2013 together.  I also want to share some of the many questions I receive from my readers and DVD watchers.  If you have special questions, please send them to me at lexi.erickson@mac.com.  I’ll answer them to the best of my ability and quickly. There will be some surprises which I hope you will like too.  I just want to get back in touch.

Hugs,

Lexi

Oh NO! Someone’s Copied My Work!!!

I remember my first cover for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.  I wish I could say I was thrilled.  I was horrified.  I always imagined my first cover would be beautiful, elegant  and colorful.  I would be so proud of it.. Well…not even close.  It came from the step by step  in that issue, and later I found a number of people really liked those earrings and attempted making them.  Now I laugh and accept the cover…sometimes. They were simple cones, and I certainly don’t have a copyright on a cone.  Since then, Todd Reed has riffed on a cone design, and so has Phil Porrier.  But I have no reason to be angry, a cone is a cone, and I get to tease Todd about how his look like mine (OH, how I wish!)  But there are only so many things you can do with a cone when you are teaching beginning jewelers, and the magazine asked for a beginning project.  Since then I hope I have redeemed myself with other more graceful and complicated projects.

But as a teacher, my students sometimes cry  “Someone copied my work!”  Well, I write step-by-step projects for  Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, the 65-year old leading art jewelry teaching magazine, so don’t expect any sympathy from me.  I struggle over designs just as hard as you, and then put them out there for them to be made world wide.  Without you knowing it, if you post all your work on the  www, you will be copied, too.

Not only do people copy my step-by-steps,  but  also what I put out in the Contributor’s Page, which is not taught in the magazine.  Some people even send me the photos of what they have made when they were  inspired by my work.  Some look like my pieces,  some are way off base but they tried.  They are learning, and they liked my piece enough to try an copy it.  I am sincerely flattered.

I know one teacher who teaches the technique project, and then get upsets if the student makes something that looks like it.  That’s not nice.  If you teach, your student ‘s work may emulate your work.  That’s just part of the game.  They will soon find their wings and their own style.  Be happy that you were part of the process. But what about those of  you who are not teaching?  Your work gets copied, and suddenly something appears in a store or gallery, or just a photo shared online, and it looks like yours?  Does that upset you?   Now, think about why.  Is it because the other person’s may sell, and yours may not?  Believe me, everything will sell if you find the right niche.  Is it because you were so brilliant that nothing like this has ever been done before?  Well, maybe, I have seen several artists whom I consider brilliant, but in the history of the world, there MAY have been something that looks similar.    What can you do about it?

Oh, you have a copyright?  Ok, your copyright is only as good as the money you have to defend it.  Don’t worry.  A lawyer will get most of the money, anyway.

One day at the Peter’s Valley Craft Show in Layton, N.J., I was horrified to find “my” piece in the collection being shown and sold by a very  well-known artist..  I had just designed and made this same design, and though the stones were different, the design was exact.  EXACT.  Size and everything.   I hadn’t seen his piece, and I’m pretty sure he hadn’t seen mine.  So I approached the artist, and told him I had just designed one just like it, I hope he wasn’t offended.  He laughed, and said “Well, then I think you are a pretty good designer.  I just finished this piece, and there’s only a few things to do with that shape stone. I hope yours sells, too.”  What a gracious professional.

In my  my first semester of college jewelry I did try  to copy a piece of Jeff Wise’s work.  His stuff is gorgeous, and there was no way I could copy anything of his, even now!   I finally confessed my dastardly sin to  him last summer.  He laughed and said “I hope it worked out for you.  I did the same thing when I was learning.  I’m flattered you liked my work enough to try.”  Again, a very gracious professional.  And my piece never looked even close to his.

As Harold O’Connor once told me.  “Congratulations!  Your piece is in a book.  Now there will be a thousand copies out there.”  Maybe, if others liked it. Maybe not. It doesn’t matter.  I made it because of what it meant to me, and if someone copies it, they won’t get that same feeling.  So I tell my students, “You don’t want your work copied?” Then make  it, put it in a zip lock bag,  put it in a drawer and never, ever let anyone else see it.  They laugh and say “Yea, right.” Truthfully, that is the only way your piece may never be copied or inspire anyone else.  Personally, I think that is sad.

So everyone, just relax.  Will some one copy you exactly?  Heck, I can’t even copy my OWN work.  But if someone does,  think highly of yourself, you have inspired someone.  Be proud of that.  Someone thought enough of your work to imitate it.  Now if they sign your name to it, that’s a different story. But with the internet, and you put your work out there, it may be imitated or copied if the design is good.  But also think back,what inspired you?  Maybe somewhere in the back recesses of your mind you saw something similar to it.   You changed the bail or added a longer stone.  To truly make someone’s inspiration your own, change it 25%,  then change it another 25%.  Then it becomes your own.  Just try it, because its easier than you think.  My idea book is full of pictures by other artist that I pasted in and love to look at for inspiration.  But that’s what it is–inspiration.  Please don’t  copy designs from a fellow artists sketchbooks, that just not nice, but to use something as inspiration and to change it and make it your own, then you can call yourself an artist.  And work on being a gracious professional.

That being said, I still find the greatest inspiration is nature, and not someone else’s work.  But I still LOOOOVVE looking at other’s jewelry.

Now I have to go call Todd and hassle him again about using “my  cone” earrings.

Have a great time designing  and exploring jewelry–

Lexi

Is it “Art” or is it “Craft”?

I know I recently posted a very philosophical post on “The Zen of the Process”, and it just might be the mood I’m in right now.  I’m creating a lot and have a lot of time to think while I’m at my bench.   So I hope you will read this, as it’s the best definition I’ve ever heard of “Art” verses “Craft”.

My mentor Harold O’Connor was recently visiting.  As we sat after breakfast discussing what’s going on in the European jewelry scene, we got on the topic of craftsmanship in our jewelry.  Now, if you have even seen Harold’s work, you know it as immaculate craftsmanship and it is pure art.  I respect and admire both the man and his work. In fact, Harold’s work is in the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian, the Victoria and Albert Museum in  London, the State Art and Work School in Pfozheim, Germany, and more of the world’s most more prestigious museums and galleries.  Need I go on? (Just Google him, he’s probably the most famous art jeweler/teacher in the world, and totally makes every piece himself.)  Let’s just say the kid knows his jewelry.  I am so honored to have him as a friend.

So I asked the simple age old  question:

 “Harold, what is the difference between art and craft?”

He picked up one of my very old first pieces and said:

“If you forgive me for saying so, this is craft.”

The piece was simply a large sharped angled piece of Chinese Writing Stone from Gary B. Wilson that I bought years ago.  The silver backplate extends beyond the stone, and has some holes and a cut out space that replicates a shape in the stone.  Design-wise it’s not so great, this I knew, but the craftsmanship is excellent.  The bezel is tight against the angled stone, and each point is a tight angle with no  rounding of the corners of the bezel around the stone.  I was not upset that it was looked upon as “craft”, for I kind of felt that myself.  But I loved the piece for its simplicity.  (OK, for the “Zen” of the piece.)

So I asked Harold, “What’s the difference?”

and Here It Comes: words of the master,  though he said he could not take credit for this, it came from someone else…

“A maker of chairs makes 6 chairs.  They all look alike, the first one and the last one.  Each is identical.  That’s a craftsman.  The artist doesn’t know exactly what  his finished piece will look like.  He may have an idea, but doesn’t know exactly because he may change his mind during the construction. That’s art.”

So I added “The true artist knows when to stop.”  Harold smiled.

I have held these words close to my heart since he said that.  Its the best I’ve ever heard.  And now I know how to design.  Thank you, Harold.

The Zen of the Process

As I go around the country teaching jewelry making workshops, the students are astounded when I push certain techniques like hand filing and burnishing.  To my full time students at Baum School of Art in Pennsylvania, and at the different colleges I have taught, it’s just part of a natural process.  In fact, in Pennsylvania, it was joked that if you took my classes, you would learn to make Amish jewelry….that is, I use no electricity, and expected my students to do the same thing.  Yes, it has paid off, like the night that I had my pieces due for a gallery show the next morning, and one of those severe Pennsylvania thunderstorms struck, and I was without any electricity all night   So I finished the pieces with hand sanding and by the light of 4 candles and my cell phone!  They looked just fine.

While teaching a week-end workshop a few months ago, a student from the third semester class left the room, and I asked where she was going.  She said  innocently, “Over to the belt  sander to  sand my piece.”  “Oh NO NO NO!” , was my horrified expression as I handed her an #0 Grobet.  “Here. Learn the old fashioned way.” She grumbled a bit, and sat back down at her bench,  tried to sweetly glare at me, and a few moments later  was learning to work a file.  I was shocked that she had ALWAYS just put her work on the belt sander, and had never really held a file, much less a #6  finishing file (Oh be still my heart–such a delight to hold and fondle–such a magnificent little file!  But I digress.) But, 15 minutes later she said she was really enjoying putting her “spirit”  into the piece.  And she was humming and smiling.

Last week, Kathleen Krucoff, my sister, student and best friend, wrote a post on her Talking Tools blog about files.  While she was really writing about files, if you read between the lines, what she was really blogging about was The Joy of Filing, kind of like “The Joy of Cooking” and that other more infamous “Joy of”  book.  (blush). But anyway, as my student,  she has learned to sit at her bench and simply file.  We recently participated in the Boettcher Mansion Arts & Crafts festival, which celebrates the joy of the Art & Crafts period.  Yes, there was electricity back then, and even a treadle buffing wheel or two around.  But part of the the Arts and Crafts philosophy was the rejection of the industrialization of goods,  furniture, pottery, jewelry, etc.  and the lack of fine craftsmanship as everything was made by a machine.    However,  the joy that came to Kathleen as she sat there and simply filed one of her elegant  pieces was a thing of beauty.  She smiled, no, she beamed, as she looked at her handiwork, and I know her blood pressure dropped.

So as I think about it, yes, as I get ready for 3 large upcoming shows,  I do find myself panicking and wanting to whip out 5 pieces this afternoon.  But life is full of compromises.  I don’t make my living through doing shows, so I admit I’m a bit spoiled. But I do have a hectic teaching schedule, so  I only make about 150 pieces a year.  While I’m not saying this will work for you, give it a try some afternoon when you are not so rushed.  Cut your pieces out by hand, and go from a #0 file  to a #2, then a #4 and finally, if you have one, a #6 ( pattter-patter-patter goes my heart again).  And then hand sand, (YES!)  using the 3M finishing film, no buffing wheel or flex shaft.  AND THEN…..use a burnisher and hand burnish your edges.  (horrors!  No one uses a hand burnisher any more, do they?!)  Hey, I even have a set of Thrumming strings…. I’m really antiquated!  But by doing this, and when I hand my piece to someone at a show, they usually say  “WoW!  This piece feels powerful” , or  “This has a great feeling to it.” It makes me smile.

So what I’m saying is, enjoy the “Zen of the Process”.  Maybe you already do this, but if not, try it.  It’s not for everyone, but give it a try.  My mentor and good friend Harold O’Connor says “If you don’t enjoy the process of making jewelry, why are you doing it?”  He has given me so much good advice over the years.  My “Conversations With Harold” series is dedicated to him and  his years of sage wisdom.

And  if you are in a dry spell right now, with no new ideas coming to you, don’t dispair.  Know that as you were full of creativity  and ideas 2 months ago, now you will need to plant new seeds to germinate for your new ideas.  Its a simple yin/yang thing… involution and evolution …yin…spiraling inward to darkness,the esoteric, the involution,  and contemplative self examination,  growth. Then, sometimes, and even without warning,  here comes the yang, the evolution, as you spiral outward,  and you create and manifest your new project. It’s something I believe in strongly, partially because I grew up in the American Southwest. The people of Taos Pueblo celebrate “The Quiet Time,” as Mother Earth sleeps and prepares for Spring,  when her greatness bursts forth in all it’s glory.  But it’s a natural process, and its all around us with Mother Nature, with the dark seasons and the light seasons, the dark of night and the brightness of day.  So enjoy the entire Zen of the Process….the involution and evolution, the contemplating and the creating. And know that when your evolution comes, the sun will shine brighter than ever before.   Enjoy the blessed Zen of the Process.  End of lecture.

Crying may endure for the night, but joy commeth in the morning.  Psalms 30:5

Love and peace to you all–

Lexi

The Price of Silver

As I starting writing this, today’s price of silver was at $39.33.  It’s gone up 24 cents since I started writing this post.   (I used to have an app that beeped my cell phone every time the price of silver/gold changed.  Well, I quickly got rid of that annoying little pest!)

Silver is quickly headed toward the $40.00 mark. It’s up about 3 dollars from my last silver purchase, about a month ago. Adjusting for inflation, the price has never been this high.  Back between 1973-1979, the Hunt Brothers of Dallas, Texas, (yep, Hunt’s ketchup and tomato sauce–the same Hunts), along with some wealthy Arabian friends,  tried corner the market on silver.  They amassed over 200 million ounces of silver, which was basically half the world’s supply at that time.  Silver had been at $1.95 in ’73, and by the time the Hunts got through with their little shenanigans, around 1979-80, it was peaking around $53 dollars an ounce!  Well, the Federal Reserve got involved and halted the buying.  In one day, March 27th, 1980, the price dropped from $21.62 to $10.80! Countless speculators lost millions, and the Hunt brothers were convicted of conspiring to manipulate the market. When I got into making jewelry back in the 80’s, the price had dropped even more.

We will probably never return to 1973 prices, and if we do, that means the US and global markets are in a severe crisis. The stock market and  global situations continue to control the silver, gold and other precious metals prices much more than the Hunt brothers were able to manipulate. Here in the US, there are more people buying into gold and silver as inflation protection.   This speculation has a great deal to do with pricing, but also the worlds population is growing, and with the astounding price of gold, more people are buying silver and  hoarding it. Even when we think of gold, in the US, we use and wear a lot of 14k gold.  In other parts of the world, in societies where people wear their wealth, their jewelry is 18, 22 and in some cases, even 24k gold.  They consider 14k to be “junk” gold.  So that, along with foreign governments hoarding precious metals as inflation and civil unrest grows, creates more demand and more price increases.  Also, gold and silver are used in many industrial uses, in automobiles, in medical equipment, in so many other aspects. Gold and silver are  historically linked in prices, but in the past year or so, silver prices have risen at a  higher percentage rate than gold.

All this has greatly hurt jewelers, especially the little guy who is not a major buyer of precious metals.  When we buy 2 or 3 6×6 sheets of 20 gauge, while it sets us back quite a bit, that doesn’t constitute much of a purchase in the whole scheme of things.

Several students have asked why the jewelry supply stores charge so much more than the “spot” market price of silver.  “If I buy two ounces of wire, how come I’m charged $100.00 if the spot market is $37.00.  I should only pay $77.00”, they complain.

Well, the mill (the refiner) must buy  a set amount of raw material–say 5000 ounces of unmilled silver, or other metal.  I’m not sure of the exact amount you have to buy, but at one time it was 5000 ounces. Then that silver must be refined. Copper must be added to silver in the correct percentage, thus making sterling silver.   (925% silver and 75% copper) Then the sterling silver is melted and milled into sheet, wire, tubing or whatever that particular mill makes.  The cheapest way to buy sterling is in casting grain form, but if you want plate or a “milled product”, you are paying for that.  That is called a “mill charge” and it varies from mill to mill. Sheet is one form of a milled product, and if the mill must make wire, that’s one more process, and they charge for that. You want decorative wire, that’s another thing the mill must do to the wire, so they charge a bit more for that.  Oh!  Tubing?  They really charge for that!

Then they ship it to the jewelry supply store.  Well, you can imagine, shipping metals is heavy, and UPS doesn’t do that for free, so there’s an additional charge. Finally your supplier must make a profit, so that’s tacked on.   Jewelry stores do not buy silver and mark it up 100%, or even 50% and sell it.  They make very little profit on metals. Most stores carry metals as a convenience to their customers who come there to buy tools and supplies. (I remember in my innocence as a beginning jeweler, coming from a family who had owned retail shops and galleries, I thought that if I had a tax number, I could buy my silver and tools “wholesale”, 50% off the marked price.  I blush now, thinking about that!)

So if you think the price of silver is high, feel free to go out, find and buy your own raw silver, remove all the dirt, rocks, bugs, roots, etc.  Then melt it, add the copper, and roll it into a sheet.  And let me know how that’s workin’ for you.  You will learn that you just have to bite the bullet and pay the price.

Supply stores are now in a tenuous position.  With the uncertain pricing of metals, what they buy today may be worth more tomorrow, or it may drop and they lose money.  Some supply stores are cutting back on ordering silver from the mill, and you really can’t blame them. What would you do? We think twice now about going to buy $200.00 worth.  What if you had to order $5,000.00+ worth so your customers would have what they need?  So cut the supply houses some slack and don’t growl too much, its not their fault.

Where will this end?  I don’t know.  No one knows.  It’s all just a guess. I love making silver jewelry, so I will continue as long as I can, and I love copper, too, and am making more copper and brass (bronze?) jewelry.  But copper is going up in price, too.   I refuse to make paper jewelry.  It’s a bear to solder!

For more info and to keep tab of the daily changes on all precious metals, go to kitco.com and you can download that annoying little beep for free, or you can just check it several times a day yourself.

Frustratingly yours,

Lexi

What is Pickle?

There has been a lot of panicky talk going around in various circles about “Pickle”.  Lately, on some of the forums,  there has been some very scary and potentially dangerous information given out. I will try to clarify some of the questions which have been sent to me about these statements and also about my ongoing series on soldering which appears in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.

Back in the middle ages, the most widely used solution for removing copper oxides from metal was alum.  This is also what cucumbers are soaking in to make “pickles” like we eat.  It was probably some medieval jeweler, who, as a joke, called the alum solution for removing copper oxides “pickle”, and the joke is still around hundreds of years later.

Later on,  a sulphuric acid /water solution was found to work better.   Unfortunately, not everyone knew how to appropriately use /mix the solution, and there were undoubtably some severe burns and numerous other unfortunate accidents which occurred.  For us modern day jewelers, there are several brand name products which are much safer and produce pretty good to excellent results.  They are a buffered solution of  sulphuric acid.  In chemspeak,  it is NaHSO4, commonly called sodium bisulfate.  This won’t eat your skin off if  accidentally splashed on you, but it will make holes in your clothing which will show up when your clothes are washed. To confuse the issue, sodium bisulfate is also used in food production in soft drinks and salad dressings and in preserving meat. However, more confusion comes when jewelers say they use a dry form of “sulphuric acid” as a pickle. This causes undue panic among some people who don’t understand exactly what sodium bisulfate is.

Some of the safer and more earth friendly pickles are sour salts, used in Eastern European cooking and available from gourmet stores.  You can also use citric acid, or lemon juice with vinegar.  Yes, vinegar is a mild acid.  These tend to take a lot longer to work.  Today we have several dry, granular commercial pickles available, such as RioPickle, available from RioGrande, or one called Citrex which is citric pickle, or Sparex #2.   (Opinion: I don’t like Sparex #2 because of the nasty skin which appears on the water, and it’s hard to see into the pickle pot with the brownish solution.)  I use PHDown, which is available at your local pool supply store and is used to regulate the PH balance  of water in swimming pools and hot tubs.  It’s much cheaper, almost half the price of jewelry store pickle,  and is the same exact thing,  (sodium bisulfate)  as your higher priced commercial pickles.  It will last a long time when stored as dry  granules.  In fact, many jewelry supply stores just sell pickle in white plastic containers with a generic “Pickle”  label, and it’s just PhDown that they buy in a 5 (or more) gallon size and put it in their own containers.

Mixing pickle isn’t exactly rocket science.   In a small crock pot, (I like the 1.5 quart size available at big box stores)  put 4 cups of water, and about 3/4 cup of dry pickle. It doesn’t have to be exact. Always add the pickle to the water.  Mix with copper tongs, and let it sit on the “Low” setting until the  crystals dissolve. Pickle works best when it is warm, but not boiling.  As your pickle gets used, it will turn a beautiful blue green color.  (Think of the verdigris color of outside copper faucets….its about the same color) That means that the pickle is working.   It does not mean it is instantly disintegrating  your silver, nor copper plating your pieces.  (Both of these  statements have been put out on recent forums.)  Your pickle will still work as it turns blue/green.  I change my pickle when it gets too dark to see my jewelry laying on the bottom of the pot.  Sometimes its been 6 months or more between changes.  It still works.  There are some instances which call for new pickle, but for general soldering clean-up, blueish/green pickle works just fine.

Have you ever heard jewelers speak of “superpickle?”  Superpickle is  regular pickle to which you add 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide, H2O2.  It works best with a batch of new pickle.   This will boost the cleaning properties of the sodium bisulfate for about an hour, and then the H2O2 will give up its oxygen atom and become H2O. In no way does it harm your pickle. Continue using the same solution as usual.  You may want superpickle to extra clean sterling before you keum boo, or if you get a copper oxide  (a copper “blush”) on brass due to overheating.

If you accidentally leave your piece in the pickle for a long time, like overnight, it will usually be OK.  Leaving it in for a month or so is not a good thing, and you may find pitted solder joints or pits in your silver.  (If you put silver in nitric acid for a month or so until it dissolves, you will have silver nitrate, which will turn your skin blue, but makes a great pottery glaze!) Always place your pieces into the pickle after quenching in water first, with copper tongs, and retrieve them with copper tongs.  That’s another long chemistry lesson, so just trust me on this one.  You may also use plastic or bamboo tongs.

If you accidently leave your pickle pot on for a long time, all the water will evaporate.  Blue/green crystals appear on the inside of the pot,.   I just start over with new pickle.  The crystalized pickle stuff gets yucky if you just add water.  If  your pickle has evaporated, but still has water and no crystallization has occured,  just add more water.  It’s fine to do that.  To dispose of my pickle, I merely add  4 cups of tap water and water my rose bushes with it.  My acid loving plants love it. It’s like a fertilizer for them.  You can also neutralize it with 1/2 cup of baking soda and pour it down your drain or toilet.

Does this help?  Please email me or reply with any questions.  Don’t panic that pickle is ACID!  There’s been enough panic about this going around recently. Acids are all around us and we use them daily.  Just use some common sense.