Friday, January 23, 2015

Smelting and using the metal

Art is not always about the making. Sometimes it is in the preparation; the ordering of materials; the acquiring of tools etc. Today has seen me ordering sheet metal and steel rod for elements of a couple of projects; attempting to order some equipment; taking delivery of some recycled silverware; and making a Steampunk Lamp (not yet polished).

During the week I spent four days at an art institute learning the art of recycling scrap silver; forming useable sheets and rods from the smelted metal; using the silver plate and rod to make a few pieces; and learning about some sustainable and non toxic processes and chemicals along the way.

In the following I want to share some photos of the smelting process; and the creation of plate and rod. I will then go on to share a few photos of the pieces I made from some of the silver we smelted. I also took along some old worn silver coins that I also smelted to create some coin-sliver plate that I will use at home. We were taught by a silver-smith Claire Poppi.

Setting up the cast-iron mould.

©2015 Barry Smith - Claire setting up the casting mould.
Melting  the recycled 925 silver which is mixed with new silver scraps..

©2015 - Lots of heat - took about 5 minutes to melt 60+ grams.
©2015 Barry Smith - Beautiful molten blob of silver - lovely zoom shot with the iPhone
The crucible after the pour. We did 6 smelts and pours.

©2015 Barry Smith - The crucible still glows red hot after the pour.
Breaking out a 925 silver ingot.

©2015 Barry Smith - 60+  gram ingot of pure 925 silver
The coin-silver ingot cooling; and then cleaned (pickled). The coin-silver is probably about 60-80% pure silver.

©2015 Barry Smith - My coin silver ingot - also about 60 grams
©2015 Barry Smith - Clean coin-silver ingot
Making wire - drawing square rod rolled earlier in the mill. I cut off a piece of the square rod for later use in making a twist ring.
©2015 Barry Smith - Claire demonstrates wire drawing
Coin ingot after rolling in a hand operated plate rolling mill. All the ingots looked similar to this after rolling down from about 5mm thickness to about 1mm.

©2015 Barry Smith - Rolled coin-silver
Rings made from some plate and square rod. Fiona and her mum scored one each

©2015 Fiona Dempster - Two twist rings - one from smelted square rod and one from smelted silver
A couple of pendants made from recycled silver. I added a piece of pearl shell from home to the highly polished piece. And the second one has been pickled in citric acid but not yet finished.

©2015 Fiona Dempster - 1mm thick back of the pendant made from a piece of rolled smelted 925 silver - natural rolled form about 15mm wide and 50+mm long
©2015 Fiona Dempster - Pendant made from a piece of rolled smelted silver - natural rolled form about 30mm wide and 60+mm long
And my coin-silver straightened and cleaned - ready for use.

©2015 Fiona Dempster - Natural form of the end of my coin-silver plate 

A very enjoyable week I learnt a lot. Now I must go and make a roast pumpkin and blue cheese risotto to go with the red wine.


  1. Love the flecks in the rolled coin silver...... and now my attention is on pumpkin and blue cheese risotto! I'm sure it was delicious.

  2. the alchemy of metals fascinates me. good work here, barry.

  3. Always love your process posts, B, but this is truly fascinating. Smelting, rolling, what will you do next?

  4. R, V & C - thanks for rejoicing with me re this course - it was a lot of creative fun. R the pumpkin risotto was a real hit. V - you are right to be fascinated by the alchemy of metal. C - always learning. All - go well. B


Comments are welcomed - it is good to connect with fellow travellers.