Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Ever had one of those pieces?

After the initial thrill had left me of being chosen by my client. I could put it off no longer and started work.
I retreated into my workshop armed with plans and drawings, excited to start.
Then I discovered the full horror of what is platinum. When we planned the piece, I didn't point out that I was a platinum virgin, assuming that it would be like working with 18ct gold.
Well now I understand that it's like no metal I've ever worked. 
It's hard.
 Harder than phospher bronze, which, for the record is the material used to make church bells.
It's impossible to solder.
 This metal needs to be welded. The melting point is so high that the French blow pipe that I normally work with only warms it through.  No, this is a job for oxy-propane. 
The metal used to join platinum to itself is not called solder like it is usually is in metalsmithing, it's called filler. It doesn't flow as solder does, it needs to be coaxed around the join with the aid of a pick.
Maybe you can see by this point that this wasn't a piece that I enjoyed making.

With perseverance and a google search I managed to make this ring,  and surprisingly it looked rather good.
Then began the mammoth task of cleaning and polishing.  As I mentioned earlier, this alloy is HARD.  
Never have I had to work so hard and so long just to get a shine. The first attempt to create that legendary platinum lustre ended in tears-metaphorically if not physically. I filed, and filed some more, then sanded, finer and finer. Then I reached that smooth satin finish which normally polishes so well. This time I find it covered in fine marks which are not smoothed by the polishing mop.
If I had a tumbler, this would have been a perfect job for it. With the absence of one I was left with just one thing to do.  Burnish it.
 Burnishing is the act of smoothing out one piece of metal by stroking with pressure with a piece of polished steel.
Oh joy.
I never mind working hard and working long, but it makes it so much easier to do if the results are satisfactory. And this really was worth the pain. The high shine was mindblowing, second to no kind of gold I've seen.
I am the kind of person who likes to think they can draw lessons from things like this.
The lesson for me at this point in my life is simple. Leave platinum alone.

And note to self:
Get a tumbler polisher

1 comment:

  1. Very impressed by your continuing updates Julia - you will have to be my blog guru!!