Friday, November 28, 2014

A tale of 2 chains ...

A couple of weeks ago, I finished a gorgeous necklace and bracelet byzantine chainmaille set for a repeat customer who has, in the past, been ever-so-patient with both me and my suppliers. These were to be a simple set of 12 gauge solid sterling silver byzantine chains in specific lengths. I ordered my supplies from a USA-based supplier both because of time & price. Everything went well until I put the necklace into my regular tumbler barrel for burnishing & cleaning, filled with stainless steel shot.

I usually run this barrel dry (yes, folks familiar with the process of tumbling for hardness and cleaning, that's no water, no soap in a Lortone rotary tumbler). I hand scrub my finished pieces with Dawn dish soap, a brush, and warm water in a sink prior to tumbling (and after). A lack of water with steel shot reduces the time needed to reach a gleaming shine on soft metals (no, I don't get a lot of dings in the metal either, even though there ARE pin shaped shot in my mix).

This time, I decided to add some water to help clean the piece since I wasn't in a rush. Little did I realize that this was a BIG mistake, mostly because it has probably been well over a year since this tumbler was run "wet". Let's just say that because of past experience, I did not even check on the piece after a few hours -- I let it go for 12+ hours overnight.

In the morning, I found that the dark crud that was dredged up from the walls of the rubber barrel had been pounded into the surface of my precious silver for far too long. The silver had the color of STEEL! I was mortified. I tried all of my usual cleaning techniques to no avail. I scrubbed the barrel, washed my steel shot thoroughly, and tried even using a silver polish to clean the dark ugliness that had invaded my piece, but nothing made it look "silver" again. I got it to about a nice dark white gold color. At this point, I realized that I may never get this piece clean, and so I re-ordered supplies and started my customer's piece over again the following day, all the while, working to clean the original.

After 1st cleaning attempts

 Luckily, I have a couple of different types of abrasive tumbling media that I use to achieve a better surface finish on titanium. These media essentially do a nice light sanding of the surface of metal in the tumbler, so I thought.... why not? I started with my harshest ceramic media (cylinders). The piece spent about 24 hours with regular water changes every couple hours in that. Next, it went into my plastic media, which creates a smoother, nicer looking satin finish (again a light sanding) -- for another 24 hours.

The result after both of these runs was pretty good! My silver looked silver, but was still a little bit dark. Not good enough for me, but getting there. Next, it went into my vibratory tumbler with some old uncooked dry rice and some excellent silver polish. After a couple of hours, I was impressed with the results. Not only was the piece insanely shiny again, it was CLEANER and brighter! I added more polish and put it back in for a few more hours.

Finally, it went back into the rotary tumbler with my now squeaky clean barrel & steel shot and just some water (in case any more dark crud decided to leech out), and the end result was unbelievable! It was as if the darkening had never happened. 

All clean!

Amazingly, the finished piece is a gorgeous gleaming silver again. And it will be for sale soon, in my Etsy shop. A few photos of the finished, cleaned piece taken to attempt to illustrate the sheer size of the piece, are below.

For sale on Etsy HERE