Tip For Annealing Metal

Thursday Tip

Welcome to the latest in a series of articles to do with enamelling and making jewellery. I hope you find them useful. I am writing about issues and problems I have experienced (and hopefully overcome), and tips and shortcuts concerning enamelling and making jewellery that I have come across in the course of the past twenty years or so. In this post I am going to tell you an easy way to tell when your metal has reached to correct temperature for annealing.

Annealing Metal

What is annealing  and why do we need to anneal metal? Annealing is the process of heating metal in order to soften it and make it pliable and able to take on shape and form. After annealing the metal can be worked and shaped. When it starts to harden it must be annealed again. When enamelling, you of course need to shape the metal prior to beginning to enamel.

How Do We Anneal Metal

You can choose to anneal in the kiln, however I usually prefer to use a gas torch as it is easier to see when the correct temperature has been reached. You need to heat it to a dull red colour and hold it for a few seconds at that temperature. Depending on the light levels where you are working, it is very difficult to see when the correct temperature has been reached and easy to overdo. I read a wonderful tip in the Guild of Enamellers Journal a few months ago that I have found absolutely brilliant. Draw on your metal in a permanent marker prior to heating. When the metal reaches the correct annealing temperature, the line will disappear. Stop heating at this point and quench in water. I usually like to quickly check with my fingers to see if the metal flexes before I pickle it. I have used this technique quite a bit now and have found it to be successful in both silver and copper. Recently I have been working on copper shim. I draw my design on it before I emboss it.  This is an example of a trial piece for my new Magic Carpet Wall Panels I am planning.

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I anneal the worked copper shim after embossing with the added bonus that my marker lines disappear. I have been using a Staedtler Permanent Lumocolor pen that has a nice thin nib. Take care not to use a pigment ink pen as although they will mark the metal, the line doesn’t disappear when it is heated. See here for my Handbag Vessels that I also created using this technique. Have a go and let me know how you get on. I think it makes annealing much easier.