Home  >  How 2 Pickle Jewelry

How 2 Pickle Jewelry

How 2 Pickle Jewelry  
Step 1
If you’re new to the world of jewelry making & just started soldering, you may have encountered a term called pickling. You may have asked yourself, “what is this? Do I need to know about this? Why the heck is it called pickling?” Follow me and I’ll show you around.
Step 2 - Pickling?
The term pickling comes from jewelers of yesteryear. They would take alum (the same stuff you make pickles) & make a solution that would dissolve firescale off of the jewelry after soldering. Today's jewelers often use something called Sparex in place of alum. Different stuff, but the name “pickle” stuck.
Step 3
To work effectively, pickle solution must be hot. The best temperature is in the 120-140° Fahrenheit range. Hot but not boiling. There are two ways of keeping the pickle solution at the right temperature. First is a small pickle pot like this one. If it has a temperature setting keep it on low.
Step 4
The second way is to take a small hot plate. Here I’m using a metal clay dryer & a beaker with an air tight top. I prefer the second method. It’s nice to be able to see what's in the solution. The air tight lid keeps the fumes from rusting any iron or steel near the solution & you have no evaporation.
Step 5
A quick safety note. You are going to use measuring spoons/cups possibly a small crock pot. It is important that these items never get used for food prep in the future. Also use plastic measuring spoons & cups, no metal. We’ll talk more about why that’s important in a second.
Step 6
Now lets get ready to mix up a batch. Starting with the beaker & hotplate method. You will mix 2 tablespoons of Sparex per 100ml of water. The handy marks on the side of the beaker make the water measurements easy.
Step 7
For the pickle pot method. You will pour in 1-3/4 cups of water & 1/2 cup of Sparex. These measurements are not written in stone. Going slightly over or under will not be a problem, use what works best for you.
Step 8
This is what you should end up with. Sparex starts out a murky orange-ish brown, but with a little bit of time & some heat it will turn clear again.
Step 9
Ok, I can’t talk about pickling without at least mentioning what goes on when you solder. Here are some copper jump rings ready to be soldered. See how the metal is bright and shiny?
Step 10
Here is what happens when you solder. Yuck! They have turned completely black. This is firescale. This is what heat and oxygen do to the surface of metal. 
Step 11
Along with the firescale you may notice a shiny, glassy area around the joint. This is flux. It helps protect the joint while its being soldered, but once its done we need that and the firescale out of there. Pickle will dissolve both of them.
Step 12
When you reach in to pickle the tongs must be made out of one of three things: Copper, plastic or wood. Any thing made of steel or iron causes a bad chemical reaction that will not only ruin your batch of pickle, but may ruin your piece. Remember, no iron, no steel. Personally, I prefer copper tongs because they are more durable plus you can pick up red hot, freshly soldered items. Handy.
Step 13
You’ve soldered your item & now it’s time to pickle. Pickle is an acid, not very strong, but you don’t want to go splashing it around. Be careful when you drop a hot piece of metal in there. Some safety goggles would be a good idea.
Step 14
Here are the same jumprings as before, having spent about five minutes in the pickle bath. All of the firescale has been eaten away. Easy
Step 15 - Other benefits of pickling
An important part of soldering is making sure that both pieces of metal that are being joined are clean. Any dirt, oil or whatnot on the surface can prevent the solder from flowing correctly. A quick soak in the pickle beforehand will dissolve away any problem residues & make soldering a bit easier.
Step 16 - Don't throw it out
Pickle will build up sludge on the surface from time to time. Don’t fret, take your copper tongs and mix the solution up. It looks unpleasant but it won’t affect how the pickle works. Also If you forget & leave the lid off of your pickle & it evaporates, no problem. Just top the solution off with some fresh water.
Step 17 - OK, now you can throw it out
If the solution starts to turn a bright blue & the amount of time it takes to clean a piece of metal starts to slow down, it’s time to make a fresh batch. Lets talk about how to safely dispose of pickle solution.
Step 18 - Disposal
Start by placing the container full of pickle in the bottom of a deep sink. This has a tendency to get messy. Drop one teaspoon of baking soda in to the solution. It will foam up quite a bit. Wait until the foaming has stopped then add a second teaspoon… keep doing this until it stops reacting to the baking soda. Then it is safe to pour down the drain.
One last thing about using Sparex that caused me some confusion in the past & thought I would pass this on to you. Often when you first get Sparex it will be pale white or often a light brown. Over time it will turn very dark & clump together. Don’t throw it out! This is Sparex reacting to humidity in the air. It may look funky but it will work just fine.

Hope this info has helped. Be safe & have fun.

Your Friends @ FDJ
Download "How 2 Pickle Jewelry"