I always think of shape and form before I work out how I’m going to make the piece. Often in my old industry I would be asked to make something and no matter how complicated the item, as a company we always worked out a way of producing it. I find this approach frees up constraints placed on the manufacturing process. We didn’t design the parts to be made – we had them thrust upon us and had to come up with an economical production method at an agreed level of quality. All metals were used from mild steel through to Inconel and Monel for the aircraft industry. With this back catalogue of materials and how their specific properties effect how you work with them – I was very intrigued to discover the properties of silver.
The very first time I worked with silver it seemed to be a cross between many materials I had worked with in industry. Not quite the hardness of stainless steel – but much harder than aluminum and seemed to work like soft brass. If you discount the fire stain properties silver is a wonderful material when handled correctly.
I have practiced TIG welding for nearly 30 years and one of the first things I wanted to try with silver was how it could be TIG welded. Although there were a number of silversmiths who welded silver, none of them seemed to weld the way we did in industry. Silver is a tricky metal to TIG weld because of its keenness to conduct heat. I now TIG weld for silversmiths who require a much stronger joint that can be achieved through soldering; stronger because the metal is fused together with a filler material and the joint is hardly visible. The joint can be hammered repeatedly as long as the material is annealed as necessary. The joint is strong but is still susceptible to cracking if overworked. I feel more connected to welding than soldering which I still feel is a remote process for me.