Thursday, April 25, 2013

Phosphor Bronze Wire Versus Copper Wire

Copper wire on a spool and coiled phosphor bronze wire

Sure, I'm a little late to the party, but better late than never. I have been meaning to try phosphor bronze wire for a very long time. Truth be told, I was waiting for my favorite source, fellow wire artist, Nancy Wickman, of Wickwire Jewelry, to develop 1/2 round. But, she's had trouble making it herself, so I decided to just go ahead and try it anyway. I got some 1/2 round from It is called bronze. I do no know if it is true phosphor bronze. It looks the same and patinas the same, though.

Let's take a look at what true phosphor bronze is. True phosphor bronze is a mix of copper and tin. A lot of what is called bronze is actually a mix of copper and zinc and is more accurately called brass. This is a crucial difference in health matters. Zinc is very toxic when worked with a flame. Tin isn't.

I got my usual 20g RS and some 26g RS for weaving from Nancy. I got 20 and 21 HR HH from Wire-Sculpture. Both were shipped quickly, packed well and coiled with no waste.

First, let me tell you, phosphor bronze wire has a wonderful feel to it. It feels smooth and somehow slippery, although the wire isn't coated. I want to say buttery, but that's how it looks, too. Where copper is reddish, the bronze is a buttery, rose goldish. It really is very pretty with a light glow and is subtly different from copper. The wire, which mine is dead soft, is actually soft like silver, not soft like copper. I like the workability a lot. It reminds me of my soft copper after being twisted- not quite half hard. It takes a shape well and handles very, very well.

Back track:  What got me started on this adventure was the cab set I recently finished. It is what I thought was bronzite, but is actually Golden Amphibolite from Australia. I posted pictures of it on my rock board and a fellow rock hound from Australia told me that it is Golden Amphibolite, which is more rare and beautiful than bronzite. Most Americans don't know what it is, so it is often misnamed the more common bronzite.  The cabs I have have 3 distinct layers, a bronze layer on top with what looks like metal flake and a clear layer under it, with the bottom layer being more bronze mossy looking material. I tried to capture it in these pictures.

Golden Amphibolite

Golden Amphibolite

Golden Amphibolite

I thought the best choice for these was bronze and that's what finally convinced me to try it. So, wasting little time, I finished up an earring with copper and one with bronze. Let's see if the pictures can pick up the differences.

Notice the bronze on the right has a more vintage and less red look?

The difference is easy to see here. The golden bronze is on the left.

I hope you clicked to blow up the pictures. The copper is obviously more red. These pieces have been tumbled and are clean. The copper just seems so red in comparison to the vintage gold look of the bronze.

Let's look at the patina. I gave the bronze a patina with LOS in the exact way I would for copper. There were no differences in how they take a patina.

Finished pendant with patina.
The patina compared to the raw wire.

Do you see how the patina has a vintage look? It is less dark and rosy than copper and more antique looking.

Let's compare bronze patina with copper patina:

Bronze on the right, copper on the left

I think these pictures give you a better idea of what I mean. The bronze is a more neutral, antiqued tone.

Next, I tried to put a bead on a wire. I got out my small butane torch and a 20 gauge wire. It beaded up nicely and was easy to clean. The ball itself had less of the raisin or prune look that copper can get. I don't use flux when I bead a copper or bronze wire. If I did, then maybe it wouldn't pucker- I don't know.

Bronze headpin

I haven't had the time to see how it ages. I guess you'll have to wait a while for that show and tell. :)

I'll just wrap up by saying that I really love this wire and I believe it has a place on my shelf. I like the workability and the color. But, I especially like the more neutral, vintage looking patina. I can see it being the perfect match for some stones where the red in the copper might clash or overpower the color of the stone.  

Golden Amphibolite earrings in bronze wire with patina

Thanks for reading :) If you haven't tried phosphor bronze wire, yet, I hope you'll give it a try.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cover me, I'm Going In!

The things I do for beauty!

Certain stones are hazardous to cab, namely malachite, which is terribly poisonous and chrysocolla. Well, I didn't know about the chrysocolla until recently... after I had cabbed some. I made a trip to the local hardware store and picked up a mask for my next cabbing venture. Of course, it had to fit over my readers and optivisors. I'm a sight, eh? LOL! Yes, I sounded like Darth Vader. :) Wearing a respirator reminded me of my car painting days. Thank goodness I didn't need it for every cab. For the others I wore a dust mask.

I snapped a few pictures in my work area as I finished the cabs. 

Dangerously delicious Chrysocolla with Malachite

Blue Gem Bone (Dino Bone)

Ocean Jasper

Crayola Jasper- much nicer than in the picture.

Unusual Willow Creek Jasper

I finally got some bronze wire! Don't know why it took so long. Stay tuned for a bronze show and tell. In the meantime, here's a few silver pieces:

36 yummy carats of grape purple amethyst
chevron amethyst with amethyst bead

Lavender agate aka sponge agate (notice the purple trend?)
Teepee Canyon agate

That's it for now- back to my bronze wire.....

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Few Simple Wraps

I had been doing so much with my rocks, that I thought I was being derelict in my duties to wrap them. But, I had been doing a few quick wraps here and there. After I got them all together, I realized that I had done quite a few.  :) Here they are.

Today-- more cutting.

Thank for looking and have a great week!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Assorted Cabs and a Rock Pup

Now that I have gotten a few cabs out of my system, I need to get wrapping. :) Almost all of these cabs were from rough that I got from my rock friend. We swap rocks, so we always have something new. Getting a new box is like getting a box of chocolates- especially if it contains caramel colored Bruno (bruneau jasper). BTW- that swoop bruno in the video was covered in dust - just ignore it. Bruno takes the most fabulous polish which seems to attract dust.

While I was doming the snowflake obsidian, a little natural inclusion opened up. If you pause and look close at the the center, you might notice it. It looks like a little diamond is embedded in the cab. It glitters just the tiniest amount, which, of course you can't see in a picture, but I wish you could. It's really awesome and just one of those surprises you get when you start cutting into a rock.

Last weekend the whole family, excluding DH and I, went up to Luray Caverns in the Northern Virginia, Shenandoah Valley. Of course, they were all looking for cool rocks, too. :) Grandma got some rocks from the gift shop and my son found a cool rock for me which I insisted that he keep to slab and cab. So, tomorrow, he will cab his first cab with a rock he found for himself in the mountains. Too cool! Makes me wish I had gone. (I've been there before and I didn't want to slow them down. Besides- grandma and grandpa need their quiet time.)

My Rock Pup grandson. :)

Thanks for indulging me in my delight. :)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Preform to Cab

Two days of cabbing- or, at least as much as I was able to cab given other obligations- and I have some polished up stones to show you. I was dumb enough to get rid of a cool program that I had to make slide shows, so you'll have to scroll through these. I'll have a slide show for you the next time I have to list a lot of pictures. (You can click for a bigger picture.)

Rare K2 Jasper from Afghanistan. It was thought that the spots were azurite, but the verdict is still out. It is being tested now.

Stunning Rowley Mine, AZ Chrysocolla

A gorgeous, though not photogenic Labradorite. I'm getting better at these. :)

Super Mahogany Jasper. This was the most difficult cab that I've ever done. It was worth the trouble, though.

Rare Atlantisite or Stitchtite in Serpentine from one small area in Australia. This is very soft , but easy to get a beautiful polish.

A beautiful Mookaite Jasper, also from Australia. The pattern is much more obvious in person. The polish is like glass. This is a very hard stone!

Ignore the fluff in the picture, this is a perfect stone. This Noreena Jasper, another Australian stone, has a really rare bull's eye pattern.  

A picture jasper from the American West. I lost the name of this type.

I got a big slab of this from a mixed lot. The whole thing was awesome! I believe it is a rhyolite, probably Wonderstone. It is soft and took a slightly better than matte polish. The colors are gorgeous!

A small Sonoran Sunrise. This material, from Mexico, is supposedly mined out. The prices are getting crazy!

This Turritella is fossilized snails found in the US. I kept a high dome on this to preserve the ying yang snail shells. Pretty cool. :)

This big, beautiful cab is a Teepee Canyon agate from the US. It's the first of its kind that I have cabbed and I love it! Very hard with a beautiful polish.

I don't know how the dust got into this picture, but it sure stands out against the black hematite in this Australian Tiger Iron. This is extremely nice in person. 

That's it for now. I'll be doing some wrapping tonight. :)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Awesomeness of Spring

Early last week, I was watching the weather forecast for some hint of warm weather. Nearly a week into the future, I saw a break. The cold was supposed to lift, providing a glorious, sun filled 70 degree day. With much anticipation, I patiently (ok, not so patiently) waited for that beautiful Monday. The weather forecasts stayed right on target, a rarity, and the day arrived. That was yesterday... and what a day I had. :)

In order to cut up the slabs I've been collecting, I needed to have a really nice day. It had to be done outside with tap water. That water created a rock dust filled fine (and not so fine) mist which coated everything including my son, who was helping me, and myself. One can't accomplish the manual dexterity necessary for cutting with frozen, wet, pruney fingers, either. So, a warm day was a complete must.

In anticipation of the big day, I spent time marking out slabs. Not only did I have to find the heart of the slab, but I had to work around any bad spots, like fractures, pits and soft spots.

This required lots of concentration, as well as double fisting coffee and Coke. :) I make my marks with sharpie or pencil. The finger nail polish remover and q-tips are to erase lines when I change my mind. Some slabs are so beautiful, that it is hard to decide what to do.

I marked out about half the slabs and got ready for cutting.

Here you can see how deep the rabbit hole goes. There's a lot of slabs in here!

Slab pan number 2

The day, yesterday, arrived. It began overcast and chilly, which temporarily dampened my spirits, but it soon burned off into a beautiful day. My cutting partner and I got everything ready and took turns cutting. I did the more expensive ones, so if they broke-- and they can! --- I would have only myself to be upset with.

The following picture shows the process half done. There is the pan with slabs, a bin for cabs, a bin for scraps, a bin for pieces to go to my rock partner and a couple water buckets. I send the smallest scraps to my friend and rock partner, too. She tumbles rocks. She sends a lot of them to local schools for the kids to marvel over and to make crafts with. Virtually nothing goes to waste, though it may seem like it. You see, not every slab is a great cab maker. One big slab may only have one choice cab in it, but the rest gets used in other ways.

We managed to finish half the slabs. I have plenty left for another day.

We only lost a few cabs, which for one reason or another, broke into the lines. They'll become freeforms.

Now, all I have to do is cab them all! LOL! There's some real beauties in there, too. I can't wait. In fact, after I post this I'm gonna get, Gene, my cabber, out.

Thanks for sharing my fun with me. Stay tuned for some gorgeous cabs. :)