Quenching
by Judy Larson
To quench and when or not to quench - jewelers and metalsmiths around the world all have very strong and varied opinions on the subject. There is a science to annealing/heating and quenching metal, so research in relation to the metal you are using is a must. Grain structure in the metal can change in the way that it is cooled. Some metals should be quenched instead of air cooled or they will become hard and brittle. Some metals can be quenched immediately and some should not.
Instructions
Quenching, or quick cooling, copper, brass, and silver is done by immersing a piece in water after heating it so it can be dried and then worked with again quickly. Because metals cool at different rates, how do you know when they are ready to quench? Generally, when the red glow is gone from a piece of metal, around 10 seconds or so, it is ready to be quenched.
NEVER quench in a pickling solution. Even though you may be using the least caustic pickling solution, it can still cause problems if the droplets from the solution get into the air, into your lungs, on you, your clothing, or work surface and tools. Stick with water for quenching.
Argentium is my precious metal of choice and I use it in a lot of my mixed metal pieces as well. These are some things I have found through research and a lot of trial and error.

Argentium, a silver alloy, needs to be treated differently than sterling silver. It should not be moved and quenched immediately after heating and/or soldering as it can crack apart and/or warp beyond saving. Many Argentium pieces could be ruined learning when to quench so I found it is easier (and cheaper, too, because there are no mistakes made in haste to quench) to let the piece cool naturally for 30 seconds or so before quenching. What is a few seconds before quenching or moving the piece to a bench block to cool compared to losing all your hard work?
Judy Larson's Quenching - , General Education, , quenching
Judy Larson's Quenching - , General Education, , quenching
I make a lot of multi-metal projects. When combining different metals, do not quench them immediately after soldering the pieces together. The metals cool at different rates and the piece may distort, or worse, the soldered pieces may separate. It is better to let the piece air cool for a bit before quenching. I usually just move the soldered piece to a steel bench block after 30 seconds or so, which pulls excess heat from it with no damage. For me, the extra time it takes to air cool a piece is worth my piece of mind.
Judy Larson's Quenching - , General Education, , quenching
Judy Larson's Quenching - , General Education, , quenching

Materials

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Tools

Jumbo Max Flame Butane Torch
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Pickle Pot, 16 Ounces
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Sparex Number 2 Pickling Compound
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Straight Copper Tongs
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  • Category: General Education
  • Technique(s): General Education