Is TSP/90 as Good as TSP for Anodizing?

December 13, 2010
TSP90
TSP 

James asked, “Will the TSP/90 Phosphate Free products work as well as the standard TSP brands?”

An excellent question. My first impulse is, “I doubt it.” But I am not sure. The folks at ReactiveMetals.com might have some insight (that I would share here if passed along).

TSP/90 is made with Sodium metasilicate and pentahydrate. So it is an alkali electrolyte with plenty of oxygen carriers in it. So far, so good. But as a cleanser it appears to suffer from leaving behind a film; a bad sign.

If you are concerned about the potential harm of artificial phosphates in the environment, anodizing is not a significant supply. I have been using the same 8 oz. box of actual TSP for the last dozen years. That’s equivalent to a few weeks of laundry. The same batch of electrolyte can keep on going for months, by adding distilled water (the part that is used up) and an occasional pinch of TSP crystals (to keep up the concentration from the drops removed by pulling out pieces). Occasionally, I filter out the dust and bring it to a boil to make sure it stays sterile.

If you want to be even more environmentally correct, use ammonium phosphate (lawn fertilizer) and then dispose of your old electrolyte by spraying it on your lawn. I used a box of this through the 1980’s and 1990’s.

One of these days, I’ll probably expound why the lingering phosphate meme of the 1970’s was somewhat misguided in the first place.


Q: Can I Stamp and Rivet with Titanium?

December 3, 2010

Kelley asks:

I make stamped jewelry and I have never worked with titanium before. Can titanium be stamped with a usual tool hardened steel stamp set? A client is wanting inspirational words stamped on a premade titanium bracelet.
Another question, would my usual method using a riveting hammer and a bench block do with titanium wire to create a rivet?

The short and qualified answer is, “Yes”.

Odds are that you are working with one of the less hard alloys or grades. Titanium behaves much like stainless steel, in that it takes more force to work it than do silver and other “normal” jewelry materials. Hit harder, maybe with a bigger hammer or mallet than you use to mark silver. I use normal steel stamps, myself  (as in this picture).

Where titanium gets its tough reputation from is that it is harder than steel under pressure. Stamps and especially cutting tools wear out faster because titanium, unlike steel, doesn’t get softer at a mere few thousand psi. Silver, gold, etc are softer to start with. I used a 20 oz. hammer to strike this stamp.

I have also used titanium wire to make rivets, using an ordinary little chasing hammer to set them. Nice, soft Grade #1 wire. Here is a List of Grades and their relative hardnesses.


MrTitanium with a Lead Pipe on the Patio

March 17, 2009

Original Clue Board GameIf the title didn’t give you a Clue, then I just have to tell you that I like metals. I like melting metals. And I finally did a video of  metal melting.

Why? People are always asking me about how light titanium metal is. I was inspired by Theodore Gray and his Periodic Table Table to collect a set of samples of representative metal bars so as to show people. To let them feel for themselves. I now have a small, portable Metals Museum.

I started with Tungsten, because it is as heavy as gold and the hardest one to shape. I then collected and shaped matching bars of aluminum, titanium, bronze (95% copper), steel (97% iron), and magnesium (lighter than carbon). But absent the lead, I can’t illustrate how much heavier tungsten (gold and platinum) are than lead. Pity I don’t dare use silver, gold, or platinum bars. They would be fun exemplars, but I fear short lived.

But lead (Pb from the Latin Plumbum, as in plumbing, plumb-bob, etc) is now harder to get. This useful material has been in household use for almost 6,000 years. Children who likely drank from lead vessels gave us every advance in our civilization. But about a generation ago, it was declared toxic. So now it is getting hard to find outside of radiation labs, and expensive there.

So, I decided to cast my own piece of fresh lead plate from some crusty and oxidized 19th century lead pipe. To feel the pipe is to understand its utility as a weapon; heavy and rigid, yet soft.

Unfortunately, I didn’t set up my camera to show me chopping up the lead pipe. I used a hammer and chisel to get through the crustiest parts (hundred year old drain pipe, eww). But tin snips work well on 1/4″ thick lead. It cuts like cold butter. But shiny.

And the piece I ended up with evoked a geological feature I’d visited: Shiprock in New Mexico. Magma oozed up through a crack in the Earth’s crust forming a vane much like you see on my cast plate.  An accidental demonstration in practical geology.


Why add a capacitor to the Anodizer?

August 6, 2008

I received the following question:

I have a variac and full wave rectifier but no cap.
What is the reason behind adding a capasitor to the anodizer? I know it will reduce electrical ripple but what will it mean to the anodize process or final results?

In principle, the smoother, ripple-reduced output allows more even anodizing starting at the initial surge. Whether this is truly useful, I don’t really know. My experience is almost exclusively with a smoothed DC supply. But I have a switch on my main anodizer to disconnect the capacitor for those occasions when I feel like it.

RMS vs Peak Voltage The voltage will read wrong with ripple. The anodized color depends on the peak voltage. But a rippled current shows on a meter as the rms voltage, that is somewhat lower. So the color is less predictable, and the time spent at that voltage is more critical to watch.

Also, once you reach your final voltage (or at least asymptotically close enough), the smooth DC current is stopped. But a rippling supply still produces a trickle of  current as the piece you are anodizing acts as a capacitor. If you wait long enough, you can see the color continues to rise at a fixed ripply voltage.

This latter point is more important if you mask and do a succession of lower voltages for multiple colors. With ripple, the higher voltage colors will creep as you anodize the lower voltage areas.

Another note is that AC is more dangerous than DC. Edison (General Electric) made sure that the first electric chair used the AC current promoted by his rival Tesla (Westinghouse), to popularize that point. (source) But I doubt it makes much difference in any practical sense of anodizer safety.


Can Titanium Be Worn with Other Metals?

June 3, 2008

I received this email:

Dear Sir,
I would like to know when titanium and gold accessories are worn together, will there be any chemical reaction affecting both metals. I am wearing a Gold Chain now and I wish to purchase a Titanium Chain but I do not know whether there will be any adverse reaction. As I know Gold and Silver accessories can’t be worn together, so how about titanium and gold?

I hadn’t previously considered that gold and silver might react on the skin. But, yes they do. It isn’t much of a reaction, but it is to the detriment of the silver.

I replied:

Titanium is safe to wear with other metals.
Titanium always has a protective oxide coating that prevents any electrolytic reaction with other metals. Basically, moisture cannot reach the metal itself in order to complete a reaction. If it is scratched, the protective coating immediately re-forms (unless in a perfectly inert atmosphere (argon, krypton, etc) or a vacuum). That’s part of why titanium is such a good candidate for medical implants.

Go ahead and try it: http://mrtitanium.com/TitaniumChains.html

In detail, any two metals in a conductive solution (impure water) will exchange ions. If the metals touch, then an electric current forms, eating away at one of the metals. That’s how a battery works. Body moisture acts as an electrolyte between silver and gold, and hydrogen is produced at the gold side, and oxygen on the silver. Silver oxide is black and soluble; it tarnishes and eventually eats into the silver.

But for the reaction to continue, neither metal can be allowed to grow a continuous, non-soluble insulating layer. Titanium and niobium grow very good insulating layers when just exposed to most electrolytes. In fact, I force this insulating layer with enough voltage to produce the colors. That’s called “anodizing.”


Epoxy Resin and Allergic Contact Dermatitis/Eczema

May 13, 2008

Titanium and Niobium cannot be soldered, so I am told.

So, short of Fusion Welding, Jewelers 2-part Epoxy seems to be the only alternative for bonding these elements.

There are 2 concerns regarding Epoxy Resin.

First, and foremost, is the fact that Epoxy Resin is an allergen causing agent in itself. Although not everyone suffers from Allergic Contact Dermatitis/Eczema, those of us who do, seem to be prone to react to a specified list of items. Epoxy Resin is one of them.

This means, in jewelry design, it is important that no Epoxy touch the skin. Although it is acceptable under governmental code (even in California), to label a pierced earring “hypo-allergenic” if at least, the post itself contains no allergen causing agents, the fact is, it’s not just the post that comes into “contact” with our skin.

Second, it is difficult to adhere Titanium and Niobium with Epoxy Resin. But I have found that attention to certain details seems to be the answer for success.

* The larger the two surfaces to be bonded, the more secure the bond.

* Etch the two surfaces well. Epoxy needs nooks and crannies to create a place to bond. I usually do this with needle files, in a cross hatch fashion. Filing in both directions creates an etching effect, as opposed to filing in one direction which creates a buffed effect.

* Remove all dirt, debre, and skin oils from the surfaces to be adhered. Rubbing alcohol works fine for this.

* 2-part Epoxies contain Resin, and Hardener. It’s important to use equal amounts of each. I use a paper plate and squeeze equal sized drops of each, next to one and other. Give it a moment to make sure that the two liquids (which are different in consistency to each other) are actually equal. Then I mix well with a toothpick, and apply evenly to one of the surfaces.

* I then have 5 minutes to set the second surface, press into place, and remove any excess (with a dampened cloth.

* I usually let this cure under a lamp for 12 hours. Then test the adhesion by trying to remove the two components from one and other. If it doesn’t come apart, I consider it a success. If it does come apart, it usually means that I didn’t etch the surfaces well enough.

Follow up care to the finished piece should include the following considerations. Don’t soak the piece for any length of time. Don’t use harsh chemicals on the piece. Both of these actions can loosen the epoxy.


Titanium Grinding vs. Tumbling

May 1, 2008

Harbor Freight bench shear

I’ve tried a few different methods over the the years to reduce my hands-on time in getting rid of those razor-sharp fresh-cut titanium edges. I started doing this with essentially no tools or money to buy any. I first bought tin snips, and then a small bench shear something like the one pictured.

Polishing MotorThe merciless edges on fresh cut titanium encouraged me to buy leather gloves. To remove those edges, I first used emery paper (wet/dry sand paper) to smooth them. But the tedium soon urged me to learn that a motor, a couple of taper spindles, and Cratex wheels (rubberized carbide) were much faster and spit few sparks. I put my grinder/polisher together from a salvaged ¼ horse motor and parts from a mail-order catalog (this was around 1980). Now there is website: www.RioGrande.com and you can get everything there. But grinding small parts ended up using up finger tips; both gloves and my own.

Harbor Freight Cheap Rock TumblerOn a whim, I tried out my childhood rock tumbler. I just cut up a bunch of pieces, and threw them in with some rocks, and let them go for a week, then three weeks. There was some rounding of the sharp edges, but not much nor fast. I then ordered abrasive ceramic media from RioGrande, and tried that in place of the rocks. After a couple of weeks, nice, smooth edges. The ceramic media lasts for many uses (I have yet to reorder). You can also get it cheaply from HarborFreight, here or at your local Harbor Freight shop. You can also try rock shops, craft stores, or online.

Lightweight vibratory cleaner/polisherBut, c’mon! Weeks? So (many years later) I went to eBay to find a vibratory polisher. I wasn’t ready to spend $500 on a name-brand one at RioGrande. So I found one specified to clean shotgun shell casings for about $60 delivered. It has a clear top, so I could watch the pieces and media do their thing. It reduced the time to about 4 days. I ran it with a dry load, with no water or agents. Amusingly, the dust that grinds off from the media is hydophobic! Water runs right off of it, like mercury on glass. I found that adding tap water at the end and vibrating for another hour suspended the dust in the water and didn’t darken the titanium too much. Anyway, I etch after I tumble.

But I never did manage to get a shine with this machine. I tried ceramic media and porcelain media, I used polishing compounds, ran it wet, ran it dry, and still my best was a matte finish. My worst was that the titanium turns almost black in water with porcelain.

Harbor Freight Vibratory PolisherSo I thought I’d try another type of vibrator. I got it from eBay, and then found that I could have driven across town to HarborFreight and gotten the exact same unit for about $25 less. I first tried running it wet with porcelain. Blackish titanium, eww. I etched the titanium clean, and then tried dry with ceramic media: Shine! Trumpets and doves and a beam of light from above. The gray ceramic media turned dark and shiny in 24 hours, as the titanium deburred and gleamed.

Had this not worked, I would have finally bought a professional (expensive) circulating fluid vibrator assembly (Raytech). But I’ll hold off on those.