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How To Melt Down Silver At Home
Silver is the most common precious metal in existence. In addition to making coins and jewelry, silver is required for many applications in modern day life. This includes manufacturing electronics, filling in dental cavities, and many types of surgeries. Aside from gold, silver is the only precious metal that is used in both electronics and surgeries. If you have old jewelry, electronics, trophies, or drink ware made of silver you may be sitting on a decent amount of money. Additionally, many people like to make new types of jewelry or decorations out of silver.
The process of melting silver is not as easy as it looks. If you are not a professional jeweler or a metalsmith, you may have trouble completing the process. The most skilled silver craftsmen have years of experience under their belts and their methods are highly refined. You will need the guidance of a professional expert to create the best results for your silver jewelry and other valuable items. However, if you are looking to melt a small amount of silver and make a basic mold this tutorial should give you all the information you need to melt down you silver in a safe and efficient manner.
Supplies Needed To Melt Silver
Before you begin melting silver you need to make sure you have the proper equipment. In order to melt silver you will have to use a lot of heat (1,763°F) or chemicals that can cause severe damage if they come in contact with your skin. In order to safely melt down and mold silver we highly recommend purchasing all of the below equipment to ensure your safety during the melting process.
Purchasing the proper safety equipment is essential if you are considering melting down silver or any other type of metal such as gold or copper. This mean you need to purchase a fireproof apron, gloves, and a face shield and a minimum. Additionally, you want to make sure your arms and legs are completely covered by thick clothing to prevent to prevent burns from the heat or chemicals you may be using to liquify the silver. If you are melting silver you do not want to buy cheap safety equipment. If a tiny drop of silver touches any part of your body you are going to get a third degree burn and will need to go to the hospital. For this reason we highly recommend purchasing industrial grade equipment.
Foundry Crucibles & Tongs
A crucible is essential for any kind metal working. For those who are unfamiliar a crucible is any type of container or tool made out of clay, graphite, aluminum, silicone, zinc, or lead. These materials are extremely heat resistant and can withstand heat 10x hotter than the melting point of silver. Crucibles come in many shapes and sizes, so you will need to select a crucible big enough for your project. A crucible can be as small as a drinking glass or as big as a trashcan. Your crucible will need to be able to fit all of your silver before it is melted. You want to make sure to have ample room in your crucible so you have plenty of space to pour it in a cast.
In addition to a crucible container you should invest in a pair of crucible tongs. Although you should always wear industrial strength heat resistant gloves you should never turn or move the crucible with your hands. A crucible tongs is the preferred way to handle molten silver and casts. Like a crucible container the tongs should be made of a heat resistant material that is capable of handling heat in excess of (2,000°F).
A graphite stir rod is the best way to make sure that silver is completely melted when you are heating it in the crucible. The silver closest to the heat source will melt first, and a graphite stir rod can be used to poke and test the silver in order to make sure it is completely liquified. Additionally, you should slowly stir the silver as it begins to melt in order to keep keep it from fuming.
There are several ways to heat silver in a crucible including ovens, open flames, a furnace, or blow torch. If you are melting a small amount of silver a blow torch is probably your best bet. Open flames are extremely difficult to safely melt silver and furnaces and ovens are expensive to use especially if you are working on a small project. Blow torches allow you to easily control the size of the flame and even disperse it over the entire crucible or concentrate the heat on a side where the metal is melting more slowly.
Creating Molds & Casts
Unless you just want to melt down silver for fun (unlikely) you will need some type of mold or cast in order to turn your melted silver into the proper shape once the metal cools. Casts are typically inexpensive and it is perfectly fine to make one yourself if you have a specific shape you want to mold. One of the best ways to do this is to simply carve a piece of wood
If you are molding any kind of metal, casting sand can be a great way pack your metal into the mold. Foundry Sand is great because it can be reused and helps control the temperature of your metal.
Melting Silver For Beginners (Step by Step)
Step 1 (Heating the crucible)
Once you have the proper equipment you can begin melting the process of melting your scrap silver. Once you have all the silver you want to melt in your crucible you can begin the heating process. The melting point of silver to 1,763 degrees so you will need to completely liquify your silver before you can begin molding it into a new shape. Ideally you can heat the crucible in the furnace so you can accurately monitor the temperature. If you are forced to use a blow torch you will need to “eyeball” it.
Step 2 (Stir the Molten Silver)
In order to tell when when the silver is completely liquified gently stir the molten metal with a crucible stick. This will keep the metal from burning and will apply the heat evenly to each side.
Step 3 (Remove the Crucible)
Once the silver has completely melted remove the crucible from the furnace or heat source. Make sure to have your heat resistant gear and face coverings before touching the heated crucible. Additionally, make sure you only transport the crucible with the tongs, not your hands with gloves.
Step 4 (Remove the Slag)
Chances are the scrap silver you are melting is not pure silver. When you heat silver the impurities will rise to the top of the liquified metal. Use a crucible stick to gently lift the slag off the top of the molten silver. Place the slag in a separate crucible and wait for it to cool before disposing it.
Step 5 (Mold the Silver)
Once you take the silver out of the oven you will only have a few minutes to pour it into a new mold before the metal begins to solidify again. As soon as you remove the slag from the purified silver you must pour the metal into a new mold. Take care to wear heat resistant gloves and outerwear. Pour the silver directly into the mold while it is still liquified.
Step 6 (Let the Silver Cool)
Once you have poured your silver into the mold you will need to wait for it to cool. The amount of time you will need to wait depends on the amount of silver in the mold. Typically we recommend letting the silver sit for 30 minutes before attempting to remove it from the mold.
Step 7 (Remove the Silver From the Mold)
Once you silver has completely cooled you may remove it from the mold. Usually you can bang your mold onto a hard surface and the cast will come out. Coating your mold with foundry sand before pouring the heated metal onto the mold will allow it to come out easier. If you cannot get your metal out of the mold you may need to break the mold. Occasionally the metal is stuck to the mold and the only way to break it out is to snap it in two.
Step 8: (Quench the Silver)
Although you silver has cooled off by the time you remove it from the mold it is still soft compared to fully cooled silver. Dunk your silver in ice cold water for 1-2 minutes in order to completely harden the internal metal.
Once you have completed these steps dry off your silver and enjoy your new project!