Experiment: Fine Silver Headpins
Author: Marie Cristine
The look of balled headpins has always appealed to me. I’m not sure if it’s an aesthetic thing or because they look more handcrafted. Probably a bit of both. But they are my favorites and I was happy to find this experiment in my stack. I believe this was a free experiment on the old jewelrylessons.com site (still sad that it was closed) but I can’t remember.
24g Fine silver wire cut in to 2″ lengths
Blazer Butane Micro-Torch
Heat Resistant Tweezers
The experiment was easy to follow and I appreciated that Marie recommended working safely over a solderite board. I once took a class where the teacher recommended soldering on a large ceramic floor tile purchased at a home improvement store. That may be cheap but it is not safe. A friend was in the middle of soldering on a tile when it broke apart. They ended up with a piece of hot metal actively burning in to their table top. Spend the extra money for the solderite board. It’s worth it and they last quite a while.
I had no trouble creating the balls at the end of the headpins per the instructions. I started with two inch pieces of wire. After the ball formed, each headpin was about 3/16″ shorter. That left me with a headpin that was about 1 13/16″ long including the ball. Final length would depend on the size of the ball you made.
I was inspired to try this technique with sterling silver. I was not as pleased with the result. The sterling wire balls up but not as evenly or consistently as the fine silver. The sterling balls wrinkle and pit and don’t end up centered on the end of the wire. They tend to grab the wire off center. I’m not sure why. The fine silver balls stayed centered.
As you can see, the sterling also has to be cleaned off in pickle which is a drawback. But the sterling is easier to work harden if you need a stiffer headpin. If I wanted a rustic look, I’d use the sterling wire because of the texture, unevenness, and lower price point. It would look good patinated.
The directions said to let the headpins air cool. I was curious about that because I always see quenching in water mentioned with fine silver. I did a quick search to learn whether air cooling or quenching is better. I could not find a consistent answer so I guess it depends on how quickly you need to use your headpins. Quench if you need them immediately.
The headpins are lovely and each one came out perfectly. After completing this experiment, I’m switching to fine silver headpins. While the wire costs more and is a little softer, the benefits of making perfect headpins so easily and not having to clean them, outweigh the higher price. I’d rather spend my time making something new than cleaning off oxidation.