Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A New Product...

I make a lot of spinner rings. A LOT. It is definitely my most popular item. And now that I am wholesaling them, I am making 2, 6, even 9 at a time. I have gotten to where I have the process mapped out to a science. The last thing I do before they ship out to the customer is to glue in the lab opal stones. Yes, glue. I know- it's a dirty word. Truth is, I don't apologize for it. I can't offer these rings at the price I do if I mechanically captured the stones in a channel setting. Much as I'd like to, I've never learned the technique or taken the time to learn it. I tell anyone who asks that they are epoxied into the channel and so far no one has complained. I wouldn't recommend washing dishes with them, but I wouldn't recommend doing that for any jewelry. And if someone doesn't like the idea of them being epoxied in, they obviously don't make a purchase.

Those jewelry artists who do inlay use glue. Sorry to break it to you. And they don't use Elmer's glue, it's an epoxy or another type of kick-butt strong adhesive. The process for me is: mix equal parts of epoxy (goopy stuff in 2 bottles- one's a hardener), mix thoroughly, apply to channel with a toothpick. I actually only do 1/2 the ring circumference at a time because, although the epoxy is quite viscous and would hold the stones in place even if upside down, the epoxy I use cures in 5 minutes, so I'm racing the clock!!! I can only get half the stones in place before the glue starts to set. There is 30-minute epoxy, but honestly I just don't like waiting that long for glue to dry!!

Well, the other issue is that the epoxy dries with a shine, which I find is distracting. I want the stones to shine, not the adhesive. So I went on the hunt for an equally-strong adhesive that had a matte finish. I asked for advice from fellow metalsmiths. Most suggested for my application, to 'chalk' the epoxy while it was curing, to create a matte, frosted look. Chalk does come in all colors, so that seemed reasonable and cheap. 

I bought some cheap black sidewalk chalk from Walmart, sanded it into a pile, and dropped some into the drying glue. 

Disaster. Maybe it was the cheap stuff, but the chalk bunched up and didn't neatly cover the surface like a fine powder as I hoped. Honestly I didn't want to mess with exploring other ways to achieve the chalked matte look.

Especially because I found this on Amazon:

Wow- no mixing, no drying, no racing against the clock!!! And it's MATTE! Sold!!!! So, the other part to the equation is that this product needed UV light from the sun or an artificial source. I decided to order this UV/black light :

The description said that this type of flashlight could be used in a way much like CSIs (crime scene investigators) do- in a darkened room to find blood spatter on a wall from a homicide! Plus, I could find the old owner's cat pee on the carpet, old spills my kids tried to hide, or bedbugs in hotel room beds!!! SOLD!!!!

Oh, plus it had UV light that could cure my glue. Yeah, that too....

I did tape a warning on it NOT TO LOOK INTO THE LIGHT because the UV rays are harmful to eyes much like the sun is. Didn't want my kids grabbing it and using it, shining it into their faces, etc..  I actually became quite obsessed with using this ALL OVER THE HOUSE, but that's another post... I digress...

I did a couple of tests on scrap metal- I colored each dark (as I do in the channel before I put in the opals) and put a dab of this glue on one piece of silver, and the traditional 2-part epoxy on the other. I applied a half dozen stones to each and let the epoxy cure while I shone the light on the other sample. I was concerned that the UV light would not penetrate through the stones as they are not transparent but translucent, and have some opaqueness in areas. But, to my delight, the UV light DID penetrate and there was no discernible difference between the 2 samples in terms of strength. I tried to remove the stones by force and was able to succeed in pulling some off of both samples. I crushed the cured glues and they both behaved similarly- good hold but fairly brittle.

SO, this afternoon I poured a little bit of the very viscous glue into a plastic cup, and applied it all the way around the channel with a toothpick. I took my time and placed the stones all the way around. Then, I shined the light all around the channel and it set within a minute!

The disappointments to this product are twofold: one, it is quite thick. The bottle says you can place the bottle in hot water and it will become thinner to use. If I have to do 9 rings, this could be a practical way to thin the glue, but if I only have one to do, I really don't want to take the time to heat it up. Two, it really doesn't dry matte- it's pretty glossy. I was able to press my finger into the freshly-cured glue and that softened the gloss a bit, but it was still hard to get into all crevices and any excess glue shined pretty bright, which I don't like. 

But considering the ease of use, even with the disappointments I think it's a good product and will continue to use it. I am hopeful that it will not yellow with time, but that's a quality even epoxy is guilty of. I can recommend this product if you are looking for a clear, viscous, highly-adhesive glue that cures quickly and can be used for holding translucent items.