Jewelers have countless tools in their arsenal. From conventional jewelry making tools like pliers, saws and crimpers to more offbeat items used for very specific tasks. One tool that lands in the latter class is a jewelry pickle pot.
Wondering what a mini crock pot is doing in a jeweler’s studio? You’re not alone! Just like convection oven heat cooks meats and meals, pickle pot heat is used for cleaning soldered jewelry metals.
Contrary to its name, pickles have nothing to do with pickle pots, but they used to. Before pickle solutions, jewelers cleaned soldered jewelry with alum, the same compound for making pickles.
Are you in a pickle about how to use a pickle pot? You’ve come to the right place. Let’s swim through the brine to help you make the best use of a pickle pot for jewelry making.
Before a jeweler can use a pickle pot, they need pickle solution. Pickle is a liquid substance that cleans oxidation from freshly soldered jewelry pieces. Before a jeweler solders an item, the metal is cleaned in pickle solution. Then after the item is soldered, there is a layer of oxidation around it. Soaking metals in a pickle pot cools the metal and cleans away the oxidation.
A pickle pot is what holds the pickle solution. A pickle pot is essentially just a mini crock pot with a lid. Whether you buy a dedicated Pickle Pot or use a small crock pot, they function in the same way. However, it’s important to only use your pickle pot for pickle solution, as it’s a toxic compound that can contaminate any other substance. Once you’ve used a pickle pot for jewelry making, the solution will seep into the pot and even with a thorough cleaning, it’s not safe to be used for cooking. To avoid a mix up, keep your pickle pot in your jewelry making studio and your crock pot in the kitchen.
There are two types of pickle solutions you can use for a pickle pot: Biodegradable pickle and non-biodegradable pickle. The first option is more environmentally friendly, while the second lasts much longer. Each have pros and cons, so let’s have a look at both.
This is generally regarded as a more natural pickle because it doesn’t contain the toxic compounds that regular pickle solutions have. However, these chemicals are what make pickle strong and long-lasting. Still, biodegradable pickle is effective and the options are to use either citric acid, vinegar or commercial-grade citric acid.
The most popular brand of non-biodegradable pickle is Sparex #2. This solution is typically found on a jeweler’s shelf and is the choice solution for a pickle pot. All you have to do is add the grains to distilled water and voila, you’ve got your pickle solution. That said, you have to be careful when using non-biodegradable pickle as it’s toxic. It can ruin your clothes, must be handled with copper tongs and disposed of at a toxic waste facility.
Because pickle solution contains toxic compounds, it’s a bit confusing to know exactly what can be put in the liquid. That’s because most jewelers are making items that contain gemstones or embellishments.
The answer is not black and white, as it depends on what type of gemstone you are working with. Some porous stones are heat sensitive and cannot withstand hot temperatures. While some jewelers feel comfortable putting diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, topaz and quartz in pickle solution, others aren’t. It ultimately comes down to the composition of the gemstone and whether or not you feel it’s worth risking.
A general guideline for putting gemstones in a pickle pot is to soak them in cold solution rather than hot. Still, this is a task that must be taken with great care as there is no guarantee that the gemstone will not be damaged in the process.
To maximize the use of your jewelry pickle pot, you want to heat the pickle first. That’s why a small crock pot or pickle pot with a lid is ideal. The lid locks the heat in and prevents the pickle from evaporating out of the pot. Using a pickle pot for jewelry is quite simple, but there are a few tips to keep in mind while you work:
You’ll quickly notice that it’s easier to work with a pickle solution when it’s hot, but you also want to avoid overheating. Keep your pickle pot at a low temperature until it begins to steam; that’s when you’ll know it’s hot enough.
Use copper tongs specifically designed for pickling. Pickling tongs are strategically made with copper because it doesn’t react against the pickle compound solution. If you accidentally use iron tongs, you’ll notice that your jewelry items will have a copper plate.
Over time oxidation from pickling and soldering metals will accumulate and turn blue. That’s how you know it’s time to clean your pickle pot. Before you dispose of the pickle solution, you have to neutralize it by pouring it into a dish or container and adding baking soda. When the liquid stops frothing, the solution is neutralized and ready to be thrown out. Not so fast! You are dealing with a toxic solution so you can’t throw it in the trash chute. The solution needs to be disposed of at a dedicated hazardous waste dump.
Mini crock pots are readily available at home appliance stores. Alternatively, you can find dedicated Pickle Pots on Amazon for around $40. There are a few things to consider when buying a pickle pot:
Ensure it has a lid
Buy a pair of copper tongs if it doesn’t come with them
Choose one that has preset temperature to avoid burning or heating too high
And that sums up the pickle pot! Making jewelry in a pickle pot is a common practice that jewelers have used for years. It may take a little getting used to, but we hope this informative guide helped answer all your questions about pickle pots.
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