Earlier this month I took a class on fusing and it's opened up a whole new world of ideas for me. A long time ago I took lots of classes on soldering, so I know how that goes, but it's messy and requires more time and equipment. The basic idea behind fusing is that you don't need solder or flux or pickle. You simply heat the metal with a butane torch (mine's a micro torch) until the silver begins to liquify and flows. Basic materials that I aquired to do this:
old cookie sheet to sit the brick on
bowl of water to quench the hot silver
fine silver wire- 14 g.
I'm using fine silver instead of sterling because sterling silver gets fire scale when heated. That's where the pickling comes in. With fine silver you simply heat it, quench it, and tumble it if you want it really shiny. The tumbler also work hardens the metal. Fine silver is especially soft after being heated so it's important to tumble it so that the piece keeps its shape.
So, I've set up a workspace in the basement for the metal work and I'm loving it! For me, designing metal pieces feels more creative than bead work. I love beautiful beads but I'm excited about the direction my work is taking. I'm planning on using the stones as accents in my new pieces and really concentrating on the look of the silver or copper.