TorchFire Studio

Fine Handmade Jewelry Crafted in Huntsville, Alabama


Preventing Fire Scale with Fire Coat

How-To, Jewelry MakingCara MossComment
Magic Flame Soldering Compound, What is Firecoat, how to use firecoat, firescale, jewelry making classes TorchFire Studio Huntsville, Al

Happy Wednesday! Let's talk about a basic process you need to follow at the bench: fire coating your pieces to prevent fire scale. 

What is fire scale? This is an unsightly layer of black cupric oxide that forms on the surface of copper-bearing metals when heated (think sterling silver, gold alloys). A stubborn layer of nickel can also form on white gold alloys. This mottled black layer can be very difficult to remove even after pickling your pieces.

So what's to be done? Fire coat that jewelry!

Fire coating is a process in which you apply a protective layer of boric acid solution to the metal before soldering or annealing. It turns into a glass-like covering when heated and prevents the formation of fire scale. Most discoloration should be removed with a quick bath in the pickling solution. 

My favorite fire coat is Magic Flame 4-in-1 Soldering Compound. This pretty pink paste packs a punch; it contains boric acid, borax, and sodium fluoborate. 

You can use this magic solution 4 ways:

1. Dip: Add magic Flame to denatured alcohol. This makes a fire scale resistant coating. Add as much Magic Flame as you want to get an even heavier coating.
2. Liquid Flux: Add Magic Flame to a small amount of water to create a great Gold and Silver Flux.
3. Paste Flux: Use Magic Flame full strength as a great Paste Flux.
4. Casting Flux: Use Magic Flame full strength for a superior Casting Flux

Magic Flame and denatured alcohol burn off in a colorful, quick flame, leaving behind a powdery layer of protection.

Like most chemicals in this line of work, use eye protection and work in a well ventilated area. Wash hands after use. My most helpful bit of advice **from experience** is to be cautious if using alcohol near your torch! (I am woman enough to admit to setting a fire coat brush on fire!)

This compound may not be the cheapest, and will probably have a decent shipping charge, but it is worth every penny! 

Where to purchase: Stuller Amazon  Jeweler's Supplies

Workshops Now Available!

Sales and Promotions, My Studio, How-ToCara MossComment

Hello, Friends! For those of you close to Huntsville, Alabama, I'm now offering workshops in my studio! The first on offer is a soldering basics course on June 23 from 6-8 pm. You'll learn how to solder with a butane torch, and you'll make and take home a pair of sterling silver earrings. 

Only six spots are available for this workshop, but more will be scheduled in the future! 

To learn more, click the photo below or visit the "Workshops" section of the site.  

I hope to see you there! 

Five Ways to Help Creativity Bloom

How-To, InspirationCara Moss7 Comments

In college, I was an English major. I wrote paper after paper after paper, until they all got jumbled up in my mind. Lying in bed at night, I might be struck with the perfect conclusion for my paper on women's issues in Victorian literature. Mmmm... good stuff. Today, I work on creating new jewelry items, and then spend hours in front of the computer, updating my shop, connecting with social media, and sharing my life with you in this lovely little blog. One problem that I have faced pretty frequently in the past few years is writer's/creator's block. I can stare at my materials without coming up with any new designs, or get sucked into the sharp white glare of the computer screen. Oh, boy - nothing beats that slack-jawed feeling of inefficiency and total creative impotence; every blink of the cursor is a pounding "fail. ure. fail. ure. "

Of course, I know that creative block is a common problem for many of us who try to make beautiful things.  Sometimes, the well just runs dry of any inspiration.  My experience has taught me one important thing:

Walk Away. Now.

You are just wasting your time banging your head against that invisible block, when you could be taking some steps to help your creativity bloom:

1. Tidy your workspace.  putting things where they should go can help your thoughts fall into place. An uncluttered desk leads to an uncluttered mind.

2. Get moving. Go for a nature hike. Being in nature helps your mind focus on the "now". The exercise will help clear your mind and you might just see something or someone that sparks a new idea!

3. Take a cat nap. This suggestion is the polar opposite of the previous one, but sometimes your brain is just too tired to function right. A 30 minute nap should be enough to refresh you mentally.

4. Switch tracks.  Ignore your blog for the moment and revisit that pair of earrings you were working on.  Bake some Irish soda bread or try a recipe for oatmeal cookies.   Get out of the house and hit the bookstore or the craft store to find new inspiration.

5. Start an inspiration book. Start writing down your bits of inspiration as they come to you - a blog post idea, a new design for a necklace, etc. When you feel stuck, you can pull out the inspiration book and work from ideas there.


What are some of your favorite ways to beat the block? Please share!


How to: Getting a gorgeous patina on silver

How-To, Inspiration, Jewelry MakingCara Moss6 Comments

jewelry making, how to, patina, silver jewelry

Guys, let's talk about patina!

You've been scouring the net, looking for jewelry inspiration, and you see some silver jewelry with a gorgeous dark patina. It  may be used to highlight detail or to add pizzazz to the entire piece.  It looks great, but how to achieve this look? I've got the scoop right here!

All that dark loveliness is achieved with a horribly stinky chemical called liver of sulfur (LOS).  It is a rotten-egg-scented compound that is used to darken metals such as silver and copper. LOS is available in several forms, most commonly in lump and gel forms. The lump or rock form is fairly unstable - it is light sensitive, and has a short shelf life, and the dust poses an inhalation hazard.

jewelry making, patina, liver of sulfur

The most popular version is LOS gel. In my opinion, it is easier to use and you don't stir up a bunch of hazardous dust when you're measuring it out.   Note that it still has some pretty funky fumes, so definitely use this in a well-ventilated area!

When used on silver, LOS can have several results. When used alone (diluted in water, of course) it can turn silver a deep dark brownish gray.  Add a small splash of ammonia, and the metal takes on a deep, dark gray color.  Almost black, really.  This is my favorite method, and the one we shall be covering today!


  • liver of sulfur (I use the gel form from Rio Grande)
  • ammonia - available in pretty much any grocery store's cleaning aisle.
  • hot water - not boiling!
  • two glass or ceramic containers ( I have some ramekins that I use for jewelry only)
  • Plastic spoon, tweezers, or other implement to fish pieces out of the solution
  • brass bristle brush
  • baking soda

Remember your safety gear ! Protect your eyes with goggles, and use LOS in a well-ventilated area. The gel LOS I use is not hazardous to your skin, but it stinks. And stains.

Use a brush and tweezers that are dedicated specifically to LOS so your tools don't transfer LOS to your other jewelry.  Be sure and remove your personal jewelry, too! Even the fumes can cause unwanted darkening of your precious pieces.

patina, liver of sulfur, how to, tutorial, jewelry making

Let's get down to it!  Gather all the jewelry items you want to patina. This mixture is super stinky, and I've found that doing all your items in the same session really minimizes the funk.

silver earrings, jewelry making, patina

  •  To achieve an even colored patina, your metal needs to be clean. Clean your items well with soap and water, trying not to touch too much with your fingers.  Dry everything off and set it aside.
  • Heat up some water. Get your water nice and hot but not boiling. This is really important because the heat helps bond the patina to the metal. If your solution is cold, your patina will take forever to develop, and the dark finish can flake right off!
  • Prepare baking soda solution - in one container, mix about a cup of water and a tablespoon of baking soda. This solution will neutralize the LOS and stop the oxidizing process when you have reached the level of patina you want.
  • Prepare your LOS - use your plastic spoon to add a small amount of LOS gel to your second container. (A good ratio is about 1 tsp : 12 ounces of hot water.) Gently add the hot water and stir until the gel dissolves.
  • Add the ammonia - add about 1 tsp of ammonia to the LOS mixture.

liver of sufur, patina, jewelry, silver, oxidation

Are you ready? Drop your pieces into the LOS mixture. You should see them start to darken almost immediately! Leave them in for about 30 seconds - 1 minute. Take the pieces out,  rinse in plain water, and examine them. Repeat the process to get them as dark as you like.

brass brush, patina, silver jewelry

If the finish looks uneven, try brushing a little with your brass bristle brush and re- dipping in the LOS. Repeating this process will help ensure an even patina.  When you are satisfied with your patina, rinse your pieces well and put them into the baking soda solution. This will stop any further darkening of your metal.

baking soda, liver of sulfur, jewelry making, how to, tutorial

You are now free to finish your jewelry as you please - use a polishing pad or really fine grit sandpaper to gently buff off the patina on the raised portions of your work to highlight only the recessed areas, or leave it wholly dark for a dramatic look.

As long as you used the baking soda solution, your jewelry pieces are safe to tumble. I use stainless steel shot with 2 drops of blue Dawn and they come out with a super shiny dark finish that looks amazing!   Just to be safe, I typically don't tumble LOS pieces and non- LOS pieces together, and I rinse the tumbler and shot well after a batch of LOS pieces.

liver of sulfur, patina, how to, tutorial, silver jewelry

Now you've got the scoop on using liver of sulfur to achieve that dark patina on your silver pieces. Go join the dark side and share what you create!