If you’ve just finished annealing or soldering, you’ll need to pickle the copper wire to remove firescale (the black stuff).
Pickling is the process of dissolving firescale from the surface of your copper wire after it has been heated.
It may seem intimidating at first but trust me when I tell you that pickling your copper wire is very simple.
As usual, make sure to take all necessary safety precautions – it’s recommended to use latex gloves, safety glasses and an apron.
- Pickle Pot (see below)
- Pickle Solution (see below)
- Neutralizing Bath (see below)
- Plastic cutlery
- White Vinegar
- Baking Soda
- Safety Glasses
- Latex gloves or similar
A pickle pot is basically just the pot or container in which you keep your pickling solution.
A lot of jewelry makers recommend using a small crock pot to hold the pickling solution while keeping it at a warm temperature.
I have used a crock pot in the past, but now I just use a plain old tupperware container – it works just fine. Even though the solution is at room temperature, the results are the same.
Once I’m done with my pickle pot for the day, I just put the lid on the tupperware and I safely store it in my shop (away from kids and pets).
You can use whatever you want as a container – just make sure that you use a plastic, glass or ceramic container – ABSOLUTELY NO METAL.
*** Keep in mind that whatever you use (crock pot or tupperware) as a pickle pot is no longer safe for kitchen use. It stays in your shop.
IMPORTANT: No metal containers!!! Pickle solution is extremely corrosive and will eat any metal that it comes in contact with. Keep your pickle pot in a safe spot.
Making a pickle solution is super easy – all you need is vinegar and salt.
I don’t have an exact recipe – I just pour about 2 cups of vinegar and several spoonfuls of salt into my tupperware container. Mix until salt is dissolved – use PLASTIC CUTLERY.
Once you have it mixed, it’s all ready to use. The pickle solution will last for quite a while, depending on how much you use it.
Your pickle solution will eventually turn blue after a while and it will become less effective. When that happens, the solution will need to be replaced with a fresh batch (see below for disposal)
Once you remove your items from the pickle solution, you’ll need to place it in a neutralizing bath.
Much like the pickle solution, this is very easy to do. All you need is a plastic container, water and baking soda.
Once again, I don’t have an exact recipe – I just add a few tablespoons of baking soda to a few cups of water.
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How to Pickle Copper Wire to Remove Firescale
Step 1 – Make sure you are wearing safety glasses, gloves, and an apron. Prep your work area – get your pickle solution and neutralizing bath ready. Make sure there is no metal around your work area or your pickle pot. Place your copper wire in solution. Let sit for 15-20 minutes.
Step 2 – Using plastic cutlery, carefully move wire around solution. You will notice that the firescale will just fall off. You’ll be left with bare copper wire.
Step 3 – Using plastic cutlery, transfer wire to neutralizing bath. I usually just leave it in there for a couple minutes.
Step 4 – Remove from neutralizing bath, rinse under water and dry off. The copper wire should be a salmon color – this is what bare copper wire looks like. Now your wire is clean and ready for wrapping!
Disposal of Pickle Solution
As I mentioned earlier, your pickle solution will turn blue and become less effective over time. Before you can dispose of the solution (it’s very corrosive), you will need to neutralize it first.
This can be done by adding small amounts of baking soda. Start small because as soon as the baking soda is added, your solution will start bubbling and produce a white foam substance which can overflow if you add too much baking soda.
As soon as the bubbling settles down, I always add more baking soda and I usually let it sit overnight to make sure it’s neutralized.
Once it is neutralized, pour liquid in a jar and set aside in a safe spot. Take your spent pickle to a local household hazardous waste disposal site in your area – do not pour down the drain!
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