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Making Granules: The Sandkuhler Splash

I actually think granulation looks better with things other than granules, but eventually, you need them. So, I use Iris’s method. A word about Iris, she is a great friend and master fuser, in fact she wrote the book on fused jewelry.

Unfortunately, this method involves teflon, bad for birds, and bad for us, so use lots of ventilation.

I melt a little ball of fine silver and drop it from a few inches above the rim of a deep non-stick pot.  Think “Fry Daddy”.  Not too high, or the hot silver splashes out.  The molten silver shatters like mercury, and cools quickly. Then just pour out the resulting bits into another container and go again.  You want to keep your splash pan as empty as you can, as the molten silver will marry itself, creating double and triple globs.

In fifteen minutes you have this:

And all sorted out with your handy diamond sieve, you can have a large range of nice sizes for your granulating pleasure.


The Trouble with Granulation

My most recent distraction has been attempting the ancient art of granulation. For years I have used a concoction of my own to fuse fine silver and make champleve bezels for my little round pendants.
See the YouTube here
Since I teach this technique, it became necessary to bottle the ‘magic solution’ to sell, so the people can take some home with them after the class. I now have a product on the market called BlueFuse: more on that later.

But now the question then arises, what else can you do with this stuff? Fusing….well, that leads to granulation. I have on my bookshelf several incredible books on the subject, loaned by my friend Magnus. Unfortunately the best one is in German, but there are pictures. So I started to work it out with whatever information I had, a kiln, a torch and some BlueFuse.

So I made some bits and assembled them randomly.  Interesting, but a pretty horrible design. Still, there are possibilities for making more interesting enamels.


Also there is the Betty McKim’s earring challenge that I am participating in, which requires a new design each week. So I have to work out some other ideas.

The difficulty with granulation isn’t the fusing, it is the granules. My research in books and on the web suggested a couple of methods. Most obviously, there is just balling up chips of fine silver wire on a charcoal block. Sure, you can spend four hours and lots of gas to make a 1/4 teaspoon of little granules, but I am much too impatient for this technique. John Cogswell recommends balling bits of wire with a torch on a charcoal block, and letting them roll into a pan full of water. I got little misshapen blobs when they hit the water. So I added distance, on the ‘shot tower’ theory, still no pretty little spheres. Then John Paul Miller, in Oppi Untrachts book Techniques for Metal Craftsmen’, suggests you layer powdered charcoal and bits of silver into a crucible and fire it to a melting temperature. I tried this twice and had bad and worse results. Either little potato shaped blobs, or balls with outgrowths. Fine if you are doing jewelry in the form of viruses, but not the perfect little shiny sphere. And you can buy granules from MSC, but they are more expensive than I can reasonably justify.
Enter my friend and astral twin Iris Sandkuhler. We were lounging at Wrightsville beach and she told me how to make lots of granules in a reasonable amount of time: The Sandkuhler Splash method. Just melt and pour small balls of silver into a teflon surface. It will shatter into smaller clean granules, to be collected and sorted with a diamond sieve. So now I am moving forward again.