Updated: Feb 21, 2022
What is annealing? Annealing is the process of heating a metal to a specific temperature before it’s worked on. Through this process of annealing, the precious meal is softened and made pliable. This will allow you to shape the metal into the jewelry piece you want. You might need to repeat the annealing process in case your metal work hardens. What is work hardening? Work hardening occurs when the metal is repeatedly bent and shaped, putting stress on the metal and causing it to become stiff. The repeated stress on the metal can cause it to fracture and brake. The effects of work hardening can be reversed through the process of annealing. This annealing treatment will soften the metal, making it more malleable making it easier to bend and form.
What is the full annealing process?
The method is to heat the metal with your torch to the proper temperature without overheating it. After annealing metal, it must then be placed in clean water to cool it. This is known as “quenching”. The annealing process can be repeated several times as needed. However, it is always best to anneal the metal as soon as you feel it start to harden. That way, you avoid causing irreversible damage to your piece. It is not possible to predict the exact moment a metal needs annealing, and you will only learn the difference between a soft and hard state through practice.
Annealing the metal
Its important that you don’t overheat the metal. Do not heat the metal until you see red, that’s too hot and that will damage the properties of the metal.
The technique I use as a temperature indicator is to use a black sharpe marker. Coat the metal then let it dry. Then heat the metal until the black disappears. When the black color is gone, that’s the proper annealing temperature.
When annealing thin wire, wrap it into a coil and tuck both ends back into the coil. This will prevent it from springing apart when heated. Place your coil on a soldering block and heat it with a soft flame but keep moving the torch up the metal to avoid melting the wire. Turn the metal with a pair of insulated tweezers and anneal the coil on the other side.
Quench the metal in clean water them put it into the pickle.
Dry the metal is completely after quenching. This is important because you do not want to rust the tools you work with.