These are the earrings I made for the last AJE COM challenge and in post for that I mentioned using solder paste to 'grunge up' the copper washers I was using. Several people has since asked me exactly what I did so I thought I'd share the process here.
Everybody loves a bit of grunge these days it seems and while I was attaching ear wires to the copper washers for these earrings I decided to change the characteristic of the washers very quickly with some solder paste and, if you have some to hand you can do the same. As you probably know solder paste already has flux mixed in with it so it flows very easily. It's not cheap though so you can create interesting effects with just a little touch here and there (I tend to scrape the gungy bits out of the cap for this purpose) although I've used more in these photos just to make it clearer.
So the first step is to place your your clean washer or copper blank on your solder block or charcoal and dot some paste on it...this can be evenly spread or pretty random depending on what effect you're after. Then you simply heat up the piece with a torch aiming the flame at the metal rather than the paste. The paste will begin to bubble then turn shiny and flow and by moving your torch around you can draw the solder around your blank. Once the solder has melted switch off the torch and quench the piece in cold water.
Of course this process will also work with tiny pallions of traditional strip solder although you will need to use flux with this to get it to flow as with the piece below. I think this method would probably work better by heating the piece from beneath as if sweat soldering but unfortunately I couldn't use this method as one of the legs of my soldering tripod has gone missing and a two legged tripod is about as much use as a chocolate teapot!
Once your pieces are quenched (left hand image below) you can can pickle them to remove the firescale (bottom right image below), tumble, patinate and/or texture them as you wish. Personally I like the effect of the firescale so I tend to remove any that is loose or flaky with a sanding sponge and then texture and polish which can result in some interesting finishes (top right image below). The one thing to remember if you don't tumble is that you have in effect annealed your piece while soldering so it will be soft so work hardening with a leather or nylon mallet is a good idea.
If you give this a go do let us see what you make - you can post pictures on our Facebook page and we'd love to see them.