How to Pickle Metal

Written by daisy cuinn
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How to Pickle Metal
Pickling precedes the finishing steps in jewellery making. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Metal is "pickled" to remove oxidation, flux and other unwanted material on the surface, usually to prepare it for finishing. A pickle is an acid bath, and, in some ways, is similar to the brine used to pickle vegetables. In fact, according to jewellery artist Ute Decker in "Goldsmith Magazine," some metalsmiths use a solution of vinegar and salt for pickling. More commonly, a commercial pickling solution is used, usually one that is sodium bisulfate-based. When making jewellery, the pickle is used most often to clean freshly soldered pieces, and is a necessary part of any metal shop or studio.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Sodium bisulfate
  • Measuring beaker
  • Cooking pot
  • Small crock pot
  • Copper tongs

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  1. 1

    Measure 1 litre of water and 1/8 cup of sodium bisulfate and add to the cooking pot. For a larger pickle, a general guideline is a 1/2 cup of sodium bisulfate for every gallon of water.

  2. 2

    Heat the pickle solution until it's hot, but not boiling.

  3. 3

    Pour the sodium bisulfate solution into a small crock pot and set it to high. Cover the pot until you're ready to pickle metal.

  4. 4

    Remove the cover from the pot and lower the metal into the solution using copper tongs. Release the metal piece and agitate the pickle lightly with the tongs for one minute.

  5. 5

    Lift the metal out of the pickle with the tongs. If flux or oxidation remains, return it to the pickle and check it every minute until it's clean.

  6. 6

    Rinse the metal under running water.

Tips and warnings

  • For large or odd-sized pieces, you can use any kind of glass or plastic container to pickle. Just be sure to use hot pickle solution for the best results.
  • Swimming pool acid, available at home and garden centres, is sodium bisulfate and generally costs less than sodium bisulfate packaged as pickle solution.
  • Other mixtures, such as hydrogen peroxide and sulphuric acid, citric acid and water, and vinegar and salt can also be used to make pickle.
  • Do not leave a heated pickle uncovered when it's not in use, or the solution will evaporate away.

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