24 gauge silver sheet is pretty thin. Actually it is about as thin as you can easily work with. At about 26 gauge and higher the metal is so thin it kind of becomes like tin foil. I know some amazing artists who work with very thin gauge silver and produce really amazing work. At the same time these are metal workers who have years if not decades of experience.
When many metal workers make the move to silver from copper and brass they work almost exclusively with 24 gauge. This choice is not because they want to use 24 gauge because it is the best the learn with but because 24 gauge silver is much cheaper, even when compared to 20 gauge and until recently it was difficult to buy 22 gauge even from Rio Grande.
I know 24 gauge is tempting and I even did this myself. Many of my early pendants were made with 24 gauge because I was worried about making the financial commitment to a thicker gauge such as 18 gauge. At the same time I feel I set my work back by using a thinner gauge because thinner gauges are difficult to saw and it is much easier to make mistakes.
At the same time 24 gauge does have an extremely valuable use. That use is in earrings. If 24 gauge has been work hardened really well, especially if put in the tumbler for 12 hours, it is sturdy and light which is perfect for earrings. Although 24 gauge might not be ideal for stone settings it does work well with stone settings and keeps the piece light, once again great for earrings.
Its Thin and Light
The main advantage and disadvantage to 24 gauge is that it is thin and light. As stated above this weight is great for earrings. One can make great long dangly earrings that are not too heavy by using 24 gauge. At the same time if metal smiths are not very careful with their sawing it is easy to slip up and make notches that are difficult to remove that won’t drastically change the shape.
In addition, because it is so thin when using a torch on it, for soldering or annealing one has to be really careful. Even the slightest over heating in one area of a piece can cause the piece to melt or be damaged in a way that makes it no longer useful. When applying fire to a 24 gauge piece make sure to apply it evenly and steadily to the entire surface area. Avoid just placing that flame right over the solder because that will just turn the piece of 24 gauge sheet into a nice ball in the scrap pile.
Can be Worked With
Unlike other gauges thinner then 24, 24 gauge can still be worked with. Even 26 gauge starts to get a little like tin foil and one saw stroke will cut way to far. One can do simple sawing with 24 gauge and even pretty aggressive filing and the piece won’t bend drastically over a bench pin.
Another great aspect to 24 gauge, in particular for a beginner, is that it is great for forming. That means you cut shapes, like a circle or a half circle, and form it over a mandrel. I have made a line of earrings that I call quarter dome earrings that are made from 24 gauge silver sheet. I cut matching half circles, with designs in them, then I take the half circles and form them using a dapping punch, which is a mandrel that allows you to dome metal.
If I did this in a thicker gauge I would have to anneal the metal, which is heat the metal to release the electron bonds in order to reverse the work hardening, several times in order to get the desired shape. Because 24 gauge is so thin, I don’t have to anneal it at all in order to get the dome shape I want.
Another aspect of 24 gauge is that it is the thinnest gauge that I personally would set a stone in. This is really nice if someone wants to make simple drop earrings with stones or to make a set of dangly earrings with stones. The weight in minimalized by using a thinner gauge of silver.
Every gauge of silver sheet has its uses and 24 gauge is extremely useful. It is thin, cheap and easy to buy. At the same time many beginner metal workers think 24 gauge is a good place to make the jump into silver. I made this mistake myself and I think it was pretty silly looking back on it. My suggestion to for beginner silver workers to use 24 gauge as a start in silver and just use it for what it is meant for. That means make earrings for a couple of projects and play with some of the forming mandrels to really get the full value of 24 gauge silver sheet.
Posted by Silver Drops Designs Blog
Hosted by Silver Drops Designs