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I Forge Iron

What happens if you skip the pickle?

Bill in Oregon

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You are more likely to need a pickle after the working and during the finishing process(es)

If you need to pickle after annealing, I would look to how you are annealing the copper, most of the discolouration disappears as you work it, it is not normally scale like on steel or iron

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Thanks John. Say, do you happen to know if you can overanneal? In playing with copper in the past, I have often put a work-hardened chunk in my charcoal forge and heated it to a dull glow, then quenched in water. Seemed to work, but then I had no idea what I was doing.

As Thomas says, you can overcook on the annealing, personally I have not encountered that problem, mainly I use a coke forge (or propane if a large sheet)and patience, moving the copper/heat source to distribute the heat as even as possible, you don't have to get it all up to heat at the same time as you do with steel, (Red heat is usually fine) as to anneal copper you can quench or let it air cool,

It will become soft whichever way you choose to cool it, so so long as the overall piece has been taken above the red heat it should all become softened, you can usually tell by the brighter colour.
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Back to the OP's question: pickling is to get the surfaces clean and free of oxides. This NEEDS to be done before soldering or plating processes and is very important for heat patination too. You CAN clean the oxides by sanding, scrubbing, wire brushing, etcetera... often these are more work than pickling though. Sometimes I will deliberately leave oxides on areas where I do not want solder... it makes a pretty good resist. Usually I will remove most oxides by pickling and then finish up by scrubbing a bit... this leaves a little tooth to the surfaces which is generally a good thing. Water from boiled potatoes makes a pretty good cleaner and mild pickle for copper. Sparex #2 is what I have mostly used. If you favor a finish that includes the look of the oxidized copper and you are doing little or no plating or soldering then you may not need pickle at all. Regular household vinegar will serve as a weak pickle if you have nothing better at hand. Lemon juice works too.

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i dont use a pickling solution when working only when soldering or just to see what it looks like st the time. i use diluted muriatic acid for my pickling solution. don't use steel in the same solution or it will mess with the solution and you will get wierd colors on your metal. this is more drastic with silver alloys than copper though. i use the pickle before final polishing or planishing. also don't leave zinc or any zinc alloys in muriatic acid as i believe they give off hydrogen gas,but i dont know if i remember right.
hope something in here was helpful

Ed Steinkirchner

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