I have been ordering hazardous chemicals via catalog lately. Really! This is the tagline: “This item is hazardous and is non-returnable. It can only be shipped via ground freight.”
What in particular? A hydrochloric acid and tellurium solution. And ferric nitrate crystals.
No, I’m not building a bomb in my basement. I don’t have a basement. And I’m not trying to poison my great aunt. I no longer have any great aunts. (But not because of my chemical-purchasing habits.)
These chemicals, and many like them, are routine metalsmithing supplies. The craft is more than hammer-finishing pieces and soldering ends together for a secure finish.
The first solution is for applying an antique black oxidized finish to silver and gold – it is one of the few chemicals that will patinate gold, which is quite nonreactive. The second chemical, made into a solution with water, is an etching mordant that will work on silver.
Not surprisingly, many metalsmiths have red, raw, dry, cracked hands. Even though we use nitrile gloves and appropriately nonreactive tongs for work with all the hazardous chemicals – acid pickle & etch, acetone, solvents, cleaners, etc. – we end up washing our hands and our works-in-progress (often with scouring powder) so frequently that we chap and dessicate our hands.
I do work in an adequately ventilated area, and use a breathing mask and/or eye protection when appropriate.
It’s worth it when a piece comes together.
Even if the UPS guy does think I’m a nutjob.