The Pickle Pot

Ok, it says Crock-Pot, but this one really is strictly devoted as my current pickle pot in my studio.  It’s one of the small ones made by Rival.  Remember, any time you bring something into the studio that is normally used in the kitchen, it NEVER, NEVER EVER returns to the kitchen.  Its life is now that of a studio assistant.

If you want to know what pickle is, I’ll refer you to Lexi’s blog where she discusses that in depth.  Since Lexi covers the details about the pickle solution in great detail, I’ll just give you a high level overview of it.

For my solution, I use ph down which is one of the chemicals used in maintaining the ph levels in your spa.  Yep, the same stuff.    Basically, pickle is a cleaning solution.  It serves a number of purposes and I just mention a few.  It  prepares the metal, getting it nice & clean before you start to solder it and on the flip side, it removes the residues/nasties from soldering.  It also removes the oils your hands leave on the metal when you touch it and it can even help with the dreaded fire scale, if it isn’t too bad.  However, there are times when removing fire scale requires a bit more elbow grease in terms of sanding it away.

The pickle solution in my pot

This picture shows the inside of my pickle pot.  It has some particles in there that actually came from my fire brick because they had adhered to my metal when I was soldering.  That happens when I get flux on my fire brick and I do my best to avoid that, but it happens.  Generally, those pieces of fire brick fall off in the pot and when it gets too bad, I safely discard the solution and start a fresh batch.

You can see from the photo that mine has turned a light blue.  This is a normal event because as you continue to put your metal pieces in the solution for cleaning, some of the copper from the metal’s surface will leach into the liquid and eventually your clear pickle solution starts to turn blue.  That’s ok.

Generally the pickle works best when it is warm so that is why we put it in these little crock pots.  Turn the control to low and your solution is kept at the perfect temperature to do its best work.  I will leave my pieces in the pickle for anywhere from 30 seconds to 4 or 5 minutes, depending on what I hope the solution will accomplish.  And yes, sadly I have forgotten to turn my Crock pot off so the liquid evaporates (even with the lid in place) and leaves an interesting sludge.  Fortunately, soaking the inside of the pot with Dawn treated water will loosen up that material and you can start afresh!

These little crock pots by Rival are pretty durable.  Mine is a little over 2 years old, but I know it will eventually wear out so I now have one in reserve!

The colorful backup

A couple of weeks ago, I saw some colorful ones at our local Wal-Mart.  I debated between yellow and red.  As the picture shows, I chose the red one because my Jenny Chen Shears have red handles and they remain on my solder station.  Why not have a few matching tools in my soldering area?

The one I purchased was $10, same price I paid 2 years ago for my current model.  If you’d like to add a splash of color to your work space, why not get one of the colorful ones for your soldering station?  Just my take on it.

One last point of interest on this subject.  Someone had recommended to a fellow metalsmithing friend to hang a glass pickle next to your light switch to help remind you to turn off your pickle pot before leaving the studio.  I guess I should have followed that advice, yet I have not.  I do think it’s a cute idea and if I find a glass pickle to my liking, I will probably follow that suggestion.  For now, I tend to double check a few things 2 or 3 times before I leave my studio; make sure my acetylene tank and pickle pot are turned off, blow out the candle (I like the aroma & ambiance!), close the window and turn off all the lights & the fan.  So far, it’s all been working!

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.