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Heat Coloring Stainless Steel for Beginners.
Article © MAIL User: tlblumberg

I have gotten a good amount of experience heat coloring stainless steel, both loose rings and pieces of chainmaille, and I can say, out of the ways I have found on the interwebs, using a torch works best. I've used Butane and Propane, either works well.

For the actual coloring, you will need the rings, a device to hold/suspend them on*, a fireproof/ fire resistant surface (I use my driveway), some safety goggles, a fire extinguisher (just in case, you are working with flammable gases), a bucket of water is optional, I will explain why a bit later.

First, make sure that any flammable things are cleared off your surface (i.e. leaves, papers, etc).

Put your rings on the device to hold/suspend them and put on your goggles (admittedly, I don't use mine as often as I should, and even if I haven't had an accident, I don't think a third degree burn on your eye would be fun.).

This is where you could get the bucket of water (for dousing), but as I have seen, the rings I anodize tend to keep their color better if you let them cool on their own. I've purposely tried to see which coloring came out better, and letting them cool on their own made more distinct colors, while dousing them made an organic brown color that looks really nice.

Now that you have all of your materials, you can start coloring your rings. You want to put the inner blue cone of the flame directly onto the rings. I usually go across the row, not getting the full color until the second or third pass. Be careful when coloring, as the color can change rather rapidly. If the ring glows orange for too long, then the ring turns out black, not colorful. You will want to agitate the rings, as to get an even color on the entire ring. The picture of the rings shows the colors, the colors start out as a light straw, go to a darker straw, then bronze, red, purple, dark blue, light blue, then a 'clear' blue, depending on how long the coloring lasts. A good visual representation is in the article below.

Effects of Firescale on Various Metals

(This isn't my article by any stretch, I only referenced to provide a visual representation of the stainless steel ring coloring.)

Now, you have the color you want. This is when the bucket of water comes into play. I have found the color looks better if it just cools on it's own, but it is faster to just dowse them. Do what you want, just know that if you touch them while they are still hot, you can get a third degree burn.

And that's it! Depending on how long the flame was on the ring determines the color, and the reason for this is that when you color the stainless steel like this, if forms an oxide coating on the ring, and the thickness of the oxide layer is what actually determines the color. A good thing about this kind of coloring (at least from my usage of it) is that the color doesn't wear or come off. The rings will occasionally get rusty, but you can learn how to get rid of that by putting the rings in a water tight container, filling the container up to about half the level of the rings with vinegar, then shaking it around for a couple of minutes, or until it the vinegar turns a different color. I put some colored rings into a Full Persian necklace that I wear frequently, and the color hasn't faded or rubbed off at all.

* - The device I have is a fancy hardware store - bought thing that came with alligator clips, a removable magnifying glass, and the ability to move the alligator clips up and down. I color the rings by putting a section of special stainless steel wire, like the kind used to support cable cars, only thinner (picture at bottom), that is slightly longer than the alligator clips, and put the rings on there. I have a good amount, and one strip of the wire has lasted several different colorings, so I would say that this is a good suspending-the-rings device to use.

Image: stainlesssteelwire.jpg
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