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Will the wire discolor from the heat?
- Depends on the wire. If you use fine silver or argentium silver, the wire won't get any severe discoloration as fine silver is pure silver and argentium claims to be highly tarnish resistant and fire scale free. Go to http://www.argentiumsilver.com/ for more info about it. The most they would get is very light firescale that's easy to brush off with fine abrasive such as finest grit sand paper or steel wool. Sterling silver can be fused but I haven't tried it yet but I know some artists that fuse sterling silver. Sterling silver might get a lot of fire scale, flux probably needed unless you like how fire scale look on your wire. Copper might be able to be fused but it will need hotter fire and might be longer because copper got higher melting point then silver. I have yet to try fusing with copper as well.
Will I need a pickling solution or is that more for when flux and solder is used?
- I never used pickling solution when i fused Argentium silver. Just remove the light fire scale using fine abrasive like said above. You don't need solder. That's why it's called "fusing". Something called fusing generally didn't use solder
Can any 16 ga wire be used?
- I'd suggest Argentium or Fine silver or solid Gold for efficiency. DO NOT use any colored wire because the color coating will get burnt off. DO NOT use any gold filled or silver filled wire or any plated wire as they all got different metal as the core (either copper or brass and sometimes stainless steel too and other metals). Heating process might cause the top layer get mixed with the core and different metal got different melting point so you might get messy result.