This was originally posted back in July of 2009. Since I’ve had some experience with it, and I thought I’d give an update, I’ll repost the original.
I’ve had discussions with several people regarding the newest product on the market, which I’ve been referring to in general terms as a liver of sulfur gel. Basically, it’s exactly what it sounds like: liver of sulfur in a gel form. The gel is an advancement over the liquid forms and the chunk forms, and like its predecessors, is available from several companies, two of which are Otto Frei and Cool Tools. After hearing about it a couple weeks ago, I included a tub of it in my last supply order and I just got a chance to use it today. Here’s a quick, first-impression review.
* It is reputed to have a longer shelf life and be easier to use.
* It is suppose to be stable in gel form, and therefore safer to ship worldwide and it is non-flammable.
* As a gel, a little is suppose to go a long way, thereby giving you more bang for your buck.
* It can be used hot or cold.
* It mixes easily and quickly into water.
* It can be painted on a surface.
* It can be used to patina any surface that regular chunk LOS can patina; ie. silver, bronze, copper, precious metal clays, etc.
What You’re Suppose to Do:
* Depending on which company you buy it from, you’re suppose to stir the gel, then mix 1/4 teaspoon into 6 oz of water (Cool Tools) OR 1 teaspoon in 12 oz of water (Otto Frei).
* Cool Tools also says it can be painted directly on a metal surface, and to stop the oxidization process, dunk the piece into a baking soda/water mix.
I’m so used to using the chunky LOS that I decided to wing it. I microwaved my usual amount of water in my usual microwave-safe plastic bowl (approximately 1 cup water for 1-2 minutes), then used a cardstock square to drip in about a dime-sized amount of gel. I ended up buying the Otto Frei version, and the gel moved easily into the water, and dissolved quickly, too. Then I proceeded as normal, and disposed of it as normal.
* A little bit really DOES go a long way. I was expecting to have to add more gel to the mix, but it really wasn’t necessary. Dime-sized did me just fine.
* With the water heated at 2 minutes, the silver turned almost immediately. I’ve seen it turn quickly before, but this took me by surprise. Luckily, I almost always want a super dark finish; however, knowing how fast this gel turned the silver, if you’re looking for a brownish tint or a light gray, I’d have to recommend trying it cold first and watching till the silver turns the color you want. Then, quickly dunk it in the baking soda/water solution to stop the oxidization process.
* The gel really did dissolve quickly. The last couple batches of chunky LOS I used made the water yellow but clear, so I could easily see everything I dropped in. The gel still turned the water yellow, but it was a cloudy mix, which led me to scramble to find the pieces. Next time, I’ll try less water and less gel so maybe I can see where each piece lies. If placement is important to you because you’re wanting a particular tint to the silver, I’d recommend using as little water and gel as possible so you a) see the changes happening, and b) can grab it out quick.
* The gel is still stinky, but no worse than the chunky form. I expect that if the water was cold or at room temperature, the smell would decrease slightly, if not significantly. I couldn’t really smell it from the open tub sitting at room temp, but I may have just gotten used to the smell by now.
* I forgot to stir it, but that didn’t seem to be an issue when the tub is new. If there’s a skin on it, you’re suppose to stir the skin into the mix, then use it.
* The Otto Frei version was runnier than I anticipated; it’s not quite a thick, dense gel. Not sure if the Cool Tools version is similar in that respect.
* Because I’m so used to the chunk form, and because I didn’t exactly plan ahead, getting the gel out of the tub and into the water was a small issue; hence the cardstock square and me scooping it out. But before next use, I will be getting some of those wooden popiscle sticks or use a plastic spoon.
* I did not, and will not, be leaving it out and open for months at a time. I’m just going to trust that it will keep, and will report back here down the line if it doesn’t.
I’d have to say I enjoyed using it. I’d recommend it in a heartbeat to anyone who’s interested in trying LOS, or those interested in switching over. You can get them here:
Otto Frei: Liver of Sulphur Extended Life Gel
Available in 4oz ($15) and 8oz ($25) tubs.
Cool Tools Patina Gel
Available in 2oz ($10) and 8oz ($15) tubs. Also available: how-to videos (scroll down on the Cool Tools product page).
* I’ve had the gel for six months now, and it’s still working just fine. I’ve maybe only used a quarter of an inch worth of gel during that time – the tub is still practically full. There is a bit of a filmy crust that does cover it, even with the lid tight and the jar in a plastic baggie, but it’s easily mixed into the gel.
* The longer I have the gel, the more important it is to mix well. The heavier parts of the solution (I’m guessing the sulfur part) settles into a thick gunk on the bottom, which is a little tricky to mix back in when the tub is full (read: don’t mix on a surface you care about in case of spills – ask me how I know). It just sits there, but a repeated dipping/stirring action seems to work.
* Since my original post, I’ve experimented a little more with the temperature of the water. Creating a mixture with room temperature water and a few drops of gel is great if you want a very, very, very slow reaction time. Some of the trial pieces of silver I used never got past a copper-y finish, which is pretty and a little surprising.
* There is little to no smell when you use cold or room temperature water.
* It is possible to “paint” the gel directly on surface using a paintbrush. However, the gel is SO super concentrated that if it gets anywhere you don’t want to, you have a problem. For example, I stamped a letter onto a sterling silver disc that had a brushed finish. I wanted just the letter oxidized (so it could stand out) but I didn’t want it on the brushed finish. When I painted the gel onto the letter, some of it bled out and no amount of sanding or polishing would return it to a bright finish.
What I did instead was mix a small amount of solution like normal, then painted that directly in the letter crease. This required a steady hand and a flat surface. I let it dry, then repeated if needed. I think if you wanted the whole piece you’re oxidizing to be dark, painting with the gel would work just fine.
After six months of use, I can still say that my experience with this gel is very positive. I don’t believe I’ll ever go back to using a chunky LOS (unless I’m away from my studio space and in a tight pinch). It’s really easy to use, you can control the strength of the solution every time for consistent results, and a $15.00 investment will probably last me, who oxidizes occasionally, another year or even two. Very highly recommended.