Following the unintentional branding of my ankle while experimenting with the
skin-staining properties of silver nitrate (AgNO3), I decided that it would be possible to do a brand using this particular chemical. So, I formulated a process that was liable to work well, and that is what I'm about to set down in (dah dah dah DAH!)... Note: while this was not a brand done using heated metal, I do refer to "strikes" and use other terminology usually used in discussing 'normal' brands. I ask that you bear with me, as I didn't want to create an entirely new lexicon simply to discuss this. Procedure: To start out with, I procured several years ago a few grams (about ten) of silver nitrate from a local university for a science experiment I was running in junior high. I didn't use anything resembling the complete sample, so I had about eight grams left over. Several weeks ago, I tested silver oxide's ability to stain skin black with low concentration and short exposure. However, this experiment failed, resulting in the "test patch" on my ankle. After cleaning and shaving the area, I produced the design by taking black electrical tape (the vinyl, thick variety) and a pair of super-sharp scissors and blocking out the design on my leg in negative space. The idea here was to insure that the silver nitrate would not go where it wasn't wanted. I then mixed enough water in with the silver nitrate that it created hydrated crystals, or crystals that carry a certain amount of water in their chemical formula. In layman's speak, I barely covered them with water, so that there was only a small amount of liquid on top of the wet crystals. I then applied this to the areas I wanted branded with a plastic spoon. I then sprayed it off with cold (read: VERY COLD) water from a shower, and continued to rinse it for approximately five minutes, to insure that all of the chemical was off of my body. In keeping with my desire to allow others to use this technique, I took pictures along the way. I apologize for the poor nature of the photographs, however, what do you expect when you're trying to take pictures on an automatic digital camera? Give me 35mm and manual focus any day of the weeek, please! Healing/Log (chock full of my own personal comments and obscenity): Starting Date December 26th, 2000 O hours- A great deal of pain, all parts raised, but those that have green coloration moreso than those that don't. As neither of these results (green, or uncolored) existed in my test patch, I'm going to conclude that both will still scar well. I'll just have to wait and see, I suppose. Twelve hours- Green areas sunken in, rest has turned a silvery/blistered color, though not as pronounced as the test patch on my ankle. I suspect that the scarring will be uneven, though, because of this difference of elevations. However, I still believe that all of it will scar--just to different extents. I may have to reapply AgNO3 to the left "wing" when primary healing has finished. Right now, I have not yet scraped the existing blisters off yet. I'm saving that for tonight, during/after my bath The places where the liquid AgNO3 dripped have also blistered upward, and cause my far greater pain and annoyance than does the brand--however, they seem to be lesser burns, and as such, I can probably safely treat them with standard procedures. And, afterward, naturally, I can use vitamin E to help reduce their scarring. Twenty-four hours- Fuck! That hurt like hellfire itself! Basically, I decided that since it was so uneven, I'd restrike the weaker parts of the brand now, before they healed half-way, and I was left with a poor match in terms of depth of burn. So, out came the sharp scissors and electrical tape again, and I began putting blocks around the places to which I was going to reapply the silver nitrate. This time, however, I was aided by a small flat-head screwdriver, so I didn't have to try to look through my hands while I was applying the tape. This made placement much easier, and in the future I think I will use this method from the beginning. So, then I went into the bathroom, mixed up my slurry of AgNO3 and water, sat on the edge of the bathtub, and applied it to the lines I wanted to reinforce. This is when the pain began. Fuck my monkey it hurt. I practiced my breathing, and eventually got control of it, and let it rest on my leg for about 30-45 seconds. I washed it off, and reexamined the area. All of the strikes had turned a bluish silver color, approximately what I wanted, except one--the one that had the least burn on it in the first place. I put more silver nitrate on that area, and allowed it to rest for fifteen or twenty seconds more. I then rinsed this off. The result is a fairly uniform silver over the entire area I restruck. I'm hoping that this will help to get me a more uniform and decent scar. No picture today as I'm on my last sterile pad, and don't want to remove it just to take a picture. Thirty-six hours- Yes! It's looking beautiful. I should be able to get a picture tonight, as I've bought some gauze wrappings, and can use these to bandage it. On the downside, in retouching it last night, aparently I spilled more onto my leg (futher down) resulting in what look like mild second degree burns. Probably going to scar, but not keloid. The good news here, though, is that I can easily reduce them to almost unnoticable levels through usage of vitamin E. Now, the hardest part comes, I think: scraping the scabs and blisters off so that I can irritate the piercing. I've procured a toothbrush for this purpose, but I fear it. I have this suspicion that it's gonna hurt like fuck. Forty-eight hours- Followign the touchup yesterday, my hopes and expectations are much higher for an even an noticeable scar. All parts have sunken in, and are very well burned. I'm taking a picture tonight, and intend to drop a date on it, so have a look-see at Dec28.jpg. That's how it looks as of right now. I'll bring your attention to a couple of things: first, the crappy quality of the picture--this is because I do not understand this automated camera, I learned to shoot on a manual focus camera, the only thing it did was determine ISO speed and exposure length; next, the two different colors. While they aren't the ones shown in the picture, they are two different colors. My suspicion is that this comes from the already-dead layer of skin on top of the reburned areas. In addition, slightly differing times most likely are a factor here, also. Also notice the redness around the burns. This is what hurts. The actual burns are too deep to register much pain at all anywhere, and feel, to the touch, like unoiled/untanned leather. All of it is sunken in, with the deep green lines being only slightly more sunken in than the rest. Also notice the places (around the top left and bottom left) where silver nitrate leaked out under the tape. These burns are very mild, and will be treated the same as the accidental burns (such as those seen in the upper right-hand corner). Fifty hours- Well, the blister/scab/whatever covering 98% of the brand will not come off. Oh well, I'll just wait another day or two. One week- Still nothing. I have to wait until there's some peeling naturally, otherwise nothing will work. 12 days- Ah-ha! I've started pulling off the coating. It hurts, and it bleeds a great deal. My camera is on the fritz, so no pictures are going to be forthcoming. Two weeks- I've removed most of the covering layer of slagged skin. It hurts every time I remove even the smallest bit, and oftentimes I have to cut it off to keep from pulling away pieces of healthy skin. It's kinda gross. Three weeks- Scabs cover everything. These, too, are being removed as quickly as possible. One month- Scabs continue, as does life. I've lost interest in writing this log, as you can probably determine... My camera is working again, so I'll take a final picture, and send this off to BME. March 31st- I finally remembered this. I still haven't taken my picture, as my father took the camera to Chicago. So, I'll send this in, and go on with life. I'll send in the final picture when I can. End Results: This turned out excellent. The scarring is fairly uniform. It changes colors based on the temperature and level of moisture in the air, which I find a little strange, and probably points to a fairly superficial scar. However, it's readily visible in all its stages. There is still one tiny dot of scab that refuses to go away. My suspicion is that I may have left a tiny, tiny, tiny crystal of silver nitrate inside, and that it's only now completely dissapaited, as this spot is finally starting to heal. There is no pain associated with the brand, as I feared there might be. The only downside I've found here at all is that the drop of silver nitrate-laden water that rolled down the outside of my leg left a long scar that is just as visible as the actual brand. I cannot get this go to away, for love or money, and I've decided that I'll just have to live with it. I don't find it particularly unsightly, and it's not really a problem, so it shouldn't be too hard to accept. Kinda irks me, though, when people ask what happened (as it's more obvious than the actual brand, as it's not blocked by shorts), and then I'm forced to deal with their disgust when I show them the rest of the brand. Damn, this thing is far too clinical... kinda irksome, really. Oh well, off it goes to Shannon.
submitted by: Anonymous
on: 02 April 2001