I'm not old either, and agree - I don't really like lotteries. Much prefer to build a relationship with the maker and buy when it's my turn.
Thanks for the detailed write, up, STeven! Much appreciated!
Need more details - annealed, or not? Is there still some mill scale on it, or is it clean? What problems are you having - the more specific you can get, the more people on here might be able to help. I work with it a lot, and haven't had any issues working with it.
^^^ I was told the same, and have been meaning to ask Stacy (or someone else). My (long forgotten) theory of metallurgy agrees with Stacy's statement above, though. I usually just leave it in there overnight (I mainly only work on knives at night), but it would be good to know for future reference.
I typically try to keep it to at least 1 1/2" sphere-ish chunks, but really haven't seen much difference if I go a bit smaller or bigger. As long as it all doesn't melt (or rather evaporate) by the time the knife needs to come out of the bath, it should be ok.
No real precautions are required...