Although the art of metal jewelry-making requires some experience, the essential skills are not impossible for a beginner to learn. One major part of making your own metal jewelry is learning to solder pieces together. You may need to solder two sides of a circular bracelet or cylindrical form in a seam, or solder connecting parts like stone settings, clasps and pins to your design. You should start with seam soldering to get used to the process.
Things You'll Need
- Well-ventilated room
- Sawed, sanded and formed metal jewelry pieces
- Solder matched to your metal
- Copper tongs
- Soldering clamps
- Large ceramic tile or pebble-filled ceramic pot
- Fire brick
- Soldering torch
- Pickle pot
Set up your soldering area. Place the fire brick on the ceramic tile or pot, and keep nearby your tongs, clamps and torch. You will use the fire brick and clamps to hold your metal jewelry pieces while you are working.
Choose the right kind of solder. There are different kinds of solder for gold and silver, and each of these comes in soft, medium and hard. Hard solder is best used for projects that will require you to return to the soldering area several times, due to its high melting temperature. Soft solder melts easiest, so use it only if you will be soldering your jewelry once. If you are unsure, start with medium solder.
Clip your solder into very small pieces with wire cutters. You will not use a large amount of solder in a seam.
Mix your flux with a little water. Flux comes in a paste form and can be bought at an online jewelry-making supply store. You can keep flux from drying out by storing it in a small closed container, such as an empty film canister.
Clean any dust off your metal jewelry pieces by placing them in the pickle pot. Your pickle pot should be a warm crock pot filled with a pickle solution purchased from a jewelry-making supply store. Let the jewelry pieces dry before continuing.
Apply flux to the seam you wish to solder with a small paintbrush. You will not need to use a large amount of flux. The solder will flow wherever the flux is, so keep it neat.
Arrange a few pieces of solder on the seam with a small pair of tongs or tweezers.
Move your jewelry to the soldering area. Hold the jewelry pieces in place with your soldering clamps. You will not be touching the metal with your hands at any point.
Light the torch and turn it to a low flame. For a less flimsy job, use a bigger flame.
Apply the flame to the seam. Keep the torch moving steadily and do not directly heat the solder. When the solder melts and runs through the seam, turn the torch off.
Transfer your jewelry piece to the pickle pot with the copper tongs. This will remove all of the black oxidized coating and make the jewelry cool enough to touch again.
Check the jewelry seam for holes. If you think you need more solder, repeat the process with a softer type. If you used soft solder initially, you may have some trouble. When you are satisfied with the result, sand the seam.
Tips & Warnings
- Use silver solder for copper or bronze jewelry.
- Solder comes in sheet, stick and wire form. Wire solder is easiest to clip.
- Pickle solution can come in liquid or powdered form and should be diluted with water. Sulfuric acid, nitric acid, and sparex are common ingredients in a pickle solution.
- Be sure that the jewelry seam is closed as completely as possible before soldering. You may need to do a lot of filing and sanding to get the seam neat.
- Some people use a soldering iron instead of a torch. Irons are useful for some projects, but not all.
- A little solder goes a long way, so be careful not to use too much or you will be spending a lot of time sanding off the excess solder.
- Wash your hands if you get pickle solution on them.
- Do not let the jewelry or the solder burn.
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