The torch inspires more fear -- and admiration -- than almost any other tool in the jewelry maker' s arsenal. Learning how to solder opens many doors for those learning how to make art jewelry.
There are numerous torches and fuels to choose from when soldering. A small butane torch, such as one used in kitchens to make crème brulee, can be ideal for small soldering jobs such as making jump rings, attaching charms to bracelets and necklaces, or smoothing wax for casting.
Things You'll Need
- Small torch
- Annealing pan
- Charcoal block or solderite pad
- Copper tongs
- Pickle pot
- Hard, medium and easy solder
Set up the annealing pan with heat-reflecting pumice in an area away from flammable objects. Ensure the area is well-ventilated.
Place charcoal blocks or solderite pads inside the annealing pan on top of the pumice. Charcoal blocks are heat-reflective, creating a great surface for soldering.
Mix the flux with water, as needed, until it is the consistency of yogurt. Coat the piece you wish to solder in flux to protect the metal from oxidizing and developing fire scale during soldering.
Prepare your piece for soldering. Ensure the seams your are about to solder fit very tightly together. Solder will not fill a gap. The seam must fit securely. If the fit is not good, file, sand or manipulate the piece until the seam abuts.
Clean the piece thoroughly to remove grease from fingers and dust from sanding. You can use detergent and water or acetone.
Place the pieces to be soldered onto the charcoal block. Cover the seam with flux. Place a tiny piece of solder directly under the seam so that the pieces hold the solder in place.
Turn on your torch and heat the entire piece evenly. Use pliers if you need to pick up the piece. When the piece begins to glow, the solder will flow and fill the seam. Note that the solder will follow the heat of the torch. You can direct the solder to the spot you want it to flow by moving your torch.
Once the solder flows, allow the piece to cool and then place in a warm acid pickle bath to remove oxidation. Use only copper tongs when placing your piece in the pickle. Using steel tongs will cause a chemical reaction that can result in plating your piece with copper.
Rinse the art jewelry piece in a solution of water and baking soda after removing from pickle.
Tips & Warnings
- If you are unable to put the solder under the piece at the seam, you will need to use your solder pick to move the solder in place after you have heated up your piece.
- If solder does not flow, it usually results from one of three problems: 1) Check to be sure the seam fits flush. 2) Check to be sure the seam is clean. This is especially important if you tried to solder and the solder did not flow; often the solder is not flowing because the seam is oxidized. 3) Be sure your heat the entire piece evenly before you concentrate your heat to make the solder flow at the seam.
- Always work with proper ventilation.
- Be sure to work on a fire safe, metal surface.
- Be sure to have a fire extinguisher handy when working with a torch.
- Use gloves when working with chemicals.
- Always neutralize acid pickle with baking soda before disposing.
- Household items used for jewelry making should never be returned to household use after being exposed to chemicals.
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