I'm interested in learning how to do soldering, especially for soldering jump rings as a start. I am having trouble figuring out exactly what type of soldering iron I need, as well as the needed types of flux and solder. I would like to be able to solder various types of metal, including sterling silver, silver plated, copper, brass, and possibly others. Could somone please point me in the right direction?
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
There are a lot of things you can do with a soldering iron in jewelry making. But most of the hot connections you see are done with a torch. There are all different types and sizes of torches. Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist has a good article in it this month on micro torches. Soldering irons give a gloppy (word? ) connection. The solder flows with a torch and gives a seamless connection. I have a Weller soldering iron and use a lot of different solders, depending on the metal I'm soldering. I have tried to use it to solder jumprings... it didn't work for me.
Dance. Even if you're the only one who hears the music.
An electric soldering iron usually does not get hot enough to do silver work. You can solder smallish copper things, but a torch is the way to go really. I have a butane soldering iron that will do very tiny silver things with the blowtorch head on it, but it doesn't work well with anything really heavy at all. I got it for on-site soldering when I was doing tech work. , but the torch is really needed for anything a little heavier, ya know. We have a mapp gas torch that costs about $50.00 that works well. It uses the mapp gas and oxygen to get almost as hot as an acetyline torch without the expense and size. Good luck.
I yam wut I yam and dats all wut I yam. ~Popeye~
Dragonfly Jewelry Designs - ArtFire Artisan Studio
Soldering is usually done with a torch, not a soldering iron, because an iron doesn't get hot enough. (Don't believe that TV commercial for the "cold" soldering tool - it does not get hot enough to make a repair on sterling silver or K gold!) We have a small torch that works on butane, which comes in a can the size of a can of hair spray. The torch and butane together sell for between $50 - $55 in my store.
BUT - you have to be careful with soldering plated materials. Flames do odd things to them, sometimes. My DH (aka the jeweler) discourages people from soldering anything that's plated. Now, if you have a laser, you can solder anything, plated or not. The only catch is that they cost $25,000 and up! I'd love to have one of them - I can solder safely with it!
In our silversmith class, the first thing students make is a copper ring and they use medium silver solder for it. When soldering, you want to use the hardest solder first. Hard solder has the highest melting point - that way, anything you have to do later takes a lower temperature and doesn't undo your work, easy solder has the lowest melting temp. Do NOT use regular plumbing solder on silver. It makes an amalgam that cannot be undone and jewelers who have to repair things that have been soldered by helpful DHs with plumbing solder tend to say bad words.
There is sheet solder and paste solder - paste solder comes in a syringe, so you can apply a little bit in the right place. Sheet solder is usually cut with a snip that makes a tiny little square. You can get solder sheet and paste in silver and gold. You will need a tungsten pick for maneuvering the solder to the right spot after it's melted. Battern's is the most common type of flux, but you can make your own using boric acid. Another thing you will need is pickle - no, not dill or gherkins <LOL>, to remove any firescale. Sparex is the most common pickle - a small can will last you forever. You will need copper (do not use any other metal, as it will contaminate your pickle and you will say bad words) tongs to use for putting things in and out of pickle. A small crockpot is a good thing to have for your pickle, as it works better when it is warm.
I'm sure I've forgotten something. I haven't done any soldering in a long time - I'm a little "dangerous" around flames and hot things, so I tend to stay away from them - that includes the stove and the oven in our kitchen. <LOL>
Apache Junction, AZ
I really enjoyed reading your message on soldering, pickles, copper, etc. in the item above. See, I am new to this so any good information I can get is a treasure to me. Thank you for taking the time to write it for those of us who are out there searching for this information. Take care.
P.S. If you happen to know a good drill bit and what size for drilling my Idaho garnets (and other stones from our area) I would appreciate hearing your input on that. Also, in the cases where I cannot drill, which types of glues/cements are best? Thanks.
Here is some info for your PS
This is a very good place for drilling hard things http://www.ukam.com/drilling_recommendations.htm
As for glue, I use three different ones, depending what I have to put together. E6000, Hypo and a two part epoxy.
Hi Deb, Thanks for the informative notes on soldering. I am just learning and trying to understand the difference for using a torch or an iron. It appears that, if I only use one or the other, the torch would be the way to go, especially for silver or gold filled items, but what about non silver or gold items. Can I use the torch to solder base metal or pot metal items, or would the torch get too hot and melt the item. Since I work with all of the above metals, it almost seems I will need both the torch and the iron. Your opinion please. Cathy
cathy1703, base metal and pot metal both melt at very low temperatures. I used to buy and sell vintage costume jewelry much of which is made of those metals. Until the advent of the laser soldering those pieces that were broken were almost always lost to various methods of attempted repair. Laser made all the difference. Because of the low "value" of pot metal and base metal, you might just consider the post on glues. Donna