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Afraid to solder gold


#1

OK, I admit it, I’m afraid to solder anything. I learned soldering
on sterling with a very hot water torch, never used any other kind of
torch because I don’t HAVE anything else. I’ve managed to figure out
how to do a few solder jobs with sterling (ear posts, tack pins, and
solder-filled jump rings). But I’ve melted or otherwise ruined as
many things as I’ve successfully soldered, and 2-piece hinged pin
backs are totally beyond my capabilities. I’m sure it’s ME, not the
torch. I just need to learn how to use it correctly, I’m sure. I’d
gladly take soldering classes if there were any to be had near
Detroit, MI.

Now to the problem at hand…I recently had the patient and
long-suffering Daniel Grandi do some 14k gold casting for me. I need
to put bails on two gorgeus gold pendants for customers who want them
yesterday. I ordered some 14k pendant bails, and they arrived with
solid rings, no split to put them on the pendant’s existing loop. No
time to send them back for something else, so I cut one of the loops
open intending to attach it to the pendant and solder it closed
again. Instead, the loop promptly broke off the bail. Went to solder
it back onto the bail, and melted the whole blasted bail. The "easy"
solder chip never even flowed. Wotth’ell, Archie… I decided to use
that ruined bail as a learning experiment, and tried to solder a
solder-filled 14k jumpring to it. Melted that too. I now have a small
but lovely amorphous mass of 14k with part of a jump ring sticking
out of it.

There must be some secret to soldering gold without ruining it.
Would some of you kind and knowledgeable folks out here care to share
that secret with me? And please, PLEASE don’t tell me I need a
different kind of torch. It ain’t happenin’. No gas tanks in the
house, by request of my husband who pays the bills. It’s me and the
water torch. We have to make this work together. Thanks in advance
for any help you can provide.

I agree with whoever said it first–Orchid ROCKS!!!

–Kathy Johnson
Feathered Gems Pet Motif Jewelry
http://www.featheredgems.com


#2

Kathy: I live in Lansing, I am a goldsmith and I would be happy to
help you. I have never used a water torch but it would be fun to
try. There is an art to soldering small things and you can learn it.
You can contact me at Rajanikaz@hotmail.com and I we could arrange a
time…let me know. Mary


#3

Kathy,

Believe it or not you’re ahead of the game beginning this way. You
began with silver and therefore once you get the gold soldering
down, you will be able to do both gold and silver with equal ease.
People who begin with gold rarely learn silver because they can
never come to terms with cranking it up to the necessary heat and
intensity required for silver.

In that statement is tip #1: Your torch is about twice as ‘hot’ AND
twice as ‘intense’ as it needs to be for gold. Try this: Take a
silver jump ring and some silver EASY solder, and a gold jump ring
and some gold EASY solder, put a silver ring in your tweezers (seam
at 12:00 exactly) put a drop of flux on the seam and attempt to
flow solder evenly across the seam. Now, set up the gold one the
same way, flux the seam, LOWER the ‘Heat’ on your torch to about 1/2
what you used for the silver one. Reducing the size of your flame
lowers the temp, softening the ‘point’ of the flame reduces the
intensity.

The trick, just as it is in silver is to get your flame hot enough
to flow solder fairly quickly and have the heat flow in the
directions you want. Solder wants to follow the heat (fire) if it
takes more than a couple of seconds to flow the solder then your
heat is too low. If it wont jump the (flush) seam then your heat is
off to one side (note seam is at 12:00 in tweezers) Tweezers are
acting as heat sinks. By centering the jump ring this way you
equalize the 2 sides of the gap to taking heat in the same
proportion. The tweezers are absorbing excess heat that would cause
the top of the jump ring to melt before it gets hot enough to melt
the solder.

I have used the ‘aqua’ torch and it is Very intense! I finally got
the hang of it though. You will be working within much finer
perameters than with a little torch. All fuels are different and
you have to re-learn your heat with each fuel but the aqua torch is
the most finicky.

With the aqua torch you are working with a much more ‘intense’ heat
than you will see in most other fuels. It is hard to find the
balance in the tips for that torch between lowering the intensity of
the flame tip and keeping the heat you need to flow solder. Find
the biggest tip you can use for a silver jump ring and use the
smallest softest flame you can get out of it for gold. (You may have
to step down to the next smaller tip to get a smaller flame, but
you’ll be back up there in intensity- there’s the rub) For a gold
jump ring you want a blue flame tip that is about 1 to 1 1/2 mm
long and between round and pointy at the tip of the flame. Stay
away from a really pointy flame unless you’re trying to bubbly melt
the end of a piece of wire. This is hard to do with the aqua torch.

Once you think you’ve got the hang of soldering a jump ring closed,
try soldering a jump ring to a heavier object. Put the solder on
the heavier piece, use your tweezers to heat sink the jump ring by
grasping it flat across the middle. The solder should just jump
’up’ onto the jump ring. Always remember your flux, clean metal and
heat sinks. You will then begin to observe the direction your
solder is going based on these things. Once you’ve got these 2
items down, you should be able to solder just about anything! Have
fun!

Jay


#4

May I offer some extra-extra easy (We call it extreme easy flow)
flow solder for you to try? No charge just contact me offline or call

Daniel Ballard
800-999-7528


#5

Sorry Kathy, I can’t help you with your torch dilemma: I leave that
to other much more capable advisors…I had a laugh reading about
your situation though. You write lucidly. I just wanted to take a
moment to compliment you on your lovely website. The passion you
have for what you do absolutely radiates. Contact me off-list if you
want to talk about greyhounds etc.


#6
    OK, I admit it, I'm afraid to solder anything. I learned
soldering on sterling with a very hot water torch, never used any
other kind of torch because I don't HAVE anything else. snip... 

Yup, water torches tend to be hot. I’m curious about your "easy"
solder, it doesn’t sound very easy.

The short explanation: The problem you’re experiencing is due to heat
building up too quickly because of a lack of heat control. Move your
torch into and away from the work pieces quickly so they heat up
evenly, and without overheating. Control where the HOT spot is, this
will control where the solder flows. The trick is to heat up the area
where you want to solder to flow faster than the heat is spreading.
This is done with the inner hotter part of the flame, and requires
quick in and out movements when using a small hot flame.

The long explanation: Okay, with a hot, small and sharp flame, you
need to get in and out very quickly, and solder with the inner cone
of the flame, not the big brushy part. By quick, I mean the soldering
will be as fast as it takes for the area to heat, maybe less than 1
or two seconds, depending on the flame.

Heat control is the trick of soldering, whatever torch is being
used. Over time you’ll develop an instinct for it, but for now,
you’ll need to practice on practice parts. Make up a bunch of
lightweight jump rings out of GF wire or something inexpensive like
that. Clamp them in tweezers when soldering them, this will keep them
from over heating very quickly, but the tweezers may get a bit hot.

You may find it easiest to hold the solder snippet on your soldering
pick with a bit of flux. You can melt the solder into a ball and pick
it up with a soldering pick that has some flux on it, while it is
hot, by heating the solder and the pick together. It’s pretty easy.
Then, you can lightly touch the solder ball to the fluxed seam and
apply the flame. If you can lightly press the solder onto the jump
ring seam with the pick, that will help to heatsink everything at
once.

Now when you solder, move the flame in and out quickly, and if the
solder didn’t flow, do it again until you get a feeling for when the
heat has reached soldering temperature. Just don’t leave the flame on
the piece. Practice getting in and out of the soldering job very
quickly. With a flame that hot, the soldering may place almost
instantaneously once the metal heats up to soldering temperature.
Soldering with a very hot torch is a very tricky business and
requires intense concentration and quick movements because everything
happens very quickly.

If you are soldering something thin and light to something that is
substantially heavier, the heavier piece will soak up a lot of heat
while the thin piece will overheat quickly (melt, or oxidize and
create a barrier to solder flowing), so the technique is to direct
the flame more onto the heavy piece and less onto the light piece
(jump ring). Familiarity with how the heat is spreading or building
up in the work piece can only occur with practice, so you might
consider working on practice pieces first! If you’re using the pick
method, be aware the pick may take more time to come up to soldering
temperature than the work piece, so you may want to direct your flame
more onto the pick at first.

You may need to hold the bale in such a way that extra heat in it
flows off into your tweezers, that’s called ‘heat sinking’. This will
also help avoid the situation in which the solder tends to flow onto
and up the bale instead of where you want it to go. The rule is
soldering is this, SOLDER FLOWS TOWARD HEAT, meaning, the hotter
areas cause the solder to become more fluid and flow easier and
faster.

It occurs to me there is a lot I didn’t say here and some others
will fill in the gaps.

Practice!
Jeffrey Everett


#7

Sounds to me like you need to flux better… any oxides will prevent
soldering…pickle and then use prips or batterns liquid
flux…allow to dry before soldering and get rid of whatever light
is preventing you from seeing the temperature of the metal.
Ringman


#8

Hi Kathy

Why don’t you practice melting things. And pay attention to what
you’re doing. You’re not really looking to torch a blob, rather you
want to see how big of a flame, how long it takes to melt, turn down
the lights so you can see the color of the metal changing, etc.
Also, when soldering a small mass to a large mass, the large mass
needs to be brought up to temperature, and then bring the small mass
into the flame so it won’t melt before the solder flows. Which takes
me to the next thing-- your pieces must be free of oil and dirt.
Touching the joint one time makes the solder not flow. Use flux as
well. I use small wooden toothpics to put just a smidge of flux on
the joint otherwise it bubles up and turns to glass if you use too
much.

Good luck
Stanley Bright


#9

Dear Kathy I have had my problems with both gold and silver ( more
with silver ) but I just reccently moved down to the detroit area
contact me off group and maybe I can talk you through thhis or even
show you some things that have worked for me would be glad to help

Ron


#10

Kathy, Your problem would more than likely be resolved if you changed
torches. I would advise buying a smith torch. They are much easier to
control and inexpensive. I would use propane and oxygen. They sell
small tank sets in Rio’s catalogue. Regards J Morley/Goldsmith/laser welding


#11
But I've melted or otherwise ruined as many things as I've
successfully soldered, and 2-piece hinged pin backs are totally
beyond my capabilities. 

Sounds like you’re not focusing heat onto the larger pieces (to
which you are soldering the hinged pin parts.) Use easy solder to
attach these.