I’ve discovered that when I’m heating Argentium sheet, flat on my
silquar board (the boards that look like a bread or pizza stone), I
not only get a very darkened piece (despite using a mapps gas torch),
but that I also have trouble getting pieces up to fusing temperature.
Yet, the same piece, when curved up off the board, heats up quickly,
no oxides and fuses easily. I have no trouble using easy solder, but
some trouble with hard.I’m going to ditch that board and try a hard
charcoal block. However, I also noticed, on a supplier’s website,
annealing pans with pomice. Any pros/cons for using something like
that for Argentium? I’m thinking that the pomice shouldn’t leave a
mark in the Argentium but could be wrong’thanks so much
Having the right heat reflecting board beneath the object you are
soldering or annealing is very important. You don’t want to have the
heat you are generating being absorbed into the board, which
diminishes or defeats the heat you are trying to develop. The board
you are currently using may not offer enough reflective properties.
Charcoal blocks are reflective, but don’t come in large sizes, and
can smolder for some time after heating. They tend to disintegrate
over time, and are fragile if you drop them.
Pumice is a fairly good heat reflector, but must be contained in a
pan, and doesn’t have a flat surface. Solder chips fall into the
pumice and are lost.
I recommend and use Solderite boards. They are highly heat
reflective, super flat, long lasting, and won’t break if you drop
them. They don’t have any ceramic fibers or asbestos in them, so they
are not dangerous to your health. I had a T.A. of mine once tell me
that soldering on Solderite was “like using a second torch!”.
We’ve been doing some “tufa stone casting” in our studio using the
flat Solderite boards instead of the tufa, and it is not only easy to
carve, but stands up well to the molten metal, too.
I have a rotating pan with pumice, but then I have my third hand
station on top of the pumice with my soderite block on the 3rd hand.
I use this for everything from copper and brass to Sterling, Fine
I'm going to ditch that board and try a hard charcoal block.
However, I also noticed, on a supplier's website, annealing pans
with pomice. Any pros/cons for using something like that for
Personally, I’d try the hard charcoal blocks. When watching Ronda’s
first DVD, she demonstrates fusing wire to sheet, with the piece
straddled across a normal soldering board and a hard charcoal block.
The piece was heated as though it was on a single surface, yet
afterwards, the half which was on the charcoal block, had fused
properly, but the other half only had incomplete fusing. After
watching this, I bought a hard charcoal block especially for this
type of work.
I’m glad you mentioned the ‘tufa’ casting Jay. Last year I was
wondering what in the world I could possibly make for my sons for
gifts. They are 40 and 46 and suffice it to say, it’s a tall order
to surprise them.
I had quite a bit of Fine and Argentium and Sterling silver bits,
and wire left over in my jar, and decided to carve out a form in my
thickest Soderite block, and took the cleaned scraps and melted it
into the depression. It worked! I finished them up with bails and
sent them on their way. They wear them all the time. Small but heavy
pendants that have developed nice patina and interesting designs.
You are having problems with your soldering board, I think. I anneal
and solder Argentium sheet and wire almost daily without darkening,
and with no problems on several types of soldering board. I prefer
Solderite brand board as it is the most reflective and is great for
fast heating. It’s a terrific board-better than charcoal, cleaner and
safer, and not expensive. Why don’t you try it? I do not think you
need anything special like pumice.
BTW, I use several gasses with my Smith little torch, and find Mapp
less clean then propane, for example. Oxygen and propane seem the
cleanest. I also solder and anneal small things with a butane torch,
which is very clean too. I use Mapp when melting for casting only for
the extra heat. I am surprised that you cannot hard solder with a
Mapp torch. There should be enough heat unless your piece is pretty
large or your board sucks the heat up!
Hope this helps.
What a splendid idea - using Solderite board as a substitute for
Tufa Stone. It is so hard to saw the block of Tufa that I bought
years ago at Santa Fe Jewelers…have just put it aside. Now your
suggestion is opening up a whole new avenue.
It would also work fine as the backing for cuttlebone casting if
supplies are limited and one didn’t need the texture from the
cuttlebone on each side of the casting. I have also used a brick
and/or charcoal, each wired to the carved cuttlebone as backing. But
a tip…don’t use a pan of sand to hold the cuttlebone…any splashes
of the metal are almost impossible to melt out and are scrap if mixed
with the sand! I prop my prepared castings between the soldering
Rose Marie Christison
I’ve also used a Solderite board to help in pouring ingots with those
trough-shaped ingot molds with the handle on the end. Very difficult
to pour an even shaped ingot into one of those things while its
laying flat. However, if you C-clamp a smooth Solderite board onto
the top on that ingot mold, leaving a little space at the top for
pouring into, and then prop the ingot mold/Solderite combination at
an angle on your soldering bench, you can melt your metal and pour it
into the ingot mold. The Solderite board contains the poured metal,
and you end up with an ingot of a consistant thickness at the bottom
of the ingot mold.
Using the solderite block to cast sounds like a good idea. If the
pendants come out on the heavy side you can always use burs in a
flex shaft to remove material from the inside as we do inside of
rings and other pieces.
Mike DeBurgh, GJG
Jay, regarding the solderite board and ingot mold, how do you
pre-heat the mold, before or after clamping the board, or do you
pre-heat it at all?
Mike DeBurgh, GJG
If you pre-heat the ingot mold before attaching the Solderite board,
it’s a little hard to hold onto. I heat the steel ingot mold after I
clamp on the Solderite, but just to drive off any moisture in the
ingot mold. However, I much prefer using a clamp-together reversible
ingot mold, which allows for a vertical pour. My ingots come out much
more even and regular shaped.
The Wire-Handled Ingot Pourer (WHIP) really helps me pour the liquid
metal right where I need it to go, as well. The melting dishes are
super easy to swap out, and the WHIP allows for either right or
I kind of thought it would be awkward to clamp the solderite board
to the trough ingot mold after its heated, but I wondered too about
residual moisture in the end of the mold/board assembly due to the
length of the mold. I guess if you’ve heated it long enough it
shouldn’t be a problem.
I haven’t tried the WHIP yet. I’ve still got the old bowl and flat
stock clamp handle assembly and always worry about hitting the hole
properly. Once I’ve got a shop set up here again I’ll look into
buying some WHIP assemblies.
Mike DeBurgh, GJG
I haven't tried the WHIP yet. I've still got the old bowl and flat
stock clamp handle assembly and always worry about hitting the
hole properly. Once I've got a shop set up here again I'll look
into buying some WHIP assemblies.
If you’re looking for a recommendation, I love the WHIP. Very handy!