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Argentium and Torch Selection


#1

Well a friend has offered to let me set up a soldering station in
his garage, so I’m suddenly in the market for a torch right away
after all.

So you argentium workers in particular, what torch(es) are you
using, and would you change that for working with argentium if
money/space were no object?

Previously I had decided to go with a propane-oxygen setup.

In the past I have actually used an acetylene-oxygen setup. I NEVER
had a problem with firescale using an acetylene-oxygen torch on
sterling.

But now I’m wondering if I should consider something else since I
plan to work as much as possible with Argentium rather than standard
sterling, since the Argentium works at lower temps than standard
sterling. My thinking is that a less-hot torch will be easier to
control. I honestly think that’s why some people seem to do so much
better soldering with those Benzomatic things which operate at
something like 1400 F.

A propane-oxygen torch runs at about 4700 F, an
acetylene-atmospheric air torch runs at about 4200 F. I can’t
remember the operating temp for a propane-compressed air torch, but I
think its something like 3700 F.

Since I have previously worked successfully with acetylene-oxygen
(eg no firescale, no major problems melting stuff by accident) I’m
wondering if I could get by with an acetylene-atmospheric air torch
(eg no air hose, just a single hose for the acetylene). The
Silversmith Acetylene torch in the RG catalog is about half the cost
of a gas-oxygen Little Smith torch (about $150 instead of $300).

Saving money is a Good Thing. However.

I have noticed that the smallest tip size for the Silversmith
Acetylene torch is larger than even the largest Little Smith tip (LS
#7, the largest tip, is .047" and the Silversmith Acetylene tip #00
very fine is 0.7" and they go up from there). How significant is
this? I used to do a lot of my soldering with the #2 tip on the
Little Smith Acetylene-Oxygen torch, because a lot of my stuff
required soldering smaller guage wire and I thought that was
appropriate. Don’t know if it actually WAS appropriate, but it
worked for me. Would using the larger #00 tip of the Silversmith
work ok?

Since this is a gas-only torch, wouldn’t it tend to be LESS
oxidizing than an acetylene-oxygen torch? This shouldn’t be a
problem with the Argentium, but I am still doing some standard
sterling work. I’ve never had a problem with firescale even when I
was using the acetylene-oxygen Little Torch (which operates at
something like 6000 F), but I guess I ought to take this into
consideration before spending on the torch. I seem to remember that
turning the O2 down was supposed to give you a reducing flame instead
of an oxidizing flame, so in the total absence of the O2 feed,
wouldn’t it tend to be more of a reducing flame naturally?

And how about a propane-compressed air torch? I can’t remember for
sure, but I THINK a propane-compressed air torch operates at around
3700 F. There’s really no cost savings involved here since I’d have
to buy an air compressor and regulators anyway. (And I know not to
ever ever switch it to Oxygen without replacing all regulators and
hoses). Still, is there any advantage to be gained with the lower
temp (if that’s the right temp, and I’m not sure of that) when
working with Argentium?

Thanks for any input.
Sojourner


#2

My very limited experience is that you can solder argentium with
one of those teeny Bernzomatic-type torches. I don’t have a fancy
torch set-up, so I can’t compare that to a really nice torch, like
the ones I’ve used when I took classes. I’ve used the tiny torch as
well as a plumber-type propane torch for sterling, and I do get a
lot more firescale problems than I did when taking classes and using
a “real” torch, but obviously that doesn’t matter with Argentium.

Leah
www.michondesign.com
@Leah2


#3
So you argentium workers in particular, what torch(es) are you
using, and would you change that for working with argentium if
money/space were no object? 

In my experience there should really no difference between selecting
a torch for working with regular sterling silver and Argentium. Yes,
Argentium melts at a slightly lower temp and yes, you want to avoid
scorching the metal but those are more finesse issues than gas
issues.

As you no doubt know the common wisdom is that propane + oxy or
nat-gas + oxy is great for silver work. Many, many people here have
such rigs and swear by them. Others swear by propane + compressed air
or nat-gas + air.

For my Argentium work, indeed all my silver work, I’ve been using the
oft-maligned disposable propane plumber’s torch and a little
Benzomatic butane torch. These work fine --I’ve used them for years so
I don’t particularly care how many people poo-poo them-- but they are
not professional tools and have some very real limitations. Obviously
since you said “money no object” these would fall well below your
radar.

That said, I have a oxy-acetylene rig and a Little Torch that I’m
trying to find parts for (German regulators + French bottles +
American Little Torch = PITA).

There are several Orchidians for whom just such a rig is their set-up
of choice for their silverwork and others who live with it because
the need to, for whatever reason. It is my understanding that one
advantage of oxy-acetylene with a Little Torch on Argentium is that
you’d have the heat and the fine flame ideal for diffusion welding
aka fusing which, I’ve heard, Argentium does very nicely. Sounds great
to me, looking forward to trying it, have no idea if it’s ideal or
not, and I’d bet you could do the same with some of the other
systems.

So, like I said, I think it’s more about what kind of system is best
for you rather than what kind of system is “best” for Argentium.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
www.touchmetal.com