Argentium soldering

Was: Fire scale prevention

Soldering large bezels is another subject I know - I love
Argentium because of the no fire scale among other things but have
given up on it for large stones. The solder just will not flow all
the way around - I end up with horrendous piles of solder, melted
bezels from heating from the top (heating from the bottom results
in too much sag). 

For larger bezels, I use sheet solder cut into very tiny pieces very
closely spaced (maybe 2mm apart). Argentium solder does not “travel”
very far so large pieces of solder bunch up. I don’t bring the whole
piece up to temperature, because with Argentium, the heat does not
travel as quickly as it does with regular Sterling. Prolonged warm
up makes it sag. Instead, I heat the Argentium from the top, just
below the join between the bezel and base (the solder is on the
inside of the bezel edge) and stay with the heat until it flows
before moving forward to the next part of the bezel. That way, I am
assured of complete coverage as I go and do not have gaps or a big
solder buildup.?

I hope this helps.

Thanks to all of you who gave me soldering instructions and special
thanks to Nancy Howland for your tips on soldering large bezel set
in Argentium. I think one of my problems is that I switch back and
forth between regular sterling and the AS. I must have been using too
tight a flame on the regular sterling (thanks to James Binnion for
that tip) The cabs that I set can be as large as 40X30mm so there is
always some problem with warping with either type of silver. Thanks
too to Don for his excellent step by step instructions and to Lee
Epperson. I do love his Cupronil - it really helps with the fire
scale problem.

What a great group of sharing people we have.
Jan McClellan

Hi Jan,

I think one of my problems is that I switch back and forth between
regular sterling and the AS. 

I’ve been unable to keep up with Orchid----distracted by various
family things, including helping my youngest son move into his
freshman college dorm yesterday. I think it can be tricky to switch
back and forth between traditional sterling and AS, though it
certainly is possible to do—just as one needs to make a mental
adjustment about tactics when switching between traditional SS and
gold. The most important thing to remember with AS is to forget about
trying to heat the whole piece of metal at once, or trying to have
all the solder flow at once. Give the whole thing an overall heating,
and then start at one area, and heat along the seam–I usually use a
back and forth movement with the torch over a half to one-inch area.
When that solder flows, move to the adjacent area, and heat til that
flows. Then move to the next area. Etc. You’ll find that the first
area takes the most time, and then each subsequent area takes less.
With a one-inch diameter piece, I find that the solder flows as fast
as I can turn the soldering turn-table. A larger piece moves more
slowly. As we know, there are many “right ways” to do something.
Nevertheless, I was surprised at Nancy’s description of her soldering
method–using lots of tiny bits of solder close together. My method
is perhaps more “quick and lazy”. I use big pieces of wire solder,
placed far apart. When I tested gel flux recently, I applique
soldered 1" pieces of wire to sheet using a single piece of solder at
one end. For the gel flux samples, a 1/8" piece of wire solder flowed
along the entire piece. The yellow liquid flux pieces mostly flowed,
but one or two did not flow the entire length of wire. I do think
that, for many people, AS solder does not melt completely. I think
this usually happens because the flame is too small, and the person
is heating very tentatively, because of being nervous, resulting in
the lowest temperature components of the solder flowing before the
entire piece of solder flows. If this happens, it is pointless to
keep heating, in hopes of having the entire piece of solder flow.
Clean up the excess solder, and heat with a larger flame, and more
boldness next time. (Personally, I rarely have solder flow
incompletely.) It is important to wait a few moments after finishing
soldering before touching or moving the piece. With a flat piece, I
like to slide it onto a flat steel plate to cool----it helps it cool
flatly (is that a word?!?). Air cool a flat piece
completely----quenching warps the metal. I’ll be giving a talk about
Argentium Silver at MJSA in Providence, RI October 11 at 11 am, and
will have either video of soldering, or a bench demo, depending on
the rules about torches at the facility.

I also teach workshops about working with AS,

which include plenty of hands-on work-time. Upcoming workshops
include: October 28 in San Antonio, TX, Feb 2-3, 2008 at Metalwerx,
and April 26-27, 2008 in Hanover, NH. Feel free to ask your favorite
school to contact me about setting up a workshop in your area. Wow,
this is the longest post I’ve ever written to Orchid, I think! It’s
super-hot here, and we’ve been advised to stay indoors, and not to
over exert. I hope the info is helpful.

best wishes to all,

Thanks Cynthia, I will give it one more try tomorrow and if that
doesn’t work, I’ll go back to using regular sterling solder. I’ve
been so frustrated, I feeling like chucking AS all together, but I’m
too stubborn to do that.

I wish I could take a class from you but since I’m on the West Coast
it just isn’t feasible for me right now.

I really appreciate all the help you and our wonderful Orchid
friends have given.



It worked! Do you hear the chorus singing “Aleluha”? Thanks again,