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Argentium Sterling and solder


#1

Any tips for soldering Argentium jumprings into a chain? I am using
Argentium Hard solder, but it doesn’t want to flow until the
underlying metal looks melted. After cooling, I often find that the
rings have fused together!

I tried reheating the fused links and separating them, but they
broke into pieces.

Janet


#2

Hello Janet,

As you have discovered, AS behaves differently when hot than does
standard sterling. It becomes brittle - I know - that makes no
sense. But I love the whiteness of it and the lack of firescale!

Two things I would suggest: one is to use the easy solder and the
other is to learn to fuse the links rather than solder them. Once you
learn fusing, you have acquired a useful skill.

I think that AS handles like gold when soldering, IOW, don’t heat
the entire piece to soldering temp as is necessary with standard
sterling. You can direct your flame mainly to the area you wish to
solder or fuse. Dim light allows you to better judge the metal’s
color and avoid over-heating.

Read Trevor’s blog or Cynthia Eid’s article (which I thought was on
Ganoksin!).

http://www.touchmetal.com/blog/argentium-blog.html

Hope this helps,
Judy in Kansas


#3

Hello Janet.

Any tips for soldering Argentium jumprings into a chain? I am
using Argentium Hard solder, but it doesn't want to flow until the
underlying metal looks melted. 

Are you successfully using this solder and your Argentium Sterling
(AS) on other projects and it works but doesn’t seem to work here or
is this basically your first go at it and you’re having problems? I
ask because it sounds like a flux problem to me. If that is the case
I’d advise checking the archives for at least one if not more
discussions we’ve had about fluxes and AS. There’s also a post on my
blog entitled “Marty’s flux tests” that might also be of interest.
But if you’ve soldered with these materials elsewhere and are
suddenly running into troubles that theory doesn’t hold up so well.

There are a couple things I think worth mentioning though they don’t
directly address you problem.

1: AS Hard solder has a working temp very close to that of Medium
grade regular sterling solder so you might want to watch the heat a
bit (it definitely sounds like you’re overheating your chain links).

2: AS Hard grade solder has had a tendency to “ghost” (leave little
solder chip “scars” due to partial melting). In other words it can be
a little bit tricky to learn how to get the same results you’re used
to elsewhere. In other words you might be getting some solder flow
but not complete melt. Contrary to one’s intuition more heat is NOT
the solution here, but indirect heating might be.

Assuming you decide for whatever reason that you don’t want to
investigate the flux angle on this problem (IOW, experimenting with
fluxes to find one that produces better results for you) I’d suggest
going in either of two possible directions. Either drop down to
Argentium Medium solder (there’s really no good reason not to, the
joints are just as strong and the color match is virtually
indistinguishable from the Hard) OR work on the fusing angle. I think
Cythia Eid has reported quite satisfactory results with fusing AS, as
have others (Marty again? See his blog at
http://argexp.blogspot.com/).

I tried reheating the fused links and separating them, but they
broke into pieces. 

Two things come to mind here. The first is that if your AS is
brittle (once cooled) then that’s a very good indication that you’ve
SERIOUSLY over-cooked it in which case you might need to back off on
the heat a good bit (probably means don’t heat so much and for so
long). The other is that AS does not like to be moved about when it
is very hot (reddish or pink in color), it will come apart in just
the manner you’ve observed. If you’re trying to separate those links
you might want to consider sawing out the faulty joint. I realize
this may not be a suitable solution in some cases but I’ve found it
worthwhile on occasion.

Hopefully some of the above will help you in addressing this
problem. Be patient. You’re learning to use a new alloy so some
un-learning and re-learning is par for the course.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
Visit TouchMetal.com at http://www.touchmetal.com


#4

Practice is definitely not making perfect, so I took Judy’s advice
and ordered some Argentium Easy solder. Probably should have started
out with Easy solder, since this is my first time using Argentium
wire.

Trevor, why is indirect heating better than more heat? Also, it
doesn’t seem to matter which flux I use; the ghosting occurred with
Prip’s, 99 Flux, and a generic, yellow liquid containing boric acid.
I’m assuming that the yellow liquid is Gesswein’s version of
Battern’s flux.

Janet


#5
Trevor, why is indirect heating better than more heat? 

Um, because it works? Sorry, not trying to be a smart-mouth, I just
don’t have a better answer. I think it’s probably got something to
do with the low melting stuff in the solder burning off easily (or
perhaps oxidizing quickly) and thus leaving a higher melting residue
but I don’t know that for certain.

What I do know is that heating the Argentium Hard in such a way that
the flame doesn’t touch it until the last second(s) of it’s melt
seems to allow it to flow much better. Needless to say this could be
due to my torch, the fuel gas I use, my particular flux, the color of
my eyes… ok maybe not that but you get the idea: your mileage may
vary. But FWIW this is not an unheard of phenomenon, it’s just that
regular sterling solder isn’t all that prone to this so we don’t
notice it that much.

Back when I first got the solders I did some melt testing and wrote
a little more on this subject. See “Testing the new solders” at
http://www.touchmetal.com/blog/2005/07/testing-new-solders.html

Also, it doesn't seem to matter which flux I use.... 

Keep trying, I think you’ll find that it will. I strongly recommend
that you read what Marty at argexp.blogspot.com has to say on the
flux subject. He did some pretty good testing on fluxes and found
that it does indeed make a difference. This has been supported by
others having similar experiences. Unfortunately none of the fluxes
you’ve listed as trying were among the better performers.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
Visit TouchMetal.com at http://www.touchmetal.com


#6

Trevor,

Thanks for the link. I think you must be right about changing to a
different flux. As a test, I used the AS Hard to solder some fine
silver (so I wouldn’t have to worry about the underlying metal
melting). When the solder finally melted, it still stayed "blobby"
instead of flowing and flattening. I even ran the solder pick over
it, but it was like applying frosting to a cake, i.e., I could make
it spread out more, but otherwise it stayed put.

Now that AS solder is available, is there any reason to continue
using regular silver solder on traditional sterling?

Janet


#7

Hi Janet,

In my experience, all of the Argentium Solders melt incompletely. I
think that a lot of the problems people are having are from
over-heating, in an attempt to melt that left-over
bit/ghost/dreg/whatever-we-call-it.

It turns out to be quite a complicated feat to develop 3 good
solders that melt at 3 different temperatures, match the color of
Argentium Sterling, flow well, and are non-toxic. Oh, if only cadmium
were not toxic!

My personal preference is Rio Grande’s My-T-Flux, but I don’t think
the fluxes matter as much as the heat control of the person doing the
soldering. My advice is: Put the heat on the area around the solder.

I agree about using Easy or Med rather than hard.

I think that there are a couple of choices her:

-use regular silver solder, while getting accustomed to the
different heating required by Argentium Sterling, which does not
conduct heat as well as traditional SS.

-use AS solder, and stop heating when the solder flows. Clean up the
excess. Plan placement of the solder so that it is easy to get to.

-Use a soldering pick to encourage the solder to flow—I think of
it as giving the capillary action some encouragement, and getting it
started.

I hope these thoughts help!

Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com


#8

Trevor, why is indirect heating better than more heat?

Um, because it works? Sorry, not trying to be a smart-mouth, I just
don't have a better answer. I think it's probably got something to
do with the low melting stuff in the solder burning off easily (or
perhaps oxidizing quickly) and thus leaving a higher melting
residue but I don't know that for certain. What I do know is that
heating the Argentium Hard in such a way that the flame doesn't
touch it until the last second(s) of it's melt seems to allow it to
flow much better. Needless to say this could be due to my torch, the
fuel gas I use, my particular flux, the color of my eyes... ok maybe
not that but you get the idea: your mileage may vary. But FWIW this
is not an unheard of phenomenon, it's just that regular sterling
solder isn't all that prone to this so we don't notice it that
much. 

What you are experiencing is called liquation. The leftover non
melted bits of the solder are called a “skull”. This occurs with
solders (any solder not just Argentium solders) that have a wide
melting range when they are slowly heated through their melting
range. To quote from the AWS Brazing Handbook:

  "Liquation is more often encountered when pre-placed filler
  metal (solder) is used. For example, when a filler metal with a
  wide melting range is pre-placed at the joint and gradually
  heated within this melting range, there may be time to allow
  the low melting fluid portion to flow into the joint capillary
  or to plate onto the outside of the components being joind.
  This leaves behind a "skull" The tendency for a filler metal to
  liquate depends on the relative amounts of liquid and solid
  phases present as the filler metal is heated through its
  melting range." 

Liquation also often causes incomplete joints as the low melting
phase flows partially into the joint and bonds with the base metals
in the joint and ceases to be liquid as it diffuses into the base
metal and effectively seals the joint so that no further solder can
flow into the joint.

The solution to the problem is to either heat the work more rapidly
through the melting range or to use the pick method of placing the
solder on the joint as it reaches the proper soldering temperature.
Either one will greatly reduce or eliminate the skulls left behind
and a addtional benifit is that the solder will flow much better and
further into the joint if it is applied to a properly preheated
joint.

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#9
Now that AS solder is available, is there any reason to continue
using regular silver solder on traditional sterling? 

Let me put it this way, I haven’t touched my regular sterling (RS)
solders since I started using the Argentium Sterling (AS) solders.
Although I think the AS solders, at least the Hard and to a lesser
extent the Medium, can be a little more finicky to work with than
the RS stuff I vastly prefer the color matching and minimal
tarnishing properties of the AS ones. I’ve taken to using them for
the sterling silver repair work I sometimes do too and everyone seems
happy with the results.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
Visit TouchMetal.com at http://www.touchmetal.com


#10

Janet,

You asked if there was any reason to keep both regular and AS
solders.

I use the AS solders with regular sterling and fine silver. (Not
that I plan to have that much regular sterling around in the future.)
I see no reason to have both types of solder and like the color match
of AS solders Soooo much better than the regular solders.

What say Cynthia, Trevor, and Marty?? BTW, I do enjoy your blog,
Marty.

Judy in Kansas, who just picked the first strawberries of the season.
Of course the turtles found them first, but we share.


#11
What you are experiencing is called liquation. The leftover non
melted bits of the solder are called a "skull". This occurs with
solders (any solder not just Argentium solders) that have a wide
melting range when they are slowly heated through their melting
range..... 

Thank you James, as usual a fine contribution to the discussion at
hand.

Good to hang a name on this. I had read a relatively non-tech
version of the same thing elsewhere and certainly suspected as much
nicely.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
Visit TouchMetal.com at http://www.touchmetal.com


#12

Thank you, James Binnion for your explanation about solder melting
or liquation. I had wondered why I had much better success with a
solder pick than with simply putting pallions at the joint and
heating everything all at once. Didn’t spent a lot of time wondering
though :-)… just glad it worked!

What a wonderful forum this is and thanks to Hanuman and Ton for
making it possible.

Judy in Kansas


#13

G’day; Here I am sticking my neck out again.

I have been carefully reading about the problems discussed with
Argentium solders. It occurs to me that another reason for AS
solders not melting properly might have something to do with the flux
used. The main interest in AS is that it does not tarnish as readily
as the sterling copper/silver alloy, and the reason given for this is
that heating in air causes germanium oxide to form on the metal
surface, which then inhibits tarnishing. I believe the fluxes used
are mainly those commonly used in soldering gold and silver metals;
that is they are boron based (borax, boric acid, etc.) These work as
fluxes or cleaning agents because they dissolve most metal oxides,
leaving clean oxide-free metal to alloy and bond with the silver and
gold solders. Could perhaps other fluxes be used? For instance there
is a good black flux which works well when silver soldering or
brazing iron. Another contains certain fluorides, (potassium
bifluoride, 5.1%) which is available from all welding suppliers and
is put out by British Industrial Gases Ltd (B.I.G.) I have always used
this with great success on gold/copper; silver/copper- sterling
silver and karat golds.

Another example of where a special flux is required is when
soldering aluminium with the special alloy sold for the purpose, a
special flux must be used which dissolves aluminium oxide. The other
usual fluxes just don’t work. But I have soldered aluminium many
times, most satisfactorily, by using the special alloy and flux sold
for the purpose. Just a different viewpoint

Cheers for now,
John Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua, Nelson NZ


#14

Hello John,

I have been carefully reading about the problems discussed with
Argentium solders. It occurs to me that another reason for AS
solders not melting properly might have something to do with the
flux used. 

I can’t comment on the specific fluxes you mentioned in your post
but the basic issue --“flux matters”, if I may paraphrase-- is quite
true and, it seems, too often overlooked. All the writers on this
subject, including AsCo itself (ArgentiumSterling.com), have made
this point at one time or another.

TWIMC, Marty at http://argexp.blogspot.com/ has some good posts on
this subject. He’s tested a number of popular fluxes and reported on
the results. Well worth reading if you’re interested in improving
your soldering results with AS.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
Visit TouchMetal.com at http://www.touchmetal.com