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Best welding machine for working with 14k gold filled?

I’m looking for a welding machine that will allow me to quickly and precisely weld shut 14k gold filled jump rings. I read somewhere that pulse arc welders will not work for gold filled for some reason, and that it is necessary to use a laser welder. I would love to hear any input from those who have worked with gold filled before about which type of welding machine would work best, and what specs to look for (I was looking at the Dado tabletop welder, but not sure if it would work well for gold filled).

I don’t work with gold filled. I do have a pulse arc welder and my guess is that it would just burn off the thin gold layer leaving base metal. You may need to use gold solder so that it flows over the joint maintaining the gold layer.

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I don’t work with gold filled either. But it seems that the welding of a GF jump ring would be the same process, whether a laser or pulse arc welder. They both generate intense heat at a specific point.

The way that the heat is generated is different and the way it interacts with certain metals is as well. Sterling for example. It can be difficult to weld with both technologies but the reasons —as I understand them—are different. In pulse arc welding the conductivity of silver can make it tough to pump enough heat into the area to surpass the heat that is being conducted away, hence the flattening of electrode tips. With a laser, it’s the reflectivity of the metal, which is why some users dull the surface with sharpie. I don’t use a laser but I do a lot with an Orion. (This is my understanding and I may have it wrong.)

Back to the GF. When you weld solid metal, the area is melting or fusing together. The inside matches the outside so it is one metal welder/melted/fused. In the case of soldering, as Don pointed out, a lower melting metal flows over the area (and into the seam). Whether the thin layer of gold is being vaporized off or simply amalgamated with the base metal that it covers, the results are the same: no gold color at that point.

In my eyes, gold solder is the way to go. You can melt that solder over and into the seam with either technology. It’s adding material. My Orion has a setting for that….

Andy

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I have read in a pulse-arc welder manufacturer’s directions that one should not use solder to fill gaps or close joints. The zinc (and in some cases cadmium) would vaporize and leave pits, and maybe worse. If you get a pulse-arc welder or Dado laser welder use 30 ga. 14K wire, or 14K wire sold in coils or dispensers intended for laser welding.

Neil A

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My PUK directions indicate that you should use laser welder filler wire. It isn’t precious metal solder, but more an alloy similar to the metals that you are working with. Jeff Herman sells a filler wire for solder that I have used. Pulse arc welding on silver has been a steep learning curve for me. It is a joy to use with gold and many other metals. I have welded small steel tools, fixed the tip of a fly rod, fixed my stainless steel glasses frame, soldered a lot of silver jump rings and bails and used it to tack silver pieces together before soldering, but running a long silver joint still eludes me. I have started modifying the shape of the electrode and basically dulling it or filing it fairly flat. This seems to improve my silver joints. It has something to do with the heat conductivity of silver. That’s all I got, more when I know it…Rob

I have always drawn my own wire for welding. More work, for sure but it allows me to more fully access the advantages of welding.

Like many of you I have my favorite alloys. Straight sterling (.925) is pretty consistent, I would think across all refiners and suppliers although there may be additives in casting grain. But gold is another story. 18k yellow gold, for instance, is not a consistent alloy across—or within-- suppliers. There are alloys that are more green, stronger yellow, harder, softer, etc. When I’m welding—especially when I add material—I want a perfect color and material match. If the weld is done well there is no seam. The filler is the same as the parent metals. Ditto white gold and rose gold as well as bronze. (I am less concerned about this with stainless, mostly because of how I am building—although maybe I should be!)

It seems to me that buying welding wire, even the same karat and color group, kind of defeats one of the main advantedges of welding in the first place since alloys can and do vary so much. Especially when building or filling pits and defects. Jeff Herman is a friend and I imagine this is a consideration when he is filling in engravings and monograms in older work, which he is sometimes asked to do. (Jeff is an avid PUK user, I chose Orion.)

When I am building a structure with a torch, I plan for solder seams at places that make sense. Corners, transitions etc. If a seam is in the middle of a big sheet, for instance, the eye wil lgo right there. If I am making a bezel, the welder is great because there is often no place to hide a solder seam: the welder makes the bezel in effect seamless. If it will be in some way applied as a single unit-- bezel with a base-- I will even weld the base to the bezel, creating a solid element. This would not be the case if the bezel were applied directly to the main piece. Like attaching a low base prong setting to the flat top of a ring. Solder wicks around the join in a way that welding can’t. There is little or no clean up.

Another example is making a sphere from two deep domes. Even with the tightest fit a solder seam will eventually show up.Ditto if using a welding wire that is the same karat and color group but a different alloy. Using the same material as filler mitigates that. (There are times when even a seam welded with the same material may discolor due to porosities or contamination, but these are MUCH more infrequent.)

Solder can be welded. I took a class with an Orion rep who said that it will take a while to weld nicely since the zinc and flow agents will volatile first, leaving the other constituents to weld. Cadmium is not something found in modern solders, except sone extra easy’s, etc. If it is present it is always listed prominently
on the package (from reliable vendors).Brass is much the same story. The zinc volatizes leaving a very coppery weld…

As always, this is just my take and my understanding. Results may vary.

Andy

Hi Andy, may i ask which model of Orion you went with, please? and what the smallest gauge wire you can tack with it…say a prong setting…

Julie

I started with an Orion 150s then, through a series of upgrades—email me off site—I now have a 200i3. I build mostly sculptural jewelry (although commissions are often more traditional) so I don’t really tip or even do that many repairs. So I’m not sure g=how to answer your gauge question. I would be comfortable welding .5mm (24ga) wire.
The Orion offers 2 electrode options. 1mm and about .5mm. I switch them out accordingly. I also use a PUK regulator as it seems more efficient than the regulators that Orion offered at the time.
You can find my work at https://www.andycooperman.com
I use the welder for many things. The Stainless page is all welded. The gold on the end of this spiral was welded onto the sterling. The crumbly bits are intentional.

You always use gold solder on gold fill - well, almost always. If I solder a gold filled bezel on to a silver backplate, I use regular solder. Just a Smith Little torch. Small hot flame.

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Hi Andy,
ok thank you!
do you think you could have done the stainless with the orion 150 larger spot weld size?

julie

I have an Orion Mpulse and weld gold filled jump rings with it without damaging the ring or using any solder. You just have to practice and get the settings right for the size of the jump ring.

Bernie

Thanks for your reply Bernie, this is exactly the type of first hand experience that I was looking for. Do you do any filing around the welding joints after welding to smooth them out, or are you able to get a clean enough weld that it is not necessary?

I don’t do anything except maybe run a polishing cloth over it. I would think filing would definitely damage the gold coating. Again, it is all dependent on the settings you use with the welder. You should be able to set it just right so it welds it without deforming the jump ring.