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Bezel settings inconsistent results


#1

I’m still having inconsistent results when trying to make pieces
requiring a bezel. Can Argentium be heated from below, on a tripod,
when attaching the bezel strip to the back plate? Or will it take on
the patten of the mesh? On occasion, I’ll flip the piece over and
have a go at heating the back plate.

Doesn’t usually result in any greater success and then the back piece
slumps down over the bezel. I switch between trying to fuse vs solder
the bezel strip to the back plate. More often than not, the joint
fails (I feel that I am heating the piece forever and a day), or, I
melt a portion of the bezel strip. When I get nervous about fusing
(after melting a few attempts), I will then switch to soldering
attempts. If I place the solder inside the bezel strip, I usually
manage (if I melt the solder at all) to pool the solder nicely in the
centre of the piece, nowhere near the seam.If I do manage to fuse the
bezel strip to its back piece, I find that the bezel wire shows signs
of being heated too much - feels a little rough, looks unhappy.I am
trying to make sure that the pieces are clean (soap and water), a
good fit, using My-T-flux, occasionally using easy solder (Argentium
solder), on a charcoal block, but still using a plumber’s torch
(haven’t settled on the right torch).I’m feeling a bit discouraged.
Tips would be most appreciated!

Thanks
Ros


#2

Ros- You may need a better torch with more temp. control. When I
solder something small like a bezel on something larger like the base
I use a softish flame. Just a tiny hint of red on the tip. I then fan
the flame back and forth really fast over the top of the piece. The
lighter bezel goes hot cold hot cold. The larger base slowly gets
warmer. Anything that heats fast cools fast. Anything that takes a
long time to heat up will take a long time to cool. I place my solder
pallions inside the bezel touching both the sides and the base at the
same time. If I’m soldering silver I use paste flux. When the solder
looks ready to go, then I tighten my flame a little to give the
solder some direction.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer
www.timothywgreen.com


#3
I'm still having inconsistent results when trying to make pieces
requiring a bezel. Can Argentium be heated from below, on a
tripod, when attaching the bezel strip to the back plate? 

Have you looked at Rhonda Coryhill’s (Is that the right name?) cd on
fusing Argentium? I usually have good luck fusing fine silver bezels
to Argentium using the method she shows on her CD. It was a wonderful
breakthrough for me since I had grown increasingly frustrated trying
to fuse or solder anything to Argentium and had almost given up
trying to use it. Many, many thanks to Rhonda for sharing her
methods.

Jan
www.designjewel.com


#4

Ros -

For me, the size of the bezel will determine if I put the solder on
the inside or the outside of the bezel. If the bezel is “small”
(25mm or less in any dimension), I put the solder on the outside of
the bezel wall. The inside of the wall can act as a shield that
prevents the heating of the backplate that’s in the ‘shadow’ of the
inner wall. It’s easier for me to clean up solder spots outside the
bezel wall rather than curse a meltdown.

If the bezel is “big”, then I put the solder inside the wall, unless
the bezel is really tall…then solder is outside again.

Although I don’t use a tripod, I do put most of my work on a wig
that’s on the soldering pad. I make my wig of 26g iron binding wire.
Just pull out a long length (arm’s length will do), and carefully
crumple and wind it until you can squash it to the size and shape of
a Ritz cracker. This keeps your work flat, lets the flame get under,
without loosing sight of what’s going on at the bezel top.

My preferred silver torch (for tiny bezels up to filigree and large
rings) is an acetylene/air torch with a Smith #1 head. Heat control,
heat control, heat control! I struggled for years before I found the
hot spot of the flame, and knew how to use it. Hint: buy Victoria
Lansford’s DVD on filigree - she’s got great shots of how she is
using the torch. What an “aha moment” that was!

Unless you MUST have Argentium, I’d advise using traditional
sterling, at least until your soldering skills improve. Regular
sterling holds up better under heat, and doesn’t get brittle and
break before the solder flows. (My experience; your mileage may
vary.)

Good luck,
Kelley Dragon


#5
Unless you MUST have Argentium, I'd advise using traditional
sterling, at least until your soldering skills improve. Regular
sterling holds up better under heat, and doesn't get brittle and
break before the solder flows. 

I have no experience working with Argentium, so I did not wanted to
comment until I did some poking around. What I have discovered is
that Germanium, which is the component responsible for resistance to
oxidation of silver, has some undesirable properties from goldsmith’s
point of view.

Apparently, Germanium acts as oxygen inhibitor, preventing oxygen
diffusion into alloy. That explains why casters like it. However,
Germanium diffuses to the surface and forms very thin oxide layer, a
mechanism very simular to Aluminium. That will create difficulties in
soldering, unless flux has ingredients to deal with this oxide.

Another problem, if concentration of Germanium exceeds 2%, the alloy
becomes subject to precipitation hardening. There is no data on heat
conductivity, but there is data on electrical conductivity of
Silver/Copper/Germanium alloys. It appears that electrical
conductivity is only 20% of regular silver. Since electrical and heat
conductivities have similar mechanisms, one would be justified in
assuming the same influence on heat conduction as well.

What is the practical meaning of this:

To solder successfully - both parts must be at the same temperature.
If one part is larger than another, flame must be manipulated to
insure even heat distribution. Traditional technique is to heat the
larger part and allow smaller part to reach required temperature via
conduction. This appears is not a viable strategy for Argentium.

One should try to equalize the masses as much as possible. In case of
soldering bezel to a plate, the plate should be pierced in
decorative way, in attempt to reduce it’s mass. The heating should be
slow to compensate for decrease in heat conduction, and presence of
Germanium Oxide should be kept in mind. Reducing flame is probably
better than other types, and special flux is advisable. I leave
practical recommendation on types of flux for someone with experience
of working with Argentium.

My view is that Argentium is an alloy created for casting and not
for hand-fabrication. I concur with the suggestion for a beginners to
avoid using it, until solid foundation of fabrication skills is
developed.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#6

Thanks so much, everyone, for the advice. Heat (wrong amounts at the
wrong times) do seem to be one of my problems. Someone suggested that
my plumber’s torch may be low on fuel, and I think is also one of the
problems. I carefully used my mapps gas torch, moving the flame
quickly on then off the piece, plus, used easy solder papillions on
the inside of the bezel wall (and stood them up), and was amazed to
see solder flow without melting the bezel.Is there such a thing as
too much flux? A big foamy mess, with bits of papillions floating on
top seems to be my habit.Wig? Fascinating! I’ll give that a go too,
though I suppose controlling the blast of flame will be important, as
argentium will crack if it falls off anything.Question for Kelley -
when you place the papillion on the outside, where do you heat? The
solder and bezel wall directly?

Again,
thanks so much!
Ros


#7

Hi Jo,

How do you handle the base plate warping due to the amount of heat
used in order to get the solder to flow? I made some beautiful
Christmas cloisonne panels (1-3/4 x 2") and tried building the frames
for them to be mounted in; first in brass (because they are
ornaments), then in silver (with two being semi-successful) and one
in coper (with silver sides and copper base plate). I would have a
great fit before the torch, afterward I wound up with warped base
plates, spotty soldered areas, no solder flow, etc… I am using 24
gauge for walls and 20 gauge for base plate - hard solder all around
with paste flux. I have used a tripod, two charcoal block suspending
piece in the middle, and directly on top of a piece of charcoal - all
of these methods did not prove successful for me. I am using a Mini
Smith with #6 and #7 tip. Can someone offer me some advice for my
sanity?

Thank you,
Pam Timm


#8

Hi,

I missed the beginning of this discussion, but in terms of working
with Argentium, I find that beginners have a much easier time with
it than with traditional sterling silver. They don’t have to worry
about dealing with firescale. The application of heat is much more
intuitive, since one heats the joint, rather than the whole piece of
silver. In my experience, the people who have the hardest time
learning to use it tend to be experienced jewelers who don’t wish to
adapt or alter their habits—such as if they are accustomed to
pressing things to fit when soldering, or quenching immediately.

Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com


#9

Pam- You’re using too hard a solder. Drop down to medium or even
easy if you don’t have to do any more solders. Also if you work
harden the base be sure to anneal before soldering. Same for the
bezel. Any tension in the metal will be relieved when you heat it
thus causing warp. Are you soldering from the bottom or the top? Try
my trick of using a softer flame and fanning motion from the top.

Jo


#10

Hi Leonard,

However, Germanium diffuses to the surface and forms very thin
oxide layer, a mechanism very simular to Aluminium. That will
create difficulties in soldering, unless flux has ingredients to
deal with this oxide. 

I have to say, I’ve never found this to be a problem whatsoever. I
just use copious Easy-flo flux for the easy solders, and Tenacity
for the hardest. (Johnson-Matthey). The solders whet the silver
well. I have had problems with oxide coatings whilst soldering other
metals, e.g. copper, so I know the problems they can cause.

Another problem, if concentration of Germanium exceeds 2%, the
alloy becomes subject to precipitation hardening. There is no data
on heat conductivity, but there is data on electrical conductivity
of Silver/Copper/Germanium alloys. It appears that electrical
conductivity is only 20% of regular silver. Since electrical and
heat conductivities have similar mechanisms, one would be
justified in assuming the same influence on heat conduction as
well. 

That may be true, but it’s academic as the germanium percentage is
less than 2%. Even with these levels, the fact that you can harden
your work in an oven after soldering is an useful feature. The low
heat conductivity is an useful feature, as it makes the part of the
work that you want to solder easier to bring up to temperature.

The heating should be slow to compensate for decrease in heat
conduction, and presence of Germanium Oxide should be kept in mind.
Reducing flame is probably better than other types, and special
flux is advisable. 

Actually an oxidising flame is better than other types, as it forms
the protective coating of germanium oxide on the surface, which is
exactly what one wants to prevent tarnishing.

I’m something of a beginner, having done most of my soldering on
brass rather than silver. Having said that, the only problem I’ve
ever had with Argentium is that it can tear if you are not very
gentle with it whilst it is hot. I did a little work with sterling
before finding Argentium, and overall I found Argentium easier. Just
my experience.

Kit


#11

Ros -

Before I place my solder, I ‘frost’ the flux with a gentle play of
heat. So…flux, torch on, gentle heat until flux has a frosty look
(go no further, you don’t want your flux to start breaking down or
interfering with other steps), then torch off, then place solder.

Yes, it’s an extra step, but it makes solder placement easier and
they don’t get spat off or moved by bubbling flux. I find it makes
for very consistent result.

Disclaimer - what I’m describing here is how it works for me with an
acetylene/air torch and a #1 head.

When I start heating, I work a large circle or oval around the edges
of the backplate or metal’s edge. In my mind I’m imagining that I’m
overcoming the heat-sink effect of the waste metal, and overloading
so that heat escapes in toward my target, the bezel seam. Knowing
that it’s the heat in the backplate and the bezel that will melt the
solder and make it flow, I work my way in circular motion until I’m
heating the bezel as well.

Beware melting the top of the bezel! That’s not where you want your
solder, so don’t play your flame too long on the upper rim. I heat
the center of the target, where the stone will lie, but I don’t focus
there; the action is at the outer edge of the seam. But everything
has to be hot enough and no hotter.

While working around the bezel, I begin aiming the hot spot of my
flame at the seam. I have my soldering pick ready to encourage the
solder as it finally melts and then flows. One piece will alwasy
melt before any others and I’m on the lookout for that one. As soon
as it goes, it takes only seconds befroe I’m done (that’s because the
whole piece, edges and inside, are so evenly heated that it all seems
to happen at once).

Mind you, this happens within a short timeframe. If I took as much
time to do it as I took to type it, then my work would be an ugly
melted lump. I work fast and a bit hot.

HTH,
Kelley Dragon


#12
I find that beginners have a much easier time with it than with
traditional sterling silver. They don't have to worry about dealing
with firescale. 

Firescale is a red herring for most of the situation. It is the
result of over-heating and lack of torch control. In my practice I do
not use any kind of fire coating on regular basis. In some very rare
instances when it truly required. I have never had problems with
firescale.

The application of heat is much more intuitive, since one heats the
joint, rather than the whole piece of silver. 

Intuitive does not mean right. Local application of heat may "glue"
things together, so to speak, but I question whether such joint will
withstand any kind of structural load. Just because solder melts and
fills joint, it does not mean that soldering took place.

In my experience, the people who have the hardest time learning to
use it tend to be experienced jewelers who don't wish to adapt or
alter their habits---such as if they are accustomed to pressing
things to fit when soldering, or quenching immediately. 

Truly remarkable statement. To achieve proper joint, parts always
must be press fit. It is not always possible, but it must be strived
for. As far as wishing to adapt - adaptation for adaptation sake is
fool’s occupation. There are must be a valid reason to adapt, and
Argentium alloy is not it.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#13

I too missed the beginning of this thread but since this subject is
somewhat dear to my heart, I wanted to add a few comments. First
some general considerations when working with sterling or fine
silver. Since silver is such an excellent conductor of heat, it is
very difficult to perform any silver soldering operation by spot
heating the joint area. It is important to heat the entire assembly
evenly and this is much easier to accomplish using a gas/air torch
with a somewhat soft flame. Example: Smith plumber’s torch with No. 0
or No.1 tip or Prestolite plumber’s torch with No.3 tip rather than a
gas/oxygen torch. It is possible to use a Little Torch with No.7 tip
(gas/oxygen) on assemblies smaller than approximately one square inch
but to avoid overheating the bezel is difficult.

The method I use and have taught to many others follows: First,
construct the bezel (fine silver is easier to conform to a setting
but sterling is also usable) After shaping the bezel and soldering
its seam, even up the edge that is to be joined to the baseplate.
Rubbing the bezel over 120-180 grit sandpaper works well and insures
that the bezel fits tightly against the baseplate. A tight fit is
important for proper solder flow. After completing the bezel, cut a
baseplate with at least 1/8" margin on all sides of the bezel. The
margin outside the bezel helps when heating the baseplate while not
overheating the bezel.

With the components completed, the next step is to address firescale
prevention. Liquid flux is sprayed on the back of the baseplate and
heated to dry. Place the fluxed surface on a firebrick or charcoal
block and assemble the bezel in place. Heating from below is
generally unneccessary. Apply a small amount of flux to the joint
area plus the outer margin of the baseplate and heat just enough to
dry the flux. Place medium solder chips spaced around the inside
perimeter of the bezel. Each solder chip _must _contact both the
baseplate and the bezel This will avoid the solder pooling away from
the bezel when melting. Begin heating the assembly keeping the torch
flame perpendicular to the to baseplate. Direct the flame inside the
bezel and using a circular motion, concentrate the heat on the
interior o f the baseplate with an occasional pass over the outer
margin. Avoid directing the flame to the bezel. The objective is to
raise the temperature of the baseplate to the solder flowpoint while
not overheating the bezel. When the baseplate is heated to a
cherry-red color, the solder should begin to flow around the joint.
Maintain the cherry-red color by raising or lowering the torch and
speeding or slowing your movement. As the solder flows, direct the
flame toward the outside of the bezel and the margin of the
baseplate. This will draw the solder through the joint and form a
uniform line of solder at the at the outer point of contact. Do not
allow the color of the hot metal to change to a red-orange or orange
as this indicates overheating with warping or meltdown immenant.

Temperature control and cleanliness of the components are critical
to a successful solder joint. Also, remember that silver solder,
given a clean path along which to flow will always flow toward the
higher temperature. It will not flow past dirt.

Don Kenney


#14
Firescale is a red herring for most of the situation. It is the
result of over-heating and lack of torch control. In my practice I
do not use any kind of fire coating on regular basis. In some very
rare instances when it truly required. I have never had problems
with firescale. 

It’s lovely that you don’t have a problem with firescsale, but the
fact is that it is a problem for many people. I am able to prevent it
on traditional sterling, but I find not having to deal with firescale
a pleasure. Can you please allow for people to have different
preferences? Is it possible that there is more than one right way?

Intuitive does not mean right. Local application of heat may
"glue" things together, so to speak, but I question whether such
joint will withstand any kind of structural load. Just because
solder melts and fills joint, it does not mean that soldering took
place. 

By intuitive, I mean easier to understand. You had stated that you
thought that it would be best for beginners to stick to SS, and stay
away from AS. I disagree, and am explaining why. I have been working
with and teaching about AS for 10 years now. Nothing has fallen
apart. The heat conductivity is similar to gold or pewter. Neither of
these is as heat-conductive as SS or copper alloys, and need the heat
applied differently.

Truly remarkable statement. To achieve proper joint, parts always
must be press fit. It is not always possible, but it must be
strived for. As far as wishing to adapt - adaptation for adaptation
sake is fool's occupation. There are must be a valid reason to
adapt, and Argentium alloy is not it. 

I find it remarkable that you have strong opinions on something that
you have not worked with. I am stating what I know from my
experiences. When I solder something, it fits. It may be bound with
iron or steel wire or pins to make it fit, or I may have filed the
parts to make them fit, but I don’t push on it as I am soldering to
make it fit. That just is not the way that I work. It’s okay with me
that others do work that way, though. I certainly am not recommending
adaptation for its own sake. I am simply stating my experiences. To
me, there are many valid reasons for adapting to using Argentium
Silver: lack of firescale, easy to fuse, highly ductile and
malleable, easily hardened with an oven, and tarnish resistance. Each
person has his or her own preferences. Viva la difference! I will
always defend each person’s right to a different opinion. I believe
that there can be more than one right way to do something.

Cynthia Eid


#15
I find it remarkable that you have strong opinions on something
that you have not worked with. 

I have never worked with uranium either, but I know enough not to
make jewellery from it.

Every alloy have a set of properties which defines the scope of it’s
application. Copper, for instance, has great properties to be used as
cookware, but sucks as toolmaking stock. One can determine these
things by consulting references, where material properties are
listed.

Everything that I have read about Argentium, tells me that it is
casting alloy. It is not an opinion, but a conclusion based on
available data. It is possible to fabricate something from it, but
that does not make it a hand fabrication alloy.

I have read that there are clocks with mechanisms made from bread
dough, and some of these clocks functioning even today. Does it mean
that bread dough is a great clock making material ? I do not think
so.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#16
Copper, for instance, has great properties to be used as cookware,
but sucks as toolmaking stock. One can determine these things by
consulting references, where material properties are listed.

The Egyptians seemed to do OK. You know, pyramids 'n stuff?

I guess they didn’t check those references first. Otherwise they’d
have known they couldn’t do what they apparently did.


#17
Everything that I have read about Argentium, tells me that it is
casting alloy. 

Please read more. Here are some further resources:

go to Technical Resources and then click on Silversmiths and Artisans
for articles and video clips from Ronda Coryell’s DVDs) look at the
work in the gallery. Some is cast, but most is not

see images of her constructed Argentium Silver work, and buy her
DVDs about granulating and fusing Argentium Silver

http://forum.riogrande.com/?q=node/118

in the Learning Center at www.riogrande.com you can find the
comprehensive article that Rio Grande recently asked me to update.
It is under Tips and Tricks.

read Road Testing Argentium Silver in the Ganoksin archives of Tips
from the Jeweler’s Bench

http://www.cynthiaeid.com/

under FAQ, are my tips on fusing and soldering Argentium Sterling

Cynthia


#18

Thanks everyone, for taking the time to reply - I’ve poured over all
of the posts and am happy to report that soldering of Argentium is
going much better now. I’m not as keen on experimenting with
sterling, for fear of mixing up metals in my work area, and
potentially mislabelling them. Still using the plumber’s torch, but
am now only using ‘easy’ solder, less (yellow) flux, less focus on
trying to heat the whole piece, better placement of the
solder…resulting in fewer melting bezel incidents! I still find
it a bit tricky trying to solder on the band of a ring, to the back
of the bezel plate, as I find that the band sometimes pitches in
different directions and I’m too afraid to touch the band to
readjust, while heating. I have ended up with some pretty crooked
bands, and despite strong attempts to melt the solder to release the
band, have ended up fusing it beautifully (in the wrong place, of
course). I suppose that this too takes practice’thank you again to
all!

Ros


#19

I looked though the links, but my opinion have not changed. Quite the
opposite, it was re-enforced. Let’s compare properties of sterling
versus argentium :

SOLIDUS is highest temperature where metal is solid. Cross this line
and piece is destroyed. It may look almost the same, but high degree
of polishing no longer possible, low resistance to deformation, and a
lot of other problems.

Sterling - 1450 F, Argentium - 1410 F. Considering that Argentium
hard solder flows at 1450 F - it mean no hard solder should be used.
Argentium medium solder flows at 1378 F, only 32 degrees below
solidus.

HEAT CAPACITY measured in how many KJ (kilo joules ) takes to raise
temperature of 1 kilogram of metal by 1 degree of Celsius.
Characteristic is important because the higher heat capacity is, the
greater temperature control is possible.

Sterling - 0.2448, Argentium - 0.2439

The difference looks deceptively small. But if one considers that we
work with pieces weighing grams, as opposed to kilograms, the
difference is significant. It makes possibility crossing over solidus
line even more likely.

Ductility and Work Hardening: Fully annealed sterling hardness - 66
to 76 DPH ( Vickers ), Argentium - 50 to 70 DPH Fully annealed
argentium is softer, but look what happens when we start working it.
1/4 work hardened sterling - 78 to 88 DPH, while Argentium jumps to
90 to 105 1/2 work hardened sterling - 90 to 100 DPH, while Argentium
is at 106 to 120 3/4 work hardened sterling 102 to 114 DPH, while
Argentium is 121 to 135 and at full sterling is 116 to 130, and
Argentium 136 to 148.

These numbers mean that Argentium requires annealing two times as
often as sterling. Margin of error in bending and forming is
shrinking. Forging times grows exponentially, and so on. This
property is the most troublesome in setting. Thin bezels reach 3/4
to ful hardness surprisingly fast. It means that if bezel is not
closed on first try, you are screwed, and setting any king of angular
stone becomes very problematic.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but just a sample. While
experienced goldsmith can overcome these short comings, it is not
clear to why one should. What is quite clear is that Argentium is not
for beginners. One needs only to scan Orchid to see how many
complains about difficulties working with it, are there.

Argentium positives like lower viscosity and lower density
beneficial for casters. Since I am a fabricator, I simply do not care
about it.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#20

Hi Ros,

I still find it a bit tricky trying to solder on the band of a
ring, to the back of the bezel plate, as I find that the band
sometimes pitches in different directions and I'm too afraid to
touch the band to readjust, while heating. 

Were the Argentium Silver Soldering Tips that I sent you helpful?

If things are moving when you solder, I suggest that you use a soft
Solderite board, or a soft firebrick, and steel T-Pins to hold
things in alignment during soldering.

Cynthia
http://www.cynthiaeid.com