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Borax & Alcohol flux mixture?


#1

Hi all,

I haven’t posted before, but I’ve lurked enthusiastically for more
than a year. :slight_smile: The I’ve learned by reading this forum
has been invaluable to me as a beginning jewelry maker. I’m mainly a
"wire twizzler" with a chainmail addiction, but I’m very interested
in all forms of jewelry making and I love reading about fabrication
and soldering techniques in the hopes of one day being able to give
some of them a try.

At the moment, I am making my first forays into soldering and I have
a question regarding the homemade flux recipe that has been posted
occasionally over the past few months. The recipe that I have seen
calls for a 50/50 mix of borax with denatured alcohol. I had no
problem finding the borax, but when I ask for denatured alcohol
people look at me like I’m nuts! Is there another name it might be
known by? I live in a very tiny city waaaaaaay up in Northern
Ontario and jewelry making supplies are only available to me online,
hence the attempt to make my own flux.

I have no problem finding isopropyl alcohol, but I think that has a
different chemical makeup? Could it be used as a substitute if I
can’t find the denatured alcohol?

Thanks!
Karen Tihor
KaeLynn Jewelry Design
Schumacher, ON
(705) 360-5861
www.KaeLynnDesign.com


#2
 regarding the homemade flux recipe that has been posted
occasionally over the past few months 

Unless you are geographically isolated, I would highly recommend
trying “sta-silv” or similar flux for plumbers. $5 will get you
enough to last for months, a small price to pay.

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry
http://www.dosmanosjewelry.com


#3

Where did you ask? it should be available at any home improvment, or
paint store. At least the denatured alcohol I use while cutting
stones to disolve wax is in the shelves at lowes/home depot, and
most paint stores. Some paints are alcohol based, and denatured
alcohol is the solvent used to thin them, or clean up after using
them. Unless you need a different form of denatured alcohol, you
should be able to find it at lowes/home depot/sherwin williams, or
your local hardware store if it has a decent paint section.

Mike


#4

We call it methylated spirits in the UK.

Pat


#5

check rubbing alcohol bottles they say in small print denatured :slight_smile:

America’s Only Cameo Artist
www.cameoartist.com


#6

You get denatured alcohol at the hardware store in metal cans.

Elaine
Elaine Luther
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay


#7
   I had no problem finding the borax, but when I ask for denatured
alcohol people look at me like I'm nuts!  Is there another name it
might be known by? 

I think denatured alcohol is also known by wood alcohol. It has
something added to it to make it poisonous to consume. However,
regular grain alcohol that is 180 proof works well, such as
Everclear, which is cheap, and cheaper by far than denatured
alcohol. Isopropyl is only 14% alcohol (38 proof), which means it
has a lot of water in it. After the alcohol evaporates, you’re left
with water slurry, which is not as effective.


#8

Hi Karen,

I checked out your current website. You have some really neat
pieces!

I am not sure about using isopropyl (rubbing alcohol) as and
additive to Borax for flux. I suspect it would work fine because the
main point of mixing the borax with alcohol is to get it to flame and
quickly coat the surface. I use water and borax which works fine for
me.

Denatured alcohol is typically found in hardware stores in the paint
section.

Ashley


#9

Karen,

It’s pretty common stuff; I see it in art stores all the time. If
you’re stuck I’d try your friendly neighborhood home hardware or
even shopper’s drug mart, I don’t know why they couldn’t source it
for you.

I’ve bought acid from the pharmacist at shoppers before, I’m sure
denatured alcohol isn’t that big of a deal for them.

Cheers,
Taylor in Toronto


#10

Here in the states I get denatured alcohol at either the hardware
store, in the paint department, or at our local paint store.

Alma


#11

Hello Karen,

Good question, long answer. You might also want to search the Orchid
archives as this has been discussed in various forms on Orchid
before.

... The recipe that I have seen calls for a 50/50 mix of borax with
denatured alcohol. 

I use this stuff all the time and I think you’ll find that the 50/50
thing is totally arbitrary. Use whatever ratio you like to get a
paste that suits your purposes. The alcohol is long gone before the
borax begins to melt so the ratio you mix it to has no effect on
it’s fluxing function.

... when I ask for denatured alcohol people look at me like I'm
nuts! 

As someone else pointed out the “denatured” part of denatured alcohol
simply means that they’ve added something to it to make it poisonous,
ie. so you won’t drink it. In other words if you ask them for alcohol
(like folks have said, paint stores, pharmacy, etc) and you look at
the ingredients and it says “95% ethanol, 5% (whatever)” and the label
indicates that it’s poisonous then you’ve got denatured alcohol
whether the label says it or not.

Is there another name it might be known by? 

Yes, many. If you have access to a decent hardware store or paint
shop ask them for shellac thinner and then read the ingredients. If
it says “ethanol” or “ethyl alcohol” then you’ve got what you need.
Ethanol is the traditional thinner for shellac and works like a
charm. It’s best if the percentage of ethanol in the “thinner” is
high, say 90 or 95%. That means that it’s relatively unadulterated and
therefore likely to give better results. It also means that when you
burn it you won’t be burning additives and releasing nasty by-products
into your air supply.

I have no problem finding isopropyl alcohol, but I think that has a
different chemical makeup? 

Absolutely! And it doesn’t work worth a tinker’s damn. You’ll find
that it makes your flux clump up into nasty balls and you’ll have an
opportunity to learn some new swear words. Go ahead and try it, it’s
not going to cost you much to find out that it isn’t what you want to
be using.

The main reason that isopropyl is so useless is that it is almost
always liberally cut with water and water makes borax clump (try
adding a little water to powdered borax and you’ll see what I mean).

FWIW, there are three main types of alcohol: ethanol, methanol and
isopropanol.

It has been suggested that wood alcohol (aka methanol) is the best
thing for your needs. Given that it is poisonous, both in liquid and
vapour form, I’d suggest you might want to think twice before you go
there. Methanol is what some people drink when they want to go blind,
induce a coma or kill themselves.

I don’t know if this helps any but ethyl alcohol is what we humans
like to drink, we call it booze. It doesn’t matter whether it’s vodka
or tequila, beer or wine or anything else: the feel-good part of the
mix is ethyl alcohol. It also happens to be great in the shop because
it’s not, in itself, poisonous and it functions almost as well as
methanol in most applications.

Isopropyl alcohol is what you doctor might use to disinfect a spot
on your skin before he gives you a needle. It’s also widely used in
industry as a degreaser and cleaner. The industrial grade is usually
around 75% pure. Pharmacy grade stuff is usually around 30% pure
and may have any number of pesky things in it including methanol and
ethylene glycol, both of which are poisonous. It also includes a lot
of water which makes it useless as a mixing agent for borax flux.

Finally, there are much more effective flux mixtures that you can
brew up at home. Pripp’s is the oft-mentioned one on Orchid. But if
you’re having trouble finding simple stuff like alcohol this approach
might be more hassle than it’s worth to you. As someone suggested you
might just be better off going to a welding shop or good hardware
store and buying a pre-mixed silver solder flux.

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


#12
    I am not sure about using isisopropylrubbing alcohol) as and
additive to Borax for flux. I suspect it would work fine because
the main point of mixing the borax with alcohol is to get it to
flame and quickly coat the surface. 

Isopropl works just fine. I have been using it for decades. It
typically comes in a 70% solution and that works, but I buy the
higher solutions when they are easily available.

Denatured alcohol is grain alcohol that has been poisoned so you
won’t drink it and avoid the exexcis tax on booze. The the US the
additives are a nauseate and it really works. If I use denatured I
start feeling pukey after a bit even with good ventilation and I do a
lot of soldering.

Stephen Walker


#13

Hi Karen,

Welcome to the forum. First off, Isopropyl (rubbing alcohol) is not
a suitable substitute for denatured alcohol.

You should be able to find denatured alcohol at any place that sells
paint. It is used as a shellac thinner. One of its other uses is as
a fuel for marine stoves. Since you live in Ontario, I would
suspect that it would be widely available considering the winters
y’all have up there. By the way, my wonderful, almost-perfect,
daughter-in-law is from Ontario. I had the pleasure of visiting a
small part of the province when we went up for the wedding. I know
Ontario is to Canada as Texas is to the States…huge, but I also
know that plenty of cold weather hits all of the province. So check
paint stores, marinas, hardware stores, etc.

Denatured alcohol is Ethanol (pure grain alcohol) to which Methanol
has been added to make it poisonous, hence the name "denatured."
Methanol can easily cause death or blindness. Please, as you use it,
remember that you are dealing with a deadly chemical.

To all Canadians reading this: Y’all have a great day, eh.

Del Pearson of Designs of Eagle Creek in beautiful South Texas,
where summer has arrived behind schedule.


#14

Denatured alcohol is a common name for ethyl alcohol with a small
amount of methyl (wood) alcohol added to make it poisonous (This is
where the methylated spirits name comes from) so you can’t drink it
safely. This is done to get around the taxes that are collected on
alcohol of the drinking variety. Rubbing alcohol is not what you
want. It is isopropyl alcohol mixed with lots of water.

Look for it in your hardware store as shellac thinner. This is the
most common use for it.

Jim Binnion

James Binnion Metal Arts
Phone (360) 756-6550
Toll Free (877) 408 7287
Fax (360) 756-2160


@James_Binnion
Member of the Better Business Bureau


#15
      I think denatured alcohol is also known by wood alcohol. It
has something added to it to make it poisonous to consume. However,
regular grain alcohol that is 180 proof works well, such as
Everclear, which is cheap, and cheaper by far than denatured
alcohol. Isopropyl is only 14% alcohol (38 proof), which means it
has a lot of water in it. After the alcohol evaporates, you're left
with water slurry, which is not as effective. 

Katherine, denatured alcohol is ethanol, or grain alcohol, to which a
small amount of a denatureing agent is added. That’s anything they
can add to make it toxic and unfit to drink. By far the most common
agent is methanol, which is your wood alcohol. But it’s mostly the
ethanol. Pure methanol is a good deal more dangerous to work with,
since the fumes are more toxic than those of ethanol, and the small
amount of methanol needed to denature the ethanol doesn’t greatly
increase the toxicity of the fumes.

Peter


#16

Hi ya I reread the lable I don’t know what I saw that first time but
it does not say denatured …sorry reading is still my toughest
skill I am relearning…and rats have to go buy denatured alcohol
lol

Teri
America’s Only Cameo Artist
www.cameoartist.com


#17

Hi Karen,

The alcohol is just a carrier for the boric acid. Experience has
shown me that powdered boric acid doesn’t need a carrier. I haven’t
seen the boric acid crystals available for years. One can simply dip
the work into the powder and enough will naturally stick to protect
the gold.

It might be noted that this is how it works as a roach poison. The
crystals stick to roaches. The roaches in attempting to clean
themselves end up scratching themselves. Those scratches allow the
formerly watertight bugs to dehydrate.

Bruce D. Holmgrain
Goldwerx
http://www.goldwerx.com
@Red_Rodder
JA Certified Master Benchjeweler, CAD/CAM Services


#18

All I can say is…WOW! I’m absolutely overwhelmed at the sheer
volume of responses I’ve received to my question both on and
offlist! You guys are absolutely amazing! I can’t thank you all
enough! I’m posting a public “thank you” only because I had far too
many responses to reply to everyone individually!

…and thank you also to the people who commented on my jewelry. I
consider myself to be fairly proficient at making jump rings and
assembling them into chainmail, but at anything else I am the newest
of newbies so your praise means more than you can imagine!

I’ve decided that since I’m just learning to solder (and I need to
put in a wire order to Rio anyways) I’ll just order some
commercially prepared flux to start and do some experimenting with
the alcohol/borax/boric acid/TSP possibilities once I’ve gained a bit
of experience. I purchased a syringe of paste solder a couple of
months ago and just found it again the other day (isn’t is amazing
what you discover when you move?) so I’ll break that out for a bit of
experimentation as well.

Once again, thank you so much to all who rushed to my rescue and
after this experience I certainly won’t hesitate to ask questions in
the future! :smiley:

Karen Tihor
KaeLynn Jewelry Design
Schumacher, ON
(705) 360-5861
www.KaeLynnDesign.com


#19

Continue from:
https://orchid.ganoksin.com/t/borax-alcohol-flux-mixture

 Katherine, denatured alcohol is ethanol, or grain alcohol, to
which a small amount of a denatureing agent is added. That's
anything they can add to make it toxic and unfit to drink. By far
the most common agent is methanol, which is your wood alcohol. But
it's mostly the ethanol. Pure methanol is a good deal more
dangerous to work with, since the fumes are more toxic than those
of ethanol, and the small amount of methanol needed to denature the
ethanol doesn't greatly increase the toxicity of the fumes. 

Hey Peter, thanks for your succinct clarification on “denatured,”
“wood alcohol,” and “methylated alcohol.” I learned a lot from these
postings. The EverClear works well for me, and it’s cheaper than
denatured alcohol in the hardware stores here. And the advantage of
the EverClear is that if I’ve had a bad day that I would prefer to
forget, I can always take a snort!