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Cynthia Eid's Tips For Soldering Argentium Silver


#1

Was: Difficulty soldering gold to argentium

Hi,

Can you please be more specific about what you are having trouble
with? Without that all I can do is offer my handout for
soldering Argentium Silver:

Cynthia Eid’s Tips For Soldering Argentium[tm] Silver
© Cynthia Eid 2009
Soldering Method

Just as one needs to make a mental adjustment about soldering tactics
when switching between traditional sterling and gold or platinum, it
is necessary to use a different approach when soldering Argentium
Sterling. The most important thing to remember with Argentium Silver
is to forget about trying to heat the whole piece of metal at once,
or trying to have all the solder flow at once. If you have experience
with soldering gold, you may find that they conduct the heat
similarly, and that the same approach to heating the metal and solder
works for both gold and Argentium Silver. The following is a
summation of my approach:

After fluxing the seam, give the whole piece an overall heating, then
start at one area and heat along the seam.

I usually use a back and forth movement with the torch over a 1/2 to
1" area. When that solder flows, I direct the torch flame to the
adjacent are a and heat until 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 time. With a 1" diameter piece, I
find that the solder flows as fast as I can turn the soldering
turntable. A larger piece heats more slowly. As we know, there are
many ‘right ways’ to do things in silversmithing. Some people use
lots of tiny bits of solder close together. I tend to use big pieces
of wire solder, placed far apart, so that I spend less time cutting
and placing the solder, and have fewer areas that may require
clean-up after soldering. When I recently tested gel flux, I applique
soldered 1" lengths of wire to sheet using a single piece of wire
solder (1/8" long) at one end of each 1" wire. In all cases, the
solder successfully flowed along the entire length of the seam. Note:
sometimes I place the solder after fluxing and before heating, and
other times, I place it after the flux has been dried with the torch.
Different situations have different requirements.

I have heard reports from some people of having difficulty with
Argentium Silver solders not melting completely. I think this
usually happens because the flame is too small and the person is
heating tentatively, 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. (Note: I have personally
rarely experienced Argentium Silver solders to flow incompletely.)

It is important to wait a few moments after finishing soldering
before touching or moving the piece. It is okay to quench at “black
heat”, but quenching at red heat may result in cracking or breakage.
In practice, it can be difficult to assess when black heat has been
achieved. In my experience, it is okay if the the water hisses and
sizzles when the silver is quenched, but the piece was too hot if the
water seems to boil or explode. As with all metals, I air-cool flat
pieces completely as quenching warps the metal. It is beneficial to
cool flat pieces on a flat surface (I often slide my flat pieces onto
a steel plate to cool).

Solders

The temperature of the Hard Argentium Solder is so high, and the
color of the Argentium solders is so white, that it is recommended
that the Argentium Hard solder be thought of as IT solder, and rarely
used. For Hard solder, use Argentium Medium solder. I label mine this
way: AS HARD (med) For Medium solder, use Argentium Easy solder. Mine
is labeled: AS MEDIUM (easy) For Easy solder, use Argentium Super
Easy. I label mine: AS EASY (super easy)

Fluxes

Flux the seam only. Fluxing of the entire surface is undesirable,
since that prevents formation of germanium oxide. Gel flux and yellow
liquid fluxes, such as Rio Grande’s My-T-Flux and Batterns, work best
for me. Paste fluxes can cause firescale on both AS and SS, so they
are not recommended. Gel flux behaves similarly to paste flux, so
people who are accustomed to paste flux tend to find gel flux most
comfortable to use. Though gel flux can seem rather expensive, a
small bottle lasts a long time, since only seams need to be fluxed.

Soldering Boards

It is recommended that a separate soldering board be used for
Argentium Sterling, to avoid contamination. I like to use soldering
boards that are highly heat reflective, such as Solderite. Charcoal
blocks are not recommended, since the presence of oxygen is desirable
when working with Argentium Silver; the reducing atmosphere of
charcoal inhibits the formation of germanium oxide.

One Method for Becoming Accustomed to Soldering Argentium Silver It
is not necessary to use AS solders with AS. It is possible to use
traditional silver solder with AS to learn how to apply the heat
differently to this alloy that conducts heat differently. Then, when
one has become more accustomed to how to apply the heat, one could
start using AS solders, which don’t tarnish as much as traditional
silver solders, and have a whiter color. With this method of learning
to adapt, only one thing at a time is being changed, making it easier
to adapt one’s work habits.

Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com


#2
Charcoal blocks are not recommended, since the presence of oxygen
is desirable when working with Argentium Silver; the reducing
atmosphere of charcoal inhibits the formation of germanium oxide. 

I disagree with this. It depends on what you are doing. I have tried
both and find that a more pristine surface is achieved when I use a
charcoal block. I also coat the entire surface with flux to inhibit
the formation of the germanium oxide coating until I am finished
fusing. But I am fusing everything, taking it to extreme temperatures
each time, and doing multiple firings. The germanium oxide layer will
be frosty after several fusings, so I find it best to inhibit the
formation until I am finished. Then heat at 250 degrees for 10-20
minutes to build the layer of germanuim oxide after all tumbling and
finishing.

Ronda Coryell
Studio Manager/Instructor
Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts


#3

Hi Ronda,

I know that you and I have spoken about this before. I wonder
whether you noticed that Hanuman and Ton changed the title of the
thread? The original title of this thread was “Difficulty Soldering
Gold to Argentium.”

I posted a copy of my handout about Soldering AS because the
question was from someone who said she was having difficulty
soldering 14K to AS. Since she did not give details about what the
problem was, I thought a general discussion might be helpful. I agree
with you that, “It depends on what you are doing.” For instance,
fusing is a different process from soldering.

How about if we agree to disagree? I think that there are many "Right
Way"s to do things. Whatever works for you is fine with me. Avoiding
charcoal is a recommendation of Peter Johns, inventor of Argentium
Sterling—there was a person who was getting firescale on her AS
when soldering, and the problem was eliminated when she stopped using
charcoal. Since avoiding firescale is important to me, I prefer to
avoid charcoal—if the flux burns off, or does not completely cover
the surface, firescale may form, since the charcoal is inhibiting the
creation of germanium oxide. Besides, I LIKE that frosty surface! I
can understand that you prefer charcoal, though: In addition to the
reasons that you mentioned, it is the method that is comfortable and
familiar to you from your work with gold and fine silver, so you have
excellent control. Also, since one almost never abrades/polishes the
surface after fusing/granulating, firescale beneath the surface may
not matter, as long as the surface is good.

I hope this discussion is not confusing to folks. It shows why rules
are rarely hard and fast. There are always exceptions and special
circumstances.

Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com


#4

You and Ronda Coryell seem to be saying the same thing - the surface
needs to be completely covered with flux until fusing is complete to
avoid firescale.

Ronda Coryell is an award winning jeweler and an amazing teacher.
However, your comments suggest or imply that avoiding firescale is
important to you … but not to Ronda.

Have you not seen her work?

Nancy Lord


#5

Hi Nancy,

Yes, Ronda and I are friends, so it is a bit strange to have this
conversation on this public forum. And, it is a problem that no
matter how carefully we word our posts, it is easy to misunderstand,
or to feel that we “hear” something unintended or hurtful-sounding.
And, of course I’ve seen her gorgeous work! That is why I suggested
that we agree to disagree — there is more than one right way.

Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com


#6

Hi Cynthia,

I think part of what makes Orchid great is so many knowledgeable
people offering different points of view and different methods. As
you said the written word can sometimes be misunderstood. I responded
as I felt your comments regarding Ronda were belittling. I am happy
to hear that was not intended.

Sincerely, Nancy Lord