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Difficulty Fusing


#1

Hi

I just finished setting up a new workspace in the garage and am
working on my first project (a ring).

I started with .011 inch bezel strip and set about to fusing it
closed. On my first attempt, it did close, but, when I tried to fuse
to .011 inch back plate, everything melted.

Second attempt, cannot fuse .011 bezel strip closed. I tried adding
flux, no. I tried facing open seam to the ceiling, closer, but still
melted.

The temp in the garage is about 30, would this make it difficult to
fuse? Do I have to wait for it to warm up? The first bezel did fuse
and the temp was about 10 degrees warmer.

Is the bezel material too thick?

The flame is such that it makes a small hissing sound… is this too
hot?

Thanks

Kim Starbard
http://www.kimstarbarddesigns.com


#2

Hello Kimberly

Many years ago when I started making jewelry I paid a jeweler to
teach me how to hard solder. He probably spent 5 hours teaching me
the
basics and charged me $50, some of the best money I ever spent.

I assume you are working with sterling. It is true that most of what
you learn about sterling is just a result of time and practice but
there are some basics that you simply must follow.

Perhaps I am missing something but my first question would be, why
are you fusing instead of soldering?

Mark
www.markdefrates.com


#3

Though I’m not sure how to answer your exact questions, I work in a
similar situation where its pretty cold! When I know the metal is
extra cold I sort of heat up all around the metal and make sure that
the bezel is more evenly heated so when the concentration of heat is
on the seam it won’t be too much of a shock. I dont really know the
technical aspects, I just know my experiences!

Also, fusing to the backplate. Are you using regular sterling or
Argentium? I started using Argentium for backplates when fusing - I
actually heat up the back plate until it starts to look glassy on
the surface and then place the bezel carefully with tweezers still
while keeping heat on the backing. Depending on the size of the
bezel determines how i fuse from there. if it is large enough,
heating from the center works best for me.

Happy Fusing!
Beth


#4

Hi Kim

Yes 30 degrees is too cold to work in. Your fingers freeze to the
torch and you can’t pull the flame off at precisely the right moment.
lol Seriously, the two pieces you are trying to fuse together are way
too thin for this process. You would need to get the bottom plate hot
enough to fuse (but not melt) prior to the bezel melting. (which
would be the trick) The way I would do that is to sweat the bezel
onto the bottom plate using medium solder. Apply heat from the
underneat 'till your solder starts to flow, then guide the solder
with the flame. It will flow to the hotter spot. Do this untill the
solder has run all the way around your bezel. Keep in mind, that the
plate will heat up slower than the bezel so heat it first.

The hiss in your flame suggests that you have too much oxygen and a
very sharp flame. You want a softer flame so that it will eat up the
oxygen surrounding the work spot to try to prevent oxydation. Solder
won’t flow onto an oxydized spot. A softer flame will also slow
things down a little for you so if you overheat a spot, it wont ball
up on you as fast and you’ll have a chance to correct your flame. Use
borax and flux as you do this and keep in mind not to pickle anything
untill you are totally done soldering, otherwise you will have to
superheat your piece to try to get the solder to flow and even then
you won’t get good results.

Now, if you had a laser welder… you could weld these two together
without much danger of melting anything. I just got one from
laserstar. It’s an amazing machine.

Stanley Bright


#5

Kimberly

I have had the same problem fusing, in fact the only thing I get
consistent results with is Argentium. I think you may be heating it
to fast, try backing off a little into the outer heat cone of the
torch.

Terry


#6

Kim,

I can’t speak about the temperature in your garage and if it effects
your success at fusing (though I doubt it has any effect). However,
I can say that fusing and soldering have so many variables that do
effect their success/failure. Things like the type of metal you’re
using, the thickness, the size of the piece(s), the proper fitting
of the joint, the type of torch set-up, and the flame size (your
flame does sound too hot) are all factors that will determine your
results. For me, soldering and fusing used to be very intimidating
until I did a workshop with Karen Christians. If you can get to
Metalwerx for her Soldering Solutions workshop in mid-April, I think
it would really demystify this process for you.

http://www.metalwerx.com/workshop/104

Good luck,
Bonnie Cooper


#7

Hi Stanley

You would need to get the bottom plate hot enough to fuse (but not
melt) prior to the bezel melting. (which would be the trick) 

I could try thicker material.

Use borax and flux as you do this and keep in mind not to pickle
anything untill you are totally done soldering, otherwise you will
have to superheat your piece to try to get the solder to flow and
even then you won't get good results. 

Aha, I bet you found the problem. I think I made a silly mistake and
dropped it in the pickle and then tried to fuse after that. The only
bezel that did fuse was one that had not been in pickle. Kinda
silly!

Ok, the temp is past 30 already. We’re in a heatwave. I’m heading
out to the garage today and I will report back.

Thanks everybody
Kim


#8

Boy, I used to work in a really cold basement. So cold I wore gloves
with cut off fingers. (except when polishing or using the flex shaft,
of course).

I can’t think about your fusing problem, I just want to warm you up!
Those upright plug in radiators are great. I have one next to me
right now.

The “Heat Shield,” available from Costco, also very nice, very warm.

And, if those aren’t enough and the car is out of the way, I wonder
if you could use one of those big propane “cannons” that they use in
large buildings when the heat goes out. No, probably too much.

Do insulate that cold garage if you can, and get some heaters.

Elaine

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


#9

Hi Kim

I’m not a metalurgy expert, but I think I remember a post from Peter
Rowe a few weeks ago regarding pickling between soldering joints. It
eats up the zink on the surface of your metal which is what allows
the solder to flow across the surface (without superheating). That
was a great tip. I’ve had the issue before and always attributed it
to either bad flux or a dirty (microscopicaly) environment. Good
luck. Let us know how it goes.

I mentioned in my last post that I was a happy Laserstar.net
customer. With this machine, you could fuse what you’re doing in
about 2 minutes without so much as cleaning or boraxing the pieces.
I’ve had the laser welder for about a week now and although I must
say that I’m not an expert yet, I retipped prongs last night on an
opal ring without pulling the opals… Try that with a torch! lol You
should see what this thing does with stainless steel! Unbelievable.
No fuss, no muss. Or a silver earring with pearls which I’m
converting to a pendant. The old way you’d have to pull the pearls,
heat the thing do do your work, reapply the finish and finally glue
the pearls back on. Now, I don’t even have to ultrasonic it. The
laser vaporizes dirt and oxidation. Lets me back out on the
salesfloor instead of spending 8 hours chasing a problem with a 10
minute repair job.

Stanley Bright


#10

Hi Mark and everyone:

Perhaps I am missing something but my first question would be, why
are you fusing instead of soldering? 

I wanted to fuse because I am setting a moonstone cab in the center
and thought it would be cool if I used a combination of fine and
sterling in the piece. I can then use los to get what I hope will be
some interesting effects in color.

I am extremely happy to say that I followed Stanley’s advice and
stopped putting anything near or in pickle. Problem solved. The
fusing was so easy that it was scary.

I can now move on to the next steps and I am relieved to say that it
is about 47 now, so I’m quite comfortable. It’s no fun when the cold
is making your fingers stick to the metal

Thanks, thanks, thanks
Kim
Kim Starbard
http://www.kimstarbarddesigns.com


#11
I wanted to fuse because I am setting a moonstone cab in the
center and thought it would be cool if I used a combination of fine
and sterling in the piece. I can then use los to get what I hope
will be some interesting effects in color. 

I think I am missing something in this entire thread. What does
using a fine silver bezel have to do with whether you solder or fuse?
Also, what does pickling in between soldering do that effects
fusing??

Also, I work in my basement which hovers around 55 and that’s too
cold for me without running a heater. I just can’t focus when I am
cold, I don’t know how you can get any work done in that cold an
environment.

Grace


#12

Hi Grace

I think I am missing something in this entire thread. What does
using a fine silver bezel have to do with whether you solder or
fuse? Also, what does pickling in between soldering do that effects
fusing?? 

The first class I took after a basic metals class happened to be in
fusing and granulation and that’s just how they chose to make a
bezel. If you solder a bezel shut though, don’t you see kind of a
line where the solder is?

I’m not sure technically what the pickling does to the fusing
process. At this point, I just know it doesn’t work :slight_smile:

Thanks to everybody for being concerned about my cold garage, but,
all I have to say is, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Thanks
Kim
Kim Starbard
http://www.kimstarbarddesigns.com


#13
Also, what does pickling in between soldering do that effects
fusing?? 

If you are thorough in your cleaning after pickling then nothing,
however if you don’t do a thorough job of nutralizing and cleaning
you will leave pickle residue in the work an this will make further
soldering more difficult as the solder will not flow freely where
there is pickle residue.

Jim

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550


#14

Hi James,

If you are thorough in your cleaning after pickling then nothing,
however if you don't do a thorough job of nutralizing and cleaning
you will leave pickle residue in the work an this will make
further soldering more difficult as the solder will not flow freely
where there is pickle residue. 

By thoroughly cleaning a piece that has been pickled, do you mean
neutralizing in a baking soda solution or something more complex?

Grace


#15

Hi Kimberly,

I guess I did misunderstand your question. It’s certainly a matter of
preference if you would rather fuse the bezel and also fuse it onto
the backplate, rather than solder everything, but I thought you were
implying that you could not fuse Fine Silver to Sterling Silver,
hence my post. Would still love it if someone would chime in in the
Pickle effecting the fusing process, Cynthia Eid maybe or someone
else who does a lot of fusing. I have never fused any metal so I am
very curious about this.

Grace


#16
Would still love it if someone would chime in in the Pickle
effecting the fusing process, Cynthia Eid maybe or someone else who
does a lot of fusing. 

I do a lot of fusing, and I must say I’ve never noticed any problems
caused by pickling. I initially learned the technique at a workshop
with Marne Ryan, and she didn’t mention anything like that either.

On the other hand, even when working with ordinary sterling, it is
not necessary to pickle between steps of fusing. Plus, you don’t
need to use flux. At first, everything will get kind of black and
disgusting looking, but you can just ignore that. I pickle when I am
done creating a sheet of layered texture, or at the end of the day.
At the end, you’ll have a surface coat of fine silver.

If I’m having a bad day (the fusing goddess isn’t smiling on me) or
I’m fusing gold to silver, then I pickle-- with the pieces wrapped
in binding wire-- before I begin, to copper-plate the silver, to aid
fusing (and I use flux). And by the way, I do this in my regular
pickle, and go on using it. Once the iron is out of it, it no longer
plates-- or, to be precise, I’ve never had a problem from doing
this, though I feel sure others will say different.

Noel


#17

Grace,

I fuse my fine silver bezels because I like the way it looks, nice
and clean. I also do it for enamelling purposes so that I don’t have
to worry about the bezel solder contaminating the enamel. I do not
however fuse my bezels to the backing primarily because of the
difficulty factor of fine silver to sterling silver. I always pickle
regardless whether I use flux. Pickling makes sure that your surface
is clean of grease and any other impurities. So, yes I pickle between
and at the end of whatever I am fusing and/or soldering. I fuse fine
silver links for chains all the time. I have been told, but haven’t
tried yet, that you can fuse argentium very easily. But, again you
still need to pickle to get the greases of your work.

Jennifer friedman
Ventura, CA


#18

Hi Kimberly and Grace,

I'm not sure technically what the pickling does to the fusing
process. At this point, I just know it doesn't work :) Kim 
By thoroughly cleaning a piece that has been pickled, do you mean
neutralizing in a baking soda solution or something more complex?
Grace 

It is not the pickling but the pickle residue that causes problems.
Clean your work after pickling by neutralizing in a clean sodium
bicarbonate (baking soda) solution, a warm or even boiling solution
is more effective. Then a warm water rinse and ultrasonic cleaning
or a boiling water rinse. This will remove the vast majority of
pickel residue and greatly improve your solder or fusing after
pickling.

Unless you really oxidized the work during previous soldering work
most of the time a soak in hot water to remove the flux glass and a
clean hot water soak rinse will prepare the work for further
soldering. If your work is ending up heavly discolored after
soldering you need to look at getting better flux coverage. If you
use a prips, cupronil or stop-ox coating properly applied you should
have none or minimal discoloration of the work after soldering. Then
there is no significant clean up work to do.

Jim

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550


#19

Hi, Kim,

Fusing can be very frustrating.

I don’t fuse bezels, though I learned how some years ago. It can be
done, but I think it helps to use a bit heavier bezel (fine silver)
than the usual. For fusing a bezel to backing, I was taught to apply
ochre to the top edge to discourage melting, and to make the bezel
higher than needed and sand it down after to compensate when it
melts anyway. You don’t really need to fuse, though, except for
pieces to be granulated or enameled, where solder would be a
problem.

Yes, sterling fuses, but I wouldn’t like to try to do bezels or
chain links that way. The fusing I do is for textured sheets of
material, so it is flat bits or granules or wires onto a flat sheet.
For that, you use a large, diffuse flame, and it works a whole lot
better with an oxy-fuel torch than with fuel/air. Helps a lot to use
a natural charcoal block, too.

For any kind of fusing, as for soldering, fit is very important. Are
you filing the ends of the bezel strip absolutely flat and square?
From instructions that I see on line and in books and magazines, a
lot of people don’t file bezel joints, they just cut them with flush
cutters and hope for the best. I put the bezel strip in a pair of
pliers with just a tiny sliver sticking out the side and file down to
the (flat) side of the pliers to make sure it is flat. If it isn’t
square, I adjust and do it again. This gives the largest posssible
contact area between the two sides of the strip, and makes the joint
nearly invisible even before it is soldered (or fused).

The easiest way to practice fusing is to lay a bunch of scraps from
previous projects on a backing sheet and try to stick them down. If
it all melts, it can still look pretty cool. Don’t overlap them, make
sure they’re flat and make good contact; use the largest flame your
torch can do (with my Meco Midget, I remove the tip altogether and
use the pipe) and keep the torch a bit far from the surface. Keep it
moving around and around the whole piece (put it on a natural
charcoal block if at all possible). Don’t flux. When the surface
begins to turn shiny, adjust the torch speed to allow that "wet"
surface to spread so that silver runs into the space between front
and back pieces. It takes practice-- and complete concentration.

If you use a fairly thin backing (28g or so) you can tell when it is
well-fused by looking at the back-- you will be able to see the
scraps outlined.

When it is done, you can run it lightly through the rolling mill to
even it out a bit, then do another layer. This is harder, because
fit will be less good. Don’t pickle until you’re all done.

It helps a lot to see somebody do this, but if you have scraps, it
is “free” to try it. It also makes great textures to take fused
sheets you don’t like, roll them, cut them up and fuse them to
backing. Some of my best textures come from this.

I am putting some pics on my blog to show the results in my own
pieces-- http://noelyovovich.blogspot.com/

Good luck!
Noel

P.S.-- Shameless self-promotion: I would be delighted to travel just
about anywhere to teach a workshop in this technique-- contact me
privately!


#20
Would still love it if someone would chime in in the Pickle
effecting the fusing process, Cynthia Eid maybe or someone else
who does a lot of fusing. 

Hi, Thanks for asking for my comment! I was not sure that my opinion
was wanted, since I only fuse Argentium Silver. I had never been a
fan of fusing until I started using Argentium Silver. So, my comments
may only apply to Argentium Silver. I have found that though fusing
AS can be done without flux, I have more consistently reliable
results when I use flux on the joint. I have used paste Handy Flux,
Battern’s, Prip’s, and Rio Grande’s My-T-Flux. They all work ok, but
I do find that the My-T-Flux leaves things just a bit
cleaner-looking, and that the success rate is highest when I use the
My-T-Flux. Since my work is nearly always formed, I usually have
annealed and pickled the metal before fusing—(except for
demonstrations, I guess!). I have not noticed a greater problem with
the pickled metal than the fresh metal. If anything, I’d say it often
works better, since, (as Noel and Jennifer pointed out, I think?)
it’s clean and grease-free. I simply rinse well after pickling. I do
think that Jim’s comments about neutralizing and the kind of flame
used make sense.

An interesting related note: it does not seem to matter whether the
AS has been annealed and pickled or not before doing Kum-Boo (fusing
with gold foil). Even if the AS oxidizes with the heat, the bond is
just as good as if the metal has been pre-annealed and pickled so
that it stays white.

Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com