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Electrical soldering devices


#1

Was: Torch in a rental apartment

As someone just beginning to explore the world of soldering, is an
electric solderer a better choice? My husband has a pretty “healthy
fear” of propane and acetylene in our home.


#2
As someone just beginning to explore the world of soldering, is an
electric solderer a better choice? My husband has a pretty
"healthy fear" of propane and acetylene in our home. 

The old electric soldering machines are simple carbon electrode
resistance heating machines. They can be used for many small simple
jobs. But they are much much more limited than even a simple torch.
Yes, one often found them in older jewelry store shops, where they’d
be OK for the occasional ring sizing, or eyeglass frame repair. But
unless all you wish to do are these sorts of simple jobs where only a
small area, and one that can be hand held on the carbon electrode,
needs to be soldered, you’d find these machines pretty frustrating.
Not useless, but very limited.

Better would be simply to limit the scale of your torch. If you’re
worried about larger tanks and the like, you can get a little torch
setup that works with the small disposable tanks. Somewhat costly,
what with the cost of the tanks, but it works, and the tanks are
small enough to be safe almost anywhere. Or, if you want more
capacity, try one of the several water torches. They’re electric,
use no bottled gasses, but are still a torch flame. These are the
usual choice for a means of soldering in shops located somewhere that
a torch is not allowed (some jewelry stores in shopping malls, for
example, can’t have gas or oxygen tanks on the premises). Their main
downside is the initial cost, and they’re more suited to smaller
work, but some models, like the more costly Spiraflame units, aren’t
even all that limited in the scale you can work with.

Cheers
Peter


#3

Dear Cynthia,

As someone just beginning to explore the world of soldering, is an
electric solderer a better choice? My husband has a pretty
"healthy fear" of propane and acetylene in our home. 

Not for fabricating jewellery, no. The type of “soldering” we use to
make joints in precious metal jewellery is actually brazing. The
solder we use is an alloy almost the same as the metal being
soldered, but it’s alloyed with certain metal/s which lower the
melting temperature to below that of the parent metal alloy. We use a
torch flame to heat the piece to be soldered and the heat contained
in the piece is what melts the solder. The joint must be tight, well-
fitting, well-fluxed and clean. When the solder flows it is drawn
into the joint by capillary action, giving a nice strong joint.
Excess solder “filling” a poorly fitting joint gives a poor joint
that is not as strong. As I understand it, the solder joint sort of
becomes part of the parent metal, such that when it it cleaned up by
sanding and polishing, the joint is invisible. Also, modern solders
sold for the purpose of jewellery “soldering” or brazing do not
contain lead.

Electrical soldering is a different process entirely. You are using
a low melting temperature, lead-based solder to join cold components
using an electrical soldering iron. The solder is melted across the
two cold components, creating a joint strong enough for that
particular electrical circuit which will be housed inside some
appliance, but not strong enough for the wear and tear that
jewellery has to stand up to. You will not be able to make sound
joints with structural integrity using a soldering iron with
lead-based solder. The solder “lump” you create using a soldering
iron and lead-based solder merely holds the two components in contact
with each other so that an electrical current can pass through and
therefore complete an electrical circuit.

A safer alternative to propane and acetylene tanks in your home
would be to use one of the mini cook’s torches that are hand-held and
run on butane. I have been using said cook’s torch for about a year
now and have found that it tackles most jobs I’ve asked of it. Some
of my larger pieces have proved a bit difficult to solder but I’ve
always got there in the end. I’m sure your husband wouldn’t object to
you using such a kitchen device in your home.

When I started making jewellery last July, my husband was convinced
that I could simply solder using his soldering iron, and it took him
a while to realise that they are completely different methods for
joining metals. Buy a cook’s torch and have lots of fun making
jewellery. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions via Orchid. It’s a
friendly bunch of people and I have learned a vast amount from the
good folks on this forum.

Helen
UK
http://www.hillsgems.co.uk


#4

Electric soldering devices only go up to around 650 degrees. Not
enough heat for high temperature soldering.

What is your husband afraid of? Perhaps we can help demystify his
fears.

If you go with statistics rather than fear of the unknown, the
numbers of houses that have burned down from a jewelers gas tank
would be so low that walking across the street would have higher
death statistics.

House fires are caused by, in order for the year 2007 in the state
of Massachusetts weRe:

  1. 43% Smoking

  2. 15% Undetermined (I asked the state fire marshal, no reports of
    fires of structures with bottled fuel inside the home, with the
    exception of BBQ’s on porches). This undetermined also covered,
    lightning, oily rags in a basement, exposed solvents and flammable
    material near a flame source such as a hot water heater.

  3. 15% Electrical

  4. 10% Heating

  5. 10% Arson

  6. 5% Candles

  7. 3% Cooking

All states and all cities have different fire code requirements. You
may not be granted access to storing bottle fuel in your home, but
you might. I have a studio now in my house. I have a permit from the
Waltham fire department, as I was able to show the following.

  1. working smoke detectors
  2. a fire extinguisher of which I have knowledge in operating
  3. a B size acetylene tank which is secured
  4. a black splash and area of asbestos free transite to solder
  5. safe storage in a metal cabinet of flammable solvents
  6. knowledge of safety precautions

From there I contacted my insurance companies. I have two, because I
live in a duplex. I needed written permission from my neighbor, and
the insurance companies just wanted a permit from the fire
department. They added $45 a year rider on my policy.

The fire department wants to help you. Insurance companies, and
again, their requirements will vary, just want to know you are being
safe.

I don’t know all the answers, and when I post, it is because I have
checked on certain facts. If your area does not allow for bottled
fuel, but you have natural gas, then a G-TEC Gas Booster is the way
to go, or equally good is a water torch from Spirer Flame. They read
this forum. They email me when my facts conflict and they are here to
answer your questions so you can get out there and make your jewelry.

My point is, irrational fear should NEVER impede your desire to do
anything. Get the facts first. Then make a decision on how to
proceed.

Good luck and safe soldering!

karen

Karen Christians
Waltham, MA
http:www.cleverwerx.com


#5

do you mean the standard soldering iron? because it won’t melt
silver solder. You can get nice little butane torches which run on
lighter gas and are no more dangerous than a cigarette lighter or a
gas stove. I use one; it’s perfectly adequate for soldering.


#6
Electric soldering devices only go up to around 650 degrees. Not
enough heat for high temperature soldering. 

If you’re referring to the classic soldering iron, that’s correct.
But one used to be able to find in the tool catalogs (maybe still
somewhere) an actual jewelry soldering tool that had a control box,
with two insulated wire leads attached to graphite probes with a
foot pedal control. In use, you’d touch each side of the joint to be
made with one of the probe, and high current low voltage electricty
flowing through that circuit would quickly heat the joint to red hot.
More than enough for hard soldering. Kind of like an adaptation of a
spot welder, though with less power and not an instantaneous current
release. Also a little bit like, in principal at least, the
capacative discharge tack welders, except again, these things
weren’t an instant current surge… I haven’t seen the things sold
new in a long time, though they may be still, but occasionally one
sees them in an old jewelers estate sale or on ebay.

Peter


#7
I use one; it's perfectly adequate for soldering. 

This comment refers to hand-held butane torches. I would love to
know what brand you use, & how large it will solder. I constantly
get queries from students about these, especially at bead-fest-type
events. I have a Bernzomatic ($25 at Home Depot) and I can solder
very small things with it but nothing larger than about 1 inch
square.

Good or bad, if you’ve tried these, I’d like to know the details. I
can’t, as a practical matter, buy them all and try them, though I’m
tempted.

Noel


#8

“Soldering” in the world of goldsmithing is really brazing, that is,
temperatures are in the red heat range. Electrical soldering devices
don’t reach that temperature, but are useful for low temperature soft
soldering (tin-lead alloys, mostly). Hence the need for a torch of
some kind. A fairly useful and relatively safe torch may be found in
the butane micro torches that have been adapted for culinary purposes
in the kitchen as well as for their oiginal purpose for light brazing
in the workshop.

Dick Davies


#9

Noel

I agree with you.

The Bernzomatic uses propane and air mixture which is hotter than
butane and air. I tested a Bernzomatic and found that for easy solder
on a silver jump ring, no problem. The Easy solder was from Hauser
and Miller.

If you remember awhile ago, I posted the melting flow points for
silver wire solder from different manufacturers. I think soldering
with a Bernzomatic is going to depend on a few things.

  1. What solder you are using and at what melting point

  2. Creating an “oven” effect with your firebricks to reflect heat

The flame is tiny and not terribly hot and it depends on how much
mass you are soldering together.

If one is soldering using this method, I am interested in knowing
how you are doing it

Karen Christians
Waltham, MA
http:www.cleverwerx.com


#10

Hello Cynthia,

The classic electric soldering “iron” works fine for electronics and
such where the solder melts at low temps. If you wish to solder
precious metals, the “iron” is not hot enough. Gonna’ need a torch.

Sorry,
Judy in Kansas


#11
Noel I agree with you. The Bernzomatic uses propane and air
mixture which is hotter than butane and air. 

My Bernzomatic is a handheld butane torch, pistol-shaped, like many
others at least in outward appearance. It is a pain to light, and
some recent students literally couldn’t do it (it has a trigger that
takes significant hand strength).

I’ve used it exactly the way I use my other torches. Building an
"oven" would doubtless expand its abilities a little.

As a frame of reference, I used it initially on the links in the
"now-famous" bracelet in this month’s Art Jewelry Mag. I was
soldering a 1" square bezel of 3mm x 1.5mm strip to a backing just
over 1" square, 22g. The first two went fine, but the third one
simply refused to flow, so I said to heck with it and switched to my
Meco. I don’t think I would have liked to try to solder the hinges
with the butane anyway-- the flame is a different shape and I don’t
feel as though I can aim it as well.

Noel


#12

I didn’t realise such things existed but I’ve just looked and found
the following links:

http://tinyurl.com/5v3q83
http://tinyurl.com/5oqtox
http://tinyurl.com/55bwcb

It seems that you can still buy these units new.

Helen
UK
http://www.hillsgems.co.uk


#13

I actually just ran across one of these in a ‘lot’ of items I
purchased from someone getting rid of her tools. It is a Pro-Craft
unit and this is what Grobet says about it:

No torch or gas tanks needed. Used for hard or soft soldering.
Up to 2000 F (1093 C). Demagnetizes watch movements, small
instruments and small tools. Low voltage unit is shock resistant.
Your hands may safely touch any part of the carbon holders or
contact clips. 

It is a compact, efficient machine for soldering rings, jewelry,
spectacle frames or any piece where hard or soft solder is
needed. The heat range is acceptable for soldering very light to
heavy items. Heat control is easily achieved by turning the
selector knob. The heat is produced electrically, without flame,
by touching a carbon electrode to the work to be soldered. 

I have no plans to use this machine, but noticed this thread and
thought to provide some data.

Susan Bucknam
Talisman Design


#14
The Bernzomatic uses propane and air mixture which is hotter than
butane and air. I tested a Bernzomatic and found that for easy
solder on a silver jump ring, no problem. The Easy solder was from
Hauser and Miller. 

I replied to Noel’s request for experiences of using the little
butane cook’s torches but forgot to mention the make of torch and the
type of solder I use.

I use a Bernzomatic BUTANE hand-held cook’s torch and I use plumb
sterling HARD solder from Stuller and I do every soldering job with
it - far greater volumes of silver than just jump rings - and using
hard solder. I do like you say Karen, and create an “oven” effect to
reflect heat up from my soldering board - often pre-heating the area
of the board the piece will sit on. As I said in the other post, I
have successfully soldered pieces as big as almost 3 inches by 1
inch and 2 inches by 1.5 inches.

When doing such pieces, I have to make sure that the torch is FULL
of butane as it is impossible to solder such large pieces using hard
solder if the torch is near empty.

So: well-fitting joint, full torch, pre-heated soldering board,
methodical heating of the piece and surrounding board and voilla -
successful soldering.

I often have to do repeated steps. Prepare joint, flux well, heat
(and get some places soldered), pickle, flux, heat, etc, etc, until
all parts are soldered but you get there in the end.

There is another Orchid member in the UK who only uses these torches
for all her soldering jobs too.

Helen
UK
http://www.hillsgems.co.uk


#15

Hi Noel,

I have been using a hand-held butane cook’s torch for about a year
now. Every piece I’ve ever made has been soldered using it. On my
website (just a web presence at the moment)
http://www.hillsgems.co.uk, there are two pendants that I made very
early on. The rhodonite pendant is almost three inches by one inch
and the carnelian pendant is about two inches by about one and a
half inches. Yes they were a mare to solder and it did take me a long
time and the results are a bit lumpy, but if I were to make them
again, I’d have less difficulty getting them up to soldering
temperature even with the little butane hand-held torch and they
would be a lot neater than they are - my soldering technique and
getting a good fit prior to soldering have improved immeasurably
since then!

I was having difficulties trying to solder the bezels onto such large
backplates and had advice such as lifting the piece up onto a support
and heating it from underneath. However, I found that that made
things even more difficult because I just couldn’t get enough heat
into the piece. Instead, I found what works on my large pieces is to
use the heat absorbing properties of my soldering board. It’s one of
those that looks like asbestos but isn’t. Sometimes I even heat an
area of the board first, then place the piece onto the hot spot and
methodically heat the piece and the surrounding soldering board so
that it too is bouncing heat back onto the piece. I suppose the board
sort of insulates the piece you’re trying to heat and stops it losing
heat to the surroundings so quickly. I have also reticulated a two by
two inch sheet of silver (0.5mm thick) using the hand-held torch.
I’ve used it to do repairs in gold too (9K and 18K).

I’ve also been told by a number of people that if you can solder
using one of these little torches, then you can solder anything - so
they might be a good idea for your students.

Helen
UK
http://www.hillsgems.co.uk


#16

Peter, if you look in the Hardy book–“The Jewelry repair Manual”, a
classic book— you’ll find a section on soldering (brazing) with
the electric soldering machine. This was my first book and, while it
is (and was when I bought it) certainly dated, I learned a ton from
it.

Andy


#17

When I left school and set up my first rudimentary studio, I used a
bernzomatic propane plumber’s torch. The only difference between it
and the standard screw-the-canister-to -the-torch setup was that this
had a hose between the small “tank” and the torch body. It was called
"Flexifire". It worked great for a year or so. I soldered all kinds
of jewelry with it. (Then I went to oxy/propane with a Hoke torch
body. Still use it…)

The nice thing was that, with the hose, the torch didn’t surge like
the standard bernzomatic outfit does when tipped down to solder. Most
plumbing applications keep the torch upright.

They still sell it: here’s the link:
http://tinyurl.com/6d7vkv

Bernzomatic JTH7 HO Reg Hose Torch
SKU - 282738

There is now the “Turbotorch” which provides an accelerated, hotter
flame. Uses the same fuel.

You can also buy canisters of Mapp gas which is a blend of propane
and acetylene and can be used with most of these torch outfits. It
can be found alongside the standard propane bernzomatic cylinders at
Home Depot, etc. It burns hotter than standard propane.

Hope this helps, Andy


#18
This comment refers to hand-held butane torches. I would love to
know what brand you use, & how large it will solder. I constantly
get queries from students about these, especially at
bead-fest-type events. I have a Bernzomatic ($25 at Home Depot) and
I can solder very small things with it but nothing larger than
about 1 inch square. 

I can’t remember the make of mine - I will try to find out! - but it
was about twice that price (although the UK is more expensive). I
wouldn’t try to solder large silverware with it, I have to say, but
I haven’t had any issues with things two or three inches (which is
about as large as I work with unless we’re thinking bangles). The
flame is good and hot - my biggest problem is that while I can
increase or reduce flame size, I can’t produce a bushy flame with it.
To solder larger pieces/areas I use honeycomb block and make sure
that the part the piece is resting on is glowing.

I can melt soft (not borosilicate) glass with is, too.


#19

I found a Desk Top Soldering Press at instructables.com and was
wondering if this might work?

http://tinyurl.com/5fs3px

Warning - instructables has lots of interesting stuff and will be a
time sink if you poke around too much :slight_smile:

Helene
www.AncientWire.com


#20
if you look in the Hardy book--"The Jewelry repair Manual", a
classic book--- you'll find a section on soldering (brazing) with
the electric soldering machine. This was my first book and, while
it is (and was when I bought it) certainly dated, I learned a ton
from it. 

Ah, nostalgia. I had a copy of that thing till about ten years ago.
Like you, it was very useful when I was first learning this stuff.
Then I loaned it to a student or colleage or someone and never saw it
again… Sigh.

But the real question is whether any of those machines or something
like it is still available. Seen one for sale new in the last 20
years or so? I haven’t.

Peter