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Experience with PUK welders


#1

I was thinking about getting a welding unit (because I so hate to
solder). Laser is out of my range unless I get some financing so I
wanted to get a “bridge” unit something that was a reliable middle
ground between the cheap tack welders and the laser welders. I was
told the PUK was what I should be looking for, but I have seen some
people “allude” to the PUK being a less than efficient tool. Just in
the last month I’ve even seen the new PUK 3 advertised on Orchid.
What gives? Could someone just come forward with a thorough review
of a PUK 2 or 3 so I can know if I should just use my money as a
down payment on an affordable laser unit?

Thanks bunches


#2

I’ve had a PUK II for about a year now and think its great. I’ve
used it for tack welding platinum, palladium and gold and it works
fine; saved a lot of time in devising ways to hold tiny parts 'cos I
could hold them in my fingers. I haven’t tried with silver. I’ve also
used it to repair a broken claw in an opal cluster ring without
removing the opals - it was fiddly but it worked fine. The claw was
18K gold, approx 0.6mm diam. It allowed me to repair a bracelet
consisting of an enamelled silver flower with an elaborate strap made
from beads threaded on elasticated strings; a petal had broken off of
the flower. Because of the construction it was totally impossible to
use a flame for soldering the petal, and quite impractical to remove
the strap. The PUK II did the job just fine - not quite as pretty a
repair as a soldered joint but it was on the back and invisible when
worn.

I’ve also used it to weld 22mm diam, 1.2mm wall thickness, stainless
steel tube. No discolouration and no messy blobs to clean up
afterwards.

I would have liked the microscope but couldn’t afford it. Instead I
made an adjustable stand to hold the handpiece at just the right
place and angle and use binocular magnifiers together with the
supplied illuminated lens/shield. Its nearly as good as the
microscope, but I’d still like one. I hope that helps.

Regards, Gary Wooding


#3

Hi Elkka;

Don’t buy a pulse welder unless you’re willing to stick with it. You
will forget how many things you’re doing with it that you couldn’t do
before, but you will curse it for everything you expect it to do that
it doesn’t. The machine is NOT a laser. If you are expecting to work
on silver with it, forget that idea completely. It will weld small
and delicate silver, weld a jump ring, fix a crack in a mounting if
it’s not too heavy. But if you think you’re going to weld up a heavy
shank you’re trying to size down, you can have it cranked up full
blast and you get nothing but a mess. But I’ve heard that a laser
won’t do much better.

I’ve used my PUK 2 to weld titanium and stainless steel eyeglasses.
I can weld a pair of eyeglass frames without burning off the plastic
tortoise shell coating. I can solder the jump ring on a spring ring
catch without annealing the spring inside. It’s great for welding
broken tongues on box clasps. It works well to fill pits in castings.
It’s a life saver when you can’t get the bezel pulled back to remove
an opal or emerald to fix a crack right up near the stone. Yesterday,
I welded a shank on a ring top that was set with opals all around.
The weld was about 2 or 3 millimeters from the stones. But it’s taken
a few months go get good at it, and I’m still learning.

There are a lot of things you have to get in the habit of to get
good results. You have to keep a sharp, clean welding point. You have
to get a good ground contact. You have to have a clean, conductive
surface where you intend to weld. I still want a laser, since I know
what I can do with one. But it will be a couple years before I can
finance one since I have a lot of critical investments yet to make. I
don’t regret the purchase, but then I was damned determined to get my
money’s worth. My advice, find someone with one you can try out and
bring a few of your problem jobs to try out. Remember, if you work in
silver, this machine isn’t going to help you much.

David L. Huffman


#4

I own a laser and use it several hours a day, but there is nothing
that takes the place of a good soldering job. These tools have a
very important place in our industry but you do have to learn how to
solder. Spend 1500.00 dollars on a good class and and put the
balance of your savings in the bank you won’t regret being cautious
and Knowledge doesn’t break and needs very little service


#5

I have had two PUK 2’s in my shop until recently. I sold one to
another jeweler. While I find that I can do lots of work with mine I
have not had good luck in getting my employee up to speed with it. I
don’t know if it is because I was already familiar with welding or
if it is just spending enough time with it to learn the in’s and
out’s of it. They do work well and are certainly cheaper than a
laser. I plan on buying a laser soon but will keep the PUK 2 for the
jobs it does well.

Jim
James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550


#6

I’ve had great results welding gold, platinum, and SILVER with my
PUK 2. I’ve put together a training DVD on using the PUK welder. It
covers welding jump rings, eyeglasses, retiping, and sizing a heavy
gents silver ring, plus more. Anyone interested contact me off list.

Brad Simon
Bench Media
http://www.BWSimon.com


#7

I have a PUK II welder. I purchased it used from another jeweler who
was buying a laser. I’m more than satisfied with it.

I suspect that the reason folks don’t like the technology is that it
is quite different from anything else used in jewelry making. It
requires a fair amount of experimentation, steady hands, and an
understanding that it doesn’t fill gaps.

I use it a lot for sterling silver and it works very well. The real
trick is to make joins that are clean and flush. Switching between
gold and silver is a bit of a trial - they work with very different
settings - but I’m getting better at that too. IMHO it is not a
substitute for any other tool, it is a new way of doing things and
just one item in the bag of tricks I use to make this stuff work.

Judy Hoch


#8

As others have said, there is NO substitute for good soldering
skills…and I agree with that wholeheartedly. I know many jewelers
who use fancy equipment, but lack fundamental skills. So when
technology has a glitch, they’re stuck without a manual to consult
and charts to troubleshoot :slight_smile: Having said that, I’ll provide you with
my (brief) review of the PUK 3…

We bought ours about 2 months ago. Despite having frustrating
moments, I think it’s a valuable tool and well worth the money. The
PUK 3 Professional Plus is the model we purchased; It’s the “Top of
the Line” PUK 3, as it were. It took me a couple days to get used to
working under a microscope, as it was a little disorienting, and had
problems positioning the work. Another stumbling block was finding
comfortable, efficient hand positions for different task. The key is
to “perch” your hands to gain stability, as with soldering. But after
a bit of practice, it has turned into a powerful tool. Just today, I
re tipped 30 prongs on a cluster setting, with no problem. Only took
me 10 minutes, too. It’s nice being able to see what you’re doing
with the microscope. I can’t imagine working without one. We don’t
work much in silver, but from what little I’ve done, it seems the
machine has ample power to handle it. Platinum welds like a dream
and (yellow) gold is up there too.

As with the laser, there is a learning curve. And while it may not
be as “efficient”, it can still perform many of the same tasks (with
an experienced user, obviously). Not to mention costing FAR less.
Then again,

I would still like a laser :wink:


#9

Thanks for all the replies (online and off).

So instead of helping me make a choice I think you guys have made it
more difficult for me LOL. One camp says the PUK is a worth while
tool, while the other says there is no substitute for soldering. How
ironic is it that I am a jeweler who absolutely hates to solder? It
seems so time consuming and I like to experiment with
non-traditional materials so I can’t always solder even when I know
it would make the design more secure. For example, how do I solder
something with epoxy or pearl, or amber in the design when these
elements can not be removed and then replaced?

Anyway, another question for those who like the PUK - are you
working with argon gas or without? if you are working with gas,
where is the gas connected and how is it fed to the working tip of
the welding hand piece? And is there a huge difference between
working with or without gas?

For those who said the PUK wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be:
can you describe in more detail how it failed? It didn’t weld clean?
It didn’t weld strong? I think one of you said the welded components
cracked…more details like that would help me.


#10
For example, how do I solder something with epoxy or pearl, or
amber in the design when these elements can not be removed and then
replaced? 

Well, the standard way is to plan your piece, solder first, always
epoxy last.

Elaine


#11
How ironic is it that I am a jeweler who absolutely hates to
solder? 

Is it possible to be a jeweler who does not solder?
I am concerned for you, really.

Elaine


#12
How ironic is it that I am a jeweler who absolutely hates to
solder? It seems so time consuming and I like to experiment with
non-traditional materials so I can't always solder even when I
know it would make the design more secure. 

Why the disdain of soldering? You mention that it’s time consuming,
but then again, what’s not when quality is the objective?

The PUK 3 will NOT operate without argon gas. Any local welding
supply company will deliver argon gas right to your door; it’s not
expensive. From there, you simply connect an argon regulator and a
small hose is inserted into the back of the unit. The argon travels
through the handpiece and out through the “tip” where the electrode
is connected. As I understand it, laser welders don’t require argon
gas shielding for every weld. There is a separate foot pedal to
spray the argon in the chamber. The PUK automatically releases the
gas when contact is made. For both the PUK and the laser, a black
soot-like film surrounds the weld spot. At first, it’s a bit
disconcerting, but it’s easily removed by fiberglass brush (though I
hate fiberglass! ouch)


#13
For example, how do I solder something with epoxy or pearl, or
amber in the design when these elements can not be removed and then
replaced? 

It depends on how much heat gets to epoxy, pearl or amber; too much
and its destroyed. The PUK doesn’t solder, it welds, and although the
temperature at the weld point is very high it lasts for only a few
milliseconds and thus is very localised. So localised in fact that
its quite feasible (common, in fact) to hold the item with your
fingers just a millimetre or so from the joint. You just can’t do
that with solder because the spread of heat is needed to allow the
solder to flow nicely. Like all welds, the actual joint is rippled;
not smooth like a soldered joint. You don’t get nice fillets with a
weld, and the PUK is very poor at filling gaps - it is possible with
the use of filler wire, but is hardly worth the trouble (maybe those
who are more expert would disagree). If a smooth joint is required
from the PUK then you have to dress it afterwards.

Anyway, another question for those who like the PUK - are you
working with argon gas or without? if you are working with gas,
where is the gas connected and how is it fed to the working tip of
the welding hand piece? And is there a huge difference between
working with or without gas? 

I use argon; as the makers recommend. The gas is fed into the rear
of the control box and then through the umbilical cord that connects
to the hand piece. When the needle electrode touches the work piece
you first hear the gas coming out around the electrode, then the
"puk" sound (that gives the name of the device) as the arc is struck
and the electrode automatically retracted. I’ve never used it without
gas and I would imagine that, if I did, the welds would be very poor

  • rather like soldering without flux.

As others have said, the PUK (and lasers for that matter) shouldn’t
be regarded as a substitute for soldering - its another method of
joining metals and is best regarded as an additional tool in the
armoury rather than a replacement. There are some jobs that are quite
impossible with normal soldering, but trivial with the PUK. Some
metals, such as titanium, are all but impossible to solder, but can
be joined easily with a PUK (or laser).

Like all metal working techniques, you have to climb a learning
curve before you can use a PUK (or laser) properly. The supplier from
whom I purchased mine ran a one-day course, the price of which was
refunded if the PUK was purchased. Maybe you could get the same deal.

Regards, Gary Wooding


#14
Is it _possible_ to be a jeweler who does not solder? 

Well, Elaine, obviously it depends on definitions, but… when I
first started, soldering was so stressful to me that when our mutual
friend Leslie showed me titanium (which, in the normal way of
things, can’t be soldered) I jumped on it. I developed a whole
line of titanium pieces with silver wire (I still make the birds and
fishes). I’d say they were jewelry, and they sold quite well. In
fact, if I’d been content to keep making those instead of becoming
more ambitious, I’d probably be earning more right now. But I
digress…

So, yeah, I’d say you can.

Noel


#15

Thanks again to all of you.

Cool to find out where the name of the tool originated from, I’d
have never had guessed until I used one my self. I’m on the fence
about getting one now but demoing one would be great, Gary if you
could share the name of the manufacturer that you purchased yours
from I’d appreciate it. The class and discount you mentioned
interest me greatly.

Is it _possible_ to be a jeweler who does not solder? I am
concerned for you, really. 

Elaine are you concerned enough to pay for my new PUK? LOL

Never did I say I don’t solderhow would that even be possible? I
just don’t like to, is all. And yes putting the fragile elements in
place first makes a whole lot of sense, but repairing premade stuff
is another issue entirely.


#16

Hi Elkka,

Cool to find out where the name of the tool originated from, I'd
have never had guessed until I used one my self. I'm on the fence
about getting one now but demoing one would be great, Gary if you
could share the name of the manufacturer that you purchased yours
from I'd appreciate it. The class and discount you mentioned
interest me greatly. 

Since I’m in UK, my supplier is not likely to be of much use to you,
but, just in case it helps, it is… Sutton Tools in Birmingham,
website… http://www.suttontools.co.uk

I think they hold the one day course at least once a year, in the
Birmingham College of Jewellery; the cost was UKP85, returnable, as
I mentioned, if the unit was subsequently purchased.

The course was actually given by a representative from Lampert
Industries, who make the units.

I hope this helps.
Regards, Gary Wooding


#17
The course was actually given by a representative from Lampert
Industries, who make the units. 

Picking up on this point. Have you tried going along to a trade fair?
In Australia we have had a lampert Rep bring a PUK out here and
spent 3 days demonstrating it. It provided us with an opportunity to
sit down at the fair and give it a go. I actually asked a jeweller at
anothet stand to cut my 18y wedder so i could go back and have a go
at Puking it back together as he had no 18kt I could try. I ended up
buying one. I have hardly used it but there are many repairs i would
not have taking on if I didnt have the PUK. My staff use it heaps.

Cheers
Christos…


#18

I was asked to fit a safety chain to a silver bracelet that
contained a large piece of amber. The customer had already contacted
some other jewellers and had been told that it was impossible to
attach the required lugs without damaging the amber. I did it pretty
easily with my PUK2, the following links show the complete bracelet
and a closeup of the lugs.


Regards, Gary Wooding


#19
I did it pretty easily with my PUK2, the following links show the
complete bracelet and a closeup of the lugs.
http://tinyurl.com/2docux 
http://tinyurl.com/yukqem 

Nice job, Gary! Some enterprising jeweler could also have completed
it by riveting the eye in to the bracelet. There is plenty of metal
thickness there for drilling, IMHO.

M’lou


#20

I agree that drilling would work, but the customer wasn’t keen. The
following links show a better example: a pendant bail fitted to a
pretty shell. The bail is made of 0.8mm silver wire threaded through
the natural holes in the shell and welded closed. Soldering the bail
would have certainly destroyed the shell.

http://tinyurl.com/36jeng is the front of the pendant
http://tinyurl.com/3cqjvm shows the rear

Regards, Gary Wooding