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Firescales on 14kw Tiffany Heads

I am having a terrible clean up problem with my 4 & 6 prong 14kw
tiffany heads after soldering. Even after dipping in
boricacid/alcohol mix (I use Magic Flame) and placing in pickle, the
firescale is very hard to remove between the prongs. I have used
bristle brushes, knife edge rubber wheels, and 3M bristle discs, but
none of these can competely clean down between the prongs. Anyone
have an answer?

Gary Mills

Prips Flux when properly applied (spraying or brushing on warm
metal) will keep this from happening

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


Two possible culprits, Gary, would be heating for too long and/or
using an oxidizing flame instead of a neutral or reducing one.

Somewhere in my dim and distant past I was told that once the boric
acid coating your piece goes clear (336F/169C) you’ve got 17 seconds
to reach soldering temp before the boric begins to burn off. True or
not in specifics it is in principle. The longer you keep the piece
hot - and the hotter you get the piece - the more firescale you are
likely to experience.

Using an oxidizing flame (hard blue cone with a hissing sound) on
sterling and karat gold alloys is a guaranteed way to produce serious
firescale. A neutral flame (medium blue cone) is considered by some
to be the perfect flame. Personally I like to see just a hint of
yellow in the envelope surrounding the blue cone. This is heading
towards reducing and insures you’re burning up all the oxygen in your

It also pays, when possible, to heat the entire piece, focusing your
flame on the solder point when everything is near your target temp.
Concentrating on the solder point from the start results in the rest
of the piece stealing heat which, in effect, causes you to overheat
in the area of the solder flow to compensate.

Les Brown
L.F.Brown Goldwork

nickle is the problem… white gold, 14kt at that is about half fine
gold, some copper, a bit of zinc and the balance nickel…(to alloy
it yourself: to 1 gram of fine gold, add 0. 342 Cu, 0. 248Ni and 0.
120 Zn) nickle being ferrous, is not responsive to the non-ferrous
pickle you are probably using…

the easiest remedy:

take some tri-m-ite ( a 3M proprietary brand name) 1500 grit paper,
wrap it around an old bur shaft, turn on the flexshaft, dremel, or
micro-motor and and use it to get into the dips in the prongs… you
can modify the bur, use a tapered wooden paper mandrel ( about a
buck from various suppliers), use a fine, thin sanding stick, or use
a dip in nitric acid and water… if the boric/alcohol firecoat isn’t
working, maybe time to replace it if its old, or just try some
cupronil and in eiter case, build a couple of coats ( dry quickly
with a little heat, redip) and then try soldering the setting to the

R. E. R.

Hi Gary;

Try the new “Fire Scoff” product from Stuller. It will give you more
protection than boric/alcohol. I usually install heads with 14k
white easy solder. There’s no reason to use anything higher
temperature. Try this;

  1. polish the head completely before you get ready to solder it in.
    And clean it thoroughly in the ultrasonic and steam off the sonic

  2. coat it with the Fire Scoff (or boric acid and alcohol) before
    you put it in the ring (or whatever). Bake on a good layer and let it
    cool. Scratch off this coating where you expect solder to attach.

  3. Use a tiny bit of white paste flux down in the hole and on the
    peg (for peg base) or in the surfaces ONLY where you need the solder
    to flow. Don’t get it anywhere else or you’ll get discoloration where
    you don’t want it. The liquid fluxes will wash away the fire coating,
    plus they don’t work as well. They’re fine if you’ve had lots of
    practice with the torch.

  4. Position the head, holding it however is appropriate (head/shank
    tweezers, laser tack, binding wire, whatever). Heat until the flux
    starts to go glassy then ball up the solder on your brick and pick it
    up with the solder pick and put it where it goes. Continue to heat
    until it flows. If you are going to free-hand solder it, as in an
    open base head, tin the area where it goes with solder, or tin the
    head (I mean, semi-melt the solder on one or both places where the
    join will be).

  5. If it doesn’t flow into some areas, don’t stay on it with the
    torch. Stop, pickle and clean, re-coat, re-flux, and do more
    soldering. Just continuing to heat it to attempt to get solder where
    it apparently doesn’t want to go will cause you to over heat the head
    and tarnish it. It usually doesn’t flow when it encounters an area
    that has already oxidized, either because the fire coat didn’t get
    there, there was skin oil present, or you’ve heated it too long. If
    oxide is the problem, you’ll have to physically remove it. Somtimes
    just scuffing around on it with a tiny bur if it’s already partially
    soldered in place.

David L. Huffman

Two comments. For peg crowns.

Prevention- Double firecoat the crown before placement in mounting.
Dip and burn off, cool down, dip and burn off. Make sure you can see
the entire piece coated. Next use white paste flux. The solder will
pit less with this flux, especially if you use any of the deox
metals. Control the location of the flux to the hole and bottom of
the post with perhaps a little on the piece.

Recovery- If you can access the area repolish with a med bristle
brush. For tight areas, us a round tooth pick. Break it off half way
and sharpen it on a file. This will access the area as well as hold

Try this and everything else you can until you find something that
works for you.

Todd Hawkinson

Gary for those heads that do firescale (several have answered how to
preventfirescale) take a small ball burr and sand and polish away
the cutting blades so you have a nice shiny ball. This will now
burnish the surface and bring solder as well as scaled metal to a
nice bright shine. Not at perfect as no scale in the first place. I
like about a .5 to a .01 millimeter ball. depending on the size of
the area to be polished and the size and angle of the prongs.

Frank Goss

Muratic acid works well and also on cleaning castings. I often will
put in a jar in the ultrasonic. You are probally using to high of a
heat as well. Try using a softer flame. Hope this helps.



I use a water torch which has the tendancy to really blacken up white
gold if I’m not carefull, but I’ve stumbled onto something that works
really well. You can avoid most firescale by heating the shank close
to the head and drawing the solder towards the joint, but if you get
a stubborn joint and toast the head here’s the cure. Go to your local
welding supply and purchase Handy and Harmon B-1 solder paste. B-1 is
designed for higher temperatures and is foul-looking black stuff. Mix
the B-1 with some water and mix untill its like a thick pudding and
coat the the head you’ve burned. Fire up your torch and heat the
head. The B-1 will bubble, then melt and eventually “glass off”. With
your torch, “glass off” the B-1 over the entire area (it will be red
molten, but not hot enough to melt the gold) and quench in the pickle
pot… Your firescale has been removed. Clean it in the ultrasonic.
The areas of firescale will be white, but powdery in appearance.
Throw it in the magnetic tu mbler for a while then polish and its
good as new. Give it a shot.

I second the Firescoff recommendation!!! I’ve found it both very easy
to use and highly effective, particularly on my repousse pieces.
Frankly, I’ve always been a live with it now and depletion gild it
later person, but this product saves me time.

I should have put it on the cleaning silver thread, but I’m also in
love with Nventa’s (maker of Firescoff) SparkleSparkle polishing
cloths. They work much better than others I’ve used and will even
completely remove patinas from raised areas when I Jax or liver of
sulphur the backgrounds.

Victoria Lansford

Dear Paul:

Thank you for your Orchid posting.“I use a water torch which has the
tendancy to really blacken up white gold if I’m not carefull,”

I manage North American operations for a more sophisticated
(patented) multicell water welder unit, the Spirflame[tm].

Are you covering the crowns with a good high heat hard soldering
flux like Prip’s or Cupronil which is especially good for white

If you are using a good flux and your water torch is still producing
heavy oxidation on your white gold jewelry, your water torch is no
longer producing a pure hydrogen / oxygen, completely balanced and
carbon free flame.

If your unit is a common single cell unit, it is time to not only
change your electrolyte but remove any traces of electrolyte residue
in the gas delivery part of your system, including the booster tank.
These units run hot and the gas which is produced is moist, carrying
with it electrolyte residues. In time, these need to be (regularly)
removed, since they can alter the flame temperatures, mixture of gas,
and cleanliness. It is why you will never see single cell units used
in high speed production or fully automated applications where the
flame composition and exact temperatures are so critical.

Even if the electrolyte is only a white powdery form, once the wet
gas runs through it again, it will pick up this material and can give
you problems. With a little time and care it can be corrected and
then this can be made part of your maintenance procedures. I would be
happy to work with you to restore your water welder’s original flame
mix and configuration. You don’t need to l ive with this.

Please feel free to contact me off-line for details regarding your
specific unit, and about how to remove those impurities.

Best Regards,

I use a water torch too. It sounds like you need to do some basic
maintenance on it- replace the filter, replace the elecrolyte/flux
mixture( drain it and start over with new don’t add to what’s i
there- if you’re mucking anything up, it’s gone bad, or depleted the
flux in the solution). drain the distilled water too, and replace
with as pure an H2O as you can find or make… then look in the torch
handle, it sounds like you need a new filter there too… if you do
these things, use cupronil/pripps, or boric/borax/methanol and build
a couple or three coats, then it’s time to have your unit serviced
as the internal workings could need cleaning, and it may void the
warranty if you do it yourself… call the manufacturer(Okai corp ??)
if you have cleaned and refilled and still have problems.R.E.Rourke
( oh and by the way, no doubt the spiritflame salesman will post in
response- unless you have deep pockets and a need for multiple
handles and a large scale production set-up, I’ll bet if you ask him
to send you a test or eveluation unit you won’t hear from him
again… seems every post regarding water torches he appears, and
tells water torch users that unless they are using his brand, all
others are just not up to par, and while his product may have more
anodes to work with… if you aren’t a large scale producer, your unit
is absolutely adequate…don’t buy into a salesman’s hype…unless you
just want to invest in a 2ed water torch of course!)