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Forming a ball on tip of wire

Dear members – I have two questions I badly need an answer to, but
I’ll post them separately. The first is:

how do you create a bead or ball on the end of a piece of 20-gauge
sterling silver wire. I’ve been having problems with the ball
shriveling and looking awful. I’ve resorted to using casting grain
and soldering the wire onto that. I know that sterling silver
shrinks. Am I using too much heat? or not enough. I use a Blazer
butane torch.

I have been looking online for solutions and I think this has been
discussed before, but I can’t find it in the archives. Not sure what
to call it. Thanks, Betsy

Ball up. Hang the to-be-balled end down, make sure you flux it with
LuxiFlux, or alcohol and boric acid, first.

And after you get the ball, turn off the oxygen and just continue
heating (cooling) with burning butane only.

(This won’t work with acetylene)

Paf Dvorak


This is a technique which will become second nature by practicing
repeatedly until you get it. Some point the wire up, some down. Some
in front of a reflective surface, some in the air. If you are able
to solder a casting grain onto a wire, you will make that round
ball. Practice. You are not losing any silver as you can save the
scraps left over from practice and reuse them. If you are not at
that stage yet, save them and find a use. You can always send them
back for credit or new wire.

I am not sure where you are in your learning process, learn you


Betsy, I don’t know if this will work on silver, but I’m having luck
with it on base metal. I flux the wire end, hold it vertically in the
flame (aiming flame at just above the end of the wire), and when the
little ball forms to the desired size, I immediately remove it from
the flame and puff air on it (as close as I safely can get to the hot
ball). Then I quench it. This reduces the number of shriveled balls.

Good luck!
Judy Bjorkman

Hello Betsy. I had the same problem and I use a lot of balled up
wire for connections. I switched to Argentium wire and am now able
to get very nice round smooth ends. Rather than fire up my big torch
I also use a little butane one. And I dip the end first in a little
flux. Try Argentium.


Practice is the main ingredient. If you haven’t already, try
suspending the wire and grow the ball up the wire rather than down. I
have several pieces that require a “ball” I usually cut a piece of
wire of a particular size and length (keep track of this in a log
book so that you can repeat the results) and heat it on a charcoal
block until it forms a ball. Then pull the heat away slowly until the
ball cools. The nice thing is, if you don’t like it, do it over. Be
careful that the force of your torch doesn’t just roll the melted
ball off your block. When it cools you are left with a flat spot on
the bottom that can be filed allowing you a surface to solder to the
end of a wire or on to a flat surface. The ball does shrink and may
get a little ugly. This may be a desirable design element. If not,
make it bigger than you need and then, after soldering it to the
wire, shape it with a rubber abrasive wheel on a flex shaft and
polish it. Good luck. Rob


It may be a matter of too much heat, yes, though I actually find
butane not quite hot enough for some tasks. Are you using any sort of
coating to avoid fire-scale, as well? Flux or boric acid would be
helpful, to keep the surface clean and shiny.

Do some experiments with some scrap wire to get a good handle on
what happens with more or less heat. I always suggest deliberately
ruining a bit of scrap from time to time, just for the experience.

When I ball the end of a piece of wire, I grip it gently with a
heat-sink within about a quarter of an inch of where I want the ball
to end up (since it will be hard to melt the wire closer to it than
that) and hold it with the end pointing down into the heart of the


Hello Betsy,

Pulse-arc welders are a quick and easy way to ball up the ends of
wires. We have tons of video examples of this on our YouTube page.
The size of the ball can be manipulated by changing the total weld

This video shows us balling up 30-gauge wires.

This is one more that shows a good example of balling a solid wire.
It’s in the very first seconds of the video.

We also have resistance welders capable of resistance welding a ball
to the end of a wire or post.


If interested, we’d be happy to do some test weld with some of your
actual pieces. Let me know if we can help.

David Holloway

Here is a previous post that I saved. This helped me. Thanks Don!

I have experimented quite a bit to get nice rounded balls on the
ends of SS wire and have found the way to do it easily and it works
(well most of the time). The ball appears to accumulate 02 as the
silver pulls into a ball. If you remove the flame too quickly it
’bubbles’ out and creates a dimple in the ball. So, when you reach
the size ball you want, don’t jerk the flame away but pull it away

This precludes the bubbling activity and the ball comes out nice and

Cheers from Don in SOFL.

One of the great advantages of pulse arc welding over using a flame
to ball-up the end of a wire is how clean and round of a ball
results. I place the end of a piece of wire to the tip of the
electrode, then pulse. It takes practice to find the precise setting,
but once you find it, record it. There’s no “pruning,” partly because
of the introduction of argon gas protecting the metal. And there’s no
need for pickling after the fact. I perform this without the need of
a pin module.

Jeff Herman

When I first read this thread I thought people were over thinking
this problem. I make what amounts to granulation beads constantly.
Then I realized I was doing some of these steps automatically with
much thought toit. I usually make individual pieces. But I do have a
need to makes gangs of them at once from time to time. And for a
number of pieces I make I beaded wire ends.

Usually I will do the singular pieces on a hard fire brick. I am
usually not concerned with consistency in size of the bead so I use
up nips and pieces from the bench. If I need consistency in size I
will slide wire intothe jaws of a pair of end cutters and when they
hit the gullet I will cut them off. The neat thing about molten
sterling and I suppose gold as well is the surface tension wants to
pull it to a ball.

The weight of the molten metal on the hard brick will give you a
flat surface which is perfect for most of my applications. I get
smoother consistently shaped pieces by swirling the flame as I
withdraw the heat by pulling the torch up and away. In a sense
slowly turning down the volume.

I find that when I am beading the end of a wire the size of the
torch can be very important. Since I use a Presto-lite Plumbers
torch I am changing tips a lot. I find a smaller tip with less noise
in the flame will do a better job of most of my beading and ball
production than will a large tip. Typically I will use boric acid as
a flux on these melts. I dip the nipped scrap in a Boric and alcohol
paste and then flame on! I have never tried the Heat Sink trick
before this morning to limit the size of the ball on the wire but I
find it works a trick. And I don’t have any Argentum to try it on
but I am not a fan of Argentum and I asyet don’t find the additional
expense to be worth the minimal benefit I have found in using the
metal I tried in applications on my bench.

Don Meixner

Hi, I have been reading Orchid digest for a while now, but I have not
yet posted any comments. I have a rather easy method of producing
nice round beads, either loose or on the end of a wire. Two things
are required to do this successfully, the first is heating but not
boiling the metal and then letting it cool slowly by removing the
heat slowly. The second and most important thing is to preclude any
oxygen. For soldering this is normally done with a borax or boracic
flux, but the problem with these fluxes is that they are sticky when
molten and often become part of the bead as it cools. when the flux
is removed in the pickle, you find that your bead is distorted. What
you need is a different means of precluding the air when you melt. I
found that if I used a drop of sewing machine oil on my heating pad,
and melted the metal on this drop of burning oil (or wax), that the
carbonizing smoky flame creates a reducing atmosphere, and the
resultant beads come out even and bright and shiny, just like a
bought one. Suggest if your are making a few of them with this method
that you do it out doors or with good ventilation.

Mornington Jewellers
Victoria Australia.

thanks Allan,

For some one who has never been posted any comments, you are off
with a great start, I am going to try this one


I found that if I used a drop of sewing machine oil on my heating
pad, and melted the metal on this drop of burning oil (or wax),
that the carbonizing smoky flame creates a reducing atmosphere,
and the resultant beads come out even and bright and shiny, just
like a bought one. 

Allan. Does the oil get absolutely burnt awaye I would never have
thought of putting anything on my soldering pad that would interfere
with soldering…:-)…

Janet in Jerusalem