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Fusing vs Soldering


I have done some chain work in the past, and always soldered the
links, even when using fine silver. I am currently working on a
Roman Chain, as a project in the jewelry class I take at Palomar

I have heard and read about fusing, and after reading the
current Lapidary Journal article, am once again thinking about

While soldering, I have tried to get a fuse, but wind up with a
very limp separated link.


  1. Must I scrap these failures, or can I work harden them and
    try again, perhaps in a vibratory tumbler with shot?

  2. Is the Blazer hand held torch hot enough to fuse?

  3. I have seen both torch, and kiln suggestions, which is best?

  4. What is the best way to cut through the links to avoid

  5. Why do some links unwind, and others do not?

I would like to make Gold Idiots Delight Bracelets for my family
for Christmas. It has been suggested to me that the gold would be
too soft, is that indeed a fact?

Thanks in advance.

   1. Must I scrap these failures, or can I work harden them
and try again, perhaps in a vibratory tumbler with shot? 

If you were trying to fuse it in the first place, it wasn’t
going to remain so hard any way, was it? So whether you can
reuse it depends on fire scale and how badly you messed it up.
If you actually melted the link, or melted anything onto it, I’d
guess it’s more work to salvage than is worth the effort. The
basic rings are easy enough. Scrap the bad ones and keep
working on good ones, I’d say. Tumbling will slightly work
harden the surface, but not really the whole link. Sterling and
many gold alloys CAN be heat treated, though, to harden the
alloy. This can be just as effectively done after the chain is
assembled and shaped too, and this will improve the wearability
of the chain in some cases.

  1. Is the Blazer hand held torch hot enough to fuse?

I doubt it. for fusing effectively, you usually want a small
pinpoint localized flame that won’t heat the whole thing, but
will heat the area of just the join, so you don’t melt the link.
The blazer isn’t really that type of torch. But maybe I’m wrong.
I solder my links. Who knows what you could manage if you work
it out.

  1. I have seen both torch, and kiln suggestions, which is best?

Never tried a kiln for this. I use a torch. But never having
used a kiln, I can’t say which is better. let me know if you
decide, will you?

   4. What is the best way to cut through the links to avoid

I rather like cutting links with a seperating disk. I often use
drill bits as mandrels (you can get any size you need easily, and
drills are cheap. Plus, the flute gives you a place to hold one
end of the wire with pliers, holding both the wire and the drill,
and it won’t slip out of the groove. The you wind your coil on
the smooth shank part of the drill. Usually good for a nice
reasonably length of coil. For greater lengths and more rings,
use plain steel rod, whatever type you want, but keep it cheap.
You can chuck it into a variable speed drill too, for power
winding… Then, I use the super thin seperating disks that are
now available. There is one that’s only .006 inches in
thickness, giving a cut comparable to about a 6/0 or 8/0
sawblade. run at high speed, with the rings still held on the
drill, you simply slice down the coil, running the disk slightly
into the drill too, which keeps it from giving you a burr. (You
can chop a Lot of these grooves into the drill before it starts
to affect the rings you’re winding, and then a new drill is real
cheap.) Be sure, when cutting, that the coil is not held under
tension, tightly wound. If it was going to spring back on itself
to be slightly larger, you should let it do so in coil form, or
the rings will be slightly open when cut. Be sure to use eye
protection when using these disks. They can break easily. But
they’re MUCH faster than using a saw, once you get the hang of
it. With mandrels other than drills, like plain steel rod, you
can anneal the rings still on the mandrels if you need to. Just
quench in water, not pickle.

   5. Why do some links unwind, and others do not? 

They unwind if the wire wasn’t annealed, or if winding the wire
work hardened it sufficiently to give it spring. Fully annealed
wire will usually not unwind, in silver or yellow golds.

   I would like to make Gold Idiots Delight Bracelets for my
family for Christmas. It has been suggested to me that the gold
would be too soft, is that indeed a fact? 

Nope. Works well. If you’re worried, wind the links from a
wire that’s already about half hard drawn, instead of annealed.
Use a slightly undersize mandrell, so that when the springy wire
unwinds a bit, the end size of the link is what you desire.
Might take some trial and error to get the mandrel size right.
Don’t use too hard a wire, though, or you’ll have problems with
rings cracking when you open and close then to form the chain.

And, if you’re really into masochistic exercises, you can solder
all those itty bitty close together links shut as you build the
chain. Solding isn’t so hard. It’s cleaning em all up after
soldering so you don’t see the seams that will drive you batty.
Have fun.

Peter Rowe

Peter, Thank you for your as usual, thoughtful advice. Today at
class, I will attempt to fuse in the kiln.

The rings that got too soft, just did not solder, no fire scale
or melt, just too soft to resolder. I do use the Blazer at
school. The torches there are in desperate need of repair or
replace. I can’t imagine fine delicate work done with them.

Personally, I have purchased Little Torch, and others, just have
not yet decided on what gas to use safely at home.


Teresa: To answer your last query first : The “idiots delight
bracelet” is generally made with unsoldered links and therefore
requires a rather stiff link to insure the unity of the bracelet
when worn. You certainly can use a gold alloy to make the
bracelet but it should be an alloy that is relatively hard. Also,
the gage of the wire used to make the jump rings should be
fairly large.

Now to answer your questions in order

1. you don't have to scrap them, but you will have to work the

rings to align the ends in order to fuse them.

2.The Blazer is hot enough to fuse the links(if gage is not too

heavy) but because of the pin point flame, it is easy to go past
the fusing point, and melt your links.

3.The torch would be best, since it would be extremely

difficult to cut off the heat at the moment of fusion when using
the kiln.

4. If the gage is small a fine shears will do. I prefer a very,

very thin cut-off disc, used carefully, will give squared off
ends without shortening the ring appreciably

5.This one I don't quite understand. What do you mean unwind?

If you mean the coil of rings, you can carefully anneal the
entire coil, return it to the mandril, and finger tighen it to
get a uniform size.

Hope this helps,

Hi–Sorry I lost the original post, but wanted to respond to two
particular items–one is whether to use the torch or the kiln for
fusing links. My experience has been that the kiln is a little
too hot to use for the links. Spread them out on a piece of
charcoal, or some other base that holds the heat, and train your
flame in a circle around the link. When the heat starts to
build, go quickly and very gently over the wire, and then sort
of sweep it over the point of closure. It should fuse very
quickly. Remember to use only the very soft tip of the flame,
and that the links must be closed perfectly. It does take some
practice to do this consistently.

Secondly, I agree that using the separating disks is a great way
to get even links that don’t need to be filed. Another way to
hold them steady is as follows: After coiling the wire, wrap the
entire coil with masking tape or scotch tape. Then it can be
held firmly and either sawed through with a fine saw, or cut with
the separating disks. An added benefit is that it also holds
them all together until you unwrap them.


Teresa, I have been constructing all kinds of chains for quite
awhile. I use a small butane torch to fuse anything from 14ga to
28ga fine silver wire. Most of my coils are made on thin brass
mandrels. I always saw a slot into the brass tubing, which can
be purchased at a hobby shop. This allows the saw blade to
follow the coil cut in a straight line. Before and after
coiling, if fusing, one has to make sure that the wire has been
annealed. If you are going to use sterling silver and not
solder, you have to get a good clean cut so ends but properly. I
use a 2/0 or 4/0 blade. If you have any resistance, check the
blade size and adjust accordingly. I believe that the Rio Grande
catalog has a blade size indicator depending on the gauge of the
wire. You might also contact Tevel at Allcraft 1 800 645 7124.
Tell him Ray from Society for Midwest Metalsmiths told you to
call. They have a wonderful new soldering block from Germany that
is great to fuse links on and also they carry a new line of
pliers that are very helpful when working with small links. Hope
this helps. RW

continued, Yesterday, I went through my teachers bookcase to
gather on fusing. From the oldest to the latest, the
only fusing methods mentioned were bits of this and that fused
into a collage.

I then went back to my own Classical Loop-in-Loop Chains, by
Jean Reist Stark and Josephine Reist Smith. This book has
previously been mentioned online, and its cost lamented. For
those like myself, who are interested in utilizing Chain in
design, this book can be a Bible.

Some online have mentioned personally knowing one or both of the
authors. I would love to be able to pick their brains. Initially
a small kilm is used and one link at a time is fused. The
suggestion is, as you become more proficient, more can be done at
once. In a three inch kiln, 1000 plus links at 30 seconds per,
still adds up time wise. Our school has several kilns going for
the Enameling portion of the class. I would like to be able to
line up an entire fire brick of links, and fuse them all at once.
Due to the probability of melting the whole bunch, I am timid.
This is now where I need additional advice.

Thank you to all that have replied. Where can I find the Idiot’s
Delight pattern, and how much 16 ga wire needed for bracelets.


dear all,

I was interested in the idea of using a separating disc to cut
thru a coil of wire for jump rings.I am a bit wary of separating
discs as I nearly cut my finger off a couple of years ago when
rushing to finish a project. Is there something which is not
quite so lethal as those metal ones with tiny saw teeth on them?
Perhaps should I try the “sandpaper” discs?

Felicity in sunny west Oz

The time would be well spent if you make up an idiot’s delight
patterns out of brass or copper wire, using the same gauge wire
you would use in fine silver. You could solder the brass rings
and then ascertain how many links there are in one inch.
Therefore if you decide to make a seven inch bracelet you will
know exactly how much wire you will need. As stated before, you
can line up a bunch of links, I have done as many as 30 at a
time, anneal them on the charcoal block I described, and then
zap them quickly at join. The fusion is beautiful to watch. All
the little molecules race towards each other. Ray

Well I’m going to jump right in here and probably weird out some
of you traditionalists. I tool a course at Kulicke-Stark
Academy (Jean Stark) a long time ago and watched their fusing
process. I have found that to make a loop in loop chain, which
i make all the time, you don’t need a kiln, nor do you need to
do some of the copper plating on gold that they recommend. If
you are careful you can fuse links of fine silver on a clean
charcoal surface with just a torch. You can use Hoover and
Strong’s 22k to do the same thing. Hoover, incidentally,
changed their 22k mix a few years ago to the mix Kulicke-Stark
used after they had spent 8 years making it up specially for me.
I think I wore Torry down finally. The key is to watch what is
happening to the metal real closely. When the links are
stretched you will probably break more than if you use the
kiln/torch method K-S recomme rn to watch for the metal flow.
There is no way around spending some time practicing.

Hi Teresa,

 Where can I find the Idiot's Delight pattern, and how much 16
ga wire needed for bracelets.<< 

Get yourself a copy of Tim McCreight’s ‘The Complete
Metalsmith’. There are instructions for a number of chains,
Idiot’s Delight among them in it. There’s also some info on
fusing & lots of other stuff most jewelers can use. The book is
about 180 pages, less than $20.00.

In answer to your question Depending on the size (inside
diameter) of your link, here’s a rough idea of the number of
links required per inch of chain. 5 mm 20, 4 mm 24, 3 mm 28.

Here’s how to determine the number of links required to make any
chain pattern.

Do all your calculations in metric. It’s much easier to use
whole numbers than fractions. Use a metric ruler, there’s 150 mm
(about 6 inches) rule available from most any jewelers supply. If
you use vernier calipers, many of the new electronic units show
either metric or inch measurements at the push of a button.

  1. Determine the length of chain to be made. Multiply the inch
    length by 25.4 to convert to millimeters. 1 inch equals 25.4 mm.

  2. Determine the assembled length of one unit of chain. A unit
    is the smallest number of links required to make the pattern that
    will be used in the chain, e.g. in an Idiot’s Delight it’s 6.

  3. Measure the length of a unit as it would appear when
    assembled in the chain.

  4. Divide the length of chain (1 above) to be made by the length
    of 1 unit (3 above) to determine the number of units required.

  5. Multiply the the number of units (4 above) by the number of
    links per unit to determine the number of links required.

It’s always a good idea to make a few more links than the
calculations arrive at, to allow for mistakes & links damaged in


Felicity: If I understand you correctly, you had a near miss with
a metal cut-off wheel. Actually, anything capable of cutting
thru wire will do a number on human flesh so BE CAREFUL! I’ve
been using what are known as cut-off wheels for years. These are
make of an abrasive material and will wear down and makes the old
ones handy for confined spaces. To prevent hurting yourself, use
your ring vise upside down (flat end) and clamp the wire wraped
rod you used to form the jump rings with the wire in it. This
will hold them individually until you’ve cut them all. They may
still need some triming when you use them though. I’ve also
used them for ring sizing a lot. Much faster than a saw frame
and makes a more even cut. Once again, speaking from experience,
be careful and don’t allow anyone to rush you when you are
working with something that can hurt you or a valueable stone or
piece of jewelery. It’s just not worth the risk!


Gesswein has non metal non teethed separating discs but I don’t
think they will work for what you are trying to do. They tend
to break too easily. But it might be worth a try.

Dear Felicity: Those discs with the little teeth are not
separating discs, but are called rotatory saw blades, and they
are extremely dangerous to use… The separating discs I use are
not metal but rather a composite of fine carburundum and binder.
These come in various diameters and thickness the thinnest ones
being the most preferred (leaving the smallest gap). These are
usually the most expensive, but if used properly, can last. They
are mounted on a screw type mandrel and if torqued while using
,will easily break.

I have made up a series of brass tubes with an inch or so slot

at one end. These serve to support various size coils of wire to
be cut into rings. Place the coil on the tube with the slot
facing away from you. I lean this assembly against the bench top
at about a 45 degree angle and lightly apply the rotating disc
to the metal over the slotted section. Since the disc is rotating
away from you, there is no danger of the disc running up the
tube and cutting your holding fingers.

Incidently, these discs are also known by several different

names: Cut-off discs, carburundum discs, JoDandy discs,and a
few others. They can be obtained at the jewelry suppiers or
dental suppliers. The gage discs I use are .009, but I believe
Peter R. mentioned a thinner gage that he uses.

Hope this helps, but if some clarification is needed, you are

welcomed to E- mail me directly. JZD

When we made rings for chainmaking in a class, we annealed the
wire, wrapped it around the dowel, slipped the coil off of the
dowel, then reannealed it. We then cut the wire with sharp
scissors. We used “brain” scissors which were obtained from a
medical surplus supplier or something with a very fine blade
which would cut through soft metal. This worked very well for
fusing links for a chain.

Hi Felicity,

Contact your local dentist or better yet your nearest dental
lab. They should be able to put you in touch with their
supplier. Here in the U.S.( and I suspect worldwide ) National
Keystone Co., the makers of abrasives, makes a very thin but
somewhat robust cut-off disc. They are silicon carbide or some
such thing. They come in 2 diameters 5/8" and 7/8" sizes. They
are somewhat expensive though and come (I think) 25 pieces to
the package. If you can live with a somewhat thicker disc,
Speedy cut-off discs come 100 pieces to the package and are also
available in a cup design. I think that they are cheaper for
100 than the 25 Veri-Thin discs from Keystone. Pozzi, an
international manufacturer of dental supplies from Italy makes
great discs also.

A little known fact that Dental Techs are aware of, is that some
discs are sintered and some are bound. The sintered (Pozzi
brand) are held together by extreme compression, while the
bound (Speedy) are bound together with an acrylic or other
binder. Knowing which one that you are using is important to
the dental ceramist because he/she puts a florentine-like finish
with a separating disc or other mandrel mounted abrasive on the
area to receive the ceramic. Bound discs and other other bound
abrasives leave micro pieces of the binder entrapped in the cut
or florentineed surface. When the metal is de-gassed at about
1000 Deg. C, the binder burns off BUT the residual ash is
imbedded in the metal and will cause the porcelain application
many times to ‘pop’ bubbles that extend from the metal through
the multiple veneers only to appear as gaping holes or bubbles
on the glaze bake just when you thought you were done. When
soldering bridges into a solid unit we also make sure to use
sintered abrasives. It, for the most part, avoids those nasty
pits that weaken a solder connection and are a bugger to remove.

Although precision machined plastic attachments which are cast
in the mother metal are becoming the rule in dentistry, many
applications require platinum iridium precision attachments
which need to be braised (soldered) to the bridgework. The
surfaces which will be co joined are many times roughed with a
disc using sintered abrasives to avoid the possibility of
porosity in a very critical junction.

“How does ya know?” It’s easy. Take a disc, hold it in locking
tweezers and hold it over the bunsen burner. Bound discs will
burn and sintered won’t! Easy at that. I hope this helps.



Skip Meister
N.R.A. Endowment &
Certified Instructor
in all disciplines
Certified Illinois D.N.R.
Hunter Ed, Instructor

Peter, I finally succeeded in fusing! I had some previously wound
18Ga fine silver links. I put them on a fire brick and aimed my
Blazer on them. It took awhile, and my breath moved the flames
around a bit, but finally after observing some changes in the
appearance of the silver, I saw a flow similar to a solder flow.
They were indeed fused.

Taking into consideration the time necessary to line up links
and place solder, the fusing time over all is about the same.