Hand Torch Control

Respectfully, I must share my contrary opinion on this.

Learn to use your flame in your good hand and teach to pick and
place in your other. Why? Flame control is the essence of good
soldering. Once the pieces are in place, you won't have to switch
hands. 

A right-handed person will alway default to using their right hand
to manipulate objects while soldering…and the same goes for the
left-handers.

The complex motor functions are best done by the skilled hand, Torch
control is a far less complex function than picking up wire in
tweezers and placing it in it’s appropriate groove and soldering it
in place. I don’t mean to diminish the importance of good torch
control, but you can teach your less-skilled hand to turn knobs in
the correct direction far more quickly than you can teach it complex
manipulations…so, if you don’t adapt initially outside of the
comfort zone, you will be years away from confident, efficient,
coordinated effort with both of your paws, and everything will take
you much longer to do, with frustration being your most prominent
emotion. You have to trust me on this, I don’t just make this stuff
up.

Cheers
david

Greetings:

I wasn’t going to chime in on this because I was wary of
sounding…wrong somehow, but I have to agree with David.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got from my first jewelry
instructor was the following:

“Hold your torch in your bad hand, you have better things to be
doing with your good hand.”

I learned to solder with the torch in my left hand, and that’s been
one of the most useful things I’ve ever picked up. It was especially
useful in that I started from scratch using it that way, so I never
had to unlearn anything, or switch my reflexes. I now make a point
of teaching all my students to use the torch in their bad hand, and
I’ve observed that after the initial fun of just learning to solder,
they seem to be far more confident using their good hand for the
delicate operations. (When I first got here, I was the only
instructor who had people use the torch like that…now everybody
else teaches it the same way, because they saw how much easier my
students had it after they got used to the idea. To the point where
we replumbed the soldering stations a few years back to be mostly
left handed.)

FWIW
Brian Meek.

Dear All,

I think this issue comes down, as so many do, to personal choice and
comfort level. I work as Karen suggests; I’m predominantly right
handed, but I nearly always hold my torch in the right hand, my
solder pick or fire tweezer in the left. I use very little binding
wire or props, preferring to free hand whenever possible. That is
simply a skill one must learn from many hours of practice, and some
will prefer to do this with the right, and some with the left. I
would suggest to a person just starting out soldering that they try
it both ways; I’ll bet one way will quickly emerge as best for them.

As strange and ridiculous as it is, I can hardly solder at all if
I’m not holding my pick or tweezer in my left hand, even if I’m not
likely to need it. Sort of like problem solving better with a pencil
in hand (I’m that way too).

The guy I work with is proficient at soldering with the torch in
either hand- that would be handy!

Take care all.
Brenda
david lee jeweler
Mason City, Iowa

I also agree with this method, using my dominant hand (right) to
tend to the soldering pick, and my left hand for the torch. I can be
very adept at moving my flame around and changing the knobs as I
need with my left hand, but I have to be so much more precise with
my soldering hand, I much prefer to use my right hand for that. It
wasn’t always this way for me, and when I did swap it over life got
much less complicated for me ;> Try it both ways and of course, do
what feels most natural and confident.

Laura
www.LauraGuptillJewelry.com

All,

Allow me to modify my torch hand statement. Hold the torch in what
ever hand works best for you to get the job done right. I learned
with my right, and I move stuff around with the left. Also, if I need
to alter the gas flow, the Smith torch tip for aceteylene and air is
by my right thumb.

It’s not a matter of right vs left, or wrong vs. right, it is a
matter of works.

I do a lot of granulation, so it works best for me to use my good
hand. It’s just personal preference .

-k

Karen Christians
M E T A L W E R X
50 Guinan St.
Waltham, MA 02451
Ph. 781/891-3854 Fax 3857
http://www.metalwerx.com/
Jewelry/Metalarts School & Cooperative Studio

Just a thought here. I rarely hear anyone working with lapidary
machinery and/or torches speaking of a limited use hand.

Human beings tend to inflict self limitations upon themselves, (I
never drive at night, I never drive the freeways, etc.) I just have
never seen that around working with both hands with tools or
torches.

Perhaps I am so used to equally using both hands, I never notice
others having difficulty.

Remember the years ago suggestion of mounting the torch in a
microphone stand and using both hands? Was that Ringman John’s set
up?

Do we really have a problem here?

Terrie

I always use my left hand (right handed person) for the torch. It
allows me to use my right hand for the intricate precise work. I
teach my students to use their limited use hands also. I find that
once you get the habit the “limited use” hand has a use.

Jennifer
Ventura, Ca

Funny this should come up now as my son is struggling with learning
to solder and we argue every time about which hand should hold the
torch. I have always held my torch in my left hand, using my right
for pliers, tweezers, flux brush for applying solder, etc. I think he
is slowly seeing how this makes sense.

Kathy

I am also right handed, but mostly use my left hand for the
torch…again, it’s because I need the solder pick to either place
solder where it doesn’t flow the first time, nudge pieces back into
place that have shifted because of expanding flux or even smoothing
out a lump of half melted solder somewhere. All of which would be
difficult to do with my less dexterous left hand!

Jeanne
www.jeannius.com

This has been an interesting question. I never really noticed which
hand I used for what when soldering. Now that I’ve been paying
attention, I notice that I switch hands frequently. I’m left handed,
and lefties tend to be pretty ambidextrous- forced into it by a
right- handed world, I guess.

Janet Kofoed

Dear Jennifer,

I am really intrigued with your concept of using the unused hand to
hold the torch. I have never been able to effectively manipulate
solder beads by hand and pick. Maybe this approach will give me that
ability. Meanwhile, I have become accustomed to using paste solder
which usually precludes the need. On the other hand, paste solder is
hard to control when it starts to ball. Never too old to learn ! Ron
Mills, Mills Gem, Los Osos, Ca. ( We are practically neighbours…
drop by when you are in the area )

Funny this should come up now as my son is struggling with
learning to solder and we argue every time about which hand should
hold the torch. I have always held my torch in my left hand, using
my right for pliers, tweezers, flux brush for applying solder, etc.
I think he is slowly seeing how this makes sense. 

Why would this be an ocassion for arguement? Why not let him do what
is most confortable for him.

Hello Orchidland,

I’ve been silent until just recently due to an extended journey to
China. A most amazing place these days - especially Shanghai, which
seems like a space city. The sad thing is the abismal air quality and
water pollution, but happily there IS an awareness of the need to
improve environmental conditions. I missed my Orchid fix, though.

Back to the topic at hand… to be punny. My initial torch
instruction in high school did not specify with which hand to hold
the torch, & I’ll bet I used my dominant hand. However, my mentor
who insisted on my learning how to pick solder, suggested those
delicate motor skills would be best carried out with my domanant
hand. It works for me. My bench is set up with the torch on the left.

On the other hand (there’s that pun again!) there are functions that
only my left hand knows, like buttoning my shirt and making cords on
the guitar. I recall one Orchidian who solders with one hand, and has
all my respect!! The only thing that matters is that we can
successfullly manipulate a tool.

It’s been interesting to hear from so many on this. Judy in Kansas,
who has recovered from jet-lag (yawn) and is trying to catch up.

I believe, as most metalsmiths do, that whatever hand you feel the
most comfortable with the torch in is great. That being said, when I
have beginning students trying to figure out which hand to put the
torch in, I tell them, “Of all the soldering tools, the torch has the
greatest possibility of destroying your work if you don’t control it
carefully. Now which hand would you feel most comfortable holding the
torch in?”

—Jay Whaley UCSD Craft Center

Hello, all you right handed lefties.

It is really great to hear Brian is teaching this way. I started
apprenticing at the bench when I was 13 years old. I worked after
school with our Polish trained goldsmith. He was right handed and
torched with his left. He did not give me the option, and just made
me learn with my left. five years later I went on to do the Graduate
Jeweler program at GIA and found that not one bench in my classroom
had a torch plumbed on the left. My instructors found it very
confusing that I was right handed wanting to use the torch with my
left. They insisted that I try with my right. I started to feel that
maybe I was taught the wrong way from beginning. Needless to say I
did not switch.

Since then, I have gone on to apprentice with one Swiss and one
German Platinum/Goldsmith that too used there right hand for
soldering (they were both right handed) they just didn’t get it. I
very rarely hear of someone learning this way, but truly feel Brian
is onto something. Why use the torch in your good hand? You need it
for delicate operations that take a steady good hand.

I found that the right handed right torch wielding goldsmith tends
to use more jigs, 3rd and 4th hands, and supports when soldering
components than a righty using his left. If I need more precision or
steadiness with my torch (like when welding), I will steady my torch
tip with the end of my tweezers. Now that I run my own workshop and
am fortunate to see a range of craftspeople I would say the bad
handed torch guys are pretty efficient.

Keep up the good work Brian!

Jacob Buckareff G.J.G.(GIA)
T: 416-364-7989
F: 416-364-9621
E: Jacob@AmericanJewelryArtworks.com
W: www.AmericanJewelryArtworks.com

Most of my soldering involves soldering small disks stamped with the
metal quality and my registered trademark to the inside of Turk’s
Head rings which are made from straight or twisted 24, 22 or 20 ga
wire. It takes but an instant under the torch for a wire, which does
not quite touch the wire next to it, to suddenly show that horrible
very bright whitish color with immediate collapse of the wire. The
procedure to avoid the melted wire problem demands extremely close
attention to the wires (especially the outside wires) under the torch
and not the solder. So the torch is in my right hand because I can
place and move it much much better and much faster with my right
hand. To let the solder do its thing without any observation, I use
paste solder to pre solder the back of the disk with just enough
solder to cover the disk without any overflow and then pre solder the
spot on the wires where the disk will be placed. Paste solder is then
placed on the pre solder on the back of the disk and a little is also
placed on the pre soldered wires. The disk is inverted and placed on
the paste solder that was placed on the wires and is oriented as
desired. Then the disk is carefully compressed on to the wire with,
and is then held in place with, ceramic tweezers which are held in
the left hand. The ring can be rotated in a variety of directions as
can the torch. The solder can’t be seen so attention is totally on
the fire and the wires under the fire. The torch is in constant
movement around and around inside and outside the ring. When the
disk, the ring wires and the ceramic tweezers are all the same
moderately bright red color, that condition is held for one to two
minutes depending on how I feel about whether the solder flowed or
not. The ring is put in the pickle pot after the red is lost. After
neutralization, a scribe, poker or pick is used to try to pry the
disk off. Previous to the above procedure I had tried putting copper
wire as a heat sink around likely melting candidates. That worked
most of the time but it was time consuming. The procedure above has
been very successful and has eliminated a very troublesome period in
my struggle to make as near a perfect product as possible with no
"oops" (and a few choice comments that must be censored) and as small
a hoard of precious metal scrap as possible.

Captain Blood
"Marlinespike Seamanship in Precious Metals"
@Alden_Glenda_Blood

I also learned and teach using the left hand to hold the torch. This
leaves my dominant hand to do the actual work, I use very few
holding jigs or third hands to solder. When I took welding classes I
also worked with my left hand holding the torch since I had so much
soldering practice that way. My teachers were amused. I teach the
left hand hold exclusively and have my students learn to work the
valves one handed so that they can adjust the flame during the
soldering operation quickly and with out interupting the heating of
the piece. The right hand is then free to move the pieces into place
and make adjustments to the work even when flux or gravity moves it
around during soldering.

Sam Patania, Tucson
www.patanias.com

Funny this should come up now as my son is struggling with learning
to solder and we argue every time about which hand should hold the
torch. I have always held my torch in my left hand, using my right
for pliers, tweezers, flux brush for applying solder, etc. I think
he is slowly seeing how this makes sense. 
Why would this be an ocassion for arguement? Why not let him do
what is most confortable for him. 

I agree. From all the postings on this topic, it seems that preferred
hand for torch holding is highly personal and doesn’t seem to effect
ability to get the job done.

I’ve always held the torch with my right hand, and my left hand has
"caught up" and gotten skilled enough to hold the soldering pick.

Elaine

Elaine Luther
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay

Perhaps because I started as a blacksmith and a welder, right handed

  • I kept on using the jewelers torch in my right hand. I never really
    gave it any thought. I’ve never really thought of myself as being
    skilled with my left hand, but I guess I am. Been setting up to
    solder/braze/weld with my left hand - and holding the torch in my
    right for 37 years…

It’s never been important to me to see that everybody holds a torch
in the same hand that I do. I’ll move the hoses around to accommodate
whatever feels comfortable to the student. The results are all that
count.

I DO however, have to think before I try to teach someone to engrave
left-handed. For me every move is backwards - but again, it really
doesn’t matter. The results are all that counts.

Brian P. Marshall
Stockton Jewelry Arts School
Stockton, CA USA
209-477-0550
instructor@jewelryartschool.com
jewelryartschool@aol.com

Morning all,

I am another one of those people who solder with the torch in my
left hand and use my right hand (dominant) for the fiddly bits. Chris
Hentz once said “stupid hand, stupid tool” and it just makes sense to
me. When you are first learning soldering skills it will not matter
which hand your torch is in for the simple reason that you are
learning a new skill. The more you practice, the more comfy you will
be with the torch in your non-dominant hand and your torch control
will improve. If I may digress to give a non-related example. I am an
archer whose left eye is dominant despite being right handed. I was
given a choice - learn to use a bow in my off-hand or not to (but my
archery would never be great). In both cases the learning curve is as
great with either hand since you have to learn a new skill set. I
chose to use my off-hand and I am now one of the best bare-bow
archers in Canberra. If I pick up a right-handed bow it feels odd,
awkward and generally wrong. The point is you can get used to and
even familiar with using your off-hand with tools. It does require
patience and practice but you will get there.

Eileen