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Hard Soldering


#1

I’m new to the list. I’ll post an introduction and then I’ll ask my
newbie question. :wink:

Introduction is that I’m a programmer by day in the Bay Area and I’m
a dilletante over the weekends and evenings. As mortgage costs are
insane out here, I’m following my goal of, by the time I’m able to
afford a house with a proper garage / basement / etc. for a studio,
being able to see exactly what I can get away with in a 2 bedroom
apartment with a balcony. I’ve already done electronics,
woodworking, wood sculpture, some plexiglass fab, and I’m starting on
art metalsmithing. One of my eventual goal is to do metal casting
with either delft clay or sand molds, but that’s another matter.

It goes without saying that both my wife and my co-workers think I’m
nuts, and probably rightfully so.

I volunteer at The Crucible, where they teach all kinds of fun
industrial arts like jewelery and Neon and foundry, which is the
reason why I’m doing this at all.

I’ve managed to do OK with shaping metal. My last project required
the use of a Dremel. I figured that if I was going to own one, I
might as well get some use out of it. :wink:

I’m having a tad of trouble with hard soldering. After searching
the archives, I determined that my best bet was to go for hard
soldering and develop correct technique. So I’ve been soldering
together cut up pieces of metal – mostly Nickel Silver – and trying
to get a good join.

I’m using a pretty wide tipped MAPP bens-o-matic gas torch that I
happen to already have. It, unfortunately, doesn’t let me put a
narrower tip on. I can get a bushy reducing flame by putting a
finger over the air holes, however.

I’m using Ottoflux from Frei and Borel and putting lots of it on
since I couldn’t really find any borax at a price less than a jar of
Ottoflux.

I’m still getting some oxidation that doesn’t pickle off. Is this
to be expected as part of the process, or am I doing something wrong?
I found that initially, the problem was that I wasn’t putting enough
flux on. Later, I think I put too much on, because a chunk of it
flaked off.

How do I determine the correct flowing temperature? I generally
heat it up until both objects are glowing bright red, not just cherry
red, and then drop the solder on. It usually snuggles up to the
surface but doesn’t fully melt at this temperature.

Can I do the soldering in two stages, as in flux, heat, and attach
the solder to one piece, flux a little more, heat both pieces, and
then join? One reference says to try to do that, another one says
that I’ll make my life much more difficult by doing so.

Also, I’ve got an object that I want to make that fits together with
a cut-and-slot construction, kind of like
http://www.ganoksin.com/borisat/nenam/nenamart/consol5.gif

Where does the solder go in this construction? I made a test piece
and ended up discovering that my MAPP torch does, in fact, have the
ability to melt metal because I couldn’t get the piece of solder in
the right spot.

Should I be trying to acquire another type of inexpensive torch that
would be better suited? Is MAPP gas too hot for this sort of
application? I’ve also got a butane-powered pencil torch that I
could use, but I’m not sure if that’s going to give me the results I
want, either. Or I could get the propane bottle and use that.

I kinda tried searching the archives about this, but I get ten
different pieces of related from different points of view
that may or may not apply to my exact problem. :confused:

Ken “Wirehead” Wronkiewicz \ \ /
http://www.wirewd.com/wh/ \ \


#2

Hi Ken, Welcome to Orchid! I may not touch on all your questions, but
had a couple thoughts. Nickel silver (0% silver content!) is not as
easy to use as sterling or gold. It doesn’t clean up as well with
conventional Sparex pickle. When I started out with nickel silver I
remember purchasing a pickle intended specifically for the metal. You
might try Bill Seeley’s hydrogen peroxide pickle recipe. I suspect
you can find it in the Orchid archives.

The technique and timing for applying solder varies, depending on
the task. The only times I premelt solder on one piece before putting
the parts together is when “sweat” soldering two sheets together in
an overlay, and sometimes when soldering on a finding such as a pin
catch.

More often than not, I place snippets of solder in position after
fluxing, while everything is still cold. As you heat, you may have to
nudge snippets back into place with your pick if they move as the
flux boils.

You may also want to look into using the boric acid/denatured
alcohol dip on your parts before fluxing. This helps prevent oxygen
from interacting with the metal, keeping it cleaner. Again, there is
sure to be tons of on this in the Orchid archives.

If I am going to apply solder after heating the piece, I will ball
up the solder with the torch and quickly touch my pick to it. Usually
the ball will stick to the cold pick and be ready to touch to the
spot when soldering temperature is reached. This is good for one or
two solder spots, but probably not the extended heating that would be
required for a multiple snippet job.

Solder flows toward the heat. If you want solder to flow into a
seam, you usually want to concentrate more heat on the back side of
the seam from where the solder is, to pull the solder into the seam.
The torch won’t push solder into a seam. This also helps minimize the
amount of excess solder that puddles on the surface of the metal.

Just one other thing to mention… I don’t use it a lot, but solder
is also available in a wire form. A couple inches of this solder can
be held in a pair of tweezers and touched to a seam at the
appropriate soldering temperature. I find it harder to control the
amount of solder being applied. You will want to remember to flux the
solder, too, if you use this technique.

I hope this is of some help!

Dave
Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)
dave@sebaste.com


#3

You’ll get a lot about all of your questions - I’ll say right off,
though, that if you were to pick the single most difficult, tricky,
and just plain exasperating non-ferrous metal to solder, it would be
nickel silver. Try Yellow Brass - still not as easy as silver (or
gold),
but a LOT easier that NS.


#4
    You'll get a lot about all of your questions - I'll say right
off, though, that if you were to pick the single most difficult,
tricky, and just plain exasperating non-ferrous metal to solder, it
would be nickel silver.  Try Yellow Brass - still not as easy as
silver (or gold), but a LOT easier that NS. 

John, Am I missing something? I use nickel silver for fabricated
metal models instead of silver all the time. To me, it’s easier to
solder, holds edges better, polishes better, is harder and isn’t
"short" like silver when heated (it can support its own weight better
than silver when hot). It behaves more like gold than silver when
soldering (doesn’t heat sink as much as silver). I fabricate the
nickel silver with hard 14k white solder.

Donna Shimazu


#5

I agree with Dave Sebaste, with one extra point: use easiflo flux
instead of the borax cone-types. You won’t know yourself, the flux
cleans up the metal really well, and (if as I do you use the dry
powder form) doesn’t cool the metal down when you re-apply it during
the soldering process. With the modern fluxes with wetting,
de-oxidising etc properties such as
http://www.jwharris.com/jwprod/brazesolderfluxes/ you must
remember to use a small fan to blow the fumes away from you as you
solder. Their Stay-Silv Brazing Flux (Black) is super for silver
soldering stainless steel to gold and silver. Their White Powder Flux
would be fine for silvers, golds, and the notorious nickle-silver.

Brian
B r i a n A d a m
Auckland NEW ZEALAND
www.adam.co.nz/eyewear/history


#6

Ken, Part 1) Nickle silver is evil. Ok, maybe not that evil, but it
is hard to work with. Your joins must fit well and be really,
really, really clean.

Part 2) It just might be your solder. Rio’s solder is manufactured
from Handy and Harmon. Med and Easy are fine. Their Hard sits like
a grumpy lump. Hoover and Strong make their own solder (I think).
All of their solders are alloyed with less zinc/tin and more silver.
Their color match is the best and likes hot, hot, hot, better suited
to your needs. Hauser and Miller flows very well over all, but their
color match is not as good for larger pieces. However, it is GREAT
for students and jewelry scale. I would call both H & M and Hoover
and Strong, and tell them you would like a little sample of their
solder before they send it out. Tell them you posted on Orchid and
heard about their companies on Orchid.

Good luck,
-karen
Karen Christians
M E T A L W E R X
10 Walnut St., Woburn MA 01801
Ph. 781 937 3532, Fx. 781 937 3955
http://www.metalwerx.com/
Jewelry/Metalarts School & Cooperative Studio
Board Member for the Society of North American Goldsmiths


#7

All,

Obviously, Karen (and others) have researched the soldering question
to some depth. This is to be applauded and, I am sure, stands them
in good stead.

But, I want to give my 2c anyway. The melting characteristics of
each silver solder alloy is important when working with various
kinds, shapes and gauges of silver. It can also be important
depending on the kind of heat source being used. So, in those cases,
each smith has to adapt to their own situation.

Having said that however, I submit that one of the more basic
aspects effecting the soldering operation…and Karen said most of it
when, commenting on NS soldering, she said, “Your joins must fit well
and be really, really, clean.”

First, ALL joins must fit VERY well and be REALLY REALLY clean.
Second, heat must be correctly applied, i.e., directed to the largest
part of the work from the opposite side of the solder. The probable
reasons Rio’s hard solder sits like a grumpy lump is more likely due
to (1) contamination - either of the join or the solder or (2)
because there is a heat sink gobbling up the heat.

Proper distribution of heat is one of the most difficult skills to
learn - even experienced smiths have this problem. Knowing what is a
heat sink plays a crucial role in heating. All too often people
forget about the heat lost to the third hand holding their work. The
sink portion must first be heated to a point so that when the solder
flows, it will neatly and smoothly enter the join and bind the two
surfaces. Anything less and it may fill the join but not bind.
Remember, we are not soldering as in plumbing whereby the tin solder
merely fills the seam like glue, we are actually brazing - combining
similar metals at a molecular level. This is just shy of fusing but
the solder facilitates the binding process by flowing at a slightly
lower temperature.

Proper selection of a torch and/or torch tip also plays a role in
heat distribution. Using a large tip may heat the larger part of the
job to proper heat faster but can also melt the smaller part being
joined. Too small a tip leaves the large piece heat starved and
though the solder might reach melt temperature, it will not make the
additional few degrees necessary to flow! The tendency is to keep
feeding more and more heat to the piece resulting in such a badly
oxidized surface (and solder) that it will never flow even at the
proper temperature.

Another common problem is how much solder to use. I would prefer
using too little at first and have to add some additional solder to a
starved join than using too much and ending up with blobs of silver,
large fillets or fills. For some reason, blobs of solder always seem
to occur in the most inaccessable places! The less used, the less
the join will show even if there is a color mismatch.

My contention is, regardless of the source or alloy, great soldering
can still be achieved with the proper techniques!

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where it is
finally raining after a month and where simple elegance IS fine
jewelry! @coralnut1


#8
   Part 2)  It just might be your solder.  Rio's solder is
manufactured from Handy and Harmon.  Med and Easy are fine.  Their
Hard sits like a grumpy lump.  Hoover and Strong make their own
solder (I think). All of their solders are alloyed with less
zinc/tin and more silver. 

Karen, While I completely agree with your use of nickel silver for
models there is one more factor that may be coming into play here.
I am sure that I am going to catch flak over this but here goes
anyway.

According to
http://www.mfa.org/conservation/fullrecord.asp?name=nickel%20silver
The addition of small amount of lead to the alloy allows nickel
silver to be soldered and welded. Fire away… Of course you
should always use good ventilation when soldering.

Best Regards,
J. Tyler Teague
JETT Research


#9
    ... I would call both H & M and Hoover and Strong, and tell
them you would like a little sample of their solder before they
send it out.  Tell them you posted on Orchid and heard about their
companies on Orchid. 

God idea, Karen! By the way when buying solders I recommend you arem
yourself with the solidus/liquidus properties of them all (hard
medium easy), as there seems to be no worldwide agreement on this. In
NZ we can buy 12 different grades of silver solders if we choose from
the 4 or 5 suppliers, all sold as H M and E. Trap for young players:
one company’s medium solder has a liquidus higher than another
company’s hard!

Brian


#10

One reason there may be a difference of opinion on the use of nickel
silver is that there are at least 23 alloys of copper, nickel, zinc
that are called nickel silver to see the composition of them go to

http://properties.copper.org/servlet/
com.copper.servlet.SDResultServlet?Action=search&service=COPPERINTRA&
ACtype=Wrought&Alloy=Nickel%20Silvers&term=Copper-Nickel-
Zinc%20Alloys%20(Nickel%20Silvers)&alloyStart=73500&alloyEnd=C79999

almost all of them contain lead as Tyler mentioned so along with the
hazard of nickel dermatitis you are heating a lead bearing alloy way
above the vaporization point of lead if you are hard soldering it!
While I have used it in the past I stay away from it more now due to
the dermatitis issue and now that I know about the lead I think I
will quit using it all together.

Jim


#11

Coralnut, I’m gonna chime in here. I have had consistent problems
with Rio’s hard solder. It could be very well, that Handy and
Harmon, just don’t make very good hard solders. Heat sinks are easy
to get around - just heat the sink, usually a cross-lock tweezer. I
pre heat the steel which stays nice and hot, and doesn’t pull the
heat away from my piece. I also RARELY heat from below on a trivet,
because you have to heat the screen, and the piece, and you have all
this air around you.

Most soldering mishaps happen from unclean metal, and poor heat
control. I think it is why I am a “backwards” solderer. I am
right-handed and like the flame control in my right hand. I have
trained my left hand to do the finnicky movements. Even when you
have all your parts clean, grease free and fitting with no light
shining through, my students still can’t get a good solder seam.
Then I look at their flux and have found the yellow ochre brush
sitting in there. Prep takes TIME. But cleanup takes longer.

-karen
Karen Christians
M E T A L W E R X
10 Walnut St., Woburn MA 01801
Ph. 781 937 3532, Fx. 781 937 3955
http://www.metalwerx.com/
Jewelry/Metalarts School & Cooperative Studio
Board Member for the Society of North American Goldsmiths


#12

Here’s a few other names for Nickel Silver:

German silver; neusilver (Ger.); white copper; Liberty silver;
Nevada silver; Queen’s metal; white metal; Wolfram brass; Argentine;
Packtong; Silveroid; electrum; Best best; Virginia silver; Potosi
silver

Dan T.
P.S. Thanks for the link Mr. Teague


#13
    Karen, While I completely agree with your use of nickel silver
for models there is one more factor that may be coming into play
here. I am sure that I am going to catch flak over this but here
goes anyway. According to
http://www.mfa.org/conservation/fullrecord.asp?name=nickel%20silver
 The addition of small amount of lead to the alloy allows nickel
silver to be soldered and welded.  Fire away....  Of course you
should always use good ventilation when soldering. 

Thanks for sending this. Not only is your URL from our own Boston
MFA (where do you live?) but I was surprised to see so much copper
in the formula.

I’ll say it again folks, the things I have learned on this forum is
incredible.

-k
Karen Christians
M E T A L W E R X
10 Walnut St., Woburn MA 01801
Ph. 781 937 3532, Fx. 781 937 3955
http://www.metalwerx.com/
Jewelry/Metalarts School & Cooperative Studio
Board Member for the Society of North American Goldsmiths


#14

While on the subject of hard solder…Can any enamel artist give
some tips on using IT solder. My first attempt was using it to
solder fine silver findings , heavy ga. , to 22ga fine silver backing
for piece to be enameled. Also tried to solder fine silver bezel to
fine silver for enameling purposes, had VERY difficult time making it
flow at all. The metals were clean, joints tight, Used Little torch
and 3 different tries of fluxes, Batterns, Clear gel for hard
soldering and borax mix, still, little to no flow before metal starts
to distort. Whats up with that? NB


#15
Nickel-silver doesn't necessarily contain lead.  Read the catalog.
I get mine from Rio Grande and from Indian Jewelers Supply.  In
both places it is listed as Alloy CDA #752 -- 65% copper, 18%
nickel, 17% zinc.  IJS calls their "nickel," which I think is a
little misleading, but, hey, I know what they mean. Rio calls
theirs "nickel alloy," and adds, "commonly called nickel silver or
German silver (contains no silver)."  I have never had any
particular trouble soldering nickel-silver. 

Judy,

The CDA web page (www.copper.org) that I sent out before lists the
alloy #75200 (they added the extra 2 zeros a few years ago too allow
for more alloy designations ) It shows that it has .05% lead in it.
That is a very small amount but you still should be aware that it is
there.

Jim


#16

A lot of "sterling " sold by street vendors etc there is Alpacca
and a lot of the raw material is used in Mexico. It is not legal
to make the missreputation there -but it is done. It is fairly
easy to spot due to the slight yellow tint.

Leaded brasses including nickle brass made for machining may be
leaded. It does not silver braze well . The same goes for some
free machining steel – terrible to silver braze. Silver braze
materials should not contain lead - I don’t understand the source of
the statement that lead helps.??? Jesse


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