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Help with prong building disaster


#1

Hello, all!

Since I last posted here, I have been promoted to the bench at my
job. I know that in time and with patience, I’ll get better. but at
the moment it’s really frustrating because it seems that everything
I touch turns to shit about %75 of the time. Usually, if I ask my
manager what to do, he just takes the piece away from me and gives
me something easier. I argue that, if I can’t have a solution, I’ll
never learn how to do things more efficiently. I know that all you
jewelers with your own store and client base probably agree with
him, but it makes me not want to ask for help or let on that I’m
having a hard time at all.

Right now, I’m trying to fix a ring; it is a princess-cut diamond
with a halo (of course). The ring came to have the prongs rebuilt on
the corner diamonds in the halo. we don’t use a Puk welder in our
shop, we use a torch.

I was taught to ball up easy solder, place it on top of the diamond
with the pick, apply the heat with a low flame and direct the heat
downward toward the setting. Firstly, two of the diamonds were not
in the ring when it came to us, so I replaced them, then began to
build the prongs as I was taught. I applied a boric/denatured
alcohol solution and applied the heat, and the diamonds kept coming
out of the settings. For two days, I have been trying this over and
over, and now there is solder all over the place. Another jeweler
advised to build the prongs first, bore them out, THEN set the
diamonds and clean it all up. Well, the ring is just a mess.

Will someone tell me the correct way to do this, plus what tool to
use to clean up all the solder that flowed all over the place? I
know some of you will just tell me to hand it off, but I feel like
all I need is the right answer. I looked on the web for a video and
didn’t find anything except ones where the jeweler used a welder or
those little solder cap things. We use sheet solder and it seems
like the rest of the jewelry world might do something else. Thank
you.


#2

Tough one without seeing what you have done to the ring so far.
First thing I would do I get rid of all the solder you can. Again
without seeing it it sounds like delicate filing, sanding and
judicious use of pumice wheels. Solder alone (and especially easy
flow solder) is a non quality solution to repairing prongs. Dependent
on the loss of metal I would bead the end of a piece of wire, flow a
TINY piece of medium or hard solder on the end of the existing prong,
gently heat the piece as you place the bead to the solder. For prongs
broken off below the girdle, a wire, the same gauge as the prong,
preshaped to the missing part is called for instead of a bead. In
either case the solder should flow from the ring to the lighter piece
of wire. Your boss is not helping you by either giving you a piece
you don’t understand and then passing it off to someone else if you
fail. He (or she) should have you taught how to do it and observed
the first few times you try it. Everyone loses in the current
scenario.

Gary


#3

PS other jeweler is probably right that the prongs should be rebuilt
first and the seats recut in many cases. easy to get away with
putting stone in first when you have a welder, PUK or laser, but a
bit tougher wit the torch. Gary


#4

Been there done that… part of learning.

The only way to remove the solder is to grind it away or cut it away
with a engraver or scraper. Hard to say which or all are needed
without close up photos. The proper way to rebuild a prong is not to
pile up soft solder on it. I know it is quick but not the best way.
to do it right I would first check all the prongs in the little
stones that keep falling out. Then replace them withwire the proper
gauge and karat. Using med or hard solder. Then I would move p to the
center stone after cleaning everything up and retip the prongs
byfirst filing the down on about a 45 degree angle roll out some
square wire or half round ire the proper width add a little solder to
the end of it. soft solder will work here then place the wire at the
same angle you filed the prong to(which should match the angle the
stone was cut) and solder the wire in place. then cut the wire
leaving a very nice prong in place take your beading tool burnish it
down. You are finished with a top notch repair job that will last
longer then just soft solder.

If you want to save a few seconds. put the beading tool in your flex
shaft. a little practice this will burnish and cut excess metal off
a prong in a second. Hope this helps.

Love your life, help others and make lots of jewelry.
Panama Bay Jewelers


#5

Denise, My first reaction is that your shop is not run well. It’s
bad business to not partner the inexperienced person with someone
who can help them problem solve the work as it’s being done, bad for
everyone, especially the customer. You will find that with
everything you do at the bench there are multiple ways to accomplish
the same thing. In retipping with a torch, I think, you never want
the new tip to be just solder, it should be the same metal as the
piece, you just attach it with solder. Plus you want to use the
highest temp solder that you can, hard if possible. If you just use
solder you, or the next poor sap who works on it, may find the tips
gone and gobs of blobs of solder to clean up.

Here’s one good method. First clip off little pieces of 20 gauge
wire that are about the size of the tips you want. Clip more than
you need and then save the extras in a marked tin for future jobs
(it’s good to mass produce). Put the little clippings on a solder
pad, no real need for boric acid but you can if you want and it
avoids unwanted oxidation, and ball them all up with a soft torch
flame. Then move the little balls to your bench block (after you
clean them if you used boric acid) and flatten them slightly with
your hammer so they won’t roll away and so you have a nice flat
surface to cover the prong. Now pickle (a tiny lidded jar in the
sonic works nice) remove and dry and they are clean and ready to
use. File the tips of the prongs you are repairing so they are clean
and flat. Put the ring upright in a pair of spring tweezers over
your bench pin and cover the ring with boric acid and alcohol and
set it alight. Then take a small clipping of medium or hard solder,
dip it in flux and rest that on a prong. Take a flattened bead, dip
it in flux and rest that on top of the solder. Set your torch at a
medium hot, smallish flame. As you bring your torch over, with your
other hand, rest the pick on top of the bead to hold in place as the
flux foams a bit. Then you just solder the bead to the top of the
prong using the pick to position it. Because it’s a metal bead it
will tend to stay put as you go to tip the next prong, even if it’s
right next door.

It’s nice to have the bead a bit larger in diameter than the prong
because the solder will flow up and flare out at the underside of
the bead. That will make it easier to clean up. In addition to files
and saws there are all kinds of great abrasive wheels to help clean
up retipping. I particularly like this one (Stuller 11-6138) You can
sharpen the edge on your diamond dressing stone (Stuller 11-6261) to
get where the file can’t. Then shape the sides of the prong and cup
bur the top (I like the Fast Cut cup burs from Busch). Note that I
have no affiliation with Stuller, other people sell the same stuff.

This was sort of a long story, but it goes really fast once you do
it a thousand times. Remember, your goal should always be to do an
undetectable repair.

Hope that helps!
Mark


#6

My manager ended up fixing it. I should have handed it over sooner,
really. I won’t make that mistake again. the stress of realizing I
may have ruined a customers ring because I wouldn’t ask for help is
not worth it.

Thanks for the replies.


#7

I have used a product called “solder wick” to clean up a lot of mess
with a flooded or sloppy situation.

Designed to clean up soft solder spills on circuit boards you can
get it at radio shack. It is a little spool of flat, ribbon like
braided fine copper wires.

It has a soft solder flux on it, usually. That burns off easily. I
hold a section, maybe an inch long, in tweezers, burn off the flux
(it will smoke and then stop) and then flux it heavily with hard
solder flux-- I use paste. The idea is to keep it clean and
appetizing to the solder you want gone.

I bring the solder to melting point and then bring the wick to the
solder, heating the wick more. What happens ideally (well, the
solder wouldn’t be there at all in an ideal world) is that the
solder flows to the hotter wick andthen wicks up the braid, finding
an easy capillary pathway there.

It ain’t easy, more of a dance in a way.

But it helps.
Take care, Andy.


#8

Spot on Mark! Especially placing the unmelted solder on the prong.
Twice melted solders have a greater chance of not behaving as the
solder was designed. The example of misbehaving solder is higher
melting point or pits, neither of witch you want. A high melting
point pick is desire able. An example would be tungsten. If you have
trouble getting your flattened bead to stick to it while picking up,
heat the pick and dip it in boric acid. This will create a thin
sticky film on you pick when it’s warm. When hot, the boric acid
film will release the tiny flattened bead. Follow Mark’s
instruction, I believe you will find it valuable.


#9

I would stop now before you dig a deeper hole.

You took on a project that should have had supervision.

Guessing on how to do something is never a good idea.

I would have you send the ring to Jewelers Service in Minneapolis
MN.

Tim the owner is a master of jewelry repairs as well as the six
Master Jewelers and Diamond setters he has.

He as well as his team will look over the piece and do the right
thing.

His company has been around since 1939 and he get all the mistakes
other expert jewelers have screwed up and makes them right.

Phone number is: 612-332-1871.

Good Luck,
Todd Hawkinson


#10
I have used a product called "solder wick" to clean up a lot of
mess with a flooded or sloppy situation.

occasionally to remove soft tin solder, but I hadn’t considered it
for hard silver solder clean-up. The soft solder flux can also be
removed with isopropyl alcohol.

Karen T.


#11

Back when God was a child I was taught to make a solder wick by
twisting a few fine wires together.