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Industrial pulse-arc welder to jeweler's use?


#1

All,

Doing my research on setting up my first amateur studio, I had
discovered that I probably do not want to use a torch or other open
flame. Ganoskin had mentioned using an ABI mini pulse welder in lieu
of a torch but looking at ABI’s website I cannot seem to justify the
cost ($1800) !!! However, I have seen on Ebay some small light-duty
industrial pulse welder (TIG180P Pulse TIG/MMA Machine) for $289.
Should I have any problems using one of these for for welding
sterling silver? Any special considerations required, such as dialing
the power setting down?

Thanks,
Andrew Jonathan Fine


#2

That TIG welder will be pretty much useless for your purposes. You
need a fairly sophisticated unit to control the TIG output current
with enough finesse to weld silver on a jewelry scale or any of the
jewelry metals for that matter. Such machines are complex tools and
start in the $2000-$3000 range and go up from there. The machine you
mention is not a Pulse Arc Welder it is a TIG welder with a Variable
DC pulse feature if you do not understand the difference then you
need to learn more about welding technologies before spending your
limited funds. Also they want almost $200 to ship it from China! so
your investment is closer to $500. If you want to pursue welding as a
fabrication method I strongly suggest a course at a local school in
basic TIG welding so you are aware of what you are getting into. I
use my TIG machine for some very specialized jewelry tasks but it is
not a general purpose joining tool. I use my PUK Pulse Arc Welder
for many more jobs but again I would not want to have to rely on it
as the only joining tool to do my work.

If your situation does not allow for the use of a torch or open
flame than I would look into the use of cold connection like rivets,
screws or other mechanical means of joining items

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#3
looking at ABI's website I cannot seem to justify the cost ($1800)

Well, Andrew, I’m not a welder… Unless you do some sort of
"welding- oriented" work you might find it difficult to get by
without a torch, though. A bezel being the perfect example - you
can’t just tack it down, it needs to have a seam all the way around.
It’s not just cosmetic, the bottom edge will kick out in setting, if
it’s not secure. There are thousands of other examples where a torch
is the tool of choice. Soldering a bit of wire down onto a sheet
base… You CAN do what you can do with what you have, but a torch
is pretty fundamental.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#4

Hi Andrew,

Err…I looked at the specs for the machine you mentioned. That’s
more like an auto-body TIG, small by the standards of a real TIG, but
I’d strongly doubt it’d work for jewelry scale things, sterling
especially.

The two jewelry scale micro welders I know of that can handle
sterling are all in the $5000 range, and go up from there. If there
was a $300 option, I have to believe that somebody’d be trumpeting it
from the rooftops. I’d love to be wrong, but I suspect I’m not.

The two I’m talking about are the Orion and the PUK 3+. (disclaimer:
I own a PUK 3+, and am quite happy with it.) There’s someone who’s
name escapes me that’s been having good luck with a very high-end TIG
system, and a micro-handpiece, but the total package on that was
still in the 5-8 grand range, if memory serves. In looking at ABI’s
page, their rig is listed as $3900, and is very primitive by the
standards of the other two. Where’d you find it listed for $1800?
(That’d be a steal for a pulse-arc machine.)

Sterling’s a particular problem because it’s so conductive. Makes it
very hard to get enough energy concentrated in one spot to get a
decent weld. It’s doable, with the right rig, but it takes some
tweaking. It’s not at all like trying to tig steel or stainless.

Sorry,
Brian Meek.


#5

Andrew,

I am old hard core. I just can’t see making jewellery without using
a flame. Probably a couple of torches make life more fun.

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#6
I am old hard core. I just can't see making jewellery without
using a flame. Probably a couple of torches make life more fun. 

Sure, but why limit yourself to gas/oxy or gas/air flames. A tig
torch also produces, sort of, a flame, in the form of a plasma arc.
That, in a loose sort of way, certainly aught to qualify as one
bleeping hot motha of a flame… (grin).

Peter


#7

Hi Andrew-

I am not going to be very helpful with answering the welder question.
However, you mentioned using it in lieu of a torch. When I was first
taught to make jewelry my teacher had us make/repair everything using
the torch. It is amazing how proficient you can become in short
order. I have found that the laser welders are really a time saver
and help with repairs or making something where heat can be an issue.
But if I can do it with the torch I do. Some items require it. So, I
would not choose one or the other. I use several different torch
types and each has its purpose and benefits.

Thanks
Kevin Hart


#8

JeffD, John, Brian,

Thanks for your answers. As someone with engineering training I had
learned to be extremely skeptical about claims that only a certain
brand or type of very expensive equipment was capable of achieving a
desired effect. I have often seen the case where an instrument
selling for 20 percent the price could accomplish 80 percent of all
possible needs for the effect. This is, in engineering parlance,
known as a variation of the Pareto Princile, also known as the 80:20
rule.

But in this case, it does look like the emperor wears clothes. And as
I said, I can’t count myself as being a jeweler: only as being an
ex-engineer who as a result of being unemployable is trying to
transfer engineering skills into jewelry making - hence I am trying
to take an engineer’s approach to the craft, hence all of the stupid
questions (sorry).

Andrew Jonathan Fine


#9
I have often seen the case where an instrument selling for 20
percent the price could accomplish 80 percent of all possible needs
for the effect. This is, in engineering parlance, known as a
variation of the Pareto Princile, also known as the 80:20 rule. 

Andrew, our field may be one where you’ll find it useful to forget
that rule. It may apply to some fields, but in ours, that 20%
increase in functionality may be the difference between a tool worth
owning and using, and one which, though it tries to work, simply
cannot do the job well enough to be worth the aggrevation.

I can think of many examples:

Cheap drawplates made in India, often available for under ten bucks,
will indeed give you wire, most of the time. But sizes are variable,
and finish isn’t so good. The first time you try a good well made
french steel plate, or a good carbide plate, you’ll never use those
Indian plates again.

Pepe Tools makes a wonderful looking dapping die (Harbor Freight
sells an equally decent looking chinese copy for even less) and
dapping punch set. The steel is good, the finish is great. They look
wonderful, and cost a lot less than a good french or german dapping
block. But the devil is in the details. The block is made with
depressions which are full 180 degree hemispheres, and the matching
dapping punches are exact fits. Looks good, but there’s no clearance
in there for the metal thickness. And if you try to produce a full
hemisphere, the sharp edges of the hemispheric depressions leave
scars on the metal, and the lack of a draft angle at the top makes
the metal very difficult to remove from the block, and that’s if you
can even find a punch that gives you both a good dapping job and
enough clearance for the metal. You don’t become aware of these
limitations until you try to use the tool, and for many uses with
smaller discs not fitting the whole hemisphere, you don’t notice. But
it’s a key difference.

A number of other Pepe tools have similar deficiencies, not obvious
at first. Their jump ring winder, a cheaper copy of Ray Grossman’s
"jump ringer", is a good example. Looks good, and saves you money.
But trust me. Ray’s tool is much more usable, even if the differences
appear quite minor. the devil’s in the details.

Or how about a neat looking little swiss made saw frame. Very light
weight and good in the hand. comfortable, looks good, nicely made.
But the blades fit into these drilled holes, held by a set screw. Too
small a clamping area, those set screws often won’t hold a blade much
finer than about 3/0 size. First time you notice that, you’ll go back
to your old standby german saw frame again.

I suspect this whole principal is less applicable to tools we use
for a couple reasons. First, jewelry is all about the details. A tool
that does 80 percent of the way it should be done, is probably not
doing a good enough job to pass muster. And with hand tools, the
limits are often in the hands themselves, as much as the tools.
Limiting a tool by 20 percent performance may mean a much larger
limitation in the degree to which the human precion user can make it
work. Think, for example, of the dramatic difference between what you
can do with ordinary sawblades, versus higher quality ones. Or high
quality swiss or german needle files versus cheaper ones from china
or the like which may still work, but just not give quite as uniform
and precise a cut and finished surface. Or the subtle difference in
feel and performance between good german hand pliers versus the cheap
ones from pakistan. The latter may be fine for beginners or those on
a budget, but for fine control and good work, most experienced users
simply won’t bother with junky cheap pliers if they’ve got a choice
(not to say there isn’t a place for them too, especially when you
need to modify a plier for a specific job)

And the list goes on.

It’s like jewelry itself. It’s either made right, or it isn’t.
Almost right is usually simply not right. There’s a lot of commercial
junk jewelry that fits that description, but we all know the
difference when we see it. It’s right or it isn’t.

Same with tools.
Peter


#10

Peter,

Sure, but why limit yourself to gas/oxy or gas/air flames. A tig
torch also produces, sort of, a flame, in the form of a plasma
arc. That, in a loose sort of way, certainly aught to qualify as
one bleeping hot motha of a flame... (grin). 

I stand corrected. You are right. Long ago I got to play with a tig
(should have spent longer with it, miss spent youth I guess :slight_smile: It
sure acted and looked like a flame, your description of its
characteristics match my memories, hellfire and brimstone even
through really dark welding shades.

I still love my oxy/fuel and gas/air torches, almost a thought less
extension of my hands. Still have to remember to keep my fingers out
of the flame, I imagine that a tig ‘flame’ would hurt even more :slight_smile:

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#11

Kevin,

The second hand inverter welder machine that you found, what was the
make and model? Do you have knowledge of other specific makes and
models that have worked in your experience?

Thanks,
Andrew Jonathan Fine


#12

All,

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the welder’s shop.

As you know, I live an a very rural area. One a week we get an
impromptu flea market held by Dine’, teachers, ranchers, and the
occasional tinkerer.

One tinkerer sells various types of new and used hardware. Two days
ago, I was able to pick up an old empty acetylene bottle, a constant
pressure release valve, and with an air-acetylene torch rig, for only
$20. The tinkerer said I should have no trouble getting the bottle
filled.

So I went over to the nearest town where I do all of my shopping, to
a welder supply store, the technician there said that the bottle had
not been checked since October 1947!!! He also told me that the
release valve was unsafe. In all, he said that getting me to a point
where I could be able to start work would normally cost me about
$200 (tank check, gas refill, new release valve, and new bottle).

He was very nice, though, and allowed me $80 credit for the old
bottle, so I wound up spending only $120. Of course, I dug into my
pockets a little further for proper eye protection…

So I now have the basics for joining silver… For casting I have
both a table-top kiln and a hand-melter, and of course tufa. I
pretty much intend to cast into cubes or bars which I would then
either CNC mill or manually lathe down… and then I’ll recycle the
shavings.

Although I think I will still want to save up for that Centaur or
even the Tig inverter welder that someone else recommended. I like
the idea of not having to content with either firescale or worrying
about the effect of solder on my ability to hallmark.

Thanks,
Andrew Jonathan Fine


#13

Jan,

I think having something to help bypass the firescale problems
involved with joining silver pieces would be very useful, because I’m
not exactly looking forward to the process of polishing off the
firescale.

  1. Do you still have the Centaur?
  2. If you are willing to part with it, for how much?

Thanks,
Andrew Jonathan Fine


#14
I think having something to help bypass the firescale problems
involved with joining silver pieces would be very useful, because
I'm not exactly looking forward to the process of polishing off the
firescale.

I hate to tell you this but the fire scale problem with TIG welding
will be worse than with a torch and the appropriate flux / firecoat.
The area directly in the flow of the argon is protected to a degree
but there is still oxygen brought into contact with the work due to
turbulence even when using a gas lens type torch cup and the whole
item will be very hot due to the high thermal conductivity of the
silver so the whole piece or certainly a large area will be covered
in firescale because only the immediate weld pool is covered with
argon. Flux cannot typically be used when TIG welding it makes a big
mess. None of my TIG welds in silver have been nearly as clean as
simple torch work. The only way around this is to build/ buy a glove
box so all the TIG welding work is done in a completely oxygen free
environment. In my glove box I still see effects of oxygen (oxide
colors on steel or titanium when welding) down to the 30-40 ppm O2
level and do not get truly bright surfaces on tricky metals like
titanium or copper till below 1 ppm. These levels are very difficult
to reach and hold without sophisticated process control and
equipment. At this point I have well over $15,000 invested in my
glove box. It was an ebay purchase that required lots of time and
funds to get back into operating condition. I need oxygen free welds
for a non jewelry project. Anyway unless you have a real driving
need to have totally oxygen free welds going the glove box route it
way over the top. I encourage you to explore TIG as I do feel that it
has some potential for jewelry work but it is still a new frontier in
this regard. Kevin Lindsey is probably the most experienced person I
know of working in direct jewelry fabrication in precious metals
with TIG so he is a good resource.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts