Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Keeping half-round wire aligned for soldering


#1

Hi everyone,

I could use some tips on a soldering issue…

I’m making some rings with half-round sterling wire in 6-12ga. I
want the joint to be inconspicuous, so it is important that the ends
be aligned well when soldered–otherwise sanding down the joint will
leave a visible reduction in size. I’m using hard solder, as the
ring needs to be strong enough to be enlarged on a tapered mandrel
later.

The problem is, when I heat the piece up to soldering temperature
the ends move a bit, so after soldering the joint is
offset–especially with the smaller gauge wire. I’m not using any
fixture at the moment, but I think I may have to.

I’d be interested to hear how others have solved this problem…

Thanks in advance for any suggestions,
Rob


#2
The problem is, when I heat the piece up to soldering temperature
the ends move a bit, so after soldering the joint is
offset--especially with the smaller gauge wire. I'm not using any
fixture at the moment, but I think I may have to. 

Rob, after you’ve shaped the rings, anneal them without soldering.
Let cool, and readjust the joint, and then solder. When you solder
them, if you still have trouble, then use a larger flame. let the
whole ring heat up gently, and heat more from the outside of the ring
than the inside. All this is to control thermal expansion so the gap
stays closed. But simply making sure the wire is totally stress free
by annealing it may be all you need to do.

Peter Rowe


#3

Use a piece of “binding wire” placed away from the source of heat,
allowing the pieces to be held in position and you focused on the
task at hand… making your join as “inconspicuous” as you can.
peace.


#4

Sounds like the metal is warping when you heat it. Try annealing the
ring after you bend it into the loop, and try to avoid heating the
back of the ring when you go to solder it. Fixing whatever flexing
occurs during annealing should still leave the ring less work
hardened, hopefully reducing the amount it wants to flex when you go
to solder it. Keeping the heat focused over the joint should limit
the amount of metal that wants to warp when it heats up.

At least that’s my take. I’d be curious to see if there is some sort
of fixture to help deal with that problem too though.

Willis


#5

Hi Rob,

I just bend the rings into a “D” shape when I’m soldering them
together.

Cut to length, file both ends square, and then bend it up into a "U"
shape. Bend the open tails of the “U” over, until they’re coming
straight at each other.

You should now have a “D” shaped blank, with the joint in the middle
of the straight section. The goal is to have the two ends meeting
head-to-head.

Bend the two ends so that one end goes ‘over’ the other, and push
the ring slightly further closed. Pull it slightly open again, and
take the ‘over’ end, and move it inside the ring, so that now it’s
’under’ the other one. Push the ring slightly closed again. Pull it
back until you can get the two ends to meet up head-to-head again.
The “over and under” trick should have given you enough tension to
hold the joint tightly together, in proper alignment.

Take a small snip of hard solder, lay it down on your soldering
block, and lay the fluxed ring down on top of it, on its side. (With
the joint directly over the solder) Using a smallish flame, heat the
inside area of the ring, aiming mostly at the block. The ring itself
will heat from splash. It should heat more-or-less evenly, and the
weight of the ring should hold the solder in place under the joint.
When it gets to the right temperature, the solder should just jump up
into the joint.

Takes longer to read than it does to do it.

Once it’s soldered, clean it up while straight, and then mandrel it
round.

Regards,
Brian Meek.


#6

Rob- A couple of tips. When you bend a piece of wire or bezel to
solder, it develops some spring. So align your ends. Coat with fire
coat and flux your joint. then heat the whole piece first as if you
were going to anneal it. The wire will move and then relax back. Then
add your solder and solder away. When it’s time for clean up, file the
inside of the ring first. Second, round it up on a mandrel with a a
rawhide mallet. Then file your outside only 80% of the way. Finish
the rest with emery. That way your seam won’t be thinner than the
rest of the ring.

The order of filling is important. if you file up the outside of the
ring before you round it up, it’ll crack at the seam. Also when you
just file or emery the inside and then hit it in the mandrel, that
act will burnish the inside marks smoother so you have less clean up.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer
www.timothywgreen.com


#7

Hello Rob

If you are using a soft soldering brick, get some stainless steel
dressmaker pins. Bend them to form an “L”. Using pliers, push the
sharp end of the pin into the brick until the horizontal part is in
contact with one side of the joint; repeat for the other side. This
secures both sides so they cannot move when you heat the metal. Be
sure to apply your protective flux (Prip’s, or whatever) before
pinning to the brick. Flux the joint and proceed to solder as usual.

Note: you can push the pin into a spot on the brick only once. If you
pull it out, it will not be secure when you try to push it baci in at
the same spot. You will need to push the pin into the brick at a
different location for it to hold securely.

Hope this helps,
Judy in Kansas, where the sun is out and temps are mid-50s. Quite nice.


#8

Rob,

I use 24 ga sheet titanium cut 1/4" x 2". Lay it across the wires
close to where you want to solder them.

Titanium doesn’t act like a heat sink and silver solder won’t stick
to it.

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
rockymountainwonders.com


#9

Are you annealing the wire before you solder?

Mike DeBurgh


#10

Hi Rob - you need to anneal the whole ring before soldering. To
anneal, use a reducing flame (less oxygen than when you solder) and
heat the whole piece to a very dull red. Maintain that color for
about 30 seconds by drawing the flame away slightly. Otherwise,
you’ll get bright orange red - that’s too hot and you might melt your
piece! It helps to have the lights out, or dimmed, so you can see the
color change when it first occurs, and know what color to keep it at.
You can google “anneal silver” to see the color I’m talking about. I
usually quench my silver in water while it’s hot, then throw it in
the pickle to clean the joint. Once it is annealed, it will be “dead
soft” and you can do the fine tuning necessary to re-align your joint
and it shouldn’t move when you go to solder it. It’s kind of like you
need to get the metal to relax, b/c you’ve stressed it out by bending
and twisting it into a ring shape. Once it’s relaxed, it’s much more
amenable! (Like my husband…)

Best, Holly.


#11

Brian, I also learned to form the wire into a D with the join in the
middle of the flat part. But I’ve been using a third hand to hold
the ring. Not only does my solder jump, but with thinner half-round
wire, the edges sometimes also move out of alignment. Your
description of laying the ring down on the solder chip makes so much
sense I can’t wait to try it and see if it will stop the edges from
misaligning as well. Will this also work in soldering a fine silver
bezel wire closed? I seem to have a lot of difficulty in doing that
and have already “burned” through several bezels. Still learning here
and I’ve only one more class left to attend. I need to make sure I
can do this at home to finish the presents I’m trying to make for the
holiday. :slight_smile:

Michele
MikiCat Designs
http://www.mikicatdesigns.com


#12

Thanks, everyone, for all the suggestions…what a great community
this is!

I had not been annealing the ring, so I’ll definitely try that.

When trying Brian’s technique I had trouble getting the solder placed
under the joint to melt…I think maybe the hard firebrick underneath
was acting as too much of a heatsink; I’ll try it again after I get
one of the soft/insulating kind. Presumably a Prest-o-lite torch
should be supplying enough heat…

Rob


#13

Michele:

I also learned to form the wire into a D with the join in the middle
of the flat part. But I've been using a third hand to hold the
ring. Not only does my solder jump, but with thinner half-round
wire, the edges sometimes also move out of alignment. 

I was taught to heat opposite the join first- as the piece heats up,
the join closes up. If you heat the join first, it opens up. Take
some scrap wire and make a series of rings to join - try different
things and find what works best for you.

Some people put the solder on the inside and heat from the outside
of the join, some do it in reverse. Some pick solder (melt the solder
into a teeny ball, pick it up with the solder pick and once the join
is hot, place the solder directly on the join and see it run through
the join (well it should!), and some (I’m one of those) place the
solder on the charcoal under the join and let it run upwards into
the join.

Nothing helps this process other than practice, practice, and more
practice. Once you get it, you’ve got it!

K.


#14

Hi Rob,

One thing I forgot to mention was that you should be shooting
straight down against the brick with the torch. The goal is to
’splatter’ the flame against the firebrick, inside the corral formed
by the ring, which traps the heat. That way you get reasonably even
heating on the whole ring.

I’ve use the hard bricks with no problems, but you want to make sure
that the solder is actually touching the ring. If it is, this trick
is pretty bulletproof.

Regards,
Brian.


#15
I also learned to form the wire into a D with the join in the
middle of the flat part. But I've been using a third hand to hold
the ring. Not only does my solder jump, 

Once you have the ends aligned, very carefully put the ring on a
mandrel and slide it up until you can put a piece of sheet solder
between the ends. Carefully slide it off and flux and solder, I use
a third hand. Put the seam to be soldered at the top at the 12
o’clock position. Heat from the top so the outside of the seam will
have solder flush with the outside. If the seam is not flush with the
top, reflux and use a solder pick to put a small piece of solder on
the fluxed joint, heat and flow the solder once again from the top.
This will make a very clean solder joint if done right.

Richard Hart G.G.


#16

Aye, that’s the rub. Practicing. I did learn to heat the sink first,
getting the metal to either side of the join heated before heading
for the sweet spot. Last class tomorrow night and then I have to
figure out how to setup to work at home. But I’ll give some of these
tricks I’ve heard a try tomorrow and who knows, I may get it right
the first time. Funny, my first bezel came out almost perfect.
Beginner’s Luck. The second one, I think I thought about it too much
and wound up melting right through the silver. [sigh] It is a slow
learning process, isn’t it? But sooooo much fun!!!

Michele
MikiCat Designs
http://www.mikicatdesigns.com


#17

Hi Rob,

When trying Brian's technique I had trouble getting the solder
placed under the joint to melt...I think maybe the hard firebrick
underneath was acting as too much of a heatsink; I'll try it again
after I get one of the soft/insulating kind. 

A lot of times paste solder works much better when soldering rings.
The solder has flux already mixed in it. t can be applied directly to
the joint so it contacts both sides. It stays right where it’s
placed. I’ve found that it’s best to apply the paste to the joint on
the inside of the ring & heat it from the outside.

Dave


#18

Rob,

I have been following this thread, and reading the various postings.
It’s so interesting how different metalsmiths accomplish the same
process with such different techniques. To my way of teaching, part of
the problem would seem to be not enough annealing. If you pour and
roll out your own stock, as I have my students do, then enough
annealing during the entire process is ensured, so that bending that
freshly annealed ring band into a round shape leaves it pretty much
stress-free. When the torch flame is put to the joint area, there
just aren’t the stresses in the band which cause the ends to be
soldered to move.

Many who buy their stock ready-made may not be annealing enough
during forming and shaping operations, so more annealing may be the
answer. Some have suggested annealing the band just prior to
soldering, and this seems a wise move. If the metal is in a relaxed
state, it isn’t going to move when soldering heat is applied. I don’t
have much need for fixturing (binding wire, t-pins, etc) when
soldering a band together, as once the ends are fit tightly together,
providing the metal is annealed, the solder joint should stay tight
during the heating.

A few tips I’ll mention. Once the joint is aligned, and fits as
tight as possible, it usually does not fit as tight as it should, no
matter how carefully the ends are sawn or filed. At this point, I put
the band in a wooden ring clamp, with the seam facing straight up,
and saw through that joint with my jeweler’s saw ( 3/0 blade,
normally). At the point the blade comes through the end of the tight
fitting joint, the ends will snap together, and the joint will be as
tight fitting as they can possible be. If the fit isn’t perfect, saw
through again.

I never worry about the shape of the band before soldering, only
that the joint is perfectly aligned and tight before soldering. I
look at this alignment with a 10X loupe before soldering. If you
don’t have a 10 power loupe to see these kinds of vital details, you
need one! ( Even a $5 loupe will work well for this).

Good luck with whatever technique you use.
Jay Whaley


#19
It's so interesting how different metalsmiths accomplish the same
process with such different techniques. 

As Jay puts it so simply, it’s all in the annealing…

I’ve had situations where the metal can’t be annealed for some
reason, or there is a unique situation at times. I’ve just clamped
the ring in a vise to make it stay put and solder it right in the
vise… A small bench vise works (like 3" jaws) or I have a
hand-held vise I use… That’s not a substitute for proper annealing
and soldering, it’s just for that odd circumstance when nothing else
works…


#20
Many who buy their stock ready-made may not be annealing enough
during forming and shaping operations, so more annealing may be
the answer. Some have suggested annealing the band just prior to
soldering, and this seems a wise move. If the metal is in a
relaxed state, it isn't going to move when soldering heat is
applied. I don't have much need for fixturing (binding wire, t-pins,
etc) when soldering a band together, as once the ends are fit
tightly together, providing the metal is annealed, the solder joint
should stay tight during the heating. 

There is pretty much a universal lack of understanding about what
the requirements for annealing are in the jewelry maker community.

Annealing is the term for the process of recrystallization of cold
worked metal and in the process stress relieving the crystal
lattice. It is accomplished by heating to a high enough temperature
for recrystallization to occur and holding for a long enough time for
the recrystallization to complete. If done properly you end up with
small equiaxed grains or crystals and a soft item.

That much is fairly well understood by all. The problem comes in
with the cold worked part. If you have not reduced the section of the
metal you are working on by 50 % or more then you are not getting
much if any recrystallization period end of story.

You have to put a lot of cold work into the metal to get enough
stress into the crystal lattice for the recrystallization to occur.
So what is happening when you do all that “annealing” without enough
cold work? Well you are making the crystals in the lattice bigger
rather than smaller and increasing the potential for an orange peel
textured surface. And reducing the strength of the metal. You are
stress relieving the metal with this heating so it does get softer
but you also make the metal worse in regards to how much work it can
withstand without failure of the crystal lattice.

So if you need to reduce the stress in the metal to accomplish a
specific action like getting the ends of the wire to stay in
alignment by all means do so but try to minimize the number of times
you do this unless you have put the necessary cold work into the
metal so that you will truly anneal it.

Jim

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts