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Laser and Pulse/arc welders

I was reading through the archive posts regarding arc/pulse/ laser
welders and saw that most of the posts were fairly old with many of
the responders saying that they had just started using their "new"
welder, whatever type it was.

Now that some time has gone by and also that the laser welder
companies are coming up with more affordable studio sized versions
this could be a good time for some current feedback which would be
helpful for those of us who are trying to decide between the various
types of welders.

Some of the questions that I have are:

Is your unit suitable for general bench type repair work including
prong retipping and silver?

Is your unit good for fabrication work?

What about the higher powered types of arc welders such as the RDO?
I imagine they are good for heavy fabrication but what about delicate
work like retipping? Are they faster than the smaller arc welders
which fire 1-2 times per second?

What is your overall experience with whatever type of unit you use?
Would you purchase it again? Why? Why not?

Have you seen or used newer generation welders that you feel are
"significant" improvements over the welder that you currently use?

Right now I am going back and forth between a laser welder and the
RDO arc welder. I do repair and fabrication with about 20% in
silver. I can afford a laser but see no reason to purchase one just
because I can.

Your comments based on your real world experience will be very much
appreciated by me and no doubt many others who find themselves in
the same spot.

Thank you all,

Joseph Bloyd
JNB Studio

I recently purchased Crafford Laser Star’s “Bright Star” pedestal
model, for myself. I have over 2000 hours using one of their older
models, doing mostly repair work for my last employer. After 30
years at the bench, and the last 5 years with a laser, when I changed
employers I felt like I’d lost both my arms, having to go back to
the torch for everything! This newer laser has what they term “pulse
shaping”, which is software that alters the voltage levels during
the pulse, which helps with some metals, such as sterling and white
gold. I do not ever use a torch on platinum any more, and use the
laser on yellow and white gold, most sterling work, and on stainless
steel. I do all my link assembly and hinge repair work with the
laser. On ring assembly work I lightly ‘tack’ the setting into the
mounting with the laser, make any adjustments in alignment and then
solder, avoiding any need for clamps or re-solders. I do quite a bit
assembly work, channel repairs (including stone replacements), and
quite a bit of ring sizing on the laser. Using the laser you are
actually “welding” in new metal, instead of adding solder, so the are
no solder seams. This can be a big plus! The more upscale models
(that means costly), labeled Laser Star instead of the Bright Star,
have more pulse shaping options but I had to be cost conscious and
this machine is definitely an improvement over the older laser.

My LaserStar sits to the right of my workbench. It is used almost
daily. Why almost? Somedays I just set stones and don’t need to put
metal together. We still do sizings with solder, attach heads with
solder, ropes and small chains are better with a laser. I can do
small joints or big joints (.2 to 2mm beam) My machine is 100 Joule.
80 is probably enough. My base price is $39 for a laser joint. More
or less depending on the job. I don’t like using it on silver. Not
because I can’t- but because it seems like a waste of the machine.
Before I get jumped on-- I usually see cheapo silver stuff not the
high end designer jewelry. I can weld on costume jewelry, put posts
back on Coral earrings set in bezels, etc, etc. I can add gold to a
small spot if I need to. Not solder–gold. I can also fill areas that
need metal, polish inside of filigree rings (by turning the power way
down and increasing the frequency to 7 or 7.5 hits per second. Shiny!
The reason for increased power (and capacity) is that after you put
metal where you want it, you’ll go back and “homogenize” the joint.
Melting everything all together so you dont have small pits where two
hits meet. (If that makes any sense) The drawbacks? Maintnance and
supplies. Changing the water is a pain. In my unit its right next to
the motherboard. So- no Tequila before changing water. Otherwise the
machine is great. Expect a 3 month learning curve to be comfortable.
By the way what sold me on Laserstar was the training. Two days one
on one. Would I do it again? Yes. But I would try to buy it not lease
it. Probably not money smart, but I hate bills.

By the way, we size rings with solder because the other jeweler I
work with hasnt been trained on the Laser. Welding is definately the
better way to do it. Heads need to be soldered because they may need
to be unsoldered in the future.

Stanley Bright