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Little torch and soldering failures

Hello. I have been trying to solder a silver bezyl to a copper sheet.
That failed, so I tried copper to copper, no silver. That failed too.
I use batterns flux, and solder in wire form rio. All metals… except
copper from rio grande. I clean my hands really well so I dont have
oils and other contaminants. I used 600 grit sandpaper from 3m on the
metal to clean it.

I have read many articles on here about soldering and lapidary journal
and the metalsmith book which is great by McCreight(?).

My problem is when I solder, I am not sure if I am using the wrong
technique. I have the largest tip on it to get a softer flame. I use
propane and oxygen tanks. I cant seem to heat the piece correctly.
When I was taught to solder, I was told to heat up the entire piece.
then heat the solder area when the flux became clear. I have done that
in all of my attempts. I have tried to heat the piece and zero in on
the flux, and I have tried to hea the piece up from under it on a
tripod stand and then zero in after heating both sides… still I

One time I thought I had the bezyl to the sheet and when I put it in
the pickle… it kinda came apart on contact. I figure it was still
too hot. I let it cool a little bit. I cant blame the torch, I am
almost sure its me :slight_smile: I am not sure if anyone can help me without
knowing what I am doing, but I thought it would be worth a shot.

If anyone has one of these torches, little smith torch, and you might
know how to use the flame, what tip to use etc? or how to better
handle the torch (any hints) would be greatly appreciated. or, grin
if I am doing something wrong… :slight_smile: please let me know. I have
scotchbrite pads, so I will use that now for cleaning the metal
instead of the sandpaper.

Thank you for any info and assistance.

Jane, Regarding your difficulty soldering, it sounds like you are
doing everything just right, except heating. The Little Torch has a
limited flame. It is great for small things, but not able to put out
enough heat for a lot of operations… Try something larger; a
Prestolite is the most accessible and a good starter. Many people
stick with that. I prefer oxygen with natural gas or propane and a
larger torch like the Meco or Smith because it is so versatile, from
soldering fine chain to melting an ounce or two of metal.

Hope this helps, Alan

Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts
760 Market Street - Suite 900
San Francisco, CA 94102
tel: 415-391-4179 fax: 415-391-7570

Jane, I believe that the only thing you are doing wrong is not getting
the metal hot enough to allow the solder to flow. This is the obvious
answer at least. If you are trying to solder a very large bezel to
very thick sheet with a Little Torch, getting the metal up to
temperature will be very difficult.

Experiment (copper is cheap). Make a smallish bezel (not more than
1/2 inc h in diameter) and try to solder it to thinnish (24-22 ga)
sheet. Use your largest torch tip with a large flame (not too
bushy/orange/soft/cool and no t too tight/blue/pointed/hot AD somewhere
in between but err on the side of ho t just a bit; sounds like the
flame you’re using is too cool). Heat the whol e piece till the flux
is dry and then move in so the tip of the flame (the ti p of the
cone-shaped part of the flame, that is) is almost touching the sheet
on the outside of the bezel. KEEP THE FLAME MOVING around and around
the outside of the bezel (not on it). Even after the flux glazes,
keep the torch in tight and keep it moving around the bezel until the
solder flows. In this situation and using copper and/or silver, you
should not need to focus in on one spot at a time; you can flow the
solder around the whole bezel almost simultaneously. Remember, this
is practice so don’t worry about melting the metal. If you keep the
torch moving and don’t direct it at the top edge of the bezel, it will
be difficult to melt anything anyway.

By the way, if you use a tripod, it will act as a heat sink, so that
you have to use even more heat than usual. It shouldn’t be necessary.
It can also help to solder on a charcoal or magnesia block since both
of these get hot themselves and thus help to heat up the piece. Most
other soldering surfaces are designed specifically not to get hot and
can actually slow dow n the soldering process.

Once you’ve got this down, you should be able to move to larger
bezels and thicker metal although, at some point, the Little Torch may
become ineffective and you will need something that generates a
bigger, stronger flame. With larger pieces, you may also need to vary
the torch technique somewhat, moving from the outside of the bezel
wire to the inside and back, but always moving. Good luck.


I’ve soldered silver bezel wire to stainless steel sheet. The pieces
are set on a pad that does not rob heat. The area to be soldered is
fluxed an d snippets of solder are placed in close to the edge of the
bezel wire. S nippets are cut from sheet solder and are very tiny as
you cut a piece of sheet solder 1/4" wide into 8-10 narrower pieces,
then cut across those into snippets 1/32 inch wide. If you are not
having trouble with your tor ch setting burning holes in your bezel
wire your heat is about right. The small pads I use are available in a
grocery store as scower pads. A shor t piece of coat hanger sharpened,
dipped in flux, will pick up and place snippets.

Hi Jane,

 If anyone has one of these torches, little smith torch, and you
might know how to use the flame, what tip to use etc? or how to
better handle the torch (any hints) would be greatly appreciated.
or, *grin* if I am doing something wrong... :) please let me know. I
have scotchbrite pads, so I will use that now for cleaning the metal
instead of the sandpaper. 

It’s dangerous to give advice in a situation like this, but I’ll try.

If I had to guess, I’d say that you’re using the wrong torch. The
Smith Little torch is a great torch for gold & small silver pieces.
However, larger silver or copper pieces really soak up the heat. The
problem with the Little Torch isn’t that it doesn’t get hot enough,
it’s that the small tip size just can’t put out enough heat to get
the larger pieces to soldering temp.

You might be able to use a rose bud tip on the Little Torch, but that
may present other problems. You may have to use a larger propane or
acetylene (Prestolite) air torch to get a flame with the heat content
you need.


Using a “soft flame” with the little torch means that your flame is
nowhere near the right temperature. You need to increase the oxygen
supply until you have the hottest flame. Keep moving the torch around
until the solder flows - remember to concentrate on heating up the
largest piece of metal.

Tony Konrath
Gold and Stone

Hi Jane, I’ll take a stab at trying to help… I can hear the
frustration in your writing and can relate. I wish I could see you do
it. That would help! :slight_smile: Based on what you wrote (and didn’t write) I
have a few thoughts:

  1. You didn’t indicate what kind of flux. Since you said “turns
    clear” I’m going to assume it’s white paste flux. This is good… it
    holds up longer than liquid flux (in my experience). If not, try white
    paste flux (i.e., Handy Flux).

  2. How are you applying the solder? Are you putting it in place then
    heating, or sticking the wire in like soldering electronics? For this
    application, I’d suggest cutting snippets of solder and placing them
    around the inside of the bezel before heating. That way they are good
    and fluxed (unlike sticking the wire in) and are in position to flow
    when they’re ready. You may have to reposition the snippets if they
    jump from the flux boiling… slow initial warming reduces this
    problem. You want to make sure your solder is clean, too, and it
    should fluxed.

  3. Use a large tip on the torch. The flame should be slightly oxygen
    starved (a reducing flame). This usually results in a whitish/yellow
    cone around the blue pointed flame on my oxy/acetylene Little Torch.
    While heating the piece all over, spend most of the time pointing the
    flame at the part of the backing plate outside the bezel, pointed
    slightly inward. When the solder flows it moves toward the heat, so
    this will pull the solder from the inside to the outside. Occasionally
    hit the backing plate inside the bezel with the torch, but you
    shouldn’t have to hit it solder directly with the torch. People have
    different feelings about tripods… I do use one on occasion. Suffice
    it to say it helps to be able to heat from below, as well. It reduces
    the chances of overheating the bezel. Keep the torch moving at all
    times, playing over the piece, primarily outside of the bezel on the
    backing plate. The bezel will easily come up to temperature with the
    heat absorbed from the backing plate… silver is an excellent heat

  4. "it kinda came apart on contact. I figure it was still too hot. "
    By the time you picked up the piece and dropped in in the pickle, it
    should have had enough time to air cool for the solder to harden
    (freeze). Probably not soldered… it was the flux that was holding it
    together to that point. You’d have to be lightning fast, or soldering
    over your pickle pot for this to be the problem. Certainly doesn’t
    hurt to air cool or water quench first to avoid the release of pickle
    fumes from quenching in pickle.

  5. Rereading your original message, everything sounds correct.
    Nothing you’ve said is “wrong” by my experience. If anything, it’s
    probably something you probably think is too insignificant to mention
    and don’t realize makes a difference. That you don’t mention what
    happens when the solder tries to flow, or doesn’t flow, leads me to
    believe you should look carefully at how you’re applying the solder
    (#2 above).

Let us know if this helps, or doesn’t help!

All the best,
Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)

Hi, Jane- I have done some soldering of silver and copper (one example
is on my homepage) and I suspect that the flux may be your issue. Go
to a plumbing supply store and get some paste flux like Sta-Silv. This
stuff is made for soldering copper, and it gets the job done. My
other recommendation would be to work this piece on a tripod, if
possible, so you can blast the copper from beneath with a strong flame
to get the whole piece up to temperature, and then bring the torch to
the top and play it around the bezel (not directly on the bezel, lest
it melt) until the solder flows. Because copper oxidizes so quickly
and heavily, the name of the game in soldering copper is to use good
flux and get 'er done quick.

Lee Einer

hello! i have a little torch, and i’ve found that it can be too hot
for some soldering. this works for me: try keeping the flame very
quiet, and big - you could be slamming the metal and burning off the
flux before the solder has a chance to flow. also, with silver and
copper, i’ve found i don’t need solder - the silver and copper just
kind of bond with each other. you may also want to try flowing the
solder on the sheet before putting the bezel on the sheet. once the
copper is hot enough for solder to flow, the silver would also be hot
enough for solder flow. i hope i’ve helped you, susannah

Jane - the likely reason for failure is the tendency of copper to
oxidize quickly when heated. You need a paste flux, liberally
applied to the copper to retard oxidization. Batterns is good on
gold, but in my experience that’s the only place to use it. Try
Handy Flux, available everywhere, heat the copper fairly fast, use
easy solder and the silver or copper bezel should work fine. If you
are using the little torch, use the biggest nozzle available, heat
the copper from below, on a stand with a hole in the screen where
your bezel goes.

Judy Hoch in hot Denver in the fall - 90F today.

If anyone has one of these torches, little smith torch, and you
might know how to use the flame, what tip to use etc? or how to
better handle the torch (any hints) would be greatly appreciated.
or, *grin* if I am doing something wrong... :) 

You didn’t give a couple important pieces of How big
are the pieces you are trying to solder?? What tip are you using?
One more thing, what solder are you using? The Little Torch is a
great torch for “SMALL” pieces of silver and copper and for gold work.
For larger pieces, say medium size broachs (50 cent size pieces) you
may need to go up to a #7 or #8 tip. For bracelet size pieces, you
might need to go to the big casting tip. Copper and Silver have a
very high ability to dissipate heat. IE it takes a lot of heat to get
it up to temp. That is why a BIG flame works best, one that you can
paint the piece with. The Little Torch with the standard tips just
doesn’t have the Omph to do the job on big silver. One trick is to use
two torch’s and use the smaller to do the finish heat of the joint to
be soldered.

I doubt that you are having problems because your hands are oily or
that you are using the wrong grade of sand paper. Your problem
sounds like more like you are not getting the solder hot enough to
flow to the joint. One tip though is to dip the solder in flux prior
to applying it to the piece. This makes sure that it is coated as
well as the joint and will let the solder flow better.