Little torch and soldering failures

Jane, your description of soldering problems reminds me of my own,
many years ago. I went through the same “hyper-cleaning” processes,
for several months. The solder still (usually) wouldn’t flow UNTIL I
started soaking the solder itself in the Batterns flux before using
it. Now, oddly enough, I never soak my solder, it (almost!) always
flows, and I use minimal cleaning processes. Go figure! It sounds
weird, but try to develop a confident attitude, along with everytning

As far as your flame is concerned, I don’t try to heat up the whole
piece (especially since I usually am working on larger pieces), but
the whole area around the join has to be heated up. I use a hot, hard
flame and keep rotating it around the area (so as not to overheat one
spot and melt it), until the area is hot enough to melt the solder.
The faster you can do this, the better, since the longer the piece is
kept at a high temperature, the more oxides can form, which interfere
in proper metal joining.

It seems (to me) like oxy-propane is hotter than you need, if this is
a smallish item. I only ever use acetylene. HOWEVER, it you are
trying to solder a bezel onto a reasonably large sheet of copper, then
you will need the extra heat, because copper sheet radiates heat like
crazy. Whenever I try brazing things onto a 3-inch copper circle (24
gauge), I can barely do it with acetylene. I have to half-bury it in
my annealing pan (to keep some of the heat in), or else stack little
pieces of soft firebrick or charcoal blocks around it, for the same
reason, sort of making a little “furnace” around it. If you’re using a
large copper sheet and a small silver bezel, you must raise up the
copper a little and direct your flame underneath the copper, and it
will take a lot of heat. HTH

Judy Bjorkman

Solder is sentient!

It knows when you are tired. It knows when one more thing going wrong
will tip you over the edge. It swaps itself around during the night so
that when you come to pick up the medium in the morning you select the
extra hard. It sits there on a piece of fine wire going “I won’t flow,
I won’t flow, I won’t flow!”

It is evil!

Dear Tony,

Your sentiments about solder just started me laughing and considering
I have been away from my work bench for three months and still can’t
find it under a pile of unpacked boxes…God, I hate moving my
studio!.. I haven’t found much to laugh about these days but you did

Thanks a lot, and I believe that is exactly what solder does and is:
its evil !!

Sharron in hot hot Manama. previously Saigon. Actually its cooling
down so the locals tell me as the temp. now drops to 29 at night from
the 38 of day. Unlike the 49 to 55 I had upon arrival in August.

Yes Tony, Solder is sentient. But solder is not evil. Solder is like a
child it responds best to words of encouragement. Solder will not
always go where it is told to but must be coaxed with the heat of the
torch into going where it belongs. It requires the proper environment
in order to live up to its potential. Each solder is like a different
child and each child must be treated as an individual. With each
individual one needs a new form of manipulation. But regardless of
the child there will come a day when that child will stop saying “I
won’t flow” and it will begin to cooperate. Be patient.

Stones on the other hand are a different subject. Yell at them and
cuss them because they are evil.


Dear John, No, No, No, solder MUST be sworn at, it will not flow
otherwise. This is the first lesson I teach when teaching. In fact all
these processes must invoke much swearing or they refuse to cooperate.
My next letter will be on my views of child rearing. Sam Patania,

 Stones on the other hand are a different subject. Yell at them and
 cuss them because they are evil.

No, no no, John, stones are NOT evil! They are like children;
innocent, cool to the touch and with a little coaxing will do
everything one wants. Sometimes you have to be firm, sometimes gentle
but Mother Nature created them all so they could be formed to be
useful and taught to be things of beauty.

It is only when the heavy handed get involved that they can be
percieved otherwise. But if you sing to them, talk sweetly and be
gentle, stones will consent to be the center piece of any item. In
fact, they prefer not to be surrounded with garrishness or complicated
with unnecessary cold stiff metal. Remember, the by-word is “Simple
Elegance”…that’s fine jewlery!

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry!

Don, Solder is not evil. Stones are not evil. Jewelry is not evil.
However, there are frustrations that a metal smith can run across on
any given day that will cause them to think bad thoughts.

Diamonds and natural colored stones are incredible works of nature
very often unsurpassed by any mounting created by human hands. A
simple pebble pulled from a stream or taken from the ground is
shaped, faceted or otherwise polished to reveal its true beauty. But
this is where the trouble comes from. Keeping with the child rearing
metaphor a stone may be like a child, but it is not the metal smiths
child. It is the child of the lapidary. As metal smiths we must
accept these children for what they are. We must accept their
hardness, softness, cleavage planes and inclusions. Their heavy
girdles, sharp points, uneven profiles and deep bellies. Their
sensitivities to heat or harsh chemicals and “their preference to not
be surrounded by cold stiff metal”.

Solder is a tool the same as a hammer or a graver and these tools are
under the crafts persons control. Training, practice and patience
will eliminate frustrations met while working with these tools. With
stones, training practice and patience can make the jeweler aware of
the dangers that may await a heavy or tired or distracted hand. But
it will not allow them to change what the lapidary dictates.
Frustrating? Challenging? Either way stones have the ability to cause
some nasty swearing in this shop.

John Sholl In Colorado where the high country has seen the first snow
and the young bull elk’s thoughts have turned to love.

I find that stones are like little gremlins and invariably the “very
last stone” you need to set WILL BREAK or get set crooked ! Not too
mention that you have only two stones and both of them break and
these things happen only when you are rushed to get out of the shop.
The last push on the claw and it will not set right and will not
move to be straightened. Just not too mention what the last drill
for a hole for a diamond, the twist drill WILL BREAK!..:>( How about
the last burr you have and the ‘other’ stock of stuff is not with you
and it wears out before you finish that project? I swear that these
things have minds of their own !..gerry!

Alright, so some of you swear at the solder, some of you coax it

This is what you REALLY need to do before you start to work: offer a
prayer and sacrifice to the god of smiths, Hephaestus (or Vulcan, if
you prefer). Of course your soldering won’t go well, if you fail to
propitiate the god! Try circling the studio with a small smudge pot
of incense while uttering a humble request for assistance, or use a
candle if you are out of smudge. (but do extinguish before lighting
your torch). The appropriate air of reverence will do wonders. How do
you think the Etruscans got all those little gold balls of
granulation so perfectly aligned? (…though just at this moment, I
don’t recall the name of their smith god.) Every metalworking
tradition has a smith god! Use him! He will appreciate the attention.

With sincere humility, Lin

Guess I need to enter into this discussion at this point. I have had a
year of paralysis since my tools, etc. were stolen. Yesterday I found
out there is no chance of recovery unless I try the courts. I guess I
have to finally let go.

Today I took an assortment of previously finished pieces to show one
of the workers in my home. I love natural stones, particularly those
I have self collected and laboriously formed and polished. There were
two pieces where the finished stone had found its way from my hand to
a hard surface floor and of course broken. Not wanting to lose the
uniqueness of either stone, I created an Indian style feather across
the top of one, and made a silver chanel following the vertical wavy
break across the other and went about finishing them off. For
personal use only of course.

Yes the gremlins may have just forced me through my self-imposed
period of lethargy. Now with a paycheck, I may be able to replace
some of the tools and get back to work. Teresa

Thought I would weight in on the discussion about gremlins. Could it
be we all have an angel or spirit guide who watches over our lives
and our work. They might have been given the responsibility to guide
us in our work. I’m sure each of you have worked hard at capturing
your thoughts into a finished piece and found it to be slightly
different then expected. Your angel/spirit guide may have pushed the
design in the direction of their thoughts. When your spirit
guide/angel is not happy with your design they make you drop the
stone or specially cut piece and kick it into the most unlikely place
to discourage you from finishing the piece. Maybe the cracked stone
is not the right color or shape.

Now the rest of the story. Most of my work is southwest in design.
I wanted my calling card to have a portrait of an Indian wearing a
wolf head dress. I would finish sketching it in pen an ink. Then I
felt it needed just one more line. The additional line would ruin
the sketch so that I would have to start over. It took me six tries
before I had a sketch that I finished without messing it up. Several
years later I ran into an old friend of mine who I hadn’t seen since
several years before I drew my card. He had no way of knowing about
my card or the trouble I had in creating it. He was into spiritual
readings. He gave me a reading which consisted of many things any
one might say. Near the end he told me my spirit guide wanted to tell
me that he wanted the sketch on the card to look like him. That was
why he made me mess it up until he was satisfied with it. And now you
know the rest of the story. We are all blessed to have the natural
talent we have for no amount of training could teach us to be the
creative people we are Good luck and may your spirit guide/ angel look
over you. Lee