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Making rivets

Can someone help me with this? I’m making sterling rivets, 16 ga
wire, and can’t make nice balls. I hold the wire in locking tweezers,
coat with flux (Grifflux), apply the oxygen/propane flame to the
bottom of the wire. I’ve read that you rotate the wire to keep the
balls symetrical, but I can’t see how to keep the flame away from
your hand if you try to go around the wire. I end up with lop-sided
balls, and with rough sections to boot! Help!

Noralie Katsu


I had similar problems until I started using Fine Silver.

Good luck,
Ken Moore

Noralie I find the easy way to have nice round balls is to create
balls of fine silver first then solder with hard solder to the stem
wire. I use a third hand to hold the stem wire above the ball using
the stick solder method. You can either flatten the ball or leave it

Good luck, Linda

Noralie -

Liquid sterling doesn’t like to go where it’s ‘cold’, so if you
don’t heat the wire above where you want the bead, the wire won’t
melt properly. Also, make sure the tweezers are not too close to the
end to be melted; they will act as a heat sink and you’ll just wind
up with damaged sterling and no bead.

The analogy I use with my students is, “You don’t want to get into
an ice-cold bed, do you? So warm it up first.”

16g is pretty stout stuff for making a bead on a wire. There’s a lot
more mass than say, as 20g wire (shepherd’s hook type earwire); the
heat energy required is MUCH larger. You don’t really need a hotter
flame, just more volume of heat into the wire. If you don’t overcome
the heat capacity of silver, your results won’t be good even with a
very hot, focused flame.

I would hold the fluxed wire two or more inches away from the target
end. “Dip” the wire into the flame once or twice to get sufficient
heat built up into it before concentrating on the end to be melted.
(I use acetylene/air, and I use the ‘width’ of the flame as my
guide…dip at least the length of wire into the flame that equals
the width of the flame.)

best regards,

Use fine silver or Argentium wire…problem solved!

Argentium makes lovely rivet heads.


How to make perfect balls on silver wire

I know a bit, but not much, and I will tell you what I have learned.
When I was at the jewelry school Alchimia in Florence Italy, they
showed me to put the wire straight up into the flame. So the cut end
of the wire faced the open end of the torch. I think that was
natural gas, because it came from the wall. And, a bit of a different
torch than I have seen. Another friend who uses propane says to pull
the flame away from the wire, instead of the wire from the torch. I
think it depends on the type of torch you have, heat, and “the way
you hold your mouth.” Maybe if you practice with brass wire it will
help, but may not because they are different metals.

Good luck.

With practice, they will come out fine. You might try pulling the
flame away a bit slowly-- some people find that this prevents the
wrinkling. Mostly, I think you get wrinkles when you make the ball
too big.

One more thing to try, easier than soldering a ball to a wire. Drill
one or more holes the size of your wire in a charcoal block. Then use
a ball bur to make a hemispherical depression the size your ball
should be, centered on each hole. Put your wire in the hole(s) with a
mm or so sticking up-- a few trials will determine how much-- then
melt it into the depression. If the wire sticks out the back of the
block, you can push it out without damaging your little depression.


Hi everyone,

Thanks for the input - so far I’m trying practice, and planning on
ordering some 16 ga fine silver wire also. I guess, judging from the
various suggestions, that I’m not the only one who has had trouble!