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Married Metal Help

Okay Folks

I’m going nuts and could really use some help !!

I’m working on a piece in the married metal technique. It’s a round
plate, about 7 inches in diameter (or will be when I’m done). The
metals include silver, gold, copper, brass, and shibuichi and I
started the process with 18 gage metal – assuming it will be down to
20 or 22 by the time I’ve finished it. I’m down to the last three
sections. One of which is the very middle, which is quite large,
consists of fine silver with a fairly intricate gold design in the
middle. My original decision was to put that piece in last: 1)
because I wanted to keep the heat sink factor as low as possible in
working with the rest of the plate and 2) because if I had to redo
anything, I didn’t want it to be that piece.

The other 2 pieces are shibuichi, are relatively similar in shape,
sort of a very shallow pie cut, with the angle being an obtuse angle
of about 140 degrees (a lazy “L”??). Yes – this piece is nearly all
straight lines and angles and it’s been a bugger to keep it going!!

My problem is that I cannot get either of these two pieces soldered
onto the remaining section of the plate. I have two torches and the
solder flows (I’m up to using medium solder now). The edges are
clean and as best I can tell, the fit looks good. The only thing I
can think of is that there is just enough warpage in either or both
of these to make it not work. To keep warpage to a minimum, I
generally cover the large piece with firebrick and then weight those
down with every heavy piece of steel I can lay my hands on. I’ve
changed types of soldering surfaces, having used honeycomb earlier
(in order to have a really flat surface) and am now working on one of
those silquar (sp?) boards.

Does anyone have any ideas that will help me get these pieces
absolutely as flat as possible and not suck up all my heat? Am I
approaching this from the wrong direction?? Am I using the wrong
soldering surface?? I chose it because it is hard, flat, and seems
to really reflect the heat back into the piece. I’ve done married
metal pieces a number of times in the past, but this is the largest
and heaviest one to date.

I’m trying to finish this prior to the end of February ( it’s to be
used by a church during Lent! !) and I thought I had this deadline
made (yeah right !!)

Any thoughts at all would be greatly appreciated!!!


Hi Laura -

Sounds like an awesome project! The only thought I had after reading
your post is to heat on a tripod with a screen, so that the pieces can
be heated from below, pulling the solder in from above. Based on the
size, I don’t know if a conventional jewelry tripod would work - you
might need something bigger to support the whole assembly. I’d also
put anti-flux on the existing joints (if you’re not already doing
that) to ensure it doesn’t solder to the screen. May be worth

I’d love to see a photo!

All the best,


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

Laura: I do a lot of marriage of metals but haven’t attempted a
piece that big or that heavy. I do know that by the time I get to the
point of adding the last couple of pieces, it does get problematic to
get it hot enough. I start with hard solder for the first 4 or 5
joints, change to medium for the next group and for the last joint I
use easy solder (providing that I’m not going to do a lot of other
soldering on it like adding a rim or bail etc.). I have found that
sometimes I need to use wire solder and let it flow into as much of
the joint as I can get it to, then clean and borax it and then have at
it again with the wire solder. I have sometimes had to clean and
solder 3 times or so to get that last joint sufficiently soldered and
found that using wire solder allowed me to really flood the joint with
solder even if for only a small amount of the distance I need to do.
You may want to try this. Other than this, I have also been
successful using paste solder to tack the joints together, generally
in 3 spots, then cleaned, boraxed and used my final solder (sheet or
wire) and it went easier because it didn’t move. Don’t know if this
is of any help to you.


Hi, Laura-

I have never tried soldering dissimilar metals on as large a scale as
you are discussing. One thing that does occur to me is that, in
trying to solder together several metals with different sizes, thermal
mass and heat conductivity, one piece may be reaching the flow
temperature of the solder before the other(s), which would cause the
solder to flow onto the hotter piece instead of between the pieces
which you are trying to solder.

If this is the case, you may be able to prevail by directing your
torch more towards the piece which does not heat as quickly. Or you
may be able to even things out by using a heat sink of some sort. I
like to do my larger and/or more complex solder jobs on a tripod, so
there is no firebrick soaking up the heat, and so I can put torch to
metal from the top or the bottom as needed. In fact, since solder
likes to flow towards heat, maybe heating from the bottom would help
draw the solder into the seam.

If, on the other hand, the problem is that the pieces expand
dissimilarly when heated, and create just enough of a gap that the
solder will not flow into it, perhaps you could place a thin strip of
metal on the back side of the piece under the seam. The gap would not
then be “through and through,” and the solder would be more likely to
flow where you want it. The metal strip could then be
ground/filed/sanded off when the soldering is completed.


Lee Einer

Hello Laura, Is it possible to clamp the pieces to firebrick and
place the whole thing in a burnout oven for soldering? The heat can be
accurately controlled and the pieces evenly heated. I’ve done several
art objects in precious metal and occasionally use an oven for things
besides casting. Have fun. Tom Arnold

Laura _I don’t remember what mokume metals you were using but any
thing with much copper has almost always taken a couple of runs at it
(with quick emory and cleaning where I want the solder) also see
where the solder is sticking and heat the other piece a little more
than the sticky side (real tech talk). see the book Mokume Gane by
Steve Midget and/or check with James Binnnion via e- mail , he is a
mokume teacher as well as one of the more competent mokume people who
makes himself available to folks like us (just learning). On second
thought, forget my advice (blind leading the blind) and try the book and Jim -

good luck, Marty

Laura hello!

I know there are others more qualified to help you with the problem
you describe. In all honesty I don’t have a clear mental picture of
precisely the configuration of the pieces you are soldering.

Nonetheless here are a couple suggestions. Get a rose bud tip for
your torch. You mentioned you have two torches. One big one, is
better than two! Construct an area for the soldering by surrounding
the piece with an arrangement of fire bricks. Another material may be
substituted. Be careful and resourceful. Basically construct a small
oven, with an opening in the back wall and also along the top near
the back. Leave the last brick with a gap. Adjust the hole and the
gap as you find necessary. This will increase your ability to
maintain an even heat. Try the oven for suitability prior to working
on your project.

Your flux is also possibly useless by the time the entire piece comes
to necessary temperature; impeding the flow of the solder. Suspend
the piece with charcoal or by making a wire frame to reduce
dissipation of your heat. Use the higher heat, brazing flux
available at welding suppliers. As I recall it is good up to 2200
digest is a dark charcoal color, works real well for large hard to
solder pieces like you are describing. Good luck!

Concerning the inevitable spaces between metals…if your piece can
withstand the heat, I T solder is ideal for use in married metals
because it is the one solder that will fill in those tiny spaces .


I observed in a class once someone attempting to solder together two
large pieces of copper. This is the system that worked: a heat oven of
firebrick, two torches, and a second person refreshing the flux
periodically. Alana Clearlake

    Concerning the inevitable spaces between metals...if your piece
 can withstand the heat,  I T solder is ideal for  use in married
metals because it is the one solder that will fill in those tiny
spaces . 

The melting temperature of I T solder is higher than those most
likely used so far in this piece.

Pam Chott
Song of the Phoenix

    Concerning the inevitable spaces between metals...if your piece
 can withstand the heat,  I T solder is ideal for  use in married
metals because it is the one solder that will fill in those tiny
spaces . 

I would caution against this. The melting temperature is too high for
the metals that you are using Laura. Sterling and shakudo will form a
eutectic and melt at around 1450 F.

Timothy A. Hansen
TAH Handcrafted Jewelry
e-mail: @Timothy_A_Hansen

Dear Orchid Community –

Thank you all so much for all of your very thoughtful responses to my
two very harried and (somewhat) frazzled requests for help !! On the
whole, the replies have been quite provacative and varied and there
is so much present that I have literally stopped work to
really think about where I am with this project as well as the
implications for my studio/bench (it’s hard to tell what it is,
sandwiched between the usual basement paraphrenalia) in my pursuit of
work in larger pieces like this.

Some of the has taken me by surprise – for example, more
than one person mentioned my use of firebrick on top of the piece to
help stabilize it as creating a heat sink. I had moved into thinking
that it would act much as the firebrick inside my enamelling kiln, to
keep heat in the piece itself. It’s such a large flat surface, I have
been concerned that the heat loss into the air would be very rapid and
was looking to keep this to a minimum. As a result, I’ve gotten far
afield from the knowledge that the entire piece has to be up to
solder-flow temp and was, I think, moving in the opposite direction.

There were a number of responses related to the type of heat sources
that I use. I have two torches – a hoke set up for natural
gas/oxygen (basically tipless for this work) and am using propane –
large tip-- as a second torch. I am also using (occasionally) a small
beehive kiln underneath as a heat source from the bottom. One of my
decisions is to rethink the type of torch/tip combinations for larger
work as well as changes in fuel – am planning a trip to my local
welding supply place to discuss torch tips as well as fuels (will look
into MAP as one possibility). There is a local (relatively) farm
museum in Maryland where they regularly have blacksmithing workshops
and classes. I’m looking into taking one, in hopes that I can get a
fuller understanding of constructing heat (if that term makes any
sense at all??)

As for the metals, except for a small amount of brass and gold, they
are largely combinations of silver and copper. My assumption here
was that this would pretty well manage the issue of
expansion/contraction rates, heat conductivity, etc. I think I am
really wrong on this one. I have absolutely minimal (maybe not even
that much) knowledge about this area. If anyone can suggest good
reading material about this topic, I would appreciate it. As for the
Japanese metals – you all are so right about this one – they dirty
s-o-o-o quickly. The cleanup and consequent refitting and setup time
between soldering attempts has been pretty extensive. But they are so
beautiful – I could not pass them up !!

Thank you for the thought about black welding flux – I have some in
the cupboard & will get it out. The idea of welding stitches or a
small hit with a hammer to the surface in order to create a joint that
won’t separate as easily – what an interesting thought – will have
to try that on a smaller piece first – I can just see me really
messing up an edge I’ve spent hours working on!!

As you can see, all of you have given me much to think about and for
that I thank you. Even those who wrote and said they were 'newbies’
and offered what they considered just small amounts of knowledge – I
want you to know I am considering every single piece of information
and incorporating it into my thinking – all of it. Am off to Chicago
later today for a short trip, but will be starting on this project
again the first of next week. I’m sure I will continue to seek
advice, as this project is definitely ‘bigger than a breadbox’ as my
grandma used to say !!

As a minor contribution to any of you who decide to undertake a
married metal experience (for it’s truely an experience, not a
piece), one ‘trick’ that I have learned and made use of —
Inevitably, there are small gaps in joints, and they are just past
the point where the solder will flow into them — I have found that
using cloisonne wire, or rolled out brass and copper wire to fill
these carefully (and then soldering of course) not only fills the
’hole’ but also allows you to restore the clean edge between the two
pieces of metal you are joining side by side. When the metal is
cleaned, filed, sanded and polished, it looks beautiful !!

One other thing – earlier on there was an Orchid thread related to
heat patinas of copper – well – I have to say, that I have seen
some really stunning and beautiful colors/patterns in the copper,
brass, and shibuichi as I’ve gone along. It is definitely worth
playing with !!

Thank you again and I will keep you informed.