Can you please tell me how a torch is used for soldering,
does the flame heat the solder indirectly?
Before soldering, the locations to be soldered should be cleaned
& fluxed. Depending on how you’re going to apply the solder,
pallions/snippets or wire, the solder may also have been placed.
In an ideal world, all the pieces to be joined by the solder
would reach the soldering temperature at the same time. However,
this is practically impossible to do because of the differing
sizes & locations of the pieces. Initially, play the flame around
the entire assembly to bring it up to temperature, but
concentrate the flame on the largest piece, close to the area to
be soldered. When soldering jump rings, both the left & right
sides of the join should be heated evenly. If one side reaches
soldering temp 1st, there’s a very good chance the solder will
migrate to that side of the ring, resulting in a weak or
unsoldered joint. When the piece is close to soldering temp, play
the heat on the largest piece at the base of the join. Watch for
the solder to turn shinny. When this happens, the soldering temp
has been reached. If the join is just a small spot, remove the
flame at this instant. If the join is a long seam, move the flame
along the seam, from the hottest location to a cooler location.
Watch the solder, the shinny line will follow the heat. The
flame should be directed at the base of the join on the largest
of the pieces.
I have just purchased some copper solder in wire form,
and was going to practice soldering jump rings and earring
backs to pieces....couldnt a soldering iron do this as well? <<
A soldering iron could do this job, but typically soft solder
(solders that melt below about 600 deg F are called soft solders)
aren’t used in the jewelry trade. The primary component of
solders used for most precious metals is the metal they are to be
used on. These solders are generically called ‘hard’ solders.
They come in several different melting temps, but usually all the
temps are above 1000 deg F.
Soldering irons have a top temp range about 600 deg F. Torches
are usually used for jewelry work. A gas ( propane, acetylene,
butane, natural gas, hydrogen, MAPP etc.) is usually used to fuel
these torches. Sometimes the gas is mixed with oxygen or
compressed air for a hotter flame. The temperature of some of
these mixtures can reach over 4000 deg F.
Since most of the soldering you’ll be doing in jewelry work will
be with the ‘hard’ solders, you should make every effort to
become proficient with their use. The hard solders come in
several forms, wire, sheet, snippets (called pallions) & paste.
They also come in various melting temperatures, high (hard),
medium, low (easy), extra low (extra easy); there may be other
names & types, but you get the idea.
Which solder you use is dictated by the job at hand. If you know
you are going to be doing several more soldering operations on a
piece, you may want to use a solder with a high melting temp
(hard) 1st, followed by solders with lower melting temps. It
should be said, that once a solder has melted, the melting point
of that joint will be higher than the original melting point of
the solder used. It’s impossible to say how much higher, but it’s
high enough that the same temp solder can be used on another join
in close proximity to the 1st without un-soldering it. This may
take a little experience before 100% success is achieved.
To build up your experience level, try soldering small parts to
larger ones, butt joints, lines, wires to sheets & any other
shapes you can think of. You might also try making several joins
in close proximity, letting the entire assembly cool between each
soldering operation. Use all temps of solder. Which solder you
use, sheet, pallions, paste, or wire depends somewhat on the job
at hand & personal preference. Just a guess, but most jewelers
probably use sheet or pallions. If sheet is used, it’s cut into
snippets before use, wire can also be cut into snippets. Paste
solder has the flux mixed with it & is applied with a syringe.
This is practically advantageous when soldering a large number of
Good soldering technique is learned by ‘doing’; the more you do
the easier it becomes & the better you get! Don’t be afraid to
fail, we’ve all melted & unstuck our share of stuff.