You have every right to be confused. Soldering and using a torch is
a confusing process to the uninitiated. What to do with regulators,
flash back arrestors, types of gas, torch tips, etc. Everyone is
telling you, use this type, no use that type.
After teaching soldering for several years, making my own work for
several years, working on gold, silver, copper and brass, I’ll put my
two cents in here.
Often, students who just take their first jewelry class and barely
know how to solder get very excited and want to set up their own
little area and solder like a banshee. I know, because I was that
person. After taking my first class in jewelry at a adult ed, I was
out hunting for an aceteylene tank and a Prestolite handpiece with
tips. I got my tank, via my lovely and supportive husband who was
thrilled that his wife was actually enjoying used tool stores and no
longer rolling her eyes in boredom.
I got the tank, and cracked it open. And there it sat…for a year.
I was scared to death to do anything with it!
Now many years later, I have worked in oxy/acet, air/acet, propane
oxy, natural gas/oxy and you know what? I can do EVERYTHING with acet
and air. I’m turning in my propane/oxy and the tips back to the
school. We even have natural gas/oxy pumped into a gas booster for
For safety, there is nothing like aceteylene. Yes, it is dirtier
than propane or natural gas, but it is safe. The Smith handles and
torch tips work great. For gold, it heats up just fine. Learning how
to solder, how heat impacts metal, learning to guide solder into just
the right place, this is an art that doesn’t matter about the gas you
use. I have good flame control in my right hand (look up archives on
this discussion), and trained my left hand to pick things around.
Fusing and granulation are done in a small trinket kiln.
Soldering is my passion, the more difficult and challenging, the
more I say, “bring it on.” Some of my pieces take up to 15 solder
joints. Learn how the metals react with heat first.
So my advice? If you are starting out, go with aceyt/air, Smith
torch tips and play with all of them. Experiment, then make jewelry.
Here is another tip. Usually if I am working on something really
picky, I will make a model in either cardboard or in brass or copper.
Always solder where it is easiest to clean up.
In the end, you will have to make up your own mind, but play with
every kind of gas and torch tip you can find, then decide what works
best for you. Everyone will have an opinion, but ultimately it’s your
jewelry, your creations and most of all, your time.
M E T A L W E R X
50 Guinan St.
Waltham, MA 02451
Ph. 781/891-3854 Fax 3857
Jewelry/Metalarts School & Cooperative Studio