My very first silver-soldered joint

Hi folks,

I’ve just achieved my very first silver-soldered joint!!!

Granted that the metal joined was copper, but there was a reason for

My current project is a chain necklace that I’m kind of doing as a
quiz of everything I’ve studied and learned to do this past year.

I wound about 22 turns on a small tapered form, twice, and sawed the
windings into links, for a total of 40 round links (and bits).

This still achieved only 14 inches, insufficient length for anyone to

But my silver supply was limited, and didn’t want to use all of it in
this necklace. I decided I would make oval links, out of pure copper,
to connect the silver links with.

That implied I had to cut copper strips and close them in a
mechanically stable manner, which further implied that I had a
genuine need to attempt to solder it shut, and because of stresses
involved it needed to be medium silver solder rather than
silver-bearing electronics solder.

is 1/4 inch long by 1/8 inch wide. I intend to put round silver links
in the sides, and the whole system should be able to flex and lay
comfortably on the wearer’s next.

I followed most everything I saw from Orchid postings correctly, and
from the books you all gave me: especially on using the jeweler’s saw
to cut through overlapping material to obtain identical saw cuts on
both sides for a tight solder joint.

I bent the joint shut, then filed the local surface clean.

(making the working assumption that a sawed surface is by definition

I then cut a medium solder rectangle paillion 1/8 by 1/16 inch size,
and mounted it in soldering tweezers.

I dipped a cotton swab of Stay-Silv flux and moistened not only the
joint but also the surrounding surface.

I wore my Optivisor with my light on and set the room dark. I lit my
butane pencil, and heated the copper with it. As soon as the flux
melted and the gas from the torch bouncing off the metal was turning
green (copper ions present), I released the paillion from the tweezers
to drop onto the surface.

The paillion melted almost immediately, I could see it flowing over
both the cut area and also surrounding surface.

I turned off the butane pencil. There was a glassy shiny layer over
the surface. Filing it away did not seem to work evenly, so instead I
applied a 220 grit Dremel sanding drum to the surface, exposing the
underlying copper but also exposing the joint for inspection.

I did not sand the sides. I want anyone with experience to see both
the sanded surface revealing the joint, the sides to see how well I
did my first try, and how I could do better.

This is not intended to be the final appearance of the link, I know I
have a little more bending, sanding, and polishing to do to even
things out and make it look pretty.

What I want are people’s opinions on the joint itself for the sake of
kaizen, incremental improvement.

Andrew Jonathan Fine

… or how to become a siversmith via a correspondence course!


I dont need to stick and carrot you your too bright!!, cos what youve
done is a big step for you.


several things you aught to consider.

Ill list them.

  1. I presume you used round silver wire for the round links.

  2. For visual appearance sake AND finishing the copper, you should
    use round copper wire of the same dia as the silver.

  3. Make a rectangular former from wood to match the dia of the
    silver rounds and wind the copper around it.

  4. cut through as before and true up making the joint at one of the
    curved ends.

  5. Then make your solder pallion the same size as the wire thickness
    from 10/000 foil no more!! and place this inbetween the ends of the

Apply flux and heat. Its so much easier this way!!. The solder is
where you need it. Not all over the outside of the wire.

  1. when the solder has set pick up with tweezers and drop into 50/50
    water and old battery acid in a tall jar. (to avoid splash up) The
    hot metal hitting the mixture will clear off any scale and the flux
    as well. all bright and shiny.

  2. to make up the chain you can either solder up all the copper
    links first then solder each silver link in succession or vice versa.

fiddly but thats the way chain is made.

Try the easy way and let us know how you get on.


instead of using expensive silver solder (provided that’s what you
are using, sterling or fine silver solder) you can get a syringe of
copper soldering paste at home stores and hardware stores
inexpensively- same colour is a good thing for chains. a tube of the
stuff would make a, probably 30" chain if the links are as heavy as
they appear.

some comments:

First - get a simple wooden or metal dowel/rod from the hardware or
home store to use as a mandrel - Often home stores that cut metal
rods in store will give you the leftover, cut pieces free- different
lengths, different diameters. if you charge a soft wheel(like a felt
dremel wheel 1-1 1/2") with a bit of compound, and secure the rod(s)
in a vise you can polish them to a nice shiny surface. Then measure
the pieces and engrave the size (in mm’s) on the ends- you then have
a collection of jump ring making mandrels for almost no cost. Just
keep a light coating of oil or dry grease on them when not in use to
prevent rust. You can use wooden dowel lengths too. They don’t last
as long, but you can buy em in 12 inch, sometimes shorter lengths in
home or craft stores too. If you give them a good polish with a paste
type wax they’ll last far longer.

With either, simply wrap your wire tightly into a coil on your
mandrels,( meaning the wire turns should be touching the previous one
and as straight as you can make them), secure the rod in a vise and
saw the coil with a thin (kerf) cut off wheel or diamond disc
(mounted on the appropriate mandrel secured in your dremel) using the
rotation of the tool NOT pressure to draw the wheel over the coil in
a straight line- You could use a graphite pencil to mark a line as a
guide for aiming the wheel on the coil to cut. Since you have
discussed having a Dremel its faster than using a jeweller’s saw and
you’ll get the hang of it quite quickly. Using a saw on a coil while
learning may mean going through a lot of sawblades until you get the
right blade for wire gauge and angle and pressure correct while
holding the coil securely without having to make a jig to hold the
coils that you have prepared (preparing coils enough for “x” length
necklace, bracelet or linkage pattern) lubricating the saw blade and
cutting them all in one sitting. Far easier to practice saw useage
on a piece of brass, copper or whatever metal you have and trying to
make straight cuts, then piercing a design, and on until cutting jump
rings becomes a ’ second nature’ operation.

as for your joins-

  1. From your left photo it seems you filed a lot of metal off of the
    pliers (or one of those jump ring closing thing-ys) and bend them
    back together. Running a piece of sandpaper between the sawn area to
    deburr any small pieces of metal that may be leftover…

Since you have so many links to clean and degrease, you should just
quickly and easily pickle them -you can use the same pickle as for
sterling or fine silver.

Then neutralise them (with baking soda and water solution) rinse and
dry on a lint free cloth.

Then line the closed rings/links up on a charcoal block (we are
presuming you have checked each one to make sure they are closed
perfectly and fit together without any light between the edges).

Put a drop or two of your liquid flux and a thinned paillion of
solder on each join and then using the torch solder them closed
without burning the flux or solder by concentrating the heat in one
spot on each ring- keep the flame moving a bit with the hottest point
of the flame as close as you let the flame get to the rings. If you
burn the flux off the solder won’t flow and you’ll have to start the
entire process over again .It may be better to warm the rings on the
block first and create a protective “skin” of flux then drop your
thinned paillions onto the links and with a drop of fllux solder

  1. You should remember solder isn’t a “gap filler”… Solder needs
    two pieces of metal touching each other to work- which means heating
    evenly- and then the solder will flow sealing the joint closed.

  2. You may want to try paste solders (either copper or silver) which
    have the flux and alloy in it while practising. Stay-Silv and those
    easy flow,“self pickling/cleaning” fluxes aren’t exactly for the kind
    of work you’re doing at this point. Hydroflouric acid based liquid
    fluxes are more suited to

  3. You will probably get cleaner results lining up the checked rings
    on a block or your soldering pad and using paste fluxes- just a small
    dab at the join and doing it assembly line fashion.

  4. simplify - getting to know how to become successful with the
    butane torch whilst learning the properties of non- jewellery type
    solders and the properties of mixed non-precious metals and then
    extrapolating that to working with precious metals
    doesn’t just translate to the different metals as easily as one would
    think. yes, soldering is soldering but using a flux that helps you
    learn flame temperatures will help you learn faster when a metal is
    at the point that the solder will flow (handy flux paste is a brand
    that is common. Any borax based flux, even a Pripp’s type you mix
    yourself (denatured alcohol and borax until saturated;look in the
    archives for recipes) will help you learn temp.

indication faster than a darkened room. That’s better for annealing.

  1. Dropping the paillion onto the joint isn’t an efficient way to
    solder. Placement becomes important the more complex the work
    becomes. As solder follows heat, learning to place it and draw it
    into joints will be easier later when you begin to attempt say,
    attaching a head to a shank or a similar multi-solder processes where
    you work from hard to easier melt and flow point solders. You should,
    in my opinion be learning with hard solders if you think you are
    really going to stick with learning metalsmithing, or eventually
    intend it to become your livelihood.

8} A good tip for using clipped sheet solder is first roll it
through a rolling mill or place between two pieces of thick leather
on a steel bench block and use a brass mallet or planishing hammer if
you don’t have access to a rolling mill to thin it out as much as
possible. Only a tiny bit is needed to close a joint Radio shack,
jewelery supply vendors, hobby tool stores sell 'nibblers" they cut
perfect little pieces of sheet solder(and have other uses too !).

there are charts on jewelry/beading sites that list the number of
links necessary of x gauge stock for making x length chains. You may
find them handy.

Good luck in your learning process…

Good for you Andrew. Just a tip, I put my cooled items in the ultra
sonic toget rid of that flux that has gone hard and shiny, but if
you don’t have anultra sonic then just use a cup of hot water, this
will save you having to grind or sand it away. By the way the join
looked pretty good - don’t forget practice makes perfect. Enjoy