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New Plumb Platinum Solders


#1

Hi Orchidians: If you folks haven’t tried these new plumb platinum
solders yet, you are in for a treat if you work with that moonbeam
colored metal. I got mine from Frei & Borel, but there are other
suppliers. Stuff is expensive, about $52 per pennyweight, but I
think in my case (retail jeweler), it’s well worth it. There are two
alloys, one melts at 1300 degrees centigrade, the other at 1500.
Seams don’t polish out, and there’s no significant color difference
from that of the parent metal. This is a significant improvement
over conventional platinum solders, most of which contain little or
no platinum. Typically, I fuse my sizings, rather than chose between
high temp platimum solders and subsequent risk porosity problems, or
the low temp solders which leave a gray line that polishes away
faster than the surrounding metal. Nice to be able to solder a
sizing with not much more difficulty than that of a gold ring.

David L. Huffman


#2

Hello David!

Glad to hear someone else likes the new plat. solders. We have had
them a couple weeks and won’t go back to the palladium platinum
solders.

Speaking of improvements, I took in the seminar put on by JA and the
platinum seminar given recently by Jurgen Maerz. I enjoyed it very
much. We were all a bit surprised at the complexity and time given to
the many alloys and standards throughout the world. Our own platinum
alloy dilemma is creating problems in this country too. The FTC has
ruled that a platinum product containing more than 5% alloys cannot
be called platinum. So our old standard of platinum 90% iridium 10%
must now be called pt900 or plat 900. Many manufacturers are
unwilling to stamp anything but PLAT, or PLATINUM; and must use a
maximum of 5% alloy. In the case of ring mountings an alloy of
iridium or ruthenium is just to soft for ordinary wear. The lack of
hardness causes difficulty in polishing for sure.

Well, along comes cobalt (steel!) to save the day! Yuk! This alloy
can be used at 5% and be stamped PLAT. The hardness is great for
polishing and I am told it casts easier. Haven’t tried it. The
manufacturers (Stuller etc.) have quickly embraced it for the price
point, obviously. Pure Cobalt in 1995 sold below $31 dollars per
pound. I don’t know what the current prices are. What are the
negatives? Here goes:

1.) It cannot be welded with anything other than laser or Hydrogen
water torch. Solder only.

2.) It firescales when soldered. After soldering you must use a boric
acid dip reheat to moderate temperature and pickle to remove the
firescale.

3.) The Cobalt alloy metal must be kept separate from other
Platinums, the color is not compatible.

4.) What may have been gained in hardness and easier finishing is
given up in stonesetting and general malleability.

5.) The pieces you would offer in the Cobalt alloy are magnetic. Let’s
hear you brag about that to your customer! This is the simple test
to see if the piece is of Cobalt Plat., or you can just heat it on the
bottom of the shank to see if it firescales. Yuk!

In my humble opinion the FTC is off there rocker! Cobalt is certainly
not in the Platinum group of metals, and does not deserve higher
status to the more traditional, more expensive Platinum alloys.
Cobalt none the less may have use as a micro alloy. Reducing to a
smaller percentage to eliminate the firescale problem. Furthermore,
reduce it to a level it can be welded. And finally reduce the
percentage so that it is not magnetic! Egads!

In the store I work there is quite a display of platinum. Designer
lines and several well known manufacturers of Platinum jewelry are in
stock. Dan and I have made it known our preference for Platinum group
metals.We work and cast in Plat/Irid. The owners went a step further.
They contacted each of there vendors, and none are using, or
considering using Cobalt Platinum. The boss has a magnet in his desk
drawer now. It is a small stand but we don’t see a need for cheaper
Platinum product. I am glad we found their support.

The owners found Stuller was their only vendor who does and will
continue offering Cobalt.Oh well!

My two cents worth. Tim

Anyone having success with Plat "S"alloy from Hoover & Strong?


#3
   Hi Orchidians: If you folks haven't tried these new plumb
platinum solders yet,.....  Stuff is expensive, about $52 per
pennyweight, but I think in my case (retail jeweler), it's well
worth it. 

some suppliers are cheaper too. We paid 48 a dwt…

   There are two alloys, one melts at 1300 degrees centigrade, the
other at 1500. 

There’s also, at least from our supplier, a third alloy, melting at
1400. On the ones we got, the three aren’t marked as to temp. They
are just marked PTE (easy) PTM (medium) and PTH (hard)

There are also difference between the three grades as to pt
percentage (the 1300 is 900 pt, the other two are 950. Plus color
varies slightly. I find the 1400 is an almost perfect color match for
900 iridio platinum. Even a somewhat sloppy flow of the stuff, say to
fill some pits or the like, when polished, is virtually invisible.
the 1300 and 1500 are still slightly visible as faint color
differences (The 1300 is faintly darker than the platinum, the 1500
actually slightly ligher color, or so it seems to me) With a good
tight seam, though, none will be an easily visible color difference.
hardness, Re: not polishing it out of seams, is a good match with all
three. Actually, I think the solders are slightly harder. Or at
least, the solders work harden more quickly. But not to a degree to
cause problems. plus, though i don’t have data to back it up, I think
the strength of the joints is superior to that of "conventional"
platinum solders.

there are, though, a couple other differences. When these solders
melt, they tend to oxidize a bit, kinda like the way cobalt platinum
does when heated. Polishes off, of course, but initially, the joint
looks a little grey and cruddy, especially where you placed the solder
paillon, where it leaves a little bit of a “scar” to be buffed/cleaned
off. The solders tend to be a little bit more “sludgy” when melting
too. A wider range between liquidus and solidus temps, plus that
tendancy to oxidize, means that sometimes it will seem that the solder
has not melted and flowed, when in fact it did so, but there remains
a slight raised scar that did not flow in. Some of this depends on
the flame you’re using. With traditional platinum solders, you can
use a highly oxidizing flame with little difference between that and
an only slightly oxidizing one. With these new solders, I find it
works better if the flame is only barely oxizing. Also, I find it
slightly more difficult to see the solder actually flow when working.
I think it’s because of that slight oxidation, which makes it harder
to see shiney flowing metal. It’s possible this is just my eyes.
But through those dark green lenses, it’s hard enough, sometimes, to
see quite what’s happening, and with these new solders it’s slightly
more difficult to judge when the solder has completely flowed.
Usually, what I find is that I don’t think it has flowed through the
whole seam, only to find, on cooling, that it did in fact flow just
fine and I couldn’t tell that fact “at temp”. Finally, though this
wasn’t mentioned in the sales flier from Frei and Borel, I note that
the refiner we got ours from (these are the same alloys as F&B, by
the way) mentioned that you must be especially careful NOT to allow
flux or borax or boric acid to contaminate the solder area. It can
cause brittle joints. So too, can the use of tungsten or tungsten
carbide soldering picks or tools with the molten solder. That means
you must solder the pieces simply by placing the paillons and heating.
Don’t use a poker to solder unless the poker is platinum.

The upshot is that these solders make the soldering operation a bit
more difficult. In particular, the inability to use a poker means
you’ve sometimes got to balance a bit of solder in awkward ways and
then try to keep the flame from blowing it away. But you get used to
it quickly enough, and the dramatic improvement in the end result with
regard to color and hardness and strength of the joint seems well
worth both the extra cost of the solder and the slight extra bother in
using it. I’ve pretty much switched for almost all new fabricated
work, and most repair work too, with the few exceptions of those
repairs when I really do need the lowest melting solder I can find
that isn’t quite yet a white gold solder, and am then using 1100 or
so. These situations are generally rare, however. Fortunately too,
since 1100, in my book, is not too different from lead solder on gold.
Don’t believe me? Solder a wire to a piece of sheet with 1100. Neat
joint, not flooded of course. Leave enough wire end exposed/not
soldered so you can grab it with pliers. do so and pull. You’ll find
you can peel it back off the sheet metal just like opening a sardine
can with those little keys. this is still better than the strenght
of a gold solder to platinum, but only just barely. The thing is that
with 1100 and other really low temp traditional platinum solders,
there is a poor enough alloy match, and a wide enough range between
the melting point of the solder and that of the platinum, there the
solder really just wets the surface of the platinum, without really
penetrating into it at all. With these new solders, since even the
1300, which would otherwise be a somewhat low melting mediocre
platinum solder only barely acceptable for new work, the solder is
still a 900 platinum alloy, and there seems quite enough penetration
or the joined pieces to affect a nice strong joint.

Peter Rowe


#4

Hi Peter; Thanks for the more in-depth observations on the new plumb
platinum solders. I completely agree with your conclusions. I
hadn’t paid that much attention to some of the aspects you pointed
out, but upon reading your post, I recalled the conditions you noted.
By the way, I recently got a catalog from Gallatin and Schosha (I
know I must be spelling that wrong). They are carrying these solders
too. You probably remember Victor and Dick when they used to go
door-to-door with a briefcase full of stock and findings. I guess
Victor must have left us, but Dick is carrying on with a considerably
bigger operation now. I’ve considered buying from them, just out of
the sentiment of sending some business to the old contacts. I can
still see a lot of uses for the old palladium solders, at least in
situations where seams are on inside corners and areas where tensile
strenght is not an issue. Hope things are still well in the old
neighborhood.

David L. Huffman


#5
    Glad to hear someone else likes the new plat. solders. We have
had them a couple weeks and won't go back to the palladium platinum
solders. 

Thanks for your input on this, Tim. As for the “Plat - S” a-la
Steven Kretchmer, I haven’t had a case to try them. I know there
must be situations where they would be suited. Hope this doesn’t
leave Steven open to a lot of knock-offs of his tension settings.

    Speaking of improvements, I took in the seminar put on by JA
and the platinum seminar given recently by Jurgen Maerz. I enjoyed
it very much. We were all a bit surprised at the complexity and time
given to the many alloys and standards throughout the world. Our own
platinum alloy dilemma is creating problems in this country too. 

I agree. I just had an interesting experience with a South African
manufacturer. I had to size one of their rings. I saw it was marked
only “platinum” so I assumed it was a platinum-iridium or possibly
platinum-ruthenium alloy. I checked with a magnet just to be sure.
Not magnetic. I tried fusing in a thicker segment of platinum.
Didn’t have the new stuff yet. The shank promptly started to melt.
Tried 1700 special weld. More melting. I had to send the customer
away telling them I would Fed-Ex it to them in a couple days, after I
got the new solders (which I only hoped would work). The customer
backed out of the sale (McDonalds mentality of “I should have it
right now!) I got through to the guy in South Africa and asked him
to tell me about his alloy. He is actually alloying with FINE GOLD!
It makes for a really lousy alloy. Not only a low melting temp,
around 1450 C, but it seems to have no ductility, you can’t forge it
without it crumbling. And if you put pressure on it when it’s even
only around a good orange, it comes apart. They said they were also
"possibly” using copper as an alloy. I’ve seen references to
platinum-copper alloys, but I don’t believe I’ve knowingly worked
with it.

    Well, along comes cobalt (steel!) to save the day! Yuk! 

I agree. I don’t have much use for the Cobalt alloy. I’m certain it
was only developed because manufacturers wanted something that cast
and finished more like a gold alloy, obviously to save on labor
costs. Also, you can’t get away with some designs in platinum that
you can in gold. Seems easier to compromise the platinum than to
train people to a different sensibility of materials. And I’m
understating my skepticism.

Bet Jurgen’s workshop was great. I think the industry is going to
have to keep tight standards on platinum, lest we see the chain
stores selling the platinum equivalent of 10 karat gold.

David L. Huffman


#6
He is actually alloying with FINE GOLD! It makes for a really lousy
alloy.  Not only a low melting temp, around 1450 C, but it seems to
have no ductility, you can't forge it without it crumbling. 

'bout all I can say about that one is … Urk… You’ve got my
sympathy. Cruddy alloy. Wonder what in ghods name led them to do
THAT? Just pure platinum would be better.

I've seen references to platinum-copper alloys, but I don't believe
I've knowingly worked with it. 

Platinum copper alloys do actually work. They’re not so good for
casting, as they oxidize (like cobalt). But they are considered
decent enough for fabrication use. Mostly found in some european
work, almost never in the U.S.

        Well, along comes cobalt (steel!) to save the day! Yuk! 
   I agree.  I don't have much use for the Cobalt alloy.  I'm
certain it was only developed because manufacturers wanted something
that cast and finished more like a gold alloy, obviously to save on
labor costs. 

Not just labor costs. Cobalt platinum was developed specifically for
casting. Those of you who cast iridio-platinum will know all about
porosity in platinum castings. it’s the bane of the stuff. Cobalt
gives an alloy that has a greater degree of fluidity when molten, so
it fills better, plus it’s got a larger difference between liquidus
and solidus temps, (a wider “slushy” range",) which drastically
reduces porosity problems. Castings in cobalt platinum are
demonstrably denser and less porous. Some stuff you can succussfully
cast consistently in cobalt platinum simply will drive you nuts with
iridio-platinum. At least on the casting end. But casting it requires
melting/casting under vacuum. so the equipment required is
considerably more complex than that you need for iridio platinum, and
as well all know, the resulting jewelry takes a bit more care at the
benchwork stage. Frankly, I don’t really mind cobalt alloys, so long
as I know that’s what they are. With the new platinum solders, you
can forget fusing/welding without giving up quality, and the cobalt
platinums then give you fine professional results. It’s just a
different material, and requires slightly different rules.

   Bet Jurgen's workshop was great.  I think the industry is going
to have to keep tight standards on platinum, lest we see the chain
stores selling the platinum equivalent of 10 karat gold. 

WE have some say in that, too. The really low qualities of platinum
alloys are simply difficult to work on. when we educate the stores
that this crap results in sales that cannot be properly repaired, or
serviced, and that then you’ll have customers unhappy with their
purchases, we’ll just end up with yet another reason why the more
intellegent shoppers will start coming back to do their shopping with
actual jewelers, rather from the latest mall store where all the sales
people are part time college students or the like, who’s total
knowledge of jewelry comes from listening carefully to everything they
say on the TV home shopping channels or from learning carefully from
the other part timer’s who’ve been there a couple months longer than
they have…

There will always be a market for the lowest quality crap one can
make. Whether we allow ourselves to be bothered by it, or rather let
it work as a tool to promote the quality work we are able to offer by
comparison, is our own choice.

Peter Rowe


#7

I’m collecting reports from anyone who uses the plumb platinum
solder. I need to do follow up work on more kinds, and we are still
finding and working on the limitations of the existing 3 types.
Thanks in advance…


#8

We’ve tried them and they seem to work ok for some stuff, but the
melting points seem a little weird.


#9

Hi Daniel; I don’t know if you’ve been following the thread on this
product for the last week or so. I made some comments on it. Tim
Dooley had some insights into its performance, and Peter Rowe posted
an excellent set of observations on its efficacy. I’d be glad to
reiterate my experiences via off-post e-mail. You may reach me at
@David_L_Huffman. Check the archives for Tim’s and Peter’s
responses also. I think all-in-all people are glad to have this
product. It’s a considerable advance over platinum solders
previously available.

David L. Huffman


#10

Hello Daniel, The new plumb platinum solder is, in my opinion, the
most dramatic advance in platinumsmithing since I apprenticed in the late 50’s.