Hello to Ganoksin Readers,
I am trying to get started soldering and have read a couple books.
Althoughthe books printed recommended tool lists, I would prefer to
get my from those who solder as professionals in the
Therefore, I would appreciate anyone sharing their knowledge - what
should I purchase to get started?
My STRONG suggestion (as someone that was just like you) - take a
short intro to jewelry making class.
Watching all the YouTube videos in existence and getting all the
advice from these wonderful people on this list will NOT help unless
you have experienced it and know exactly what they are talking
You can find one-day classes almost anywhere for $50-$90.
Groupon constantly runs specials for places in our area. Ck out any
Adult Education enters, Tech School night school classes,
independent non-profit studios, etc.
TOTALLY worth it.
I had all the WRONG stuff picked out to buy - glad I waited.
Best of luck!
I got my classes at a local rock shop that had a retired silversmith
teaching. It is important because the teacher can tell you things no
book or video can like posture and changing how you use a tool to
save you pain in the years to come and also bench tricks of how to
tackle things. Most importantly what went wrong and how to fix it lol
Watching all the YouTube videos in existence and getting all the
advice from these wonderful people on this list will NOT help
unless you have experienced it and know exactly what they are
I normally would agree with that, but I honestly learned from books,
a little from videos (hard to see actual colors), and over-the-phone
advice from jewelry supply tech advisors. Made a few mistakes at
first that taught me some major lessons (luckily not with expensive
stuff) that I think I only would have learned by just biting the
bullet and doing it. I can't travel much and couldn't find anyone in
my area who would help, so semi-self learning was the only way to
go. I think sometimes just "going for it" can be a good option. Don't
do it without being prepared, but I think you can find information
other than lessons that can help.
Before you buy, take a course or even see if someone will give you a
mini lesson where you use their tools. I am a teacher and freely
share what I know, my tools are another thing, so this might be
harder than it sounds. Torch selection is somewhat driven by what
metals you work in and what size the piece is that you will likely be
working on. I have always made large heavy twisted and forged silver
and gold bracelets. As a result, I needed a lot of heat for both
soldering and annealing. Over the forty years that I have worked in
metal, my style has grown to also include fairly fine pieces. This
has been driven by natural creative evolution, the price of metal,
and an interest in lapidary. As a result, my torch of choice has also
changed over those same forty years. I started with a torch fixed to
a small propane cylinder. While cheap, this was very clumsy. I then
rigged a hose to the torch, but this was just plain unsafe. I finally
made some money and purchased a single stage presto-lite plumbers
acetylene torch. The presto-lite worked great for years as long as I
only worked in heavy pieces. I also used it to do a lot of plumbing.
As My work got finer (smaller), so did my torch needs. I bought a
O2/Acetylene Little Torch, but never reality liked it. It was too
small to be my go to torch and very dirty. To be honest, I really
never gave it a proper chance. I also wanted to get the acetylene out
of my house. About five years ago I bought a Meco O2/Propane torch
and, with Paige Tips, it is a very good torch for me. I limit the
propane cylinder size to a very small four pound tank and a much
larger O2 tank. I also fitted it with flashback arresters and a light
T type hose from TM Technology. I also bought an EZ Torch. I use this
for quick in and out jobs on smaller pieces and annealing. The EZ may
be a good first torch for someone. They cost around $100 from Otto
Frei and you can get them to fit both a small 1 pound cylinder or a
grill type cylinder. It doesn't have a real precise flame. All of my
experience is with copper, silver, and gold. I have never worked in
other metals, so others will have to chime in on them. You can go to
the Robs Shop page on my website (robmeixner.com) to see pictures of
my torch set up. This subject has been discussed many times before,
but we each have our own needs and experience. You will not likely
find an absolute answer to your question here. You will have to find
it for yourself. Good luck. Rob
I agree that one must find a jewelry class. I took one at Vanderbilt
last year. Then, when I began working at my current employer, I
began learning it in a production sense. I am still far from being
good at it and it's been almost a year.
Classes locally could be at your community college, high school
trades center, or a local art museum school. I did mine at the
Kalamazoo Institute of Art in Michigan.
Hi Bob, Although it would be great if you could take a class and get
some hands on instruction you can learn a lot just by watching
videosand of course, lots of practice. I recommend just soldering
bits of scrap together to practice. As for torches I learned to
solder using a cheap bernzomatic plumbers torch, the kind that
attaches to the tank. I've tried using a 'little torch' with
oxy/acetylene and actually went back to the old bernzomatic because
that's what I'm comfortable with. The only thingit doesn't work for
is resizing a ring with the stone under water, it justdoesn't get
hot fast enough. I hold the torch with my left hand with the tank
resting on my shoulder and use a pick with my right hand, but for
learning purposes you may want to start by placing the solder before
heating the piece. That way you can learn to see how the solder
flows and at whattemperature before you start using a pick to place
the solder while the piece is hot. Make sure you have good
ventilation while soldering. Like anything worth doing, soldering
takes time to learn how to do well so keep trying and eventually
you'll have it. Good luck, Douglas
Some Forum questions, or topics, generate lots of comments, opinions
and recommendations. I'm surprised this soldering question, about
such a fundamental jewelry making activity, has not generated a
flood of feedback.
Bob, jewelry soldering can be done successfully with any of the hand
Torches sold today using various gases plus related products. Each
Torch, soldering technique and accessory has it's advocates and
intended use. Each also has it's benefits and sometimes drawbacks.
Other people have suggested taking a basic soldering class, watching
videos, maybe starting with an inexpensive setup like a Plumber's
Torch (brass neck/Tip that screws onto a small, propane cylinder).
All good suggestions as a person learns to solder. You said you'd
read a couple books which shows initiative, an important action that
demonstrates self-motivation. Keep on reading.
Three areas basically define soldering tools / purchase
considerations: Costs, tool function and gasses. Depending on a
person's budget and plans somewhat different items may be needed to
get started. After over 40 years of experience at the bench, here
are some of my opinions with product examples for illustration. As a
person gains experience additional items sometimes become useful but
in the beginning only the basics are necessary so that's what I'll
focus on. Potentially the most costly single item is the Torch. If
your budget allows acquiring a Torch, new or used, that's designed
for fuel gas plus oxygen brings many benefits over a fuel gas / air
Torch that does not require compressed or higher purity oxygen.
Two, popular Torches are the Little Torch and Meco Midget. Other
Torches are available and worth consideration but these units
represent a fundamental of many tools; a range of 'quality of
construction.' You can't go wrong with the Meco Midget, period. Both
Torches will 'burn' various gasses but an important, often
misunderstood fact, is how central the Torch "Tip design" is to the
fuel gas used. Important in the sense of maximizing flame control
re: flame stability, range of adjdusaibility and overall ease of
soldering use. Simply "burning" a fuel gas is very different from a
Torch "Tip" that's "optimized" for a fuel gas! Propane & natural gas
require "multi-port" Tips to correctly burn those gasses. Acetylene
& hydrogen need single hole Tips. (I'm not suggesting you consider
hydrogen, in the beginning, unless an inexpensive 'Water Torch' deal
comes your way) The Little Torch and Meco Midget can be used with
all common fuel gasses plus oxygen but both only come with
single-hole Tips. If your fuel gas is propane or natural gas, much
cleaner burning than acetylene and plenty hot enough, search for a
supplier of "optimized" 'multi-port' Tips to make your soldering
Torch really preform!
Along with gas considerations come tanks, sizes, regulators, safety
products and other materials. Propane tanks come in a number of
sizes and are easily refilled at many outlets. Some localities have
regulations re: propane indoor tank size. Natural gas, if available,
requires no tank, a cost saving benefit. Acetylene gas adds new
refill or tank exchange.
Oxygen supply is from either a compressed, 'tanked' source or oxygen
generator. Tanked oxygen is generally the better choice being less
expensive and providing higher purity gas. Newer oxygen generators
produce fairly high purity oxygen but those units cost more.
Generators do not offer the range of oxygen output pressure tanked
oxygen does. Oxygen generators do not require a separate regulator
but regulator cost should be lower on the list of most important
considerations. Propane and acetylene require a regulator, natural
gas does not; another benefit of natural gas if available. Used
tools sometimes are good investments but purchase any needed
regulators new. Any of the common brands of regulators are fine, mix
or matching brands is fine.
Other items you should add: Reverse gas flow 'check valves' and
possibly 'flash back arrestors.' Combined safety valves (check
valves / flash back arrestors) are available or each type may be
purchased as separate units. Jewelry soldering requires fairly low
gas pressures so 'flash back arrestors' may not be as necessary
unless a person is using higher gas pressures with larger Torches
often used for lost wax casting or in oxy /acetylene welding. Other
safety considerations to keep in mind: Acetylene can 'self ignite'
over 15 lbs. output pressure from a regulator so keep an eye on the
regulator dial if using that gas! Propane is heavier than air so if
you have a leak or accidentally leave the Torch fuel gas valve open
gas can accumulate on the floor with a potential to ignite from a
spark source if concentration builds up. Natural gas is lighter than
air plus has a limited air to gas mixture range that will even
ignite which helps with it's safe use.
Other tools and supplies needed are the following: Soldering Flux.
lots of options there. My suggestion: use a white paste flux that
does not contain fluorides. You will need a Pickle Compound to
dissolve metal oxides and hardened flux. Start with any brand of a
"safe pickle." It's slower working, less aggressive and easier to
dispose of than sulfuric acid, etc., but gets the job done. As you
gain experience other pickle chemicals can be considered. Pickle is
used heated for best results. Only use a pyrex or ceramic container.
Electric 'pickle pots' are an option as are some cooking 'crock
pots' but watch the lid material. No 'ferric' metal lids / parts
that can form oxides from pickle spray and drip down to contaminate
the solution. Copper Tongs to remove work from the pickle solution.
You should use some type of heat / flame protection on your work
surface if it's combustible. Various materials are available from
jewelry tool suppliers or just use several regular bricks. On top of
the surface protection you need a material to actually solder on.
Again, there are various options. My vote is for a charcoal block
from jewelry tool suppliers. Soft and hard charcoal blocks in
various sizes are available. Both have pluses and minuses. In the
beginning, go for hard charcoal. I use soft blocks 95% of the time
but starting out hard blocks are more cost effective and easier to
maintain. Get a pair of stainless tweezers about 4" long to pick &
place small pieces of solder and adjust positions of your work when
it's hot. Also, get a pair or two of locking tweezers, straight and
bent, with heat protection handles. Tweezers, unless they are sold
as "acid safe" do not go in pickle solutions. Re: Solder: I'm
guessing silver will be your precious metal of choice at first. Buy
the 3, common heat ranges of silver solder. Get sheet solder, not
paste or 'chipped' solder when learning. A pair of solder snips,
(made for cutting sheet solder) makes cutting solder into small
pieces easy. You also need a solder pic. See pick options in
catalogues. A 3rd hand tool can be a big help sometimes.
A 'plumbers' Torch allows doing basic soldering but it's lack of
flame control and heat range output, from not using pure oxygen,
restricts advanced soldering. Upgrade to a quality fuel gas / oxygen
Torch like the Meco with correct Tips that match your fuel gas, a
tank for oxygen and acetylene if you choose that gas, regulators and
safety valves and you're set for a career of soldering. Plumbers
Torch setups run about $15 to $60. Going the other route provides
far more options in what you'll be able to solder, melt, fuse, etc.,
but costs more. That's basically it.
Some final points. Solder Brand makes a difference! Different
formulas with various melt / flow points can make soldering easier
and produces better results the same as matching Torch Tip design to
the fuel gas. I've tried many brands of solder over the years and
for sheet solders there are none better than the products Hoover &
Strong produces. Some people may suggest using a face fumes mask,
protective eye ware, good lights, a venting system over your pickle
area and/or work space. A Torch holder / hanger, some type of Torch
flame lighter (I use a Bic). I'd be surprised if someone didn't
mention getting some soldering heat shield compound, oxide
preventing spray or liquid, iron or stainless binding wire, etc.
I'll leave those areas for others to comment about (and I hope more
people comment). Your basic question was about the tools jewelry
makers use. Basically that's what I've tried to stick to along with
some explanation of why this or that. People who made good
suggestions before my comments inspired me to contribute. Maybe a
few things I've mentioned will get others to share their knowledge.
Good luck in jewelry; it's a lifetime learning art form with many
avenues of interest to explore. Learning to solder is probably the
single most important and useful skill to learn in fine jewelry
what a good post from RIchard Paille Learning to solder is probably
the single most important and useful skill to learn in fine jewelry
check out Andrew Berry for soldering videos.
Thank You to Ganoksin Soldering Question Responders and in
particular Mr. Richard Paille
Being new to Ganoksin, I tried my first post to hopefully garner the
group members knowledge for my upcoming purchase of soldering
equipment. To date, I have received multiple valuable responses of
recommendation - thanks to all who responded. Even with the great
group of responses I received, I would like to highlight one in
particular, from March 27th, from Mr. Richard Paille. I would like to
publically thank Mr. Paille for his time, thought, effort and detail
in the sharing of his knowledge and experience. Additionally, Mr.
Paille provided much of the experiential reasoning behind equipment
choices and brought clarity to many thoughts. In my opinion, Mr.
Paillesresponse to my post is well deserving of a read by all - and
to Mr. Paille, I am sincerely thankful.