Is there a non-alcohol-based version of Prip’s flux? I just don’t
like having a container of alcohol within arm’s length of my torch.
Is there a non-alcohol-based version of Prip’s flux? I just don’t
Marie- Sooner or later a jar of alcohol and boric acid catches on
Don’t panic. Just put the lid on the container and the fire just
In 47 years of soldering in many shops I have yet to see a jar burn
for more than a second once covered.
Jewelry making can be dangerous but then that’s part of the fun for
me. I tell my students that half the battle in learning to solder is
to get over the fear of fire.
Taking up a torch was for me an act of great bravery and very self
empowering. I was very badly burned as a small child. 3rd degree
burns, several very painful skin graft operations, permanent scaring,
and a right hand that was a useless claw until I was in middle
school. Now I have a very large and lovely tattoo that covers my
grafting scars on the parts of my body that were harvested for skin.
Decent enough guitar pickng skills that I got paid money to play and
tour and…I’m happiest at the bench with a torch in my hands.
Have fun and make lots of jewelry. Oh and go melt a ton of stuff.
Sure the’re is. It’s based on water.
The recipe can be found in the Ganoksin archive with this link.
It’s so easy to find by entering the keyword, choosing the term
entired archive in “the tip from the jeweller’s…” and hit
This search engine is quick and easy. You should give it a try
Is there a non-alcohol-based version of Prip's flux? I just don't like having a container of alcohol within arm's length of my torch.
Marie, traditionally, Prips flux is mixed with water, not alcohol.
two parts each of sodium triphosphate (TSP) and Borax, to three parts
Boric acid, dissolved in water. Exact amounts are up to you, just
however concentrated or not you wish. (usually start with a liter of
water, 80 grams each of the first two and 120 grams of boric acid. It
will then usually need a little more water to fully dissolve, but I
use those numbers because they’re easy to remember and end up with a
fully saturated solution. You can use 60/60/90 if you want it to fit
in the liter of water without needing extra, and it’s slightly less
concentrated that way. Prips is used to prevent fire stain and fire
scale on traditional sterling silver. For gold, it’s overkill, though
you can use it if you like.
Normally, you use it by preheating the metal a bit so when you spray
on the Prips, it instantly “freezes” on the surface as a fine white
uniform film that will turn clear as it melts while you heat the work
up for annealing or soldering. You can dip or brush, but it doesn’t
work as well, often pulling away from any area that’s not surgically
clean, while the spray method is more tolerant. It’s usable as a
soldering flux, but one of only moderate activity.
You can add additional more active fluxes if you need to after the
Prips is applied. Traditional European silversmiths often did roughly
the same with just a mix of boric acid and borax, or just one of the
two. Needs much more effort to get either to completely coat the
silver, but then works the same. The TSP is a wetting agent that
helps the flux fully wet and stick to the surface. If you have
trouble locating TSP, you can use the green boxes of Calgon dish
washer powdered detergent, which also works, so long as it’s the type
with some phosphate in it. Some types have no phosphate, and that
doesn’t work. Made with Calgon, you can call it “Frips” flux, since
Fred Fenster (Long time metals professor at University of Wisconsin,
Madison, where I first learned to use Prips, who came up with that
modification to John Prips formula when it became sometimes difficult
to find TSP in the hardware stores)
From your question, I suspect you are confusing Prips flux with the
jewelers traditional practice of a jar of denatured alcohol and boric
acid powder, which only slightly dissolves, so you’re dipping the
work in a light slurry, the alcohol being only a carrier which is
then burned off. This is not Prips flux, and is generally used for
gold, and to prevent diamonds in jewelry from being harmed by the
heat of soldering. Prips flux, if you wish, can serve the same
functions, but because you have to spray it on (a simple dip seldom
gives you complete or uniform coverage, so it would be risk to use
for protecting diamonds)
You can mix boric acid powder with water in place of alcohol, or
with a mix of water and alcohol if you wish, but the whole point to
alcohol is that it both can be burned off leaving a clean coating
even in recessed/hidden areas, and that it’s low surface tension
allows it to coat completely. Water won’t do that generally.
As to the jar of flammable alcohol on your bench, have a cover for
it, and pick a container that isn’t fragile. Simply lighting the
container on fire is not dramatic. The alcohol in the jar burns
gently and slowly, so you react by noticing that you’ve set it on
fire (it’s not that easy to set on fire, by the way, given the
recessed alcohol inside the jar), and then you calmly find the lid
and drop it on. Fires out. No prob. The only real excitement is if
you drop the jar into your bench pan and spill it, especially if on
fire. In which case, pull the bench pan from the bench, set on the
floor, and wait for it to go out, which it will do soon enough.
Clearly some more adrenaline there, and some potential for damage or
a burn, but alcohol is not explosive like gasoline. Don’t knock the
jar off your bench, and you’re fine.
I routinely also use that boric acid/alcohol jar on my bench as a
more gentle quench than is water, when quenching rose golds or some
white golds that might crack if quenched in water. You drop the red
hot metal in the alcohol. It does not set anything on fire so long as
you don’t also have an open flame playing on or over the alcohol.
Hope that helps.
Prip’s flux is made with water - no alcohol involved. Do you need
the formula? If you can’t find it in the archives, post the request.
Many of us have it. I could look it up, but am too lazy. Besides
when I made it years ago, I made a large enough batch that it
lasted, and lasted, and lasted…
Judy in Kansas, where the rain rejuvenated the seedlings and made
the grass just jump up. All in the space of 24 hours! Of course that
goes for dandelions too
don’t worry about alcohol based flux solutions. it is necessary to
deal with chemicals in the studio-disposal is more an issue than
catching fire though! Many jeweler’s forget to neutralize even pickle
before tossing into the water system they are connected to (and a
simple H2O & sodium bicarbonate will neutralise it unless you keep
some for copper plating solution once it’s a dark blue!). I have
never had a jar of Pripp’s or homemade Pripp’s type flux/firecoat
catch on fire -even on the part of my most inept students! But this
poses a good case for keeping a fire extinguisher, a large box of
baking soda and a piece of welder’s blanket on hand for
extinguishing any fire that may start: *If * your alcohol based flux
should catch on fire all you should do is *
A*) Do not panic
B) put the lid or a flat piece of metal a bit larger than the jar’s
mouth on it and that will put it out- the alcohol will burn off
before the jar explodes if you have the mixture in an ordinary wide
mouth glass jar- if you had some other glass container, like a
Tabasco bottle where the opening is smaller than the circumference of
the jar, you might get a small, but mostly messy explosion.
another safety precaution you can take is to keep the chemicals in a
metal locker/case/cabinet and check it frequently The most dangerous
of studio chemicals, other than the now antique cyanide blasting
capsules one may store is sulfuric acid in plastic containers (yes,
that’s how it is usually sold at hardware and home stores!): If you
aren’t going to use it all quickly try an store in a Nalgene topped
container- metal lids on glass jugs can rust through relatively fast
(6-10 months depending on the strength of the acid) and while having
a polyvinyl liner on the cap does help, it’s affected by time and not
venting the collected gasses ( just open a window or take the
container outdoors and open it -out of the sun -after a few minutes
close it! you wouldn’t want to set it in the sun as you would for
’sun tea’, just opening it drives off the vapours…). a welder’s
blanket thrown over the jar that may have tipped over and caught on
fire will put that spill out, and of course a fire extinguisher or
three! should be on hand for other fires. You should have the
extinguishers checked every year- at least- at the local firehouse to
insure they are going to function. I also keep a bottle of white
vinegar and well sealed jar of dry bicarbonate of soda to make an
emergency extinguisher too- If you have an at least litre sized
reagent container (a bottle with a built in dispensing siphon with a
cover) to keep the vinegar in, leave about 3 inches or a bit more of
head space and when you add the bicarb it will foam up and flow from
the siphon to kill any small fire fast…
But back to Pripp’s; you can’t really make it without alcohol. Just
bicarbonate and water wouldn’t give you the action you need for
soldering or use as a firecoat(you heat the metal to dry subsequent
coats of the solution to help prevent oxidation on the larger area of
the workpiece when soldering). There is a far less alcohol-y product
on the market by 4S labs called “cupronil”. I LOVE the stuff- I have
used it for over 35 years with excellent results every time!
consistency is what is most imortant to me when paying for ANY
flux/firecoat product and Cupronil is the single most consistent
liquid flux out there (in my opinion).I tried Firescoff when it came
out, after the “reformulation” and at a folkschool where I taught
silver/goldsmithing- and the same problems layers of the stuff to
prevent firescale, to the product’s claims of a ceramic matrix
compound ingredient (probably silicon carbide or water glass
solution!)- other’s love the product. I personally LOVE Cupronil.
Feel free to contact me off list for more about the benefits and
uses of Cupronil, it is particularly great for fine silver and silver
alloys ( including de-ox type alloys), palladium and other white
metal alloys. o there are products out there superior to Pripp’s type
solutions! BUT the main thing to remember in ANY SOLDERING with any
gas or Oxy/Fuel torches is safety. rer
I have tried the formula & like it, but my sprayer is not very fine,
leaving gaps. respraying does not seem to help much. Also my spray
head clogs when I leave it in the bottle overnight so I have to
transfer it out each night or rinse it out before the next use.
Annoying stop in work flow. Do any of you have suggestions where to
find a good spray bottle? Or one to recycle from another purpose &
You often post really helpful but today’s post brought
tears to my eyes. I have visited your website and observed how
talented you are.
You are an inspiration. Thank you.
Barbara in Texas where it is hot and wet.
As Peter says, it’s no biggy if you accidentally set your jar of
alcohol/boric acid on fire. I’ve done it a few times and have just
blown it out or out the lid on. No explosions.
Peggy, simply put it on with a small paint brush. Slightly warm the
metal, paint it on and heat till it turns white. If more is needed
for coversge., repeat!
though a bit pricey for a sprayer solution the brand “Misto” makes a
great sprayer ; it is intended for filling with your favourite
cooking oil- so thick liquid is what it’s designed for! It delivers a
consistent spray/ heavier-than-mist mist and whatever I have ever put
in any unit (there are 3 sizes) has never clogged. so far. and my
oldest unit is probably 15 or 16 years old now and works like the day
I bought it. I haven’t always used it for oils. In fact one is
dedicated for water based stuff and whatever i have dissolved in
water, which has had salts and minerals in solution on occasion
hasn’t crusted around the sprayer nor dried, preventing an evenly
delivered spray! For the kitchen it’s a much easier rationalization
for the cost (the perhaps, pint/16oz capacity is maybe 20 bucks but
sure decreases the amount of oil necessary (my favorite oil to cook
with/ for most foodstuffs including spraying on salad and then mixing
other dressing ingredients separately and a toss together and voila,
done- is roasted almond oil which in itself is pricey!). If cost is
an issue i have found the spray head attached to 409 brand
all-purpose cleaner is heavy-duty and has an adjustable spray (for
spray or mist)… I know it sounds crazy but I as thoroughly as
possible analysed spray heads and most of them are cheesy; not making
it to even the end of a bottle of whatever-the- product! Looking at
the tubing attached to the sprayer is a tell-tale clue at the
sprayer’s lasting power, if it is really flexible and doesn’t reach
the bottom of the product’s container usually equals a crappy
sprayer, the more rigid, well-attached (doesn’t pull out easily), and
cut-to-fit its container with a beveled end usually indicates a
better spray head! There are ‘trigger’ sprayers that have a long very
flexible hose about 2-3 feet long and have molded in finger grips
that are attached to DIY home and garden pesticide containers and
other products are almost always red and in their own cellophane
wrapped package attached to the product they are intended to dispense
which are great but the long hose isn’t terribly safe in the studio
(unless you drill a hole in the bench and mount the refillable
container underneath and have the sprayer visible and handy then
retract the hose when done) they are extremely sturdy and consistent
and have 3 settings for spray, stream and mist!!!.I believe they are
made by the same firm regardless of the mainstream product the
package is attached to. i have also seen the exact same sprayer
attached to a product marketed as all natural or a ‘green’ product is
almost always dark green and is identical to the red ones
individually bagged !!!.so there’s the extent of my sprayer head
knowledge. really cheap ones have an exposed metal spring- they
always malfunction before the product is half used-put em right back
on the shelf ! Should you have other questions I’ll try and answer to
the best of my practical homemaking knowledge. just contact me off
list. and good luck. rer
I have had good results by re-using one of those pump type body
spray bottles. It gives a fine mist. HERE IS THE IMPORTANT THING:
keep the snap-on top. At the end of the session, fill the top with
water, upend the spray bottle and put it into the water-filled cap.
Snap the cap on and store the whole thing upside down. I use a heavy
glass to hold it. This keeps the sprayer from clogging because it
does not dry out.
Easy and free (once you have enjoyed the body spray!), Judy in
Kansas, where it has been a lovely day - if every day was like
today, everyone would want to live here!
Use an artist mouth atomizer. That may not be the right name, but
they work well. This is also covered in the archives.
Yes… this happens to us at the school regularly. It takes students
time to learn what to do with a torch and the alcohol pot seems to
be an easy place to aim it! Never try to blow it out…increases the
flame. Simply put the lid on or anything non-flamable that is flat
and the flame is out in seconds. Oh, my Prips is made with water.
Before using it… we wash the piece in alcohol to remove hand grease
etc. Then Prips it.
Cheers fm Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL.
I heat the metal and use a tiny dropper bottle like the kind you use
for ink cartridge refills
You can mix Flux with water.
Use an artist mouth atomizer. That may not be the right name, but they work well. This is also covered in the archives.
They are indeed mouth atomizers, though not always referred to as
"artists". The most common place I’ve seen them sold is via ceramics
supply shops. The sprayers are used to spray glazes on, which are
often a bit too thick for standard types of sprayers, and would clog
them. This is also why they work well for Prips, since even if a bit
of flux dries on the sprayer, it won’t clog.
Some time ago I read that someone added a certain powder dish detergent to the prix flux .I don’t remember why or what it did . I looked through the old post and couldn’t find it now . Does anyone remember reading this and why it was suggested ? thank you .
Yes, this is the only prip’s I use on silver. It was shared a long time ago by Peter Rowe. Goes as follows. 64 grams of Borax, as in the washing twenty mule team. 64 grams of TSP. The real stuff, a little hard to find. 96 grams of boric acid. As in the roach killer. I have a steel mixing bowl I use just for this. Mix with water about 3-4 cups, and heat on the stove until dissolved. I have never found a sprayer that worked without making a mess, so I use a cheap brush and heat the piece until I get it coated as possible. I have never found anything that works as well. I even use it on chain repairs or adding charms to a bracelet. Saves tons of time in clean up and polishing. I store it in an old mayo glass jar and it lasts a really long time.
I heat the piece slightly and drop it into the glass container of Prips, then again heat slowly to coat the piece. If needed I drop it in again until the whole piece is covered in a white powder. Gave up on the sprayer idea.