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Outdoor soldering and casting


#1

Hi everyone,

I am a long time reader but this is my first posting. I’ve been a
beader for about 12 years and am now taking the leap into working
with metals. I’m primarily self taught but have taken a few
workshops on basics.

Anyway, because of how my house is set up I’m going to have to
divide my workshop a bit. I’ll be able to do a lot of the work in my
basement, but I’m going to have to do my soldering and casting
outside. I am primarily going to do soldering, but plan to do some
basic broom casting, etc. for fun. I plan on having a 10x10 canopy
with at least one vinyl wall set up to cut down on wind and direct
sunlight.

I have a few questions for you:

(1) What recommendations do you have on tools?? I’m planning on
oxy-propane. Is that a good idea?? Are there certain things I should
avoid because I’ll be working outdoors?

(2) Every part of the work station is going to have to be portable.
I live in Wisconsin so I will have to put everything away for
about?half the year (maybe 5 months if I’m lucky!). What
complications do you think I will encounter, if any?

(3) Have any of you done soldering/casting outside?? If so, what
tips and techniques can you share?

If this has been brought up in the past, I apologize. I’d greatly
appreciate any advice you can give!? Thank you for all of your
contributions over the years. I have learned a great deal from you
all.

Alaina
www.alainaburnett.com


#2

I too live in the wonderful state. A suggestion for you… if you
have an available window in your basement shop, you might think
about taking out a window pane, cutting foam insulation or the like
to fit it, and then use a “range hood” like on a kitchen stove and
vent the fumes outside. While the out of doors is a beautiful work
space, it is not always kind to one’s self. Between the bugs and sun
beating down on me, it can get a little grueling. Plus, a personal
aside, the flame is impossible to see when one is outside, it is a
lesson I seem to be unable to learn! Also, by being able to work out
of the basement in the winter, you’ll be able to satisfy your need
for a “fix” once you begin altering metal. I yearn to be in my shop
when I am not, and I am sure that anyone that reads this forum feels
the same. Good luck and look locally to satisfy your tool needs until
you determine what suits you.


#3

Hi Alaina,

I’ve got my workshop outside - but I’m using a propane gas bottle,
so can’t help with the oxy stuff.

But one thing I will recommend is that you have a couple of airtight
plastic boxes to keep your tools & metal in (the smaller versions of
the under the bed storage boxes work well) - otherwise you’ll spend
most of your time sanding off rust.

If you’re running power, make sure you use an industrial outside
graded power box.

I also invested in a pair of tinted saftey glasses - no need to
compromise between safety and not squinting.)

Cheers
Alison


#4

My first question, why can’t you solder in your basement, if you
have bench space to do other work, you can solder at that bench.

Bill Wismar


#5

I do all of my soldering outdoors, year round, in Washington DC.

I use air-acetylene and work on a galvanized metal shelf installed
in the areaway just outside the door to my basement studio. (The
areaway is the space where a set of exterior steps leads down to the
basement door.) We have built a low deck over the areaway, which is
equivalent to a leaky roof. It keeps snow out of the "soldering room"
but not rain, so the only time I don’t solder is when it is raining.

When I shut down I bring in the annealing pan and all tools and I
drape the hose and torch over the the canister and loosely cover with
a garbage bag. The canister is bolted to the wall under the shelf. I
have no trouble with wind because the area is protected and soldering
in the cold does not seem to be a problem. Although, for us, cold is
probably not as cold as in Wisconsin!

Vera Meyer


#6

If you are working with silver, I suggest an air/ acetylene torch
instead of an oxy/propane. It will be more versatile if you decide
to work larger or need to anneal. It would also be only one torch to
lug inside and out.

marilyn


#7
If you are working with silver, I suggest an air/ acetylene torch
instead of an oxy/propane. It will be more versatile if you decide
to work larger or need to anneal. It would also be only one torch
to lug inside and out. 

As someone who works so far only in silver, and has just gotten her
Little Smith oxy/propane after several years of fighting with an
air/ acetylene, I would have to respectfully disagree. Yes, for big
silver work the air/acetylene is great - love it. For delicate work
it was one mess after another. I thought it was my technique until I
took a workshop in May equipped with Little Smith oxy/propane. Wow,
what a difference! I could plan my little stuff, bip - in - soldered

  • out. Fantastic! I fell in love and as soon as I got home ordered
    one.

So my recommendation, frankly, is to find a couple of fellow
metalsmiths or take a couple of workshops with different torches,
and see what YOU like for the type of work you think you will be
doing.

I would have been a much happier camper if I had started with the
Little Smith, instead of the air/acetylene (which was what they used
in my initial workshop).

Beth in SC


#8

I use the air /acetylene and currently am soldering on my front
porch which I HATE lol I suggest looking into a work shop shed as I
am going to have one built and electric will be solar powered. Just a
thought but mother nature is not cooperative. the shed I want is
10x24 useable front porch (so in good weather I can sit outside and
relax while metals are in kiln or pickle or such and total cost will
be under 3k USD. I can go smaller or cheaper but I want it to last
the 5 years I will need it before I move to my retirement home.

Teri


#9

Alaina, here’s some comments of mine from the Orchid Archives.

      But no small things like earring posts. Perhaps I'll solder
      with the inexpensive hardware-store propane tanks on the
      creek bank behind the house, and then dispose of them. I'm
      thinking outside the box, outside the house 
Linda, I can sympathize with your dilemma, which is similar to
mine. Here's what I did -- bought a big old second-hand propane
grill (one with shelves on both sides), filled it with tufa
chunks, and set my soldering equipment on various soldering
surfaces on top of the iron grill. The grill top comes down over
all this, and with a black plastic grill cover over it, it just
looks like anybody's (somewhat shabby) grill. 

I bought a big plastic garbage can with one of those "lock" tops
(so the wind could never blow it off), put a few bricks in the
bottom, and set my acetylene tank & hoses in there. It's right
near the grill. I also bought one of those Rubbermaid tall
plastic cupboards to store miscellaneous things (this actually
can be locked). It fit in a little alcove behind our house, near
the grill. 

This arrangement works reasonably well because we live in a safe
neighborhood. The drawbacks are that it is nearly impossible to
work in the winter weather, the rain, or when wind speed is over
15 mph. It is also tedious bringing the things to solder, up and
down from the basement where the rest of all my "stuff" is. But,
as you say, solderless connections are limiting (although,
working on those showed me that there is more scope there than I
thought). 

All the best,
Judy Bjorkman


#10

Beth:

As someone who works so far only in silver, and has just
gotten her Little Smith oxy/propane after several years of fighting
with an air/ acetylene, I would have to respectfully disagree. Yes,
for big silver work the air/acetylene is great - love it. For
delicate work it was one mess after another. I thought it was my
technique until I took a workshop in May equipped with Little Smith
oxy/propane. Wow, what a difference! I could plan my little stuff,
bip - in - soldered - out. Fantastic! I fell in love and as soon as
I got home ordered one. 

I’m happy for you. However, I do need to speak up on behalf of
air/acetylene because too often beginners are discouraged from using
it.

It’s all I’ve ever used - was recommended to me in the first class I
ever took at a junior college and it’s all I’ve used since. I’ve
soldered large, small, very teensy things. It works - just takes
practice. Plus I was taught to solder using a fairly large tip -
matter of learning where to put the flame.

In my very first class (at a community college night school) I was
advised to practice, practice, practice with my acetylene torch.
First practice soldering large scraps together and keep getting
smaller each time. Finally I could solder 28 ga wire to each other,
first to make circles, then crosses (x’s) and crosses to circles
etc… When I could do that, I felt totally comfortable with my
acetylene/air torch and it’s all I’ve used for the past 20 years.

But more luck to you and if you are happy, that’s what matters. But
acetylene/air does work.

K


#11

Thanks for all of the great responses!?

Allison - thanks for the tip on the airtight boxes!? I’m already
looking at the horizontal outdoor storage sheds from Rubbermaid. I’m
not sure if they’re airtight but I think they’ll work well. That way
I’ll probably be able to get away with keeping most (if not all) of
my tools locked up and safe outside (rather than having to cart
everything inside every day!).

Bill/Michael - I know I was little vague by just saying it’s because
of “how my house is set up.”? It’s really a landlord issue. My
family owns a side-by-side ranch and I rent half of the house. While
it’s possible that I may be able to convince them one day to allow
me to solder and cast in the basement, they’re really uncomfortable
with it because of the ventilation system I’d need. When I purchase
my own home, I’ll definitely make sure that I can set up a complete
workshop indoors!

Vera - You’re right that it’s probably colder here in Wisconsin!?
We’ve been known to get into the negative temps. Anyway, that sounds
like you have a great set-up. I plan on using a paved area next to
my garage that was meant for an extra parking spot. I’ll be able to
easily fit a 10x10 canopy and have some extra space for in the
future. I’m definitely planning on getting a canopy with 1-3
walls?so that?I don’t?have to deal with wind.

Marilyn - I thought of going with oxy/propane because that’s what
I’ve used in the classes I’ve taken…I’m open to other options
though!

Do any of you think there would there be any complications keeping
an acetylene torch outdoors?? Is the process of working with it much
different than working with propane?? And what about the “propane
gas bottle” idea?? Would that be a good idea or should I stick to
the more traditional options??

I’m sorry I have so many questions but I thank you for your help and
patience!? Also, thanks to those who contacted me off-list
(especially Lee with his great outdoor workshop pictures!).

Alaina
www.alainaburnett.com


#12
As someone who works so far only in silver, and has just gotten
her Little Smith oxy/propane after several years of fighting with
an air/ acetylene, I would have to respectfully disagree. 

I’ll go one step further, oxy/acet unless you are working plat. Sure
it can make those black floaters if you are sloppy, but sloppy people
with torches tend to have shorter than average life spans. A nasty
little flame can be used to mimic a big cool flame with distance and
movement, it just doesn’t work the other way around.

I can burn either propane or acetylene with either O2 or air ( weird
torch set-up which would cause nanny fits ), 95% of the time I grab
the O/A, and I do have enough years of experience with the other
mixes that I spent the time to make them available at the twist of a
valve or two.

I see a lot of discussion here about the dangers and hazards of
torches. Granted they all get hot but isn’t that the whole idea? If
you want to mangle metal you will have to accept that fire and heat
are involved and required. I learned really quickly not point a flame
at my fingers and to test for gas leaks. My Bic lighter has probably
caused more burns than any other fire breathing monster I own. Gawd,
even crochet can be fatal.

Jeff
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#13

Judy - the grill idea is very interesting!? It’s a creative solution
to a problem. Thanks for reposting it. That’s something I’ll look
into.

Teri - I hadn’t thought of a shed!? That could really be a great
option. I would be able to work year round then. My Dad has a large
shed on his side of the yard, but he has it packed full of his
stuff. Maybe I can convince him to get organized and give me half of
it for a work area. He doesn’t know what he’s in for!? LOL. That’s
definitely something to give some serious thought to!

Alaina
www.alainaburnett.com


#14

I have another question on the outdoor issue. Since I added the
propane/oxy to my torch setup I was told that I had to keep the
propane outside, unlike the acetylene and the oxy which I have
inside. Then move the propane in when I use it, then store back
outside. So how do I handle “sharing” the propane tank with all the
little critters who are wanting to call it and its “house” home?
When I went to use it yesterday it was fairly well “inhabited”. Since
I’m not a huge fan of little critters with lots of legs this made me
rather unhappy :wink:

Any thoughts?

Beth in SC who is sorry there isn’t a market for little critters
with legs - I would be rich! (especially the ones called Black
Widows, which seem to grow incredibly well around my house!)


#15
Beth in SC who is sorry there isn't a market for little critters
with legs - I would be rich! (especially the ones called Black
Widows, which seem to grow incredibly well around my house!) 

Well, Beth, a note of consolation. If you have Black Widows, you are
probably free of scorpions. :slight_smile:

Pam in Mesa, AZ


#16
Well, Beth, a note of consolation. If you have Black Widows, you
are probably free of scorpions. :-) 

Pam - had not thought of that “bright” side! On the other hand, I’m
not sure that scorpions live in SC anyway… kind of don’t think
so. You want any Black Widows shipped your way? :wink:

Beth in SC


#17
Beth in SC who is sorry there isn't a market for little critters
with legs - I would be rich! (especially the ones called Black
Widows, which seem to grow incredibly well around my house!) 

Beth, this is just a guess, but could you try putting out some
mothballs in the storage cupboard (or whatever)? Maybe the spiders
will be repelled by it. If you do this, put the mothballs up on a top
shelf because paradichlorobenzene fumes are heavier than air. Keep us
posted!

Judy Bjorkman


#18

the Upstate of SC definitely has scorpions, and black widows.
several years ago, when i was working for Pickens County EMS, when we
would get a call in the early am, you shook your boots upside down to
knock the scorpions out before putting the boots on. Of course at my
house, in my barn I have only black widows.

John


#19
I'm not sure that scorpions live in SC anyway.... kind of don't
think so. 

Apparently, there are scorpions almost everywhere that doesn’t have
permafrost, though many more types (and just more scorpions) in arid
areas. The entry I found said “They do not occur in the Great Lakes
states (except extreme SW Illinois) or New England, or Alaska.” So
they’re probably around there somewhere.

Noel


#20
this is just a guess, but could you try putting out some mothballs
in the storage cupboard (or whatever)? Maybe the spiders will be
repelled by it. If you do this, put the mothballs up on a top shelf
because paradichlorobenzene fumes are heavier than air. Keep us
posted! 

Beware mothballs fumes can cause kidney failure in cats and lead to
death. They can harm dogs too.

Susan
www.ThorntonStudioJewelry.com