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Pencil or Graphite Solder Pick

I agree with Doug Zaruba who posted about using a pencil for
soldering. I have also never had one explode nor catch on fire.
There was a recent thread on soldering jumprings in which I posted a
description of using a pencil for soldering. I have taken the
relevant part out of that post and I will include it again here for
the benefit of those who haven’t tried it befoRe:

“Another tip is to use a pencil for a solder pick. I learned this
technique from Belgian master goldsmith Evert de Graeve, when he
taught the Advanced Goldsmithing class at the Revere Academy in
1986. Shave back the wood of the pencil leaving only the graphite,
about an inch and a half long. A hard pencil is preferable. When you
heat the solder snippets touch one with the pencil tip just as the
solder melts and it will stick to the tip. Place the snippet (now a
sphere) on your fluxed piece where you wish it to be, and it will
stick there. The difference between this and a metal solder pick is
that the solder cannot melt onto the graphite pencil tip, it is only
suspended there until it is touched to another surface. It requires
a bit of practice and patience to perfect the use of the pencil
soldering pick but it is a very useful tool. The solder sphere has
to be picked up by the graphite just as it goes molten, or else it
won’t adhere to the tip. Using this technique you won’t have the
trouble which often plagues beginners, of getting the soldering pick
itself welded to the item being soldered. The wood of the pencil
might burn a bit if it isn’t shaved back far enough, and the
graphite will break if it is dropped. I haven’t had a metal solder
pick in my studio during the 15 years since taking Evert’s class. I
promptly discarded them all when I got back to my bench.”

Happy soldering to all,

Michael David Sturlin, jewelry artist @Michael_David_Sturli

Michael Sturlin Studio, Scottsdale Arizona USA

Contrary to Doug Zaruba and David Sturlin, I have had a pencil lead
pick explode on me. Fortunately I had on my glasses and a Bausch &
Lomb dual loupe. The loupe took most of the hit with tiny bits of
graphite burned into the glass of the lens (quite surprising). It
has only happened once. I don’t know what caused the explosion, I am
always careful when I use pencil lead for a solder pick, but I still
use them.

Lester C. Wetherell II
Austin, TX

Every time I log onto this wonderful site I learn something new.
I have some old pencils sitting around with hard lead–graphite,
and have tried them for soldering as suggested by several of you,
and found them to be far superior to my old soldering pick. thanks
for this valuable hint, and thanks to Hanuman for enabling us to
communicate with one another.- Alma

I have never had a pencil explode on me either (never used one as a
pick), but I do recall that wood heated in the absence of oxygen
produces acetylene. Maybe this is the explanation for the detonating

Lee Einer

oh my gosh, a “Pencil” those are the years before Bill Gates came
around. You can still use a pencil in the diamond setting trade,
where? get a 4B thick leaded pencil, and rub it along the “4/0
polishing paper” and leave no area untouched. why?

from this little simple method you are NOW filling up the pores of
the paper with graphite. This graphite on the 4/0 polishing paper is
now deemed to be a 6/0 graded paper.

Why buy more paper if you can transform 4/0 into a 6/0 sheet So what
do you do with this newer paper? keep polishing the backs of your #39
or #40 flat sticks, or the “right-sided” hand-cut angles of your #2
onglettes that is totally used to bright-cutting. I use this method
religiously in maintaining the high polished surface.

I also use a #2 emery paper for the first initial steel graver
sanding, then a #2 emery paper, then a 2/0 polishing, then the mighty
4/0 polishing, and now our “newer friend”.

when you are using the fine and soft rubbing on the ‘pencil’ do not
apply too much downward pressure, just a light rubbing will suffice,
you’ve done all the work prior to this.

Always remember that a highly-polished graver surface will then be
passed over to the gold cutting surface. So enjoy the newer uses of a
pencil…:>) “Gerry, the cyber-setter !” “

It wasn’t the wood that exploded, or an external gas, it was
definitely the pencil lead. Hence the bits of graphite embedded in
my loupe. There was also a large area of the pencil lead missing
along one side of the cylinder afterwards, possibly a void or some
unmixed clay or binder.

Lester C. Wetherell II
Austin, TX