Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Practice soldering?


#1

Hi Everyone,

I was wondering if I can use copper wire to practice soldering with
before I use my silver? I don’t want to waste a lot of my silver.

Thanks
Linda


#2
I was wondering if I can use copper wire to practice soldering
with before I use my silver? I don't want to waste a lot of my
silver. 

The answer is maybe to yes with limited application.

Copper responds differently than silver. If you never used torch
before, and as an introductory step it should be fine. But for very
short while. After a week or so, go for silver. Copper is almost
impossible to melt, so heat control is never learned. Applying torch
to silver in the same manner as to copper, will surely cause it to
collapse.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#3

most certainly use copper/ brass to learn with.


#4
I was wondering if I can use copper wire to practice soldering
with before I use my silver? I don't want to waste a lot of my
silver. 

Sounds like a great idea, and yes it will work.

Helen
UK


#5

Linda,

I was wondering if I can use copper wire to practice soldering
with before I use my silver? 

When I was in school, we used brass wire and sheet metal for our 1st
through 3rd semester projects. I would think the copper would be a
wise choice for your practice soldering. Enjoy!

Angela Hampton
Hampton House Jewelry


#6
When I was in school, we used brass wire and sheet metal for our
1st through 3rd semester projects. I would think the copper would
be a wise choice for your practice soldering. 

That is going overboard on the other end. Brass melts much easier
than silver and oxidizes readily. Learning in brass is making things
unnecessarily difficult. There is no substitute for silver as a
learning medium.

I understand that the reason of searching for substitute is cost, but
consider long term. Practicing on materials like copper, brass,
nickel silver, and etc… will be more expensive in the long run.
Even beginner can easily recycle silver scrap, while copper and other
must be simply disposed of. One can invest, even at todays prices, a
100 dollars in silver and use it for practice for the rest of the
career. Think how much it will cost you in copper? I can guaranty
that even platinum will be a bargain compared to copper, if one
considers long term.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#7

Go for it and have fun soldering - many schools teach you on copper
and brass so you won’t spend a fortune practicing.

Mary Partlan
White Branch Designs


#8

Yes, you can use copper wire

Jette Sorensen


#9

Hi Linda,

Copper and brass are actually good practice metals. They act a
little differently than silver and will help you visualize I teach a
3-5 day Soldering Boot Camp where we start on copper and brass. It
allows students to see what how they are over or under heating along
with the unique flow melting points for different solders by
different manufacturers.

In fabricating a tricky piece, make it first in stiff paper or matt
board if it is a larger construction like a bracelet. Then make it
again using brass with all the soldering steps. It might sound like a
lot of extra work, but in reality, you are practicing how you hold
your hands, the amount of flame, etc. Understanding how everything is
soldering together at this stage will reduce your anxiety when you
move up to silver.

Practice does make perfect.

Karen Christians
Cleverwerx


#10

This is just my 2 cents, but unless someone is going to be making
lots of jewelry out of brass and copper, using them to solder is not
a good idea! The soldering of silver, the soldering of gold, and the
soldering of these base metals is each totally different, as each
metal has a different character. I’ve soldered only 200 pieces, and
I’m still learning how to solder! I use primarily silver, and
soldering takes a long time to learn because it’s like a dance-
knowing how much heat to put where and how long- it comes in time
and practice. Eventually you have an innate sense of how much heat is
needed where, and how much you can push before you start to melt your
pieces. Sometimes things need to be soldered on a trivet from
underneath. Some elements require more heat than other elements. The
challenge of soldering is raising ALL of the elements to soldering
temperature AT THE SAME TIME. This is a complicated feat of
choreography that can only be learned with practice. And if you
start with base metals, you’re only postponing the learning and
experience you will NEED in order to be successful with silver and
then gold. The best education you can give yourself is to start
heating, forming and becoming intimate with the qualities of the
metal you plan on using to create your masterpieces.

Dana Evans


#11
Brass melts much easier than silver and oxidizes readily. Learning
in brass is making things unnecessarily difficult. 

Leonid, having worked in brass, copper, and nickel-silver for the
last 30 years, I must disagree with you. Brass melts less easily than
silver, in my experience. On the occasions when I solder sterling
silver, the one thing I have to be careful of is not to melt the
silver (since I am used to using bits of brazing rod material as
solder for the brass, and their melting point is right around that of
silver, i.e., I am used to high temperature soldering – I cannot use
brazing rods to solder/braze brasses with higher zinc content [and
slightly lower melting points]).

scrap, while copper and other [scrap] must be simply disposed of I
rarely throw away any base-metal scrap but use it for other
projects. I also don't have to lock away any of my metal. 

I recommend using brass, copper,and nickel-silver for practice work.
They do oxidize readily, but that can be readily fixed with pickle
and bright-dip. Not only are base metals vastly more affordable, but
they are also a lot of fun to work with (and my jewelry sells well).

Judy Bjorkman


#12

In my humble opinion… copper DOES have a place in practice silver
soldering.

Why? For many newbies, SEEING the contrast of melting silver solder
pallions on top of a strip of copper helps them connect / understand
the different melting temps of easy, medium, and hard solders.

I use this method teaching: (1) pallion each of the above solders,
placed about a 1/4 inch apart on a strip of scrap solder. Evenly
heated… ( and yes they learn to evenly heat) the students "see"
the difference of the melting temps.

After that… on to silver.

It’s just a visual aid.
steve


#13
Leonid, having worked in brass, copper, and nickel-silver for the
last 30 years, I must disagree with you. Brass melts less easily
than silver, in my experience 

I cannot claim any significant expertise with brass, but considering
how many brasses out there, difference in experience is not
surprising.

I am truly mystified with advice to practice on anything else but
precious alloys. One cannot learn to drive a car by practicing on
bicycle.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#14

Hi Dana,

I’ve been soldering effectively using a Smith Micro, and I was only
given a couple of demonstrations.

The class projects are brass, but you can choose to use other
metals.

The first project I completed was a half round wedder, rolled from
brass stock, and soldered with hard solder. Took me a couple of
attempts to solder the piece correctly, but it was eventually
completed. The next two projects were brass, one included a titanium
hemisphere, and all were soldered with hard solder.

The last item I completed was a tin bronze ring, with a random
pattern mokume gane feature with a fine silver insert soldered under
two tin bronze bars to give a two tone effect. This was soldered with
hard solder.

I do intend to use sterling for class projects from now on (maybe
gold for personal projects, definitely more mokume gane), but I feel
confident after the pain of the first project.

I think people are different, and gain confidence through different
means.

I don’t think I’m an expert yet, but I am competent, and have been
graded as such in an industry standard Jewellery Manufacture course.

Regards Charles A.


#15
I am truly mystified with advice to practice on anything else but
precious alloys. One cannot learn to drive a car by practicing on
bicycle. 

You’re mystified, because you have more money than a student?

Absolutely true you can’t learn to drive a car by practicing on a
bicycle, but you can learn to ride a Harley, by practicing on a
trail bike :wink:

Regards Charles A.


#16

Linda -

I have not tried brass, though I have tried copper. Given my own
experiences, I would say that if you have a serious goal of
soldering silver, then you should practice on silver, not something
else.

Regarding price, it’s not as expensive as you think it is. Every
piece of scrap has a use: the backplate of a small setting, a fancy
bale, a prong, a bead for decoration, a potential flush setting base.
Even the scrap of scrap can be used in soldering practice. And hey,
it’s still silver! If you screw up, it can become parts for something
else or go to the refiner.

There’s really no such thing as “waste” silver. Whether or not your
practice results in a blob or something wearable, you still have a
precious metal. The experience you gain by working in your chosen
metal can’t be matched by another metal, early on.

If I make something wearable, I’m proud to show it off, and it won’t
make my skin turn green. If I make a mistake, I gain valuable
insight into working with silver, and maybe even the experience of
learning how to fix my mistake.

If you do all your work in copper and brass, then when you go to
silver, you won’t have the ‘feel’ of how the metal handles heat, how
it bends (or resists bending), or how fast it oxidizes.

I suggest that while you are a novice, work in your target metal.
Once you become more experienced, you may want to expand to other
metals - you wiill be able to adapt quickly. But when you start out,
it’s a big chore just learning all the nuances of one metal. Don’t
dilute your experience. That’s what’s expensive, not the metal
itself.

best regards,
Kelley Dragon


#17
The class projects are brass, but you can choose to use other
metals. 

What separates person who knows how to solder from the person who
doesn’t? The answer is - heat control.

What does heat control means? The answer is - ability to maintain
required temperature in the critical zone.

What is critical zone? The answer is - temperature range conducive to
solder flow.

Why is it critical ? The answer is - bellow the range, solder does
not flow, and above the range, piece collapses. To achieve strong
joint, temperature must be maintained for a period if time. The
period can be as short as a second, and as long as few minutes,
depending on size, geometry, weight, and etc…

Is period preceding critical zone important? The answer is - yes,
because interaction of flux with metal is going to have an effect on
solder flow in the critical zone.

Many more questions can be asked, but it would be redundant.

If the goal is to become a goldsmith, and since goldsmith works with
precious metal alloys, and precious metal alloys are SIGNIFICANTLY
DIFFERENT from non-precious metal alloys, then my question becomes -
HOW CAN USE OF ANYTHING, BUT PRECIOUS METAL ALLOYS, CAN BE
JUSTIFIED?

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#18
I am truly mystified with advice to practice on anything else but
precious alloys. One cannot learn to drive a car by practicing on
bicycle. 

Leonid, your use of the comparison (car/bicycle) is mostly invalid,
since they are two very different machines, with little overlap in
learning processes. The word “precious,” as applied to metals, is a
only a psychological distinction. I have learned many basic
metalworking processes using brass. Whether or not I proceed to
"precious" metals is a matter of preference. I prefer not to, since
I like large pieces of jewelry, and gold is unaffordable, or, rather,
that is not how I wish to spend my money. The use of base metal gives
me freedom and joy, and I have no desire to become a high-end
jeweler.

Does that de-mystify my advice?

Judy Bjorkman


#19
I am truly mystified with advice to practice on anything else but
precious alloys. One cannot learn to drive a car by practicing on
bicycle. 

So does that mean one should not learn to set faceted stones with
any other stone than a diamond? In a perfect world, yes it would be
wonderful to learn jewelry fabrication skills using only precious
metals. Part of being human is our ability to adapt. Part of teaching
is encouraging adaptation. If you don’t’ have the perfect tool,
metal, studio or classroom, then one scours the area and utilizes
substitutions.

Karen Christians
Cleverwerx


#20
One cannot learn to drive a car by practicing on bicycle. 

Oh yes they can. Hand-eye coordination is transferable. In the end
they can do two new things instead of one, and are more likely to be
mindful of bike riders to boot.

I am truly mystified with advice to practice on anything else but
precious alloys. 

Someone who learns or practices on brass, copper, etc and then tries
working with silver as their preferred metal, will have a better
understanding of soldering in general, even if they have to learn
the differences of silver after learning the characteristics of the
cheaper metals.

Ray Brown