#1 How does it work with relatively long solder seams? Say up to
1.5 inches long?
Not well. You’re soldering the metal that gets hot, which is just in
the area where the electrodes are in contact. These things can be
used for minor solder jobs, sizing seams on ladies rings or lighter
gents. Occasionally I’ve seen them do basic retipping work, or
various other smaller area joints. Long seams are almost impossible,
at least from what I recall. But the last time I bothered with trying
to get one of these dinosours to work was over 30 years ago…
#2 How much does it heat up the surrounding metal? Can I solder a
part fairly near a gem without removing the gem? Approximately how
many MM away would be fairly safe?
No one given answer here. They heat us surronding metal somewhat
less than a torch, but the heating is slow enough that surrounding
metal does indeed get hot. How hot and how far depends on how heavy
the metal is, and what type of metal. How close to a gem also depends
on what type of gem. These are not replacements for lasers or PUK’s
when it comes to working close to a gem, and unlike a torch, where
you can often use heat sinks to get around the thermal problems, heat
sinking with the electric machines is more limited due to needing
electrods in contact with the joint area.
#3 Does this avoid oxidizing most of the piece? It would seem
likely to only oxidize a small area around the solder joint, is
Oxidation is the same as with a torch, depending on what gets hot.
Remember that a tiny torch flame may also heat only the area right at
a joint, yet the metal nearby also gets hot from thermal conduction
because you have to hold the heat there for long enough to flow the
solder. The electric machines don’t change these rules. There may be
less oxidation going on nearby with the electrics on some work, but
I’d say the difference is minor if your torch soldering technique is
good. And besides, if you’re properly preparing the metal with
appropriate fire coats before soldering, Oxidation of the metal
shouldn’t be a problem in the first place
#4 Do the tips wear out? Do they or any other part need replacing
with any frequency?
The tips need replacing occasionally. They’re not costly, so it’s
not a big issue.
#5 How small an area will it fit into? Would soldering to assemble
a small basket head be a problem?
Relative. Not as small as a tiny tip on a torch can do. Assembling a
basket? That’s a bit complex for these machines. Whether you can do
it would depend on how small, and how it’s designed, and how good you
are with the machine. With skill and practice, you probably could do
it. Now, can you get a good clean repair on a tiny chain, or a hollow
rope chain, or some other tricky small work? I doubt it would be
easy, if you could manage it at all.
#6 Does it work better with big solder areas or small? Does it do
Mostly suited to modestly small spot soldering jobs. No good at all
for large areas.
I know you are all busy but I would REALLY appreciate feedback on
If you’re in any sort of situation where you can get a torch setup
instead, you’ll be much happier with a proper torch. There’s a reason
these electric machines are almost never seen on anyone’s bench any
more. They’re not costly, and are cheap to run, but are also pretty
limited. In fact, all the ones I’ve ever seen were on the benches not
of jewelers, but of watchmakers, who’d very occasionally need to do a
minir repair to a watch case or the like, and who found these more
convenient to have around than an actual torch. For actually making
jewelry or soldering on more than an occasional basis, I’d bet
you’ll not be so happy with the electric machine. They have their
place, and they can do good work. But they’re a good deal more
limited than a torch.