Re: [Ganoksin Orchid Jewelry Forum Community for Jewelers and Metalsmiths] Summary

Here’s a question that I’m sure sounds silly ~ but… I really need your help ~ how can you tell when you’ve finally removed all of the solder when you’re cleaning up silver? It’s difficult for me to know since everything is silver ~ I’ve ruined a couple of pieces because I took off to much ~ and, what is the best method to remove the solder! (Using the Foredom…)
Thank you so much!!! Solder is the bane of my existence!!! And, I use the smallest pieces and very little but still have some left to clean…

When the area that had the solder is level with the metal around it?

The concept behind solder is that it melts together with the metal being fused. While it will never completely go away, it shouldn’t look any different (or slight discoloration depending on the type of solder used and the metal) so you should just finish it to its original thickness, etc.

Files, abrasive sticks, abrasive points, etc. are all valid mechanisms for cleaning up a solder joint. Start coarse and work your way to fine. Keep checking to make sure you do not remove too much metal before switching to the next level in grit, etc.



Have you tried putting the piece on a sheet of white paper, like looking for oxides?



you mentioned that you “took too much off”…”using a foredom”…(also, what happened that makes you think that?”)

perhaps move to abrasive sandpapers by hand…maybe 800 grit…less fast, less aggressive…the piece should be finished well before soldering (perhaps to 800 grit/ tripoli, etc) and you noted that you are not using excessive solder, so sandpaper (folded up/ wrapped around wood, around a needle file, etc) should work well…and quickly enough

remember, the solder is merging with the metal at the interface, actually becoming a new alloy there…it is not merely “gluing” the two pieces together…so you can remove the solder down level with the original surface…keep your eye on the surrounding overall shape/ thickness of the whole piece, not just the solder seam itself…

i hope i am making sense…



Hi Teri,

I am going to try to clarify the soldering process a bit more so you can accept that there will always be some evidence of a difference of color where there is a seam or connection. It is the copper in the silver solder that you can see if you join sterling silver with solder. The different types of solder [Hard, Medium, and Easy etc] contain different quantities of copper in the alloy. Hard has the least. Extra easy has the most. Sterling silver has copper in the alloy to make the silver more durable.
As the silver is heated the copper in the ally oxidizes and that is why things turn black when they are heated or exposed to the atmosphere and tarnish. Pickling takes away those oxides. It may be confusing but important to mention here that copper melts at a much higher temperature than silver when both are in their pure form but when they are heated together into an alloy that alloy will melt at lower temperatures as more copper is added to the solder during manufactured. This seems counter intuitive and a factor in the complex study of how metals react to each other. This unusual occurrence allows jewelers to make more complex designs using alloys that remain intact until their melting temperature is reached. Therefore everything does not fall apart when designs are complex.
Of course, if you have excess solder or a un-melted lump you can easily see that and file off excess or if necessary, heat it up again to temperature so it will spread out and fill in gaps evenly. You will probably notice that solder is harder to file because it is also harder than sterling or fine silver. Sometimes it is better to use hand methods for solder removal because machine grinding may be too aggressive.
Care should be taken when filing to keep the surfaces level and to work to make the seam or joint invisible as possible… The solder will never completely disappear because the seam does not alloy with the parent metal unless it is over heated. There will always be a line or some color difference at the solder location but it should be almost invisible. Holding a white piece of paper up to any soldered area will show you where the solder is and what has to be removed. Always take your time and try not to over work things because that is when mistakes happen. Marilynn


Hi Marylynn,
I totally forgot I sent this topic in and only now found all of the wonderful replies! Of them all, yours was definitely the most helpful. Thank you so much for taking the time to explain everything to me. Fortunately for me I did “finally” learn to just clean the solder down to the line of what I was working on making sure that just the solder line was gone and not any of my metal along with it!
Again, thank you so much for your very detailed response.
Have an amazing day!