Hello Sue and all on the Orchid,
I use and love this machine. It was very tricky to learn how to use
and the directions were not very helpful. Once I got the hang of it I
absolutely LOVED it. I use it for anything from 24-21 gauge jump
rings to finish chain I get bulk to 14 gauge for my chainmaille
bracelets for strength.
First you need the right flux, that electric soldering flux Rio
sells is all that I have found that will work. Prip’s, My-T-Flux or
anything else simply won’t work. The flux gets to be a layer of
glassy mess on your electrode and pliers after firing once and there
will be no connection, thus no solder flow.
You need to inspect the pliers and electrode and clean them often.
For the = pliers I use a small piece of 1000 grit sandpaper to clean
off the jaws every 10 rings or so. If they have too much flux build
up the electricity will not conduct, same goes for paste solder build
up. It’s also nice because the pliers won’t mar up the rings so much
during the soldering process.
Next you need to check out your electrode tip. I use a 7 mm ball bur
to clean and sharpen it, simply give the graphite tip a few light
twists every 5-10 jumprings. Extra graphite tip are nice if you are
working on a larger project like a chainmaille bracelet.
You must keep these tools clean or the machine just won’t work.
When closing your rings try to leave as little of a gap as possible
and the2 ends nice and evenly closed. An unevenly closed jumpring
looks terrible once soldered.
When I apply paste solder I use a 20 gauge piece of copper wire to
dab the tiniest bit on the inside of the ring opposite the
electrode. Remember solder flows toward the heat source. Too much
solder will practically coat the ring making a ugly mess. Solder
filled wire does not work well in my experience and needs a bit of
paste solder. I stopped using that type of wire long ago, as I found
it to be useless in forming a permanent and strong solder joint.
You need the right settings for the gauge of wire and ring diameter.
The power and time setting is THE trickiest part. For finishing
chains with a 22 gauge ring with a 3mm inner diameter I would start
with a time setting of 2.5 and power on 4. For 20 gauge rings time
on 2 3/4 or 3 and power at almost 5. You’ll have to play with these
controls to find the right setting otherwise the solder won’t flow
or you’ll melt your ring and have to start over.
When I apply flux I use a titanium solder pick to dip in the jar and
just apply the tiniest droplet to the top of the ring where the
electrode will go. Too much and your tools will be coated requiring
further cleaning after firing the machine. Too little on the other
hand will cause the tools to arcwith sparks flying everywhere.
REMEMBER TO WEAR YOUR SAFETY GLASSES AND DUST MASK!!! Good
ventilation is a must as this is toxic stuff. A titanium soldering
pick seems to work best for dipping into the flux and applying. I’ve
tried other pieces of wire, brushes, etc and they just don’t work as
Sometimes you may need to pump the pedal a few times in order to get
the solder to flow all the way. This is preferable to turning the
time up too much because you have more flexibility. If the solder
has already flowed while the electric is still running through you
can not remove the electrode from the contact area or you risk
arcing sparks and potentially scorching or melting the ring. It is
better to take the extra 3 seconds than to start over.
After solder has been successfully completed I soak the rings in warm
water for 10-15 minutes and then give it a little scrub with an old
toothbrush to get the carbon residue off before I pickle. I use
Ammonium Alum which is safe and available from any old pharmacy for 2
or 3 dollars and it’s usually near the boric acid. I like to use this
as it is not toxic or haz-mat, it’s no big deal to get it on your
skin or spill it anywhere. In a little gravy croc-pot it’s awesome as
a pickle solution for silver and you could even put your hand in it,
though I use a plastic fork or chopsticks. Maybe if you use the
expensive and highly toxic pickle for your solution it might take the
carbon residue off, but I don’t use that stuff for shop safety
As you can probably tell I have used this machine a lot over the
years and it is one of my first and favorite tools. It has paid for
itself many timesover and I could not live without it.
If you or anyone else would like more technical details I am more
than happy to share this I had to learn the hard way.
Cheers and happy soldering,