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Sanding/filing/anything! down solder seams?!

Ugh…so I work in copper 99.9% of the time, using soldering paste most of the time which leaves a silver seam, no biggie, IF I was capable of filing or sanding( or hopefully something one of you lovely individuals will be able to tell me to use/do.) down the solder seams WITHOUT thining my metal to the point of no return and basically ruining my peice…please ANY and ALL advice and insight would be great. Btw this time around I am making a simple spinner ring and am trying to get rid of the unsightly seam on the inside and out of that matter of the main large ring shank. THANK YOU! I hope…? Haha💞

Hi Hannah,

It might be helpful to see what one of your solder seams looks like before you start finishing. What gauge copper are you typically using? What are the steps you’re taking when finishing? How aggressive are the files, emory papers and/or rubberized abrasives you are using?

One of the goals in soldering/brazing is to use enough solder to fill the seam, but not too much so that it flows beyond the seam. This can be challenging with paste solder and takes time and practice. Have you tried using sheet or wire solder?

If you have a nice tight fit at the seam, use just enough solder and have good torch control so that the solder flows into the seam, but not beyond, the clean-up will be reduced. It’s impossible to remove excess solder without also removing some of the metal from your piece.

If you provide a little more info as to the steps you’re taking when finishing you’ll receive lots of helpful suggestions.

Pam

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Good advice from Pam about using just enough solder to do the job. Try using small solder pallions (chips) or rolling out wire solder very thin and touch soldering. Always use a lot of flux. I use Handy flux. You can try cleaning solder from your joints with rubber abrasive wheels on your flex shaft rather than using files and abrasive papers. While rubber wheels conform to the shape of the joint quickly, you can use an old file to shape the wheel first so that it works the area that you want to work and avoids other areas. The only precaution is that rubber wheels tend to dig into the softer solder faster than the surrounding metal, so keep an eye on things. You can also string thin strips of abrasive paper on a saw frame to help get into tight areas and then polish using butchers string with various polishing compounds applied to it. I generally spend as much, if not more, time finishing a piece as I do making it…Rob

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If you work mostly in copper you should try using brazing alloys specifically formulated for copper. They will match the color of the material far better than silver brazes will. Also it will save you money in the long run, as there is only a small percentage of silver in those alloys.
Copper brazing alloys are sold in 1/8" diameter rods, but you can easily make a paste of sorts by mixing filings made with a fine-cut file with flux. A flux made specifically for brazing copper and other base metals would be best.

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If you are just trying to hide the sliver of the silver solder seam plate it. I use my pickle pot and steel tweezers to do this. Just don’t have anything you want to keep silver in the pot at the same time. And if you do the pickle will strip it once you remove the steel from it.

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Putting the copper in some warm and well used pickle with some iron (old bolt, nail, some steel wool) should put a copper plate on everything, which would hide you joins. Make sure you take out anything you don’t want copper plated though.

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Paste solder is difficult to control. Made for soldering in hydrogen ovens, when the pieces are “tacked” together the solder paste is applied with a special dispenser that meters out tiny amounts using air pressure. Applying by hand,almost always too much. Rather than trying to remove the excess, teach yourself how to solder as previously mentioned with tiny pallions of sheet solder or snippets of wire. Tight joints,
minimum amounts of solder and copper plating as also suggested will make your life a lot easier. Practice on scrap if you want to get proficient before trying it on an actual piece.

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Some very careful sanding can be done if you place a strip of sandpaper on a thin piece of metal (could be a file, or whatever you have that’s handy). That way you won’t run the risk of thinning the metal, and can get right down in to the seam.

On some of the videos on the Clickspring YouTube channel (really awesome clock maker), you can see him use solder on some of the components. He then hand finishes the seams to make them darn close to invisible.

I highly recommend his channel in general, so even if you don’t find the exact tip I’m speaking of, there’s still a lot of techniques he uses that can be directly brought over to jewelry making.

Rob, could you elaborate on how you shape a rubber wheel to conform to the joint? That sounds like a good work around.

Hi Hanna,
I work in copper a lot too, as I’m just learning and it’s the most economical metal. Do you use copper paste solder? I do, but my solder joins are black and not silver…I have to use the pickle pot trick to cover them, but a silver join would be less conspicuous…

I use small 2X6 mm rubberized abrasive wheels that I buy from Rio. They come in other sizes and shapes as well. They are item 33263110. Other suppliers have the same or similar products, so I am not suggesting that you can only get them from Rio. They mount on a standard 3/32 flexshaft arbor. It is an unusual piece that I make that doesn’t get touched in some way by one of these wheels. They grind, sand or prepolish depending on how aggressively you use them. They will conform to the shape of your piece or change it, also depending on how aggressively you use them. You may want to shape the wheel before you use it to target one area of your piece and avoid others. As an example, where a bezel meets a backing plate. I use an old file. Just make sure it is old because it won’t work as a file after you use it to shape the wheel. Remember to hold the tang of the file away from you so that the wheel runs against the teeth of the file. Be careful as the wheel will wear quickly. Shape it to fit the spot that you want it to work on and those that you want to avoid and grind, sand or prepolish whatever you want to do. This process of shaping or using it on a piece generates a lot of swarf. Collect it if you can otherwise it will get all over your shop and it can be reclaimed as it contains small bits of the metal that you are working on. These wheels will damage a stone so be careful. If you are working close to a stone where you might hit the stone with the wheel, use a pumice wheel. Hope this helps. Good luck…Rob

Keep in mind that I am left handed. The tang goes the other way if you are right handed. Then again, it all depends on which way your wheel spins, so figure it out. Sorry, getting a little goofy watching what is happening to our capitol and Democracy…Rob

Rob, thank you for elaborating, the info is very helpful and you’ve provided clear steps!

Another way to shape wheels without using a file (always hurts my heart to damage a file, even if it’s well beyond its service life), is to buy a diamond cut-off disc (like the ones on Rio, item #: 346362). A large (3/4" or bigger) is best, but you can get away with using a small one. They don’t wear down at all (or at least as near as I can tell from using mine for the last 6 years), and allow quite a bit of freedom in how your wheel is shaped. Also, you don’t need a fancy, full-sintered one like the Edentas, just a cheap one will do.
I just mount up the abrasive wheel in my flexshaft, and spin it while holding the diamond wheel against it (I also have the diamond wheel mounted on a screw arbor, just to make it easier to hold, but it isn’t super necessary to do it this way).

There are dressing stones available to shape rubberized abrasive wheels…

Pam

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Spot on! I have a diamond “file” -about 4"X1/2". Takes rubber wheels down in a heartbeat! I also use diamond core drills of different sizes to cut the wheels concave for some shanks etc. the diamond discs work great as well.

I’m just cheap saving my money for tools that I really want. I also have a lot of old files…Rob