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Soldering Argentium Silver


#1

Clarification and update of about soldering Argentium

SOLDERING

Because of the lower melting temperature, hard solder is not
recommended. Medium, easy or extra-easy solders are safest Currently,
Argentium is supplied annealed, which is wonderful for me, since I
rarely use a piece of metal without forming it a bit first; straight
planes of metal are rare in my visual vocabulary. I love being able
to get right to work, without needing to anneal first. And, I love it
that I can move the metal farther before it needs annealing. So, for
me, the only problem I’ve had with soldering is remembering that
Argentium does not conduct heat as quickly as regular sterling does.
This means that I approach it similar to the way that I do when
soldering gold. After giving the entire piece a general heating, I
concentrate the heat on the solder joint.

Metalsmiths who like to make soldered constructions of flat sheet
may find that they need to prepare the metal a bit beforehand, to
prevent the metal from sagging during soldering. Lay the Argentium
on a flat soldering surface, bring it to annealing temperature (dull
red) with a torch flame, keep it at that temperature for about 15
seconds, and then allow it to air cool. (Though it is still annealed,
the crystalline structures have grown = a bit larger, and make it
stiff enough for most soldering operations.—at least, this is my
theory about why this works!) Note that the lower the temperature of
the solder, the less that sagging is a problem, and that sagging is
only a problem with unsupported flat metal.

I did some experimenting, and found that hardening in the oven makes
the silver hard, but does not prevent a flat, unsupported piece of
metal from sagging when soldered, as I had theorized that it would.
It is interesting that the above method works better!

All best,
Cindy
www.cynthiaeid.com


#2

Hi all,

I’m asking (hollering!) for help once again. I bought some 20 ga
and 22 gu sheet and tried it out today. I had two pieces to make,
both with quite large stones - 40 or 45mm x about 30mm. I’m using
fine silver for the bezel and it is 6mm wide - 28gu I think. I got
the bezels made and cut out the sheet just a bit bigger than the
stones. so far so good… after positioning all those little bits
of medium solder inside the bezel, I held one corner of the sheet
with my tweezers and proceeded to solder, with the flame under the
sheet - that is how I do it with regular sterling. It sagged - I
straightened out the sheet as best I could, redid all the little
solder bits and this time I propped it between two blocks I have -
again, major sagging, in the middle this time, so I clamped it
together with my tweezers and then the A. silver melted before the
solder flowed! (Yes you can fuse it) When all else fails read the
directions - I found all that has been written about it here on
Orchid and found out I needed to anneal it on a flat surface before
soldering. So, I did that with the second piece - and then decided
I’d better use easy solder and point the flame from the top while
its on the flat surface - Oh oh, this time the bezel melted before
the solder flowed.

There must be a way to do this - Monday I will try with a smaller
bezel to see If that can work, maybe I just need to get used to it.
I would certainly appreciate any suggestions any one has.

Thanks, thanks, and more thanks,

Jan
www.designjewel.com


#3

Thanks Trevor and Judy and all else who answered my call for help.
I thought you might like to know how things went today in my
learning experience with Argentium silver.

First I made two bezels - a very small 4mm round one and one about
20 x 12mm. I’m sticking with my 28gu fine silver 6mm wide bezel
wire (that is what I have, fits the stone, and I don’t want to roll
out bezel from the A. silver, just lazy I guess).

this time I used 22 gu A. silver, cutting the pieces to be a little
larger than the bezels. I cleaned the metal with a scotch pad and
laid them on a charcoal block, then heated them a bit and brushed
on some Battern’s flux. I sanded the bottom of the bezels, brushed
on Battern’s and put some more flux on the metal plates. Then I
placed the solder bits inside the bezels. I used easy silver solder
since the medium I started with Saturday didn’t work at all. I put
a couple of thin strips of scrap siIver under the larger plate so
that I could direct the flame under it, turned out the lights
(there is a window at the other end of my shop) and heated very
slowly with a small pointy flame under the plate. the solder began
to flow! amazing!!

I did put a little solder chip on the outside ledge so I could tell
when it reached flowing temp. I went around the whole piece this
way, moving it so there was no silver strip under the place where I
wanted the solder to flow. I found out that the A. silver reaches
hot pink or cherry red before the solder flowed. The little 4mm
bezel went much quicker. After sawing away the “ledge” around the
bezels and smoothing them with a wheel, I found that the bezel had
joined all the way around.

Next I soldered the little gold post that connects the two pieces.
To do that I pressed the large piece into the charcoal block, bezel
side down, so that the “post” would lay level with the back - and
this way the solder is on the back and wont show on the front of the
pendant. I pushed in a straight pin to hold the post up against the
large piece. I laid an easy solder chip on that seam. This time I
used more light so I could tell if the chip flew away and if the
seam filled. I ended up using about 3 solder chips. Getting the
4mm bezel piece to stay in place pushed against the other end of the
post was a bit harder but was accomplished - then I soldered two
half rings for bales (the piece will be a slide) on the back of the
larger piece and this time I left all the lights on. I noticed that
I can’t see the red color with the lights on, but I needed to be
able to see how the solder is flowing and to make sure nothing is
moving. Worked great.

For me the secret seems to be to heat slower than I usually do with
reg. sterling.

I think the Argentium silver works ok for smaller pieces - at least
I don’t feel brave enough to try to do one of my big bezels yet.
And yet it is on the bigger things that the fire scale really shows
up. Hopefully there will soon be an argentium solder available that
will work better. I’m going to do some experimenting with
reticulation using the pieces I ruined Sat. and that will be pure
fun. At any rate I am not as afraid of A silver as I was and no
longer so frantic (my state when I did my first post on the
subject.)

Thanks again - what a wonderful forum this is!

sorry this is so wordy.

Jan
www.designjewel.com


#4
 I'll be interested to hear what Trevor and Cynthia have to
suggest. I'm still learning a lot, but I don't miss the firescale!! 

Well, Judy, I was going to “sit this one out” and let others
answer----I was thinking that maybe I have been “talking too much”.
However, since you ask:

  • Use a soldering surface that is nice and flat, and highly
    reflective. (I like the way that some catalogs, such as Rio’s,
    discuss how reflective the the soldering block is, BTW.)

  • instead of laying the flat sheet directly on the soldering block,
    lay out some soldering pins (steel cotter pins that have been spread
    in to V shapes, or steel T-pins, or lengths of heavy binding
    wire…) so that they support the sheet, but allow you to direct the
    flame under the metal so that you are not directing the flame at the
    bezel. (I think I originally learned this technique from Fred
    Fenster…)

  • after the initial heating, remember that the Argentium Sterling
    Silver does not conduct the heat like regular sterling----so, don’t
    try to get the solder to flow all at once. If you are accustomed to
    soldering gold, use a similar technique. (If you are not, then this
    is good preparation for learning to solder gold!)

  • whenever you are soldering a bezel, don’t put the flame directly
    on it—let the "side"of the flame, as you direct it at the larger
    piece, get it hot

  • consider putting the solder on the outside of the bezel, if you
    are going to trim the sheet anyways. It makes it a bit easier to get
    it to flow.

  • why bother with such tiny pieces of solder? Let the capillary
    action do the work for you.

Another method is to put a flat screen on a soldering trivet, and
heat from below. I don’t personally care for that method, though, as
you have to get the screen hot. A lot of people like it, though…

I hope this helps!
Cindy

Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com


#5

Cool Jan!!

Thanks for sharing your experience and success with your Ar.925
(that’s what I’m calling it - much shorter than spelling out
Argentium sterling). I find it interesting that you used a “small
pointy flame” rather than the usual bushy flame. It makes sense
too. When firescale is not a concern, the flame can be varied.

You go girl!
Judy in Kansas


#6
... I cleaned the metal with a scotch pad and ... brushed on some
Battern's flux. 

Hello Jan,

Ah, Battern’s. In my experience that might be the source of some of
your difficulties.

I have used Batterns too though that was some years ago. It came as a
liquid, bright yellow in color, basically odorless as I recall.

Anyway I found Batterns to be a rather weak flux compared to the
borax-based paste fluxes and it tended to burn off fairly quickly.
Generally unsatisfactory for high temperature work on sterling and all
the base metals IMHO, but quite good on fine silver and higher karat
golds when using medium grade solder or less.

FWIW I’ve recently been using a new flux, commercial stuff again for
the first time in years, on my Argentium work and I’m very pleased
with it. It’s Tessco’s “F” powder flux mixed with regular tap water
to whatever paste consistency you like. Very nice! I hear that it’s
similar to Handy Flux but the temperature ratings aren’t quite the
same so who knows. In any case I’m loving it!

So I suppose what I’m saying is that you might want to try a few
different fluxes to see if that helps you. For any work in sterling,
Argentium or otherwise, I would always opt for a paste flux --Handy,
Thessco, whatever-- over a liquid like Battern’s.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in the City of Light


#7
So I suppose what I'm saying is that you might want to try a few
different fluxes to see if that helps you. For any work in sterling,
Argentium or otherwise, I would always opt for a paste flux --Handy,
Thessco, whatever-- over a liquid like Battern's.

Well, this is interesting----I completely agree that it might be
good to try different fluxes. Amusingly though, I am of the opposite
opinion of Trevor when it comes to fluxes. I will always choose a
liquid flux— such as commercial Prip’s flux made by Grobet, or
Battern’s— over a paste flux. So, this really shows that each
person has their own way of doing things. There is no one, single
"right" way to do things. The way that works for you is the 'right’
way for you.

I must say, too, that I did not find it difficult at all to adapt to
Argentium Sterling Silver. When I started working with it, all I
knew was that it did not firescale. It really is not difficult to
adapt to! (I wanted to say this, because I spoke to a friend today,
and she said that she is becoming nervous to try it, after reading
all the posts about difficulties.)

Cindy
Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com


#8

Peter Johns was at Expo NY early this week and he asked me about
Batterns flux and how suitable it is for silver solder jobs. I have
used liquid flux all my life, even on large silver projects with good
results. I have also used Handy Flux with good results, but I
learned with the liquid and I think it is faster and more convenient.
That doesn’t make me right, only opinionated. I have not used
Argentium yet (I will soon), but lets just think about this from a
technical point of view. If we think about the purpose of flux and
how flux works any proven commercial flux should work if the job is
conducted in the temperature range the flux is good intended for and
everything is clean. The most important thing is that the metal and
the solder are clean before you start. Peter says that a good flux
can clean the metal and I don’t doubt he can solder a dirty joint and
probably make it look easy to boot. My experience is that good
preparation is important if you don’t want to do rework. I wasn’t
there to see so this is pure speculation. Classic sterling tarnishes
and gives us a visual indicator of cleanliness. Consider that
Argentium doesn’t discolor and might fool one into thinking that the
surface was clean enough to solder. It is plausible that some oxides
were present, or that the flux was not applied completely to the
whole area. If it was me, I would try again. Clean the surface to be
soldered with a file or sanding stick and clean the solder with fine
sand paper just to make sure. Start with some clean flux and see what
happens. If it doesn’t work the second time with everything prepared
and clean before heating, then I would like to know and have a
picture of what you are doing. Maybe we have something to learn about
flux and this new material and it would be time to do some research.

Eddie Bell
Neutec/USA