Soldering, back to square one

help! i feel like i’m back to square one and have forgotten how to do
everything i’ve been doing. something is suddenly going very very
wrong with my soldering. i’ve been working on a pendant that has a
large bezel setting and many granules and a bale. for some reason,
pretty much every solder seam fails at some point. my bezel seam tore
when i was setting my stone. many of the granules popped off after
tumbling but during polishing. and my bale just popped off just as i
was finally done with this thing for the third time. i have had it!!!
i’ve changed a few things but i’m not sure what’s responsible. is it

(1) i am waiting to get my acetylene tank refilled tomorrow and have
been using a small propane tank in the meantime. i can’t imagine
that this is the problem as i think propane is actually hotter, but
perhaps my heat control is just off with the different gas.

(2) am i not letting the solder flow long enough? it seems to be
running but i was helping it along at times with my pick.

(3) am i using too much solder? or not enough? which infraction is
more likely to result in weakness?

(4) i switched fluxes – could this have anything to do with it?

any ideas would be very welcome - i’m pretty much at my wit’s end!!
i’ve often had trouble with granules falling off in the past but
never ever have i experienced anything like this!!!

thanks very much,

Just a shot Hilary- square one is always a good place to start. BTW
your site is awesome and your work is unique and lovely. 1st-always
clean your metal. I use a fine steel wool and wash afterwards.
Plenty of paste flux-I like Dandix. I use an Acetylene and air
rig-ancient but it still works. Did you leave your piece in the
pickle overnight? Heard that some joints come loose when you do that.
Had it happen once. I always check security of joints with a tool
like a scribe. and sometimes it almost seems as if gremlins are busy
in your shop with some tricky business but more likely it is just a
abad day aat the office. I know this will not help but sometime it
happens to all of us. WC/

Hi Walter!

Thanks so much for the kind words. From what I can tell, it seems
like the gremlin had to do with my temporary propane tank and my
inexperience with judging the heat with this particular gas. I think
it took me too long to heat the piece up, so the flux evaporated or
cooked off, thereby rendering itself useless despite my ample
application, and then to make matters worse, i think i took the heat
off just as the solder was melting rather than when the solder was
actually flowing into the joint. I think I basically coated the area
around the joint, but the air and space was still left. Happily
today I refilled my acetylene tanks and I’m quite anxious to have
everything return to normal tomorrrow. I can’t remember a more
frustrating week!!! It was like waking up and having forgotten how to
read. Not fun! Ah well, hopefully it will all be a distant memory
soon enough. I’ve heard very good things about Dandix and intend to
pick some up the next time I make a run into the jewelry district. I
just checked out your website and your work is beautiful – it
reminds me to some extent of the native american jewelry that got me
hooked on this whole thing to begin with. I credit (blame) my mother
– she got me a navajo bracelet when I was 2 weeks old that I wore
until I was about 3, and ever since then, silver and turquoise have
constantly adorned me. Best of luck and thanks again!


Hi Hillary -

I understand propane does not burn as hot as acetylene. Some
jewelers prefer it because it burns cleaner. Personally, I never can
see the flame correctly when using propane/air, so I’m always using
the wrong spot.

It does sound like the solder was melting but not flowing, so you
had a mild mechanical join rather than the molecular join that
results with sufficient heat. Any time I have to use a pick to help
the solder along it tells me the metal around it is too coool.

what kind of flux were you using originally, and what did you change
to? Personally I use past flux (rather thick), since I do a lot of
filigree. Now that I’m used to it, I can’t imagine using liquid flux
on silver.

I’m going to guess that it was a mix of both the fuel and the flux.
I think if you weren’t using enough solder it would havve been
evident long before you were setting the stone.

Kelley Dragon