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[Soldering] Bowpipes

Dear list,has anyone had experience with the use of
blowpipes? Can you please discribe it in enough detail to enable
me to make one? Why? I’m trying to relearn the old methods of
silversmithing. Regards,

Bela Beke
Foggy Mountain Forge
P.O.Box 9,Kinglake 3763
Ph.+61 0357 861 482

Bill, as it happens, my sister and her husband just sent a video
from Eritrea, showing local silversmiths making some tribal type
of ornaments for hair braids to be woven through. While they are
experienced with torches, their supply of fuel is unreliable, so
they also use an oil type lamp with a blowpipe. The one he was
using looked to be about 18" or so, long and had no
distinguishing characteristics other than being slightly curved
at the end. Now, I have a small one that I got from my father
(a watchmaker) and it is only approx. 6-8" with a bulb reservoir
close to the mouthpiece and is brass. Hope this helps, Curtis


I have fooled with a blowpipe a little. Bought it from jewelry
supplier for under $5US, so didn’t see a need to make one. The
blowpipe itself is just a piece of tapered brass tubing with
enough length (12 to 15"?) to keep the flame off your eyebrows
and a right angle turn at the end to allow you to position where
you can see what’s going on. The end of the tubing does have a
sort of thickened nozzle at the end of the tubing, I guess to
protect it from dings and heat damaging the thin metal. You
could rig a nut on the end of a homemade version.

One uses some flame source and blows air to direct and sharpen
and intensify the flame. The most typical flame comes from an
alcohol lamp with a bottle with facets on it which will allow the
wick to be postioned at a 45 degree angle or even horizontally.
If you arrange your soldering block & etc. right you can direct
the flame downwards to the work.

In practice you puff out your cheeks to provide a reservoir of
air and you can get a steady stream if you practice, since when
you close the back of your throat and breath in through your
nose, the cheeks, like a bellows, continue to provide air for the
brief period you are inhaling. Takes some doing, but you can
learn to do it by watching the flame and keeping it steady.
There is a little material on this in Allen Hardy’s book on
Jewelry Repair. Fun to play with, provides a real small flame
for little chain, & etc. if you don’t have a Little Torch or
similar. Heat output somewhat limited. Maybe could get bigger
flame with other flame sources, as older British texts mention
using a “mains gas supply” and a blowpipe hose to the gas-air
torch for general jewelry work. Wouldn’t want to have to cast
that way, tho’!! I think Platinum is out with this technique.

Would be interested in what you are able to do with this.

Roy (Jess)

    Has anyone had experience with the use of blowpipes? Can
you please discribe it in enough detail to enable me to make
one? Why? I'm trying to relearn the old methods of

Many years ago I taught myself to make scrollwork jewelry using
a blowpipe and a charcoal block. I have made a blowpipe by using
brass tubing of various diameters and inserting one smaller size
inside the other. and producing a 90 degree curve in the end of
the pipe. With this I practiced blowing a stream of air through
the flame of an alcohol lamp. I used the type of lamp with the
faceted body as this helps to facilitate the proper position of
the flame to the work.

With blowpipe soldering I was only capable of making very small
connections primarily in what I would term scrollwork jewelry
(similar to filigree only I used square wire instead.) I had to
teach myself continuous breathing techniques as soldering
temperatures could not be reached with off and on flames. The
charcoal block provides a soldering surface that doen’t absorb
heat but rather holds it and reflects it back.

I felt that it has been benificial to me to have learned these
techniques with such simple and basic tools. At the time I did
not have a mini-torch and had only basic and minimal tools but I
found ways to design and fabricate intricate and beautiful pieces
of jewelry just as others have throughout the ages and still do
in many parts of the world.

Remember, where there is a will, there is a way and patience is
a virtue.

Kenneth Gastineau

Alan, I don’t Know if this will be helpful in your search for
blowpipe but some time ago, I happened to purchase a
very old out of print book called: “Metalcraft and Jewelry” by,
Emil F. Kronquist, The Manual Arts Press, Peoria Illinois.
copyright 1926. This book covers blowpipes, their use, and how
they are constructed, alchohol soldering lamps, gas burners for
soldering, and mouth blowpipes, as well as all of the other
common jewelry tools and techniques in use at that time.
Obviously this book would be difficult to find, but you might
try looking for it, and any other out-of-print, or used books,
(their specialty), at: Powells Bookstore, Hope this is of some help.

Lisa, (recovering from the plague…I mean the flu) Topanga, CA USA