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Soldering Enormous Bezels


#1

Hi, all- I have recently received a custom order for a belt buckle
which is actually just an enormous bezel cup- a 2" by 3"
rectangular cab, with the edges trimmed flush, no silver showing on
the sides.

I am going nuts trying to solder this thing.

Thus far, here is what I have tried-

Soldering with a tripod- while this has served me well for soldering
even fairly substantial pieces in the past, this buckle is nearly
four times the size of my past work, and yes, the screen on the
tripod acts as a heat sink, keeping the piece from getting up to
temperature rapidly enough. Several of you on this list have carte
blanche to say “Told ya so!”

Placing the piece on two pieces of tufa, with just the edges on the
tufa, and heating from below. It caused the sheet (18g) to warp when
heated. Since success of the enterprise depends on a flat bezel
laying on a flat backing sheet, this was a major bummer. The results
of this experiment have been recycled into reticulation and casting
scrap.

An alternate strategy, suggested by a fellow silversmith, is to heat
the piece on a soldering pad (from the top) with the flame in the
middle of the sheet until the thing gets up to temperature, then
playing the flame around the outer edge of the bezel to flow the
solder. Her theory was that the soldering pad retains enough heat to
make this work. Viable?

I am open to other ideas. Any suggestions?

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry
http://www.dosmanosjewelry.com


#2

This is absolutely the way to solder this behemoth. I’ve done it
several times. Use a large tip and a big bushy flame. Heat the whole
piece, but don’t expect all the solder to flow at the same time.
Once the piece is hot, focus more in one area, and work your way
around the bezel as the solder flows. Just be careful not to put the
flame right on the bezel, or you’ll have one more piece for the
casting scrap.

Karen Hemmerle
Boulder, Colorado


#3

Lee, I told ya so! I have had great success using the wire mesh on
charcol blocks (or tufa or mag or whatever). What torch are you
using? I usually use my acetylene/air with a very large tip when
doing such projects. The secret in this case is torch and flame
control. Make sure you have an extra heavy layer of Prip’s flux on
the thing as there is going to be lots of heat needed. Don’t heat
the back plate too fast and, while you must get the entire plate hot,
don’t try to get the entire backplate up to full solder heat at once

  • only work on one section at a time. Be sure the solder is well
    drenched in Batterns or what ever self pickeling flux to preclude it
    from oxidizing. I have done very large and heavy belt buckles this
    way with no problems. Some I have to heat 4 or 5 times to sweat
    solder on various layers.

Good luck and cheers, Don at the Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where
simple elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut2


#4

Hello Lee; My first thought on this was to suggest soldering in a
burnout oven. Put a flat brick in the oven and take it up to temp.
Then, place the bezel, flux, and place solder chips or use paste
solder. Pre-heat with a torch till the flux settles down to a glaze
so the bezel doesn’t lift out of place. Put it in the oven and keep
a close eye on it till it’s soldered. But another thought occured to
me. Could you, instead of soldering a bezel on it, use a larger
square, notch the corners and fold up the sides, then solder the
seams on the corners? It’ll be interesting to see how this works
out. If it weren’t silver, I’d suggest a laser.

David L. Huffman


#5

Hi Lee,

  An alternate strategy, suggested by a fellow silversmith, is to
heat the piece on a soldering pad (from the top) with the flame in
the middle of the sheet until the thing gets up to temperature,
then playing the flame around the outer edge of the bezel to flow
the solder. Her theory was that the soldering pad retains enough
heat to make this work. Viable? 

Yes, but… I advise soldering on a charcoal or magnesia block,
either of which will heat up and help keep the sheet at the necessary
temperature. Most other soldering surfaces will not do this; they are
designed to stay relatively cool.

Secondly, you need a big, hot flame so use a large torch tip. And
rather than focusing the heat in the very middle of the sheet (if
that’s what she meant), play it around the inside of the bezel and
then, when the flux starts to glaze, quickly move the flame to the
outside of the bezel. Continue to move the flame briskly around and
around the outside and, if necessary, back into the center and out
again. By the way, be sure to lift the flame up (briefly) as you
move from interior to exterior so you don’t risk melting the bezel
when you pass the flame over it.

Finally, if the sheet insists on warping, you will have to use
binding wire or other means of keeping the bezel in contact with the
sheet. But if you use a sufficiently large, hot flame and heat
evenly and quickly, it shouldn’t be necessary; the sheet tends to
warp more when it is heated unevenly. Good luck!

Beth


#6

Lee, I have done a few that size and larger. I used the tripod and
heavy wire screen. I use iron binding wire to gently hold the bezel
down to the flat plate. Use a lot of paste flux. Then position all
of the solder chips and warm up to evaporate off the water.
Reposition chips as necessary. The trick is to use two torches
(Smith or Prestolite type) with large tips, #s 4, 5, or 6. Set for a
large soft flame. You may need to back off the regulator a bit. On
with one torch under the wire set a little stronger and one on top
set softer, I bring the whole piece up to temp evenly. This really
helps keep that large sheet from buckling as it expands. It is just
like rubbing your head and tummy at the same time. You want to do
this with a lot of people watch as it greatly enhances you image as
master miracle worker. In the really massive cases you can bring in
a helper to hold one torch. It is also possible but not recommended
to hold one torch under with one hand and two torches in the upper
hand. This is for those really desperate, now jobs and you are
alone. Also consider kiln soldering. Works but not as exciting.

Bill


#7

hello Lee- does the back have to be a solid sheet ? - i.e. could you
make it with a couple of flat bars across the bezel instead. This
should make it easier to solder. if the back does have to be closed
in, you could rivet the bars to a backing sheet - good luck,
Christine


#8

Lee, Try setting the piece on a “U” shaped arrangement of charcoal
blocks. The charcoal helps to contain the heat under the piece and
three of the four sides of the piece are supported. Joel Schwalb
@Joel_Schwalb www.schwalbstudio.com


#9

Lee - Have you tried using two torches?

Also it has been helpful for me to build a little “Kiln” of charcoal
bricks surrounding and under the piece to be soldered. This tends to
retain the heat and help with bigger pieces.

I hope this helps.

Debby


#10

Hi Lee, …my dos centimos… I don’t know whether this will be
useful, but what I do for large bezels is: Put soldering pad onto a
rotatable solder pad holder…bend up 3 or 4 quarter inch width
strips of thin silver sheet into semi or 3 quarter circles, like
you’re making a band ring but not completing the full circle…I use
offcuts of pattern strip like they sell in Rio Grande,and position
them in a triangle or quad configuration on the solder sheet.Then
rest the piece to be soldered onto these “feet”,and start heating
from the side and below,rotating the soldering pad on the
turntable,so the heat is spread evenly on the under surface of the
piece…which has been fluxed and prepared for soldering of course
:-)),when the sheet starts to glow a good color move the torch to the
upper surface and play it over the whole, rotating the sheet as
before…til the solder runs…keep a good eye on the joint and
lightly press down any section that doesn’t want to mate with solder
pick or tweezers etc.

The thin vertical section of the “feet” won’t act as a heatsink
while the bent form of the feet will give strong support to the
piece. Hopefully it’s own weight and the supports will prevent the
buckling ,but maybe that’s a result of an over-fierce flame…if the
piece buckles in the centre just add another support ring below so
that the heat stresses are evened out more.Keep the piece rotating to
make sure that no one area gets hot too quickly…and good luck…
Steve Holden www.platayflores.com


#11
      An alternate strategy, suggested by a fellow silversmith, is
to heat the piece on a soldering pad (from the top) with the flame
in the playing the flame around the outer edge of the bezel to flow
the solder. Her theory was that the soldering pad retains enough
heat to make this work. Viable? 

yes. viable. important to use the largest torch tip you’ve got,
preferably with an air/fuel torch, not oxy/fuel. A prestolite or
smith air/acetylene type is perfect, using a large tip. that big
soft flame will let you heat the whole thing. If you’ve got a
charcoal block big enough, that will be better than standard
soldering pads, as it reflects heat better. Often what I’ll do is
use a large charcoal block, and lay down a bunch of pieces of coat
hanger wire, or something similar (large cotter pins are good),
spaced about 1/4 inch apart, parallel. The silver goes on top. Now
the torch flame can be directed not just at the top, but also circled
around the piece just outside the edge, with the flame then being able
to travel between those pins under the piece. On charcoal this works
especially well to help heat things evenly.

if you have trouble with the backing sheet warping, use a
planishing hammer very lightly in the center portion of the sheet,
supported on a flat steel surface, before soldering it. This will
very slightly dome the sheet. it should be only barely perceptible,
perhaps only when held against a straight edge. When domed, thermal
expansion is then controlled in the direction the metal can move, and
simply changes the curve of the dome, instead of letting the sheet
twist. So your soldering can still occur, and the sheet will relax
back down again as it cools. if it’s still domed more than you can
tolerate, a mallet with the work on a flat surface, or your
planishing hammer again, used judiciously (very lightly), can also
again flatten it a bit again, but likely, you won’t need to do this.
This is a trick I learned trying to put boxes together, with sizes
probably a bit larger even than your buckle. it works.

Peter


#12

Hi Lee,

I have recently received a custom order for a belt buckle which is
actually just an enormous bezel cup- a 2" by 3" rectangular cab,
with the edges trimmed flush, no silver showing on the sides. 

You might consider soldering it in a kiln. Put everything in place,
then turn the kiln up to just a little above soldering temp. If
there is more than one soldering operation, you might have to start
with hard solder & progress to lower temp solder(s).

Dave


#13

Hi, Lee,As it happens, I have worked out this very problem. What
works best for me is to use an “ultralight” kiln, also called a
trinket kiln-- one of those that looks like a firebrick frying pan–
to heat the piece from below, and just use the torch to draw the
solder around. Watch out, it is possible to melt the whole thing, but
not too likely. If you don’t have the kiln, you might try a hotplate
with a steel plate on it, but I haven’t done that. The kilns cost
maybe $130, but are quite useful. For me, this kept me from turning
myself bald with frustration. I hope it works as well for you.

–No=EBl


#14

I make some fairly large bezel settings for my large dichroic glass
cabs, although none quite as large as you describe. When I’m
soldering something that big, I always do it on one of the soldering
pads from Rio, and I solder it in sections, 1/4 to 1/2 of the bezel
at a time, rather than trying to solder the whole thing all in one
soldering operation. It’s hard to get a piece that big hot all at
once so that the solder will flow all the way around. I keep the
flame on one side of the piece until it flows. Then pickle and
solder another side.

Hope this works for you.

Geri Comstock
Comstock Art Glass


#15

Hello Lee, Yes, the heat sink of the tripod and screen is a drag.

An alternate strategy, suggested by a fellow silversmith, is to heat
the piece on a soldering pad (from the top) with the flame in the
middle of the sheet until the thing gets up to temperature, then
playing the flame around the outer edge of the bezel to flow the
solder. Her theory was that the soldering pad retains enough heat to
make this work. Viable?"

This probably won’t work well since the top edges of the bezel would
get too much heat while the backing was getting up to temp. I’ve had
success in the past with large silver pieces using the following
setup.

Take a spinnable annealing pan and put a soldering pad on top. Add
two short “pillars” of porous firebrick at either end of a piece of
screen big enough for the project. Get the project about 2-3" off the
solder board surface. That gives you room to heat from below if
needed. (Protecting the much smaller bezel stock from melting.)

Use two torches (help of another pair of hands can be great!!!) One
with a large bushy flame to do general heating, and one with a
smaller flame to heat the joint area. Add solder chips inside the
bezel on the backing piece or use the stick feed method from inside.
Pre-heat the whole piece with the large torch. While maintaining
that, use the smaller torch to direct heat on the seam. Keep it
moving in decreasing size circles as the area gets ready to join.
Spin on the annealing pan as needed.

Another option would be to do some really great pierced pattern in
the backing sheet thereby reducing the sheet metal area. Could be a
design element that is a fun “secret” for the owner.

Hope it helps!
Amy


#16

Hi Lee, Try soldering on charcoal. That should do the trick. The
charcoal soaks up the heat, glows and radiates it back; like a second
torch.

Good luck, Andy Cooperman


#17

Lee, My suggestion is that you try paste solder. It is especially
great for large soldering jobs. You can bring your piece to proper
temperature and then as you work the flame from the initial point of
solder flow, you can nudge the solder along the area to be joined by
directing the heat to the area that you want the solder to flow. As
you move your heat around, the solder flow will follow the heat and
flow at the area just behind where you are soldering. Of course, you
must be at the proper temperature for the solder you are using.
Paste solder is applied all around the “bezel” on the inside and
just barely touching the base sheet. There will be a slight flare
up of the organic binder as the piece is being brought to
temperature. Keep working and applying heat! Watch it flow and
solder bezel to base. You can solder the belt buckle on a piece of
charcoal as this will help to keep the heat in the piece. The flux
is all self contained in the paste solder and my solder has a
totally nondrying formula, so if you do not use it in a short amount
of time, it will not dry out while sitting on the bench. I have a
syringe which has been sitting on my bench for 3 1/2 years as a
test. Every so often, I use a small amount to test the viability of
the solder, such as using it on an earring post or whatever other
item I am working on. It is still as wonderful as the day I put on
the first needle. I do not cap or cover the syringe needle, just
let it sit on the bench as a test. One thing that I will add at
this point, if you have to add extra solder to the object to be
soldered, it is important that you do not let heat get to the solder
in the needle or it will clog up as the heat starts to activate the
solder. Please visit my web site to get free on
handling paste and powder solder. If you have any additional
soldering questions, please feel free to contact me. Beth Katz Unique
Solutions, Inc. www.myuniquesolutions.com


#18

Hi, Lee, When I studied soldering with Chris Hentz, he has us use two
oxy-acetylene torches when soldering large pieces–one is used just
to keep the piece at temperature and counteract the heat sink of the
tripod. Of course, he held the second one–but holding it isn’t
rocket science, so you might only need a friend who isn’t afraid of
fire.

Lisa Orlando
Aphrodite’s Ornaments
Benicia, CA


#19

Lee, how about trying a kiln assisted soldering job? When I do
granulation, I use a small table top kiln with the lid off and then
pass the torch over the top. You could use small right angles of
scrap copper or silver as supports, raising the belt buckle bezel
enough to get the torch under. If you set the kiln on a soldering
pad on top of a lazy susan turner, you could just move the whole
apparatus in a circle and keep your torch in one place. Donna in VA


#20

You could try using a charcoal block because the charcoal with hold
and distibute the theat in an ambient nature but I think your best
bet is to get a very large torch head and use a medium fluffy flame
so the piece has time to work itself up to temp. Or you could get a
friend involved and get two torches on it one from the top and one on
the bottom. These ar some of the ways I have dealt with large pieces
in the past. And an extreme measure is if you have a kiln, heat it
up in the kiln and when it close to the solder temp pull it out and
use the torch to finish the job ( this one is excessive).-T