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Soldering long thin lines

Several times lately I have made earrings or pendants separated
on the surface by half round or round wire. I have leaned the
little solder chips on the side edges of the long piece as
described in several books I own, and when finished soldering
there are always remnants of the solder chips present, which
makes cleanup tedious. Am I not heating long enough? Is there a
different method you might recommend? If using a wide piece of
half round I know I can sweat solder, but with the round 20Ga
for example, I am not happy with the result. Any suggestions??

Thanks once again for your help.

Sue Danehy, in unseasonably warm northern New York State

One thing you might try is to buy the wire form of solder
instead of sheet form. The wire can be drawn down (be sure, when
you anneal the wire for drawing, that you don’t exceed it’s
melting point. Stay a good hundred degrees under it, with a
kiln, and you can anneal the solder wire nicely for drawing.) to
quite fine size. Then, instead of leaning chips of sheet solder
against the wire you’re soldering down, you can lay little
quarter inch long lengths of very fine solder wire down in the
seam. if the solder is drawn fine enough, it won’t touch the
silver other than pretty close to where it is supposed to end up
anyway, thus reducing the extent of the scar. Use of a good
paste type flux will also help the solder flow most completely,
so the scar isn’t any thicker than the surrounding area, only a
bit discolored. Remember that these paste fluxes, if overheated,
can actually increase the degree of fire scale in their
vicinity, so be sure not to use more than needed.

Another trick that may help regards cleanup, rather than
avoidance. Take a fine grade of rubber wheel, something soft yet
capable of leaving a nice fine surface that will need nothing
much more than rouge to polish. Dress the edge to a knife edge
if needed, or otherwise to a shape that can reach the top of the
soldered on wire cleanly all over. Now take a small diamond
burr or drill, the same size as you silver wire, or slightly
smaller, and shape a small groove in the edge of that rubber
wheel, to match the silver wires cross section. Now, you can run
that rubber wheel over the wire without flattening it, yet it
will clean up most of the solder scar, while still leaving a nice
clean piece of wire. This takes a gentle touch, and suitably
soft and flexible rubber wheels, or you can quickly do damage,
but when done gently, it is very fast and effective at cleaning
up excess solder on wires (or wire like things, such as

Hope this helps.

Peter Rowe

Michael: I would suggest you purchase an Optivisor(magnifier) of
5X and check your lighting. It would appear that you’re having
trouble seeing your work clearly. If there is unmelted solder,
you’re not finishing the job. Clearly, more heat or more time is

Best wishes;
Steve Klepinger

Hi Susan,

have you tried leaving a quarter inch or so of the wire you will
be soldering protruding from the pendant (sheet ) and flowing
the solder onto this protrusion and flow it up onto the sheet?
This way any solder ghosts will be on the wire you will cut off.
This only works if you wire is touching the edge of the sheet,
otherwise try using smaller paillons and more of them; this way
you also avoid large ghosts. You can also try fusing the wire
onto the sheet like granulators do when granulating granules in
greenland on groundhog day

Good luck, Slone

Sue, this is method is a pain, but it works. It’s labor
intensive, but a little goes a long way. When you absolutely
must have an invisible solder line, this is worth the effort.

Make a solder slug from the type of solder you want. It has to
be long enough and thick enough to hold onto comfortably while
filing. In a pinch, or you just need a teensy bit, you can file
from sheet or wire solder. Scrape the solder slug across a
bastard mill file. When you have a pile of filings, run a magnet
through the filings to remove any iron from the file. If the wire
you need to solder on is small, just dip the one side which will
be soldered to the metal in thinned out liquid flux (like
Battern’s), then dip into the solder filings. Wire to your metal
it will be soldered to prevent slipping. Heat up to flow
temperature at the contact point, and presto! a neat little
solder join.

Another way to do this is to paint thinned out liquid flux on
the main sheet, sprinkle the filings onto the metal. Now pick up
the metal and tap sharply against a hard surface. The filings
fall off where it’s dry, but remain where you’ve put your flux.
This is nice for those really delicate sweat jobs. You’ll find
you reach flow temp. much quicker with only small particles of
solder vs. large chips, so be aware, watch for an almost
imperceptible “flash” so you don’t overheat.

Hope it helps, K.P. in Wyoming

Sue: one solution you might try is to first melt very small
pieces of solder on a charcoal block and then place the round
balls of solder against the wire. In that way you will minimize
the clean-up of excess solder. Hope this helps. JZ

Hello Sue,

On soldering long pieces of wire to sheet, I have had the best
luck by actually melting very small pieces of solder on the wire
shape after flattening it out a tiny bit on a file or sandpaper.
I then flux it again and put it on the sheet surface and heat to
melt the solder a second time.

I have heard recently that each time you melt solder it takes a
little higher temperature to melt it, but am unsure of this and
find no practical problems with this technique. I also find less
cleanup is entailed. I do this with copper,gold and silver wire
on silver sheet. Most of the wire I use is larger than 20 gauge,
but it might be worth a try for you.

Jima & Carlie Abbott /N. Calif/ @jica
check out our work on the web at:

   I have heard recently that each time you melt solder it
takes a little higher temperature to melt it, but am unsure of
this and .... 

I hear that this was true of the old formula solders which
contained Cadmium, but was no longer true of today’s formulas.
Does anyone know more about this?

Lorri Ferguson

  I hear that this was true of the old formula solders which
contained Cadmium, but was no longer true of today's formulas.
Does anyone know more about this? 

Depends on what metal you’re soldering, and how much hotter than
it’s melting point you heat it. The key is that when you melt
silver solder onto silver, or gold solder onto gold, etc, as the
solder heats beyond it’s melting point, it starts to both diffuse
into the parent metal and dissolve a bit of it, if the
combination of some solder and some parent metal then melts
below the melting point of that parent metal. what it wants to
do is dissolve enough of the parent metal that the resulting
alloy now has a melting point equal to the current temp, thus
reaching an equalibrium. solders are actually formulated to do
this intentionally, as it promotes solder flowing along a seam.
Some gold solders intended for repair are intentionally
formulated so they DON"T do this (The solder is formulated so
that adding the parent metal to it results in an increased
melting point to the parent metal), to be used as "build up"
solders, and these tend to flow in a sludgy manner, not flowing
out on the metal much. This does take some time, so if you’re
melting only briefly, the effect won’t be as much. And if you
melt the solder onto a metal not appreciably soluable in the
solder at those temps, such as using silver solder to solder
steel, or gold solders to bond platinum, then the effect is
minimal, reduced to only the vaporization of the more volatile
portions of the solder (the zinc).

Peter Rowe