Soldering nickel silver to brass or sterling silver

I have been soldering nickel silver, to either brass or sterling
silver. I have been having such a hard time. Sometimes the pieces
come apart and sometimes they solder fine. Also, at times the solder
balls up and wont flow. I know that the temp. is hot enough. I have
tried all different types of solder, from easy flow to hard, even
plumber’s solder. I am begiining to work in metals again after a 5
year hiatus, so I feel like a newbee. I had only worked with it as
an infrequent hobby for a few years previously. Any help on why the
solder is not flowing would be appreciated. Thanks in
advance. Ellie

Ellie, Didn’t notice any mention of flux in your post. What kind are
you using? Are you absolutely sure the areas to be soldered are as
clean as you can get them? Insufficient, old or the wrong type of
flux, and not meticulously cleaning prior to soldering are two of the
most common reasons I have soldering problems – especially with
dissimilar metals.

Warm Regards,

Hello Ellie, Lets try 2 simple things. First, are you using flux from
5 years ago? Sometimes flux gets contaminated and will actually
hinder solder flow. The second question, are you heating the piece
of metal to melt the solder or are you heating the solder to melt?
Remember that the metal has to be the one that melts the solder. If
you heat the small chips of solder the larger pieces will not be hot
enough to have the solder flow or join them.

Good luck
Steve Ramsdell

Hi Ellie, There’s a little book I recommend for soldering problems.
It also has a lot of that will prove helpful as you move
back into jewelry making. The book is The Jeweler’s Bench Reference.
When I bought mine in '93 it was in its 10th printing. (ISBN:

Hope this helps.

If your solder won’t melt or if it balls up without flowing, check to
see if it is clean.If it has a coating of grease or dirt, it needs to
be washed (I use a detergent and ammonia solution followed by a clear
water rinse), You may need to clean your workpiece as well.Are you
using the correct soldering technique for the size and gauge of metals
you are joining? (Try Tim McCreight’s The Complete
Metalsmith" for soldering help) I have had good luck using IT solder to join disparate metals. Dee

Well, as you know, make sure your metal is very clean, and it fits
together well, no gaps. Remember Solder will not fill gaps. The
two peices must be heated evenly. The entire peice must be up to
temp. Not just the small portion where the silder seam will be. And
of course that it is evenly covered with flux.

Sometimes it is just the luck of the draw wether solder will chose to
flow or not.

I personally wouldn’t even bother using plumbers solder, you should
be able to use Hard, Meduim, and Easy Solder, when doing marriage of

Good luck… Remember Practice Makes Perfect


Nickle oxidizes to form a pretty impenetrable layer of oxide. I’m
sure the chemists among us will explain in greater depth :slight_smile: Anyway,
if you are using a self pickling/flouride type liquid flux, like that
radioactive-green stuff, that may be your problem. Clean the metals
thoroughly, then coat with Pripp’s flux (look in the Orchid archives
for formulas) and gently heat that to seal the surface. Just barely
starting to glaze onto the surface. Let it cool down. Then use a
paste type flux, like the “handy flux” sold by most supply sources
like Rio and the like. This stuff is thick, so you can dilute it
with water a bit. If the nickle oxidizes, the only choice you have
from there is mechanical (abrasive) removal of the oxide layer. It
can be done! Have fun!

David L. Huffman

Thanks to all who have helped with their suggestions. I think that
the problem is the fact that I wpras probably impatient and applied
heat towards or on the solder rather than the metal.

Hello Ellie, Everything must be perfectly clean in order to solder
nickle silver to either brass or sterling silver. Also, the metals
begin to discolor the moment you start to heat them. This
discoloration will cause the solder to ball up and refuse to flow. A
heavy coating of flux will delay the formation of this dicoloration
long enough to do a certain amount of soldering. When the solder stops
flowing, stop trying. Just clean the piece by pickling it out and then
you are ready to start again. Have fun and welcome back. Tom Arnold