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Soldering Problems


#1

Hi Friends,

A couple of soldering related postings this morning have mentioned
the use of non-silver solders (i.e. lead/tin soft solders). While it
might be possible to get away with this for a short while in jewelry,
it will eventually come back to bite you. I feel there are a couple
problems using it in jewelry work:

  1. It isn’t a hard solder. Its little more than putting glue on. The
    temperature is so low, the grain structure of the metal doesn’t open
    up to accept the solder, so it just “globs” on the surface. This
    might be okay for non-jewelry related work , but jewelry is often
    subjected to more stress and the solder joint(s) may fail. If and
    when you have to re-repair the joint, you will have a terrible time
    getting the contaminating solder cleaned up.

  2. The solder is actually corrosive to silver at “normal” easy
    soldering temperatures. It will literally eat the silver away if it
    is heated too high at some later time… like on a subsequent
    repair.

I learned this the hard way, when I was first starting out. This was
during my trial and error (mostly error) period. I didn’t have any
mentors or an awesome resource like Orchid to advise me. If you find
yourself backed into a corner where you are seriously considering
using soft solder for jewelry work, I’d suggest using epoxy
instead… at least its not corrosive to the metal and can be removed
later with solvent, if needed. The holding power might even be better
than soft solder.

P.S. I like all the cold connection suggestions made to John about
his buckle dilemma. That thought hadn’t occurred to me, and it just
goes to illustrate all the wonderful people we have participating in
this community!

All the best,

Dave

Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)
dave@sebaste.com


#2

Dave,

We sell large quantities of Bali made sterling retail. If a customer
is allergic to sterling posts I can use Stay Brite A to solder hypo
allergenic (stainless steel) findings. Heating near where the post
will be attched until the solder flows, with a small bushy flame will
get the solder flow to not be globby when stay brite flux is used. I
have probably done a thousand solders of earrings, occasionally
bracelet repairs when I could not remove stones due to the expense
involved.

A customer buys a pair of earring for $20 bucks, they will pay $6 for
a soft solder if they really like them. They won’t pay to have the
stone removed and reset and a new bezel which will cost as much as
the earrings cost. Tell the customer to toss them, or compromise?

Customers are advised that I am not responsible if something happens
to the stone or the piece and not to put undue stress, don’t put it
in a pocket or purse and allow it to get mashed. I can also change
post earrings to wires by soldering a small loop on the top of the
earring, I actually solder the front surface of the bottom of the
jump ring to the back surface of the earring to provide max contact.
I would never use low temp on gold unless there is no way to fix it
the right way.

Most customer have no way of subjecting their jewelry to temperatures
of 200 degrees. I tell them it will hold unless you drive over it
with your car.

A bad solder joint in any metal will fail. I have had less problems
with comebacks with soft solder than with hard. Sometimes with Bali
work, the solder flows and looks like a good attachment, when it
breaks, I can see that the solder flowed around the outside edges
where the jumpring attaches, but not underneath. Since I cannot x-ray
every piece I make or buy, theoretically if it held together through
stone setting and polishing, I assume it to have a good joint.

There is being technically right, and sometimes we have to be
practical. If a customer had an inlay piece that I could not remove
all the inlay to hard solder, I can soft solder it and know that it
will hold fine.

Glue, (chemical bonding) is nowhere as permanent as soft soldering,
no way, no how, not now, not ever.

Richard in Denver