Soldering reticulation silver

Thank you to all who responded to my question about the pendant. I
truly appreciate. I solved the problem of the rod in the meantime
(the ‘stem’ for the ‘leaf’), but now I’m working on the ‘vase’. This
part of the piece will be in reticulated silver and Keum Boo. I
reticulated the silver today and it went well (I use a small piece of
sterling (2x2"), heated it 8 times and put nails under it for the
final round - a tip from Codina). The problem is that it seems
impossible to solder. What can I do to solder the reticulated piece
to two silver rods? This is only an exercise. For the real piece,
the reticulated sheet has to be soldered to gold. Could someone
please give me a couple of tips? I don’t want to use rivets. All the best, Will


There are two qualities of reticulated sterling that can be causing
your problem.

The first is that the process of heating, pickling, and scrubbing
creates a thin skin on both sides of the alloy that is porous where
the copper has been removed and the fine silver remains. This is an
unbelievable sponge for solder. It will suck up enormous quantities
of solder, leaving little or none to establish your joint. The most
straightforward way to address this is to thoroughly burnish the
reticulated metal in the area where you want the joint to be – this
doesn’t mean “polish”, it means “burnish”, the creation of a smooth,
hardened surface by rubbing it very vigorously with a polished steel
tool. If the area is tucked in between folds and pleats in the
reticulation surface, this can be tricky. It’s a good use for all
those old broken flex shaft bur shanks; with a little tweaking and
a shine they make terrific tiny burnishers. By rubbing [or
planishing or pounding, in this case on a very small scale] you are
collapsing the spongy part of the surface back to a more solid
condition, and your solder attempts will definitely be more
successful. [Folks who have soldered PMC will tell you how nice it
is to have a solid surface under your joint.]

The second impediment to soldering can be the very thing that makes
reticulation possible in the first place – the heavy layer of
oxidized metal [the dreaded Firescale] just below the surface of the
silver. This layer will not melt and it will not accept solder.
Fortunately, you are joining rods and this means it is relatively
easy to carve a seat for the rod directly into the reticulated
metal. You don’t have to go all the way through – you just have to
get down to the original metal sandwiched between two layers of
oxide and fine silver. You can apply the solder to the end of the
rod, then heat the reticulation piece carefully until the solder
flows from the rod to the sheet. You should be able to use medium
solder if you have a bit of experience with the torch; otherwise you
might consider easy.

good luck,

Will, are you trying to solder a round object to a flat object? It
so, you do not have much contact between the two. Also, if the
reticulated surface is extreme, it may not have many contact points.
Remember that silver solder does not fill gaps. You need to have good
surface contact. It would probably help if you examined the fit under
some good magnification. You also may not be heating the larger piece
enough. Is the solder melting at all? If so, is it on the smaller or
larger piece.

Marilyn Smith

Anne is right-on about reticulated silver soaking up solder and it’s
necessary to burnish the edges, or to go to the original sterling
core. A good burnisher for doing this was a tip by Charles
Lewton-Brain. Remove the striker wheel from a used up lighter and
mount it on a screw in mandrel. The little nubbies do an excellent
and quick job for this application.