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Soldering silver plate

I have a bud vase that my husband and I were given as a wedding
present many, many years ago. It is a very nice quality of plate, and
has unfortunately come apart between the base and the vase part. Can
I solder this back together with regular silver solder? Or should I
go with crazy glue or something similar? I love the little vase and
don’t want to give up on it!

Thanks in advance.

Beth Wicker
Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio

Hi Beth,

Forget about glue - I see many items where glue has been tried
before they come to me.

The solder used originally will likely be soft solder which was
plated over. Try scraping some of the remains of solder at the break
and see if it is soft or hard solder.

The vase can be repaired using either silver solder, or a lead-free
soft solder that is 97% tin. The tin solder will not tarnish and is a
close colour match to silver. The crucial points with silver plate
aRe: there is no leeway to do any cleaning up afterwards, and if lead
solder was previously used then it must be completely removed from
the broken joint.

To join using medium silver solder - make sure there are no other
joins where lead solder was used. Sometimes cast pewter
embellishments are used. If either are suspected then go to lead-free
soft solder. Medium silver solder is better than easy because it is
less likely to go wild and spread under the plating where it is
impossible to clean up, but easy silver solder can be used to sweat
with careful heating. Cover the whole item in borassic acid or a
proprietry coating. Set it up so that the parts will align perfectly
when the solder melts - with silver solder there may be only one
second chance. The parts can be wired, or propped up, and a
turntable is essential. Flux and solder. Pickle gently and clean up
with a brass brush and lubricant (I use bi-carb soda). If there are
any blisters in the plating the brass brush will compress them.
Polish with Silvo followed by a silver cloth.

To join using lead free soft solder - Same as above but no need for
the fire coating. Flux with ‘killed spirits’ aka ‘zinc chloride’ and
generously tin both surfaces with a soldering iron. Set it up, and
then gently heat the item until the solder sweats and there is a nice
meniscus. It is possible to make adjustments by remelting the solder
quite a few times, but watch where the heat is going so as not to
draw solder over the surface, soft solder will run wild over the
surface towards the hottest area. Clean up as above, but no need for
pickle, and bi-carb of soda is necessary to neutralize the flux.

Cheers, Alastair

Further to my previous reply, do identify the metal under the silver
plating. EPNS = electro plated nickel silver which can be silver
soldered; EPBM = electro plated base metal which is pewter and IS
soft solder!

If unsure then do the spike test; use a sharp spike and try to imbed
it in an inconspicuous place. If the spike digs in easily then it is
silver plated pewter. If the spike hardly penetrates at all then it
is silver plated nickel silver, brass or copper.

If the item is silver plated pewter then there are two methods of
joining. a) ues a soldering iron to fill around the seam spot by spot
with tin solder; and b) sweat carefully using an ultra-low melting
solder. I have some that melts at 110*C, containing bismuth and
melting just above the boiling point of water.

In a) the soldering iron should be very hot, it should stab into the
joint ‘in-and-out’ to leave a fused and filled spot. The first spot
will lock the parts together, then continue around to complete the
seam. The whole item never gets hot enough to melt anything other
than the spot being fused/filled and can be held in the hand for the
entire operation. I make various sizes and shapes of 'hatchet’
soldering irons for soldering pewter. They are heated very quickly in
the gas torch; and they erode quickly due to the high heat and need
frequent dressing with a file.