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Soldering sterling silver

Hi, I’m new here and to the craft, I’m having a horrible time getting
my solder to flow, please someone help me with this before I toss
all this in the trash and give up. I use a small pencil type butane
torce, I’ve used the lowest flame to the highest flame and
everything inbetween. I made some Pripps Flux (boiled it for 15
minutes and it still has crystals) I’ve used a liquid flux (that
says it’s for silver and other metals) with at sable brush, soft
solder. I’ve tried so many times with no good results. I’ve pickeled
the pieces, brushed them went so far as to wearing rubber gloves to
handle the pieces before I began to try to solder. What is your
favorite flux? What process works best?

TYIA (thank you in advance)

Sonya, Your question is a persistant one and has been treated many
times in Orchid. I suggest you check the archives for further

That being said, I believe your first problem is probably your
torch. I don’t know how large the piece(s) is you are trying to
solder but small pencil type butane torches are only good for
emergency work on small uncomplicated jobs such as a simple sizing,
repairing a prong or prong tip, maybe soldering a bezel ring
together. But if there is any mass to the piece at all, such as
soldering a bezel onto a back plate etc, the pencil torch will not
cut it. I suggest, if you cannot afford a larger propane/02 or
acetylene rig, purchase a plumbers propane torch and learn to
control the flame. These will handle even fairley large jobs…but
often are too much for the smaller ones described above.

One more word of advise…don’t give up and toss it into the trash.
Stick with it and work out the problems.

Your proceses sounds pretty close but the torch is probably the
problem. Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where
simple elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut2

Sonya, although you did not say what size things you are trying to
solder, you are probably not getting the metal hot enough. You are
using a small torch and although the flame may be hot, it is still
very small. Silver conducts heat extremely well and the whole piece
needs to be up to temperature before solder will flow. A large soft
flame will work better. Since you are just starting out, try a
propane torch from a hardware store. It’s awkward to handle but I
have seen some great things made using it. I use an air / acetylene
torch called PrestoLite as do many other silver workers.

Good luck and don’t give up yet. It would all be a lot easier for
you if you could find a class.


Sonya, Does the solder melt into a lump that doesn’t flow well? Or
does it stay the same shape, refusing to melt at all?

Sometimes I would have a paillon of solder that just sat there and
refuse to melt, let alone flow. Perhaps I was too cautious with the
torch; I stopped heating when the underlying silver turned an
alarming shade of red.

Bill at Earthspeak recommended pick soldering, in which you flux
just enough solder for one join, melt it, and touch a soldering pick
to it. The molten ball of solder will stick to the pick. Heat the
piece and when it approaches soldering temperature, touch the ball
of solder to the join. It will immediately transfer off of the pick
and flow into the join.

Ever since I’ve followed Bill’s method, there’s been no problem with
solder refusing to flow into the join. It’s as though the solder
needs to be taught how to melt!

As for flux, Peter Rowe wrote, “My own preference is still for the
white paste fluxes. Our local supplier (C.R.Hills, Detroit) sells a
dry powdered version of this flux [“99 Flux”] which I find very
convenient- just add water. I only mix up about a thimbleful at a
time in a shot glass, which lasts for the day’s work. That way I
always have nice creamy CLEAN flux to use instead of the other
brands where the whole jar gets lumpy and dried out and full of bits
of this and that. Keeping the flux clean is a part of keeping the
joints clean and getting good seams.”

I use 99 Flux powder and can send you some if you contact me
off-list. You may not like the pungent odor it gives off, which is
probably toxic and requires using forced ventilation. Some jewelers
don’t like paste flux because it starts out opaque, obscuring the
area to be soldered. But it melts and becomes clear as it approaches
soldering temperature, so it works well with pick soldering. Just
apply the solder when the flux melts.


I’m quite sure that all that is happening is that the flame you are
using is not large enough to make the whole piece reach the
temperature required for the solder to flow.

Once you’ve seen someone do it the task is ridiculously simple - but
trying to do it from just reading is really difficult.

I’m sure there is someone near you who can let you see it happen!

Don’t give up!
Tony Konrath
Key West Florida 33040

I am also very new to soldering sterling, but have had some good
results this weekend. I use borax as my flux and my solder is
finesilver + brass. I pickle the sterling object, add some flux, add
a piece of solder then place it on a charcoal pad (or other soldering
pad). If you hold the piece in pliers, put it on a fire brick or hold
it in a vice, good results seem hard to achieve. This is due to the
heat transfered from the sterling into the fire brick/pliers. On a
soldering pad, solder seems to flow well with very little heat. Are
you ending up with a pile of goo? I have melted many items, and find
a “brushing” type motion with the torch helps raise the temp of the
object/joint more slowly. I place my solder on the joint before
heating. Make sure it melts in the joint. If when you start heating
it melts into a ball beside the joint, I found it best to stop, and
move the solder back to the joint, or I eneded up with a pile of
solder beside the joint, regardless of amount of flux used. Some use
a solder pick to move the solder once it’s melted. I’m sure this is a
better method, but have not tried it yest. As I mentioned before, I
am new to soldering, in fact I spent this weekend practicing, and
made a number of simple bands and soldering jump rings. I look
forward to reading other sugestions on this subject. Good luck and
don’t give up, practice makes perfect.

Brian Barrett

Sonya, I agree with the responses to your question: Get a proper
soldering surface and a bigger torch. And I really recommend the
Pro Torch line from Solder-It, especially this one:

This torch uses butane, not propane. It’s easy to hold, the flame is
adjustable, and it has a built-in ignition–conveniences that most
propane torches don’t have. I got mine for $33 from


That looks like a pretty small torch. What size articles are you
able to solder with it?

Marilyn Smith

Thanks to all of you that have repiled to my call for help. Things
are working better. A new bigger torch is a must, although my littel
one is working for the the chain links now that I’m not rushing
things and got a better soldering surface. – Thanks again Sonya

    That looks like a pretty small torch. 

True; I should have mentioned that it is a torch for beginners like
me whose projects don’t require a professional torch.

"When the only demand on the torch is soldering small items, then
most of the hand-held, self-starting torches like the Micro-Jet
MJ-300 ($20) and the Blazer Butane Microtorch ($56) will do the job.
These inexpensive mini and micro single-gas torches produce a
pinpoint 2500=B0F flame powered by readily available butane.

"More heat is produced by the Microflame=AE torch, which uses butane,
and Micronox=AE and MINIFLAM’s MICROTORCH ($35). Both produce pinpoint
5000=B0F flames capable of brazing and soldering. The MICROTORCH is
described as being like laser technology without the price.

“Pencil torches are portable and lightweight, however, their low
2000=B0F heat limits their applications to melting solder. There are
many on the market ranging from $9.95 to


Last week I cut-and-paste part of an article from Lapidary Journal.
One part didn’t make much sense until I realized that they misplaced
a comma. It should read:

“More heat is produced by the Microflame=AE torch, which uses butane
and Micronox=AE, and MINIFLAM’s MICROTORCH ($35).”

The Microflame torch requires both butane and nitrous oxide.
Micronox is their brand name for nitrous oxide. The company was
acquired last year by Azure Moon Trading.

The Miniflam torch uses a proprietary butane-propane mix that is
only sold by mail-order.