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.