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Soldering tube settings together


#1

Hi folks,

I made a pendant the other day for a friend of mine. It is made by
soldering together seven tube settings. I make my own tube settings
and bearers. My problem is that whilst some of the joints work
smoothly and to plan, some of them just won’t solder to my
satisfaction and don’t quite flow properly to make a strong joint.
They just sort of go to the mush stage and thus can be easily pulled
apart, requiring me to clean up and resolder until I get it right.

Is there are tried and trusted technique to this? I have tried doing
it using a solder pick (which is how I do most soldering) but
haven’t had much success as the settings move out of position (they
were arranged in a sort of sinusoidal manner) and also if they are
round settings I can’t get the tip of the solder pick with the solder
on it, into the tight space. I have also tried setting the two pieces
up after fluxing, in such a way that there is a piece of solder
wedged between them and then when I see the solder start to flow, I
can push the settings closer together. Sometimes this works but
sometimes as I say it just “mushes” creating a bad joint. The reason
I have wedged the solder in between the settings, is to avoid the two
surfaces oxidising whilst being heated.

I know that I will probably get quite a few answers telling me to
make sure the joint is perfectly clean and tight, etc, BUT I can
assure you that everything is perfectly cleaned up to the point of
being bright white. If a joint has failed and needs doing again, I
file and pickle to remove any traces of solder and oxidation.
Incidentally, I use hard solder for almost every joint, only using
medium to do things like soldering a bale onto a pendant. Don’t know
if this makes any difference.

Does anybody who does a lot of tube setting work have a tried and
trusted method for soldering them together? Thanks in advance.

Helen Hill


#2

Hi Helen,

but haven't had much success as the settings move out of position 

It sounds as though you are trying to solder the settings without
securing them together first, so the problem may be that the joints
are not close enough together when the solder flows… For what you
are trying to achieve, you should set the tubes in plaster of paris
first… push the tube back ends into plasticene or wax in the
positions you want them to be, make a little cardboard box around
this and fill the box with plaster (or investment). Now take the
plasticene or wax away, clean the tube ends with something like a
glass scratch brush, flux and solder all the tubes at once. Then you
can dissolve the plaster away with water - maybe in a beaker in the
ultrasonic…

Best wishes,
Ian
Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK


#3

Helen,

Sounds like you are moving along in your experiences quite fast
since you have been making jewelry less than a year. Well done. So
maybe you could use some binding wire to help hold the pieces tight
in place.

You might also use some investment to make a encasing around the
piece if they have a odd orientation. Another idea would be to file
a flat surface on each setting where they meet together.to give more
surface area to the joint. Sounds like you might also be heating the
piece a little unevenly.Try to get the heat uniform in the peice.
Just some ideas.Hope this helps to open up ideas.

Have fun !
Daniel Wade


#4

Hi Ian,

Thanks for your reply.

It sounds as though you are trying to solder the settings without
securing them together first, 

You’re quite correct. I’ve never had any joy with trying to attach
pieces together, either with binding wire or anything else. The
plaster of paris idea sounds a good one though - other methods have
proven too fiddly on small items.

Incidentally, would you share your solder supplier with me? I am
working my way through the major UK suppliers to find a solder I am
happy with but haven’t yet. I’ve bought from Palmer Metals, HS
Walsh, Eurofindings and Cookson Gold (although I’m waiting for
delivery from Cookson so haven’t tried it yet) so far but when I’ve
asked them if their solders are “plumb”, nobody seems to know what
I’m talking about. An American Orchid friend sent me some "plumb"
solder panels for sterling silver. It was an absolute joy to use,
even though its melting point was extremely close to that of the
sterling - which isn’t a problem as I prefer to use just hard solder
anyway. Every joint went to plan, with just a tiny bit being "sucked"
into the joint by capillary action and needing no cleanup re excess
solder. When it ran out, my soldering bug-bears reappeared. All the
UK solder products I’ve tried seem to puddle randomly rather than go
to the joint. I don’t want to sound as though I’m just blaming the
solder - I’m certain I’m doing something wrong as well, but all
joints are cleaned and prepared well so that there are no gaps. Do
you use “plumb” solder? If so can you recommend a supplier? Many
thanks.

Helen
UK


#5

Hi Daniel,

Thanks for the kind words. I do tend to jump into things head first.

I’ve tried the binding wire and found it more trouble than it was
worth. The investment idea (as suggested by someone else too) is
definitely worth looking into. I also like your suggestion of
creating a flat surface by filing, to give a greater surface area
for soldering.

As for heating, I like to heat the piece up slowly and evenly. Say
for example I am soldering the sixth tube setting onto the end of
five already soldered settings, I will concentrate the heat on the
longer, already soldered piece, starting from the point furthest away
from where I am soldering. I’ll slowly heat that piece until the end
to be soldered is getting up to heat and then I’ll start to bring the
single tube setting up to heat whilst still keeping the larger piece
hot. Although a better way would probably have been how I’ve done it
before and make it in two smaller units of three settings then solder
them together. Although I had the same problems then too.

I’ll try your suggestions thank Daniel.

Helen
UK


#6

Helen, I would think that a Solderite pad would help. Can push
pieces into the soft pad to hold in place. Can also carve it for
soldering jigs.

Kay Taylor


#7

Hi Kay,

Thanks for the tip. I’d not heard of Solderite pads before so I
googled them. I couldn’t find out much but they look
like the soldering pad I use but I don’t think it can be because I
can’t push a setting into it. I also have a fire brick which I can
carve and push things into but don’t like to use it as it scratches
the silver. Perhaps the solderite pads are the same as the fire
brick?

Helen
UK


#8

helen try Hoover and Strong for plumb solders…I’ll procure it for
you if they won’t mail it direct…many vendors use H&S products as
the solder they sell…

tube settings can be held quite securely with jett sett or another
fixturrirng thermoplastic…all you need is extremely hot water and
the granules; place them in water remove when soft and workable and
then create a jig to hold em…alternatively wet some shreded
newsprint, wad it up squeeze out the excess arrange the tubes,flux
well and solder as required then just toss the wadded paper…

RER


#9

Hi Helen,

I haven’t actually had to buy any silver solder for a number of years

  • the last I bought was from Engelhard Metals but they no longer
    exist having been taken over by BASF and I don’t know whether they
    still sell precious metals. Living in Sheffield I have been
    surrounded by cutlery companies and jewellers and my job often
    involved going into their factories after they had shut down as most
    unfortunately now have. Anyway, the companies had seldom cleaned the
    places out when they left, even leaving part finished goods on the
    benches and almost always leaving stockrooms littered with metal
    blanksetc. The people who bought these factories for redevelopment
    didn’t usually understand the value of what was left and so I
    amassed a useful stock of silver sheet and silver solder over the
    years just for the asking. This was mainly back in the 70’s and 80’s
    and I still haven’t exhausted my stocks!! One place you could maybe
    try is Cookson Gold, I have bought some stuff from them. If you are
    having difficulty getting silver solder to flow and you are sure that
    you are cleaning and fluxing the metal well, the problem is most
    likely that you are not heating the metal quickly enough or getting
    it hot enough. Always start heating the largest part first so that
    you end up with all the parts reaching soldering temperature at the
    same time.If the solder doesn’t seem to want to flow, add a little
    more flux or borax and remember that you can control the direction in
    which the solder flows as it will always flow to the hottest part.
    What heat source are you using? For pendants and, indeed, for most
    of my silver soldering I use a Primus Sievert 2000 plumbers propane
    torch with a medium or small nozzle. This torch gives a more
    controlled and hotter flame than the DIY-type torches using
    disposable butane cartridges but not as hot as an Oxy-propane /
    oxy-acetylene torch. I only use my large oxy-propane for brazing
    although I do also have a tiny oxy-propane setup for silver
    soldering/fusing jump rings, chains etc. I also use one of the
    little chef-type butane torches for small jobs. For most of my silver
    soldering jobs I use Easy-flow powder flux which you can easily get
    from engineering suppliers (they may also sell silver solder but you
    would need to check the silver content as the main reason they will
    sell it will be for refrigeration engineers to join copper pipes). I
    don’t recognise the term ‘plumb solder’ other than maybe as related
    to plumbers lead solder - maybe its a trade name?

Best wishes,
Ian
Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK


#10

Helen,

A soft Solderite pad could be one strategy to help you hold the
pieces in place.

To get the joints stronger and avoid the solder-pick placement
issue, the other two strategies that might help are:

  1. Partially flow a bit of solder onto each of the sides of the
    tubes separately, before assembling. THis way, you’ve got a clean
    solder area already bonded to the silver, and what you’ll end up
    doing is flowing the solder bits together to each other. Could work
    pretty well in helping you strengthen those joins on the fly.

  2. Use paste solder, which is available in hard. This is one
    application where it might be just the ticket. You can apply the
    paste to both tubes, then bring them together as the solder starts to
    flow. There’s enough flux in the paste to keep the areas clean until
    you get them positioned the way you want them.

Hope this helps! Show us a picture of the finished piece… it
sounds intriguing!

Karen Goeller
No Limitations Designs
Hand-made, one-of-a-kind jewelry


#11

Dear RER,

Thanks very much for the offer of procuring plumb solder for me from
H&S. I have one more UK supplier to try first and then if that
doesn’t work I’ll let you know - thanks.

I use Thermo-loc for setting, which seems to be equivalent to Jett
Sett. I wouldn’t have thought either would be suitable for holding
things whilst soldering due to the toxic fumes evolved when heating
such plastics. I’ve already filled my kitchen with such fumes once,
before changing my method of heating to an underwater method. It
wasn’t pleasant and I’m sure it wasn’t safe either!

The wadded paper sounds a good cheap method though. I’ll try that.

Many thanks.
Helen
UK


#12

Hi Ian,

I always make sure my joints are clean, tight and fluxed well. I’ve
had advice saying perhaps I’m heating it up too quickly and too hot
and also from others saying maybe I’m not heating it up quickly
enough or hot enough? I don’t know where between those two extremes
my soldering falls. All I know is that some joints work and some
don’t even though I follow the same method every time. I pickle
between each operation too.

I was informed that “plumb” solder as sold in America has the same
silver content as sterling (ie. 92.5%) and as such doesn’t pose a
problem with the assay office - that’s if I’ve got my information
correct. UK suppliers don’t seem to know about “plumb” solders but I
would have thought that as we have to send our jewellery for assay by
law (obviously above the minimum weights), that our solder would have
to stand up to such standards? The company I have bought most of my
solder from (Palmer Metals), state their silver content and for hard
it’s only 67% - therefore if the assay office were to scrape a sample
from across a solder joint, it would probably be rejected! Could
anyone either in the UK or the US please enlighten me about this? All
I am aware of is that the US “plumb” solder I was sent worked a treat
and the UK solder is temperamental at best, sometimes working,
sometimes not.

Helen - always open to advice
UK


#13

Helen,

Solderite soldering boards are available from Rio Grande, Otto/Frei,
Contenti, Progress Tools, etc. in the US. They are white, sort of
chalky, very light weight, stiff in stature, but soft in that you
can saw, dent, carve and sand easily. Cynthia Eid recommended them
for use while soldering Argentium and Ben Neubauer in Portland,
Oregon (USA) was the one that suggested the sawing/carving, etc. in a
workshop, to cut/glue to act as sort of archtectural jigs to hold
wire while soldering. The only negative is that they are a little
pricey. Google “Solderite Soldering Boards”. I may have led you
astray with “Solderite pads.” I googled “Solderite Soldering Boards
UK” and couldn’t find at the first juncture. What came up was a type
of circuit board for soldering electrical components. That’s not it.

Kay


#14

Dear Karen,

Two great ideas, thanks.

The melting solder onto each bit first - is that what you call sweat
soldering? It sounds worth a try anyway.

I’ll show you a picture when I’ve remade it as I’m not happy with it
at the moment. I’m awaiting delivery of some thicker silver so will
remake it when it arrives.

Thanks again.
Helen
UK


#15
'plumb solder' other than maybe as related to plumbers lead solder
- maybe its a trade name? 

Plumb solder is the karat specified. 14kt. solder might be 10 kt.
gold, but 14kt. plumb solder is 14kt. gold. Same with sterling
plumb, I would think, if there’s such a thing - the solder will be
sterling silver or 925. The flow and temp. of them is manipulated by
the alloy, not by lowering the karat as is often done. Me, I use
plumb solder exclusively.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#16

Dr Rourke <>

tube settings can be held quite securely with jett sett or another
fixturrirng thermoplastic..all you need is extremely hot water and
the granules; place them in water remove when soft and workable
and then create a jig to hold em..alternatively wet some shreded
newsprint, wad it up squeeze out the excess arrange the tubes,flux
well and solder as required then just toss the wadded paper... 

You are not seriously suggesting soldering while using Jet Set as a
fixture? The result would be a flaming mess in your soldering area
and possibly a studio fire and serious smoke inhalation problems from
the burning plastic. And the use of wet newspaper would be less
dramatic but equally unsuccessful.

Helen and others who are interested, use soldering investment or
other refractory material to make a fixture then solder it.

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550


#17
Plumb solder is the karat specified. 14kt. solder might be 10 kt.
gold, but 14kt. plumb solder is 14kt. gold. Same with sterling
plumb, I would think, if there's such a thing - the solder will be
sterling silver or 925. The flow and temp. of them is manipulated
by the alloy, not by lowering the karat as is often done. Me, I use
plumb solder exclusively. 

Yes, that’s exactly what I was told. Thanks for clarifying it John.
What I can’t understand is that none of the UK suppliers I have
tried have even heard of “plumb” solder and keep suggesting to me
that it must be a brand name!!!

I have been recommended to use a few suppliers and I’ve contacted
them all. One company got back to me yesterday saying that the
solder they sell which they refer to as “Hallmarking standard” is
only 67% silver rather than 92.5% so that is obviously NOT “plumb”. I
can’t understand why I can’t get it over here - it’s ridiculous
considering that we have to send everything (above certain weights:
7.78g for silver, 1.00g for gold and 0.50g for platinum) for assay
if it’s to be sold. I’m already using the 67% stuff and it just
doesn’t work as well as the “plumb” sterling solder I was sent from
America. I may well have to buy it in from across the pond as it’s a
dream to use. I’ve still got some of the medium and easy but have run
out of the hard as that’s what I prefer to use.

Thanks John.

Helen
UK


#18
Could anyone either in the UK or the US please enlighten me about
this? All I am aware of is that the US "plumb" solder I was sent
worked a treat and the UK solder is temperamental at best, sometimes
working, sometimes not. 

Silver solders normally in the 40-60 % silver range. Plumb solders
are mostly available in gold karat values. There is one exception to
this, a company called PM West has patented and makes both plumb
sterling and plumb platinum solders. The plumb sterling solder is a
high temperature solder though and needs to be used with care. Daniel
Ballard who comments here on occasion works for PM West and can
provide more details. As for Hallmarking and solder in the UK I will
let someone who has knowledge of that comment.

Regards,

Jim

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550


#19
You are not seriously suggesting soldering while using Jet Set as
a fixture? The result would be a flaming mess 

There is only one way to solder several to many small pieces together
effectively. I will juggle two or three, but no more than that. You
can use a soft pad and imbed your parts, but that’s inferior for a
variety of reasons. The traditional way is to use clay, but long ago
I switched to sculpting wax, which models like clay and is much
cleaner. You get your clay or wax and smash it into a small pancake.
You get your parts and arrange them right side up as you want them,
sunk about 1/2 way or so into the clay or wax. You get a piece of
heavy paper or light cardboard (cereal box), bend it into a circle
and tape it shut, making a dam, and then sink that into the wax
around your parts. Fill the dam with investment, let it set up 1/2
hour or more, pull off the wax or clay, and there are your parts
imbedded in investment. Steam and solder and quench and out comes
your assembly. For settings and things with tapered sides you may
need to lay bits of wire or balls in the gaps - the tops will be
together but the bottoms will not. This method is also how people
make things like whole bracelets made of settings and the like, using
special mandrels. This is the best way, it’s the only really
foolproof way, and believe me, I tried them all.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#20

Helen,

I can only think that the suggestion to use Jett Sett was meant for
setting your stones. That stuff is marvelous for holding pieces while
setting. Soldering? Well… not good.

K.