soldering with a pick.
Cut piece of solder, flux and heat joint, so flux is "set" on joint.
Heat solder till it balls up touch with pick and it sticks to pick.
Re-heat joint as it comes to temp put solder ball on joint, solder
sticks to metal, remove pick and heat till solder flows. If solder
moves poke with pick to get back in place.
This takes practise but is faster and easier then putting solder on
I expect much better descriptions than mine.
Also I have been told picks can be made from lead pencils.
I use this with Argentium.
With sterling I would flux the joint, while holding solder wire in
tweezers, when silver came to soldering temp. Then would touch with
I do not do this with Argentium as I don't think it would work, as
it solders like 18 kt yellow.
All the best
A question to all those who solder with a pick: Do you hold the pick
or the torch in your dominant hand? I have always held the torch in
my dominant hand (r)and occasionally wonder if I shouldn't be doing
it the other way around....:-)....
Janet in Jerusalem
Great description Richard,
One caveat. solder will want to fuse to steel solder picks. I have
been using a titanium solder pick I bought over 30 years ago from
Bill Schroder at Anchor Tool (anyone remember him?). Bill's pick is
cut from sheet titanium, so it narrow, but flat, it has a few twists
near the end so it doesn't flip while one is using it and the tip is
ground to a point. Solder doesn't fuse to titaniun, so one can add a
little flux to the tip, heat it a little, pick up a small paillon of
solder (I usually melt it into a ball on the tip of the pick), heat
the fluxed parts being soldered, and touch the ball of solder (on
the titanium pick) to the heated parts. easy peasy!
I always hold my torch in my left hand which leaves my dominant
(right hand) free to hold the pick, or to do whatever is necessary
when soldering such as gently pushing one of the pieces which has
shifted out of alignment back where it belongs.
Also, hold it in my left (non-dominant hand,)when melting metal,
This leaves my dominant hand free to add a pinch of borax when
needed, or to stir the molten metal.
By the way, I use a bamboo chopstick to stir it. The bamboo does not
break, the way graphite does. Chopstick works just fine. Switched to
it afterI inadvertently picked up my graphite stick at the hot end
and burned my hand. Not a good idea. Alma
I try to always use my non-dominant hand for the torch, and my
dominant hand the pick. The reason behind this is that I need better
control of the pick which I have the my dominant hand while the
control of the torch can be left to my non-dominant hand. The pick
at times needs very fine control to place the solder right where I
The school I went to has us use our dominate hand for the torch. I
got used to it but when I built my own bench, I tired switching and
have never gone back. The pick works much better for me with my
dominate hand in control.
I always hold the pick in my dominant hand
Also, when placing findings and other similar objects while
soldering I need to use my dominant hand to hold and place the
findings into the right spot.
I could never do this accurately with my non dominant hand.
Milt in Calgary Canada
Torch in left hand, pick in dominant hand.
I hold the pick in the dominant hand. Placing solder requires more
precision than playing the torch flame on metal. However, if you are
used to the reverse, you may have trained your non-dominant hand to
the precise work.
Try changing. Hey, if that gives you more control, that's great. If
it feels awkward, you can go back to your previous technique.
Judy in Kansas, where temps are c-c-c-old! The birds love having a
source of liquid water and flock to the heated dog waterer.
Torch in dominant hand and pick in working hand
I hold the pick (titanium) in my dominant hand and the torch in the
other hand, always. Even when not placing the solder with the pick,
perhaps soldering a long seam with pallions already placed along the
seam, the pick is the tool I want to have in my dominant hand to
re-place the pallions should they move during heating, and sometimes
help move the flow of the molten solder.
Regarding another thread, the use of magic marker to color code sheet
solder. won't this contaminate the solder, making it more difficult
to get the proper flow? In my garage/shop/studio I don't have any
running water to clean metal well before soldering. So, I use sand
paper and other methods to make sure mating surfaces and solder are
clean just before I solder the joint.
I always hold the pick in my dominant hand. You'll have much more
control of where the solder goes and less clean up.
Which hand for the pick or torch?
I am of the opinion that if you are capable of it you should switch
hands as often as possible. Then you can always work around any
situation. If you aren't capable try when its not a critical solder
joint. I think you will be surprised how quickly you can learn /teach
yourself to switch hands. When I learned to stick weld (arc welding)
I switched the stinger from left to right and can now weld with
either hand. As a pipefitter I have worked with many welders who
could only weld with one hand. In a fab shop that is fine but in the
field welding the back of a pipe joint next to a wall can get quite
awkward if you can only work with one hand. If you have carefully set
up a piece to solder on your bench and can't easily move it being
able to switch hands could make the job easier. Like I said, just my
One of the things I've been most grateful to my first teacher for
was that he made me hold the torch in my left (non-dominant) hand.
The quote was "Save your good hand for the delicate stuff. The torch
Now I always solder left handed, and it's been much easier. It's
also one of the contributing factors to me growing up more-or-less
ambidextrous, which has *really* helped over the years.
I always make my students run the torch in their non-dominant hands
unless there's some major reason not to. After the initial grousing,
most of them eventually see the light.
Just to follow up Richard's post, yes you can make a very nice
solder pick out of a standard #2 pencil. Just keep in mind that the
'lead' is actually a stick of compressed carbon. Basically a
miniature carbon stirring rod, with a nice wooden heat shield around
Step 1: sharpen pencil as normal.
step 2: use a knife and whittle down the wooden part of the pencil
until it's just a bit larger than the carbon rod core. Do this for
1.5 inches back from the tip. (or so)
Step 3: Use a torch to burn the wood off of the carbon rod core. (If
you try to carve it off, you'll snap the core. So carve most of it
away, then burn the rest.)
You do need to use safety glasses during this step. Sometimes the
cores have a bit of water or other stuff in them that cause them to
shatter when they're first heated. Once you get it red, and it
survives the first time, you're OK.
Step 4: Use it as a soldering pick. Solder won't bond to it (but
will stick for pickup) and it won't rob heat from your piece.
In use, they do eventually burn back, or break. But they're pencils.
Get a new one, and keep going.
Dennis, you asked if magic marker on solder would be a contaminant.
Not a problem. The color burns off long before the solder begins to
Judy in Kansas, where the snow should melt off today and probably be
replaced with an ice storm tonight!
Referencing which hand to hold the torch in, I always ask my students
in which hand they would rather have the tool which CAN destroy their
work. Most answer their dominant hand. The absolutely critical tool
is the torch. The size and volume of the flame, direction of heat,
all are critical to soldering without melting or damaging your
project. The non-dominant hand can learn to move bits of solder
I am left handed and, as a result of having to learn a lot of things
right handed, I can use either hand to hold the torch. I have to hold
the pick in my left hand. I have lost my old pick and keep forgetting
to include one with orders sent to tool suppliers. I made one out of
a steel nail and piece of wooden dowel that works fairly well. When I
remember to order one, we have the choice of tungsten or titanium. I
never noticed this before. Is one better than the other? I work
mainly in silver. It is currently -3 in Jordan, NY and I bought my
first (hopefully last) roof rake yesterday as we also have more snow
than I have seen in a long time. Stay warm and thanks. Rob
Pick in dominant hand, and tweezers and flux brush as well at times!
You aren't generally doing the fine movements with the torch as you
are moving bits of solder.
I used to use a titanium pick, but have now gone on to a tungsten
one, Half a TIG welding rod 1.6mm diameter costs about 50p, so you
can have two for a pound. Ask for lanthanated electrodes.
I clamped it into a thick piece of brass tube I had lying around,
with a section of silicone tube for insulation and grip. It stays
rigid at any temperature I have ever used including soldering
platinum. I think that the little bit of extra heat that it gives
when you touch the end to release the solder onto the join is a
bonus, anyone else noticed this? or am I imagining it.
By the way I can get solder to stick to any of these probes from
time to time.
Yeah, I still remember Bill. Still miss some of the tools he was
having made. (Only source for the big anticlastic stakes, for
I have two solder picks. A baker's dozen of them made out of
pencils, (details in previous post, this thread) and a tungsten rod
with a wooden handle.
All it really is is a Tungsten TIG electrode, with a point on one
end, and a bit of dowel rod jammed on the other. It's held up for
20+ years. Works like a charm, and solder won't bond to it.
Also doesn't suck heat away from your piece.
Use the 1/8" diameter rods, ceriated by preference, but you can use
thoriated if you have to. Just don't use straight tungsten. Too
After you jam the dowel onto the handle end, cut it to a convenient
length. The stock 6" length will probably be too long.
I could not bitch slap with my left hand let alone use a soldering
pick... only 40 years...