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Sparkie for soldering


#1

I would like to hear any feedback reviewing the Sparkie for
soldering. Is there any way to search past postings to find out what
people’s experience with the Sparkie is?

Sarah McCulloch


#2
I would like to hear any feedback reviewing the Sparkie for
soldering. Is there any way to search past postings to find out
what people's experience with the Sparkie is? 

The Sparkie is a specialized capacative discharge fusion welder. You
use it with specially made findings to weld those findings to your
work. No solder is used, nor could be used. (though of course, if
you’re working with solderable metals, you could go and add solder
to the thing later. But that’s not the intent of the Sparkie) The
Sparkie is not a generalized tool that could be used, for example,
to position two parts for soldering. There IS such a device, the
"Flash" welders, which are also capacative discharge, and intended
especially for tack welding in order to hold things for subsequent
soldering. But the Sparkie is not designed to be used this way.
Also, don’t confuse the Sparkie with the old style, carbon electrode,
electric soldering machine. These use electrical resistance to heat
up the work for soldering without a torch. Again, a completely
different technology and purpose from the Sparkie.

HTH
Peter Rowe


#3
I would like to hear any feedback reviewing the Sparkie for
soldering. Is there any way to search past postings to find out
what people's experience with the Sparkie is? 

The sparkie is a fusion welder, not a soldering device. That said, it
is great for what it was designed to do, attaching specially made
findings to jewelry without heat. It can fuse metals that can’t be
soldered like titanium, it also has limitations- you can’t fuse
findings to pewter alloys.


#4

I love my Sparkie, I bought it long ago( 20 years???) and it has
never failed me. It changed the way I make earrings, I can do all my
setting and then put the post on. It paid for itself quickly since I
was able to change lots of earrings from clip to post with out worry
of hurting them with the torch.

Sam Patania, Tucson


#5

Hi Sarah,

The Sparkie doesn’t solder in the traditional method. It’s made to
only fuse a specially made fusion finding to another piece of metal.
Dissimilar metals are no problem. If you’re wanting it to solder 2
random pieces of metal together, it’s not the machine for you. We
carry the machine and the findings. Feel free to have a look.

Regards,
Bill, Deborah, Michele & Sharon


#6

We had a Sparkie at our studio at UCSD, and it came in very handy for
attaching ear posts onto just about any material you can think of. We
only had the collets for ear posts, but others are available for
other kinds of findings. It works great, but we had a re-occuring
problem with the mechanism that holds the post into the collet. A
very dramatic way to weld on small findings!

Jay Whaley


#7

I am a happy user of several Sparkies, capacitance discharge welders.
I really like it, not for general soldering, but for very specific
fusion welding of small specially formed fusion findings like ear
posts, catches and so on. It is fantastic on titanium, gold,
platinum, brass and silver, but near worthless on pewter/pot metals.
You attach an ear post in half a second without loosing the temper
on the post or heating the ear ring. A great tool for specific use.

Marlin in windy Denver


#8

Sarah - a Sparkie isn’t a soldering thing. It is a machine for
jigged arc attachments. It is useable only with findings made to use
in the machine.

My experience using the machine is that it has a pretty high failure
rate for attachment in a production environment. Others may vary.

The closest thing that is general purpose is a PUK machine. It and
its similar machines from other manufacturers are a jeweler sized TIG
welder. You can do a lot of things with it, but it is not a
replacement for a torch, it is an adjunct.

Kevin Lindsay uses a regular sized TIG welder with some
modifications for jewelry, but I don’t think that he would tell you
that it substitutes for a torch either.

Judy Hoch


#9

Well said Peter.

The complete instructions can be found at http://reactivemetals.com
Look in the WELDERS section and click on the instructions link.

Bill


#10
My experience using the machine is that it has a pretty high
failure rate for attachment in a production environment. Others may
vary. 

Judy, I would bet that you’re talking about putting silver findings
onto silver items. Odd though it may sound, silver to silver is one
of the least reliable welds you can do with the Sparkie, (for that
matter, it seems that way with a laser welder too). Ear posts have a
high rate of not welding well, for example. When I do these, I
actually use both welding methods, placing the finding with the
Sparkie, and then running a little reinforcing laser weld around the
rim of the finding’s fusion pad. That, has not yet failed for me. I
can do it all with the laser too, but it seems to need, in the end,
almost as large a weldment as what results from using the Sparkie
and the laser in combo, and the combo method is a bit faster for me.

However, welding other metals to silver, or silver findings to other
metals, seems reliable. Putting titanium or stainless ear posts onto
silver almost always works fine the first time, it seems

Hope that helps
Peter Rowe


#11

Hi Sarah,

I just LOVE my Sparkie! It saves a ton of time, especially if I am
doing soldering in which I have to put out my torch & re-light it
many times for those intricate soldering operations where I need to
reposition my pieces, or I am holding something still in my tweezers
by hand and I just don’t have enough hands to use the old igniter,
which is a two hand operation: one hand on the torch, the other on
the igniter. I can light and control my torch with just one hand in
one smooth operation since I now have my “Sparkie”. I have gotten so
used to having it that I always take it with me when I am going to
go work away from my home studio. Like many jeweler’s tools I
initially felt it was a little expensive, at $45.00, when I first
made the purchase. But I am SO GLAD I did buy it. As well, I have
realized that it not only saves me time but it also saves me money;
in as much as torch gas isn’t just flowing out wasted while I
struggle with the old fashioned spark igniter to get lighted up. The
Sparkie lights me right up very quickly and I am not wasting gas and
fumbling with the old fashioned hand held igniter. Admittedly, it is
one of those tools you would think you don’t really “NEED”, but I
find that I DO need it when soldering intricate and step intensive
soldering operations. If you buy one, you will never regret it!

Cheers,
Teresa


#12

How much does a “Sparkie” go for?

Liz


#13

Hi, All this conversation on Sparkie Welders has been right on. The
current version is the Sparkie II at $1050.00US. There is a 220 volt
converted unit for $1075.00US.

The most common collets are for Ear Wires, Tie Tacs, Joints &
Catches (2 sizes), Ear Clips (2 sizes) and Cuff links. There are
others available.

What makes it all work is the shape of the findings. Each will have
a small base. Forged into the base is a small nib (Approx…0085"
Dia,). Within the welder is a large capacitor. A cap is like a
battery except that it releases its stored energy in an instant. It
is like the ignition spark in your car.

When the finding and the piece come in contact the energy is fired
through the small nib. The nib explodes! The explosion drives the
atmosphere away and the weld occurs in a small vacuum. Pretty much
BANG! and it is all over. There will be a little bit of carbon dust
to wipe up and that’s it.

Occasionally an older Sparkie shows up on the market. This is the
original version and is only capable of welding ear posts and tie
tacs. It was the Pinto version and under powered at best. They are
inexpensive, buyer be aware.

We were intimately involved in Sparkies development from the
beginning. It was actually reverse engineered from larger commercial
units. We were the very first Sparkie dealer.

Bill
Reactive Metals Studio, Inc


#14

Hi Teresa. I think you must be talking about something different
from what I was asking about but your Sparkie sounds useful too.

Sarah


#15

Good Morning Orchid Land,

So I guess I was confused about what the “Sparkie” is; I was
discussing my electric torch LIGHTER, not a torch itself. (Just in
case many wondered if I had lost my mind on my last response) But
with all the rave I have now read about the Sparkie Torch I am
intrigued. I currently use a simple, one hose acetylene torch, one
without oxygen. I have often wondered if an oxy set up would be a
good investment. Right now when soldering small items I have to have
VERY fine control over my heating, as it cannot solder very tiny
pinpoint areas. I can only go down to a size #1 standard torch tip.
(The brass screw on types). So control of heat is essential.

There is a local gas company that will take my set-up on trade in
for a new system, but I am wondering if I will just keep the old and
purchase the new set up when I am ready to, so I would still have
the acetylene torch for annealing of large items (for raising of
vessels and such) and not have to buy a large oxy/acetyl torch tip
as well. (They are quite expensive)

I want to say that I SO LOVE Ganoksin! I feel like I can offer what
small grains of experience I have yet gleaned so early in my career
as an artist and I learn so much in the reading of other’s
experiences. I look forward to each and every issue and Saturday
mornings with my "Kiteer Kat on my lap, my coffee in hand and my
latest issue of Ganoksin, has become a ritual. It is nice that, when
I feel I am alone and out on my own now in the world of jewelry
making, that I have a place here to share dialog with so many
experienced professionals. I feel that even as an emerging artist I
can freely join the conversation where I may have some small grain
of knowledge. I just want to say “Thank You” again to all the
Ganoksin community for just being here.


#16
But with all the rave I have now read about the Sparkie Torch I am
intrigued. 

Um, Theresa?,

With all you’ve now read about the Sparkie, I’m surprised that you
seem to think it’s a torch. To clarify, It has no resemblence at all
to any sort of torch. No flame, no fuel, no oxidizer (like oxygen),
no gas supply of any sort. It does not solder things, nor, for that
matter, does it heat anything up except the very tiny area of the
weld itself, which occurs within a very brief electric spark.

The sparkie, as mentioned before, is a capacitance discharge welder.
NOT A TORCH in any way, shape, or form.

The sparkie is a machine, electronic, with switches, dials, buttons,
a voltage meter. The working part is a vertical spring loaded ram
that holds a chuck at it’s end. The chuck holds the finding you wish
to attach. Below this is another fixture which you press your work up
against. You use the knobs and buttons and meter to allow the
capacitor to charge up to the desired voltage level. When you pull
the knob to activate the machine, that spring loaded ram slams down,
jamming the finding against your work. When that happens, there is a
bit of a “bang” sound, and a substantial electric spark between the
work and the finding as they contact each other. That spark is what
causes a welding action to take place, melting a bit of both the
finding and the workpiece, allowing the bond. It’s a virtually
instantaneous event, over and done tiny fractions of a second.

Go take a look at the thing on the Rio Grande web site. You’ll see
that it bears no resemblence to a torch of any sort.

cheers
Peter Rowe


#17

Have you tried using a butane mini-torch that a cook would use for
flambee recipes like creme brulee?

Eurotool makes one for jewelers that’s about US $40.

Lorraine


#18

Teresa:

I have an acetylene air set up with Smith torch tips, and I can go
down to a #00 size - get a very teeny flame. Or I can go to the #1
and get a big flame. Now that being said, I don’t do casting, but I
think you can get even larger tips than the #1. But I own 3 tips,
#1, #0 and #00 and they are sufficient for all I do. They are the
screw on type tips. Prior to the Smith tips, I had another kind of
tip (so long ago I don’t remember the name of them) but they didn’t
go down to smaller sizes, but I finally bought the Smith torch tips
and have never looked back. Try them if you don’t have them already.
I don’t think you need to switch out your entire system, just change
the tips. Believe I had to change out the tubing too, so long ago I
don’t remember, but check where you buy the tips. (I got mine through
RIO and they will give you the info you need).

Kay