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Specifics of soldering


#1

Was: Setting opals

I would say that it is impossible to overestimate difficulty of
soldering. Practice is an integral part of learning to solder, but
practice without goals is not going to be very helpful. When we
practice we have to know what are we practicing for? Sensible
questions. 
  1. My goal is to specialize in earrings, necklace charms, andbuttons
    between 0.5 to 4.0 square centimeters in total area. Those items,
    being relatively small, are relatively inexpensive tomake even using
    materials which are high in unit price, allowingme to purchase good
    stuff without overspending. I’m currently forging and rolling my own
    fine silver from round ingots sold by a local mine. For things to
    mount it, I have materials such as prefabbed Spencer opal, raw
    amethyst, nephrite jade, elk ivory,lots of agate and jasper, and
    drawers of donated cabochons.

  2. Things I want to do:

a) Solder an earring post to an earringso I’m not forced to use only
french hooks.

b) Create chain using wire 1 millimeter in cross section.

c) shut a pendant frame closed,cross section approximately 2
millimeters thick by 4 millimeters wide.

d) solder a bezel between 3 to 10 millimeters in diameter to aflat
plate. I don’t believe these goals are overly ambitious forbeginning
to solder in sterling.

  1. Clearly, I may create sterling from local silver using either my
    propane torch or my electrical melter and adding copper filings,and
    then roll out sheet or wire. I think actually daring to do this will
    be an exercise in its own right.

  2. I do have done electronics soldering as part of my
    formerengineering career. From my reading I understand what jewelers
    call “soldering” is actually what everyone else calls “brazing”.So
    that’s my starting point. What next?

Andrew Jonathan Fine


#2

Ok you feel like soldering is some kind of magic trick that is
passed down from metal worker to MW by mouth in whispers… IT’S not
you will make mistakes we all have and still do there are only 3
steps to soldering 1 your metal must be clean… 2 the edges of the
piece your soldering fit together with no gaps + 3 take a solder
billet and then heat the piece evenly until the solder flows and
seals the joint…3A remove heat let the piece cool before you doing
any other work with that piece…if you don’t want to use silver ( +
at 30$+ an oz ) I don’t blame you practice on copper until you fell
up to working on more costly projects…and that’s it

HTH
Ron


#3

Leonid, I’m sorry but I have to say something on this. Practice
without knowing that it is complex is a waste of time? So you tell
me something is complex. Is that the ONLY way I am going to learn
that? Some people learn visually; some people learn with their ears;
some people learn through experimentation; some people learn through
just plain doing it. Sure they might create some trash along the way.
And they might sell that trash or not. There is plenty of it around -
poor workmanship. But telling me it is complex frankly does not help
me at all as a beginner. That’s like telling me Mount Everest is
high. Not that I want to be told it is a big bump on the landscape
either. Sigh. You do have high standards but understanding how
people learn is another matter altogether. I personally love your
work even from this distance. But you work alone. Beginners know
nothing about a subject. That is why we call them beginners. Jewelry
making is an art as much as it is a craft. Four aspects to an art…
create, feel, discover, learn. Barbara after a windy day on the


#4
From my reading I understand what jewelers call "soldering" is
actually what everyone else calls "brazing".So that's my starting
point. What next? 

Let me cast the tasks that you mentioned in a different light.

To prepare for soldering everything must be clean and stress free.
Joints should be mechanical, if possible. It means that piece could
be assembled without soldering and could be handled without coming
apart. Fabricated this way, solder function will be only keeping
joints from self disassembly. This is optimal situation. Jewellery
made this way will last for centuries and would be a pleasure to
repair if needed.

If not possible, that contact surface of joints must be maximized.
The worst way to solder is to simply touch pieces together and flood
contact area with solder. Every project would require different
approach and different level of engineering.

The actual soldering can also be subdivided into different level of
difficulty. The easiest is when both parts have the same mass and
shape. The next step would be when shape has protrusions which can
be easily overheated and even melted. To complicated even more pieces
of different mass should be tried. Different mass with protrusions
is next. When all these variations are mastered, attention should be
directed towards making invisible joints. Amount of solder should be
estimated to fill joint completely but no more. In another words
joints without any clean up. The next step is to try solder
complicated structures where joints are inside. The only way to
accomplish something like that is indirect heating.

As an extra challenge things like working on very small chain;
soldering two pieces of wire so after soldering it would appear as
one piece. If you can do it with two, try 3 or even 4 pieces of wire.
Do it with very thin wire! I am going to stop now. That should be
enough practice for couple of years. Incidentally, granulation is a
part of soldering, technique known as “samorodok” is also a part of
soldering. The complexity can be extended almost to infinity. The
decision where to stop is up to every individual.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#5

Andrew,

So that's my starting point. What next? 

You said that you already already know how to fuse fine silver and
that you’ve read books and watched videos on soldering. Add some
solder and start making beginner mistakes, like we all do. Then,
figure out what you did wrong or if you can’t figure it out, ask a
question. Good luck,

Jamie
P.S. And yes, jewelry soldering is akin to brazing. So get forget about
the soldering iron and soft solder.


#6

Ok you feel like soldering is some kind of magic trick that is passed
down from metal worker to MW by mouth in whispers… IT’S not you
will make mistakes we all have and still do there are only 3 steps to
soldering 1 your metal must be clean… 2 the edges of the piece your
soldering fit together with no gaps + 3 take a solder billet and then
heat the piece evenly until the solder flows and seals the joint…3A
remove heat let the piece cool before you doing any other work with
that piece…if you don’t want to use silver ( + at 30$+ an oz ) I
don’t blame you practice on copper until you fell up to working on
more costly projects…and that’s it You left out the most important
part. Have the correct torch for the job. I have a plumbers torch,
acetylene, because that is all I had, I was too poor when I started
to buy one from Rio, and had no idea what I was doing anyway. Now,
years later I have finally realized, a million frustrations could
have been avoided if someone had told me how imperative it is to have
the right torch, if you have to go into debt to get the right one.

You will never ever have successful soldering with the wrong torch.
Never.

Roxy


#7

Now. Just solder and solder etc. Practice is what you do everything
time

John
John Atwell Rasmussen, Ph.D., AJP


#8

Pedro,

Helen, if soldering was so easy then you still wouldn't be
learning after five years of soldering. Don't take that as an
insult but it proves that soldering is much more then only joining
two pieces and that's the big picture. 

Nobody, including Helen, has said that soldering was easy. This
discussion was in response to Andrew’s comments about soldering that
"one of the hardest things in the world creating a sound joint" and
that learning to solder can “only take place under an instructor.”

As a result of this belief, he has never tried to solder. After
three years, we are trying to encourage him to pick up a torch and
use his intellect to see what he can accomplish. But nobody has is
stating that soldering is easy or that there isn’t more to learn
over time.

Jamie


#9
4) I do have done electronics soldering as part of my
formerengineering career. From my reading I understand what
jewelers call "soldering" is actually what everyone else calls
"brazing".So that's my starting point. What next? 

My suggestion is to get a copy of “The Complete Metalsmith” by Tim
McCreight. It covers all the basics of what you want to know,
including equipment, technique, step-by-step illustrations and
troubleshooting…not only of soldering, but of most other
fabrication elements I guarantee that once you’ve followed his
instructions correctly, you’ll have no trouble soldering.

Dee


#10

What beginners should be truly afraid of is the siren song of how
easy it is, but when faced with real world situation to find
themselves completely helpless. That should be terrifying for
anybody. Basic soldering is just not that tricky. Trial and error is
an excellent teacher. Be not afraid to try and fail, then learn from
that. Several years after I completed my apprenticeship, I opened my
own shop (that was 1988, when goldwas only $400 and a gallon of gas
was about $1). Since then, my working life has been the owning and
running of a busy shop that usually had 7-12 goldsmiths. I have a
successful method of teaching people how to solder, slowly
increasing the difficultly and complexity as time, and the persons
skill, advances. Granted, everyone I have hired has had at least
some familiarity with shops, their equipment and their operations,
but many were very inexperienced. Even those inexperienced people
were doing basic soldering very well by the end of the second day.
It’s just not that hard to figure out.

I’m sure I’m biased, but I think a busy shop with several skilled
bench-people as coworkers is an ideal learning environment for
anyone wanting to become a maker of jewelry. But not everyone has
that opportunity, many mustor choose to work alone. If that’s the
case, the downside is that it may take you a little longer to
problem-solve your soldering errors, the upside is you can listen to
the music you want and nobody is borrowing your tools without your
permission!

Mark


#11

I posted this in May last year, but to save you searching for it,
here it is again…

To solder (braze) successfully it helps to understand how it works.
Soldering refers to the process whereby pieces of metal are joined
by melting another metal (the solder) so that it wets the joint and
holds it securely when it freezes. That’s basically it, but there are
a few “gotcha’s”.

The important word is “wets”. It’s just like water. Put a nice clean
pipe in water and freeze it; it’s then difficult to get the pipe
out, but use an oily pipe and it’s much easier. The difference is
that the water wetted the clean pipe, but couldn’t wet the oily one.
If the pipe wasn’t oily but dirty, the effect would be the same.
Solder works in exactly the same way. So all you have to do is make
sure the joint is nice and clean and you’ll get a good joint, right?
Well, no, it’s a little more complicated than that, but not a lot.

To melt the solder you have to heat it up. The trouble is that the
very act of heating it also makes it dirty. The oxygen in the air is
only too eager to oxidise everything it touches, and, as far as
solder is concerned, metal oxide is dirt. Most metals oxidise rather
slowly at room temperature, but heat them up and the effect is very
rapid - so rapid as to make soldering impossible, unless you prevent
the oxygen from reaching the hot joint.

There are only three ways to do this: solder in a vacuum, solder in
an atmosphere devoid of oxygen, or coat the joint with an oxygen
barrier that can withstand the heat. The first two options are rather
impractical, but the third is fine; the barrier is called a flux.
The job of the flux is to cover the joint with a barrier to stop the
oxygen from oxidising it. Resin is a good flux for soft solders, and
borax for hard solders or brazing. If the joint and the solder are
nice and clean then these fluxes work rather well, but that’s all
they do; they are known as inactive fluxes. If the joint is a little
dirty these simple fluxes do nothing except act as a barrier, but
there are others that can do a small amount of cleaning too. Baker’s
Fluid is one such active flux for soft solder and EasyFlo is one for
hard solder. (I use a product called Auflux, which is a sort-of
luminous green liquid. It is used straight from the bottle and
doesn’t froth up as much as the powdered fluxes.) The active fluxes
are certainly better than the inactive ones, but they are not magic,
you shouldn’t rely on them to do the cleaning for you. Active fluxes
usually contain some rather toxic and dangerous additives (potassium
biflouride?) which do the cleaning bit.

So, now you have a nice clean joint and a flux, so it’s plain
sailing, yes? Well almost. Most problems are caused by heating the
solder rather than the joint. All that happens is that the solder
melts, goes into a ball, and refuses to flow into the joint because
it freezes before it can wet it. The secret is to heat the joint, not
the solder. When the joint gets hot enough it will melt the solder
which will then flow nicely into the clean, fluxed joint. The final
thing that can go wrong is to burn the flux. If you heat the flux for
too long, longer than a minute or so, it will lose its properties and
allow the oxygen to pass. This is normally the result of insufficient
heat, so if it happens, remove the heat, clean the joint, and start
over, perhaps with a better source of heat, or better insulation to
prevent the heat from leaking away.

So, the four main points for a good soldered joint are:

  1. Make sure the joint and solder are both clean.
  2. Use a good appropriate flux.
  3. Heat the joint not the solder.
  4. Complete the joint quickly.

I hope this helps.
Regards, Gary Wooding


#12

Jonathan,

I’d like to make a suggestion. The first thing I was ever taught to
solder was a twisted wire into a ring. I used 16g wire, folded in
half, twisted and the ends brought together. Filing to get the join
tight was the hardest thing. For a beginner, even a pro, preparation
is 90% of the process. So, let me suggest that you take one piece of
wire, don’t even bother to twist it but round it to a ring, prepare
the join and follow the steps of soldering; clean with denatured
alcohol, flame, flux, flame, flux the join, place the solder, heat
the whole ring, then concentrate on the join until it flashes. IF you
can fuse, you can solder.

The worst that could happen is it melts or doesn’t join and you have
to do it again. If it melts or you ruin the piece, well, that’s what
our scrap pile is for. It’s never wasted, just recycled. :slight_smile:

But you’ll never, ever learn, if you don’t at least try. Let us know
how it goes.

Michele


#13
Leonid, I'm sorry but I have to say something on this. Practice
without knowing that it is complex is a waste of time? So you tell
me something is complex. Is that the ONLY way I am going to learn
that? 

I believe if student is aware of complex nature of a process, even
if elementary application of the process is simple, such student will
benefit more from fundamentals than the unaware one. Such student
when faced with difficult situation would be able to refer to his/her
insight of the nature of the process and successfully formulate a
solution, while unaware one would be hopelessly stumped. No training
program, no matter how extensive, could encompass each and every
possible situation. So practice with appreciation of complexity
prepares student to handle the unexpected. Look at it from another
angle. Monkeys can be taught to play scales. The same practice could
lead to developing music writing ability in humans, providing the
structure of scales and their relation to theory of harmony would be
explained. However, monkeys would never go beyond simply hammering
the keys.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#14
Helen, if soldering was so easy then you still wouldn't be
learning after five years of soldering 

Pedro, I forgot to mention that my five years have included a two
year hiatus, so it’s really three, but I’m not arrogant enough to
think that I know it all, which is what I meant when I said I’m still
learning. We will all be learning until the day we die, and there
are always situations that throw up surprises just when we think we
have it covered.

I’m just not a fan of the “goldsmithing is very complicated” and
"you can’t do it without an instructor" type attitudes. It smacks of
the old fashioned " taking secrets to the grave" ideals that used to
be prevalent in the industry.

I also think it depends where you want to place yourself in the
market. I make sterling and gemstone jewellery. I make my own
settings (mainly because I don’t always use standard sizes stones,
and because commercial bezels are too thin for my liking) and
mechanically set the stones, ie no glue. If you walk into the types
of shops that sell silver and gemstone jewellery, you’ll find that
most of it is mass-produced junk with glued in stones. My jewellery
is better made than much (not all) of it. However, if I walked into a
high end jeweller’s, chances are that my work may well not be up to
their standards. I don’t know though. I haven’t tried. On the other
hand, I’ve worn gold jewellery in the past that was of a shockingly
low standard. My point I guess is that you can teach yourself to
solder to a saleable standard, which the buying public is happy to
buy and wear. This might raise the hackles of a few, who may think
I’m suggesting that low standards are acceptable - I’m NOT. I’m
saying that you can teach yourself to solder and produce work of a
high enough quality to sell, and there are probably hundreds on this
list doing just that.

Helen
UK


#15

While of course it would be wonderful to learn soldering from an in
person instructor, when that is not possible, the DVD from Rio
Grande is quite comprehensive. Between that and a book, and being
persistent, a person could learn it.

If said person were having trouble, they could video their failed
attempts to solder and post them for us here at Orchid.

The most common problems students have, in my experience is uneven
heating. Once they get the whole even heating thing, they’ve got it.

Elaine
CreativeTextureTools.com


#16
To prepare for soldering everything must be stress free. 

This is not mentioned as often as many other requirements for good
soldering results, but is very important. So don’t forget to anneal
your metal before soldering.

Jamie


#17

Enough already!

Basic soldering is not difficult!

Solder flows by capillary action. Hence the metal must be clean and
meet so it light tight. Hold pieces to the light.

If no light shows through it is ready to solder.

Flux, place solder in place and heat where you wont the solder to
flow. The solder flows and that is it!

The solder line should only be a hair’s width.

Practise!

Too many are too precious. Soldering is a basic skill and has been
done for a very long time.

I once asked a jeweller if they used whiteout to as a solder stop, as
one contains phosgene (poison gas when heated) the other is water
based. “I don’t seam solder!” Was the snearing reply. “What else did
you not learn at the tech was mine?”

If I have a number of sterling silver ring bands to solder, I line
them up on my solder block and flux. I then take a piece of solder
wire in my tweezers. Heat each ring and when they reach the right
temperature I ‘touch’ the solder wire to the join. 10 ring bands
soldered in less than a minute. No big deal just practise.

With soldering as with life “If at first you don’t succeed you’re
normal.”

Richard


#18

Roxy,

You will never ever have successful soldering with the wrong
torch. Never. 

I have an oxy/acetylene Plumber’s torch an oxy/acetylene Smith
Little Torch and a Butane and have successfully soldered with all
three! It’s not the torch, at least for silver or copper, it’s the
skill in using the torch, which took time to master with all three.
Now I use the Plumber’s torch for annealing, the Little Torch for
inside soldering and the butane, when I’m out of my studio. Of
course, not having worked with solid gold yet, I can’t say if the
difficulties will be fewer, more or the same… but I look forward to
the day I get to try. :slight_smile:

Michele


#19

Leonid,

I’m sure you would agree that there is a difference between
complexity and difficulty. While I believe that soldering is simple,
the mastery of it’s perfection and the intricacies involved in
soldering can, indeed, be complex. However, something complex may be
well organized and logically constructed as well as subtle and
intricate, but not necessarily complicated nor difficult. Soldering
isn’t haphazard, irregular or unmethodical. It has specific rules
and a logic and with knowledge of those rules, the application itself
is rather simple.

I’d just rather see someone try and fail than never try at all
because of some misguided belief that only another person sitting at
their elbow can show them how to do it.

Michele


#20

Thanks, everyone. Leonid: thank you for the science you just
gaveregarding mechanically sound joints being a prerequisite for
soldering them. So in other words,I need to shape the pieces first
so that they interlock,using fingers or lips or slots to create
tension, yes? also:

I believe if student is aware of complex nature of a process, even
if elementary application of the process is simple, such student
will benefit more from fundamentals than the unaware one. Such
student when faced with difficult situation would be able to refer
to his/her insight of the nature of the process and successfully
formulate a solution, while unaware one would be hopelessly
stumped. 

Absolutely right. This is what learning science orengineering is all
about. If something can bethoroughly explained to me as a science
beforeI try it I generally will have a lot more confidencein doing
so, I don’t do very well with people tellingme to “just try it”.
Consider I have autism aswell as depression. Doing things by feel
just isn’tme until I can first understand the science of itin simple
enough terms and then perform experiments, just like in chem lab.
Based on what you and everyone else in this threadhas been talking
about I think I now understand enough about the science of jewelry
soldering tofeel like I am not about to walk off a cliff whenI try
this.

Roxy: I understand what you are trying to say about thetorch. I have
a butane pencil and a propane bottle bothfrom the hardware store. I
don’t have acetylene or oxy-acetylene. But when people installed air
conditioningfor us last year I got Lesson One on proper operation
ofa dual gas torch, so I’m far less scared to use one onceI can
afford it. I hope what I have will produce enoughheat to solder
small things. I can certainly turn a quarter ounce of fine silver
into a puddle if I’m not careful whenI hit it with the propane
bottle. Helen: I had always been intimidated over the past few years
when comparing my attempts with professionalsin the local stores.
But from what you are saying, if I pick a forgiving audience like at
a craft fair or coffee-housethen I am far less likely to choke from
perfectionism.

Dee: I found Metalsmith at a used book store. I’ll takea look at it
again, this time looking up earring posts.

Mark:

What beginners should be truly afraid of is the siren song of how
easy it is, but when faced with real world situation to find
themselves completely helpless. 

Hell, yes. When I first bought my table topCNC machine using
unemployment money back in2005, I fell for the siren call too. It
tookme 5 YEARS of weekends (I’m a busy parent andhomemaker otherwise)
to become minimally competent at using it, and I’m reliable toonly a
hundredth of an inch, not a thou like professional machinists.

Gary: I appreciate your science regarding the importance of
cleaning, heating, and fluxing. I can start with that boraxslurry to
try fsoldering but someone off line me I would need to make or buy
Pripp’s fluxfor annealing. Can anyone figure out a way forme to fake
a reasonably decent flux solution for sterling use from materials
found only at Wal-Mart? Also, yes, I did try soldering two pieces of
fine silver together exactly once with a small solder square that I
used welders flux on. The solder dot balled up and droped under the
pieces, doing nothingotherwise. So for the record, everybody, I DID
try to solder once a year ago, but my attempt to lose my solder
virginity then was unsuccessful and I threw up myhands in defeat.

Your advice specifically aboutthe solder balling up beause the
targets did not have enough heat is much more helpful. Michelle:
Excellent suggestion for a doable exercise. Ithink I might try that
one first. It’s a low-risk goal with an end-result, exactly what I
need. All: I’m also getting advice and encouragement from
someoneoff-line as well, and she has found some exercises to assign
me as well. You guys won’t be hearing much from me for then ext few
weeks. I just got full electric run to my shed from my house and I
have to reorganize first to takeadvantage of it. I’ll let you know
eventually how I do. Mil gracias. Andrew Jonathan Fine