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Still can't solder right


I promise I won’t ask any more questions about this topic. I don’t
want to get on anybody’s nerves, but this problem has been here for
a while now and I just can’t seem to shake it. I did what everyone
said and it still flows around the joint. One of the joints that I
tried on a practice ring had some solder in the middle of it, but it
wasn’t covering the whole area of the joint. The only thing I
haven’t tried is a different flux. I usually use the green Batterns
flux. Will that make a difference? I know people have to do this
every day, but I just can’t figure it out. Once again, sorry to ask
such a simple (but obviously hard for me) question.

Thank you all for your help last time and this time.

Michael Wise (self-proclaimed village idiot)



In my oppinion, the problem that you are having with your solder
joints comes from only a limited number of places. My suggestion for
soldering rings is to use magic flame boric acid compound, Hoover
and Strong Free Flow flux, and a torch. Make sure your piece you are
soldering in fits properly, and make sure that the joint is clean.
thoroughly cleaning includes pickle, then ultrasonic, then steaming.
my suggestion for a torch is either propane or natural gas. they
burn the cleanest. acetyline tends to be a little dirty, and the
batterns flux is a self pickeling flux, so it burns off faster than
the proper soldering temp requires, leaving the possibility for a
dirty solder. also there is the minute possibility that the solder
is bad solder. you get what you pay for in solder. plumb solder from
stuller or hoover should be adequate. let us know.

Andrew Ourada
Owner Sandy’s Jewelry
Holdrege, Ne


If the metal is clean and the joint well fitted, use a LIGHT coat of
Grifflux #1, direct the flame from below or behind the solder but not
on it, don’t take too long to bring the piece to temperature and the
solder should flow. It should flow shortly after the flux melts.

Jerry in Kodiak


It still sounds as if you are not heating the whole piece evenly.



Hi Michael,

I use a touch of Handy paste flux for all my solder joints. Solder
flows very completely and smoothly into the joints.

Coat the entire piece with anti-firescale flux and put a small
amount of paste flux on the joint.

Lee Epperson

I promise I won't ask any more questions about this topic. I don't
want to get on anybody's nerves, 

I wouldn’t have noticed that you’re asking a lot of questions if you
hadn’t pointed it out.

I did what everyone said and it still flows around the joint. One
of the joints that I tried on a practice ring had some solder in
the middle of it, but it wasn't covering the whole area of the

Huh? Okay, I think I’ve got it.

The most common problem in soldering is UNeven heating. In a ring,
often that means all the solder goes to one side of the ring (the
hot side). Since your solder is in the center of the joint, that
means your heating must be reasonably good. You’re just not getting
it to spread out.

Couple of ideas:

  • use a soldering pick and while the solder is molten, spread it out
    across the whole seam. (not pretty, but it works for beginners)

  • use the torch flame to “push” the molten solder to the ends of the
    ring joint.

  • the last possibility is that you’re just not using enough solder,
    but it sounds like you would have thought of that.

I wouldn’t change flux. Stick with what you’re comfortable with.
Don’t go adding new variables. Soldering just takes a long time to
learn, esp. without someone to sit next to you and guide you.

Hope that helps.


Elaine Luther
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay


Well, it could be you’re the village idiot, but I doubt it. If you
write Washington maybe you can get appointed to a high office…

I haven’t read anything previously by you, but the troubles you are
having are fundamental anyway. First, you don’t say what metal you
are using - that matters a lot. There are two issues at hand: The
seam itself, and the heat. Most likely your seam is not fitted
closely enough. After soldering 50,000 joints, I’m a little less
anal about joints, but they do have to be extremely close if not
"crammed" together.

Hold it up to the light and if you can see light through it, it’s
not close enough. Most people think this is so it will polish up
nice, which is true, but more importanty it’s because the solder will
flow due to “capillary action”, which is that a liquid will flow into
and up a thin crack or seam. If you put two sheets of glass together
and just touch them to some water, it will travel and inch or
something up between the sheets. When you say the solder is “Jumping
to both sides”, it’s a clue that the above is part of the problem -
there’s no capillary to flow into - it’s a gap.

Then comes heat. If you are soldering a silver ring, you must heat
up the whole piece to about 2/3 of soldering temp. Bear with me, but
this is because the silver conducts heat so well that it steals heat
from your seam. Goldsmiths sometimes bring me silver to solder
because they just don’t have a feel for that fact. Then, when you
are warmed up, you want to heat the seam, making sure that you heat
both sides fairly equally -“left, right, left, right” until it flows.
One thing I often do, which is easier in gold, is to just “slump” the
solder on one side, so that it is actually bonded, and then go to
the other side and pull it across.

The fundamental principal of all soldering, silver, gold, brass,
bronze, lead, pewter - and even welding, is that the solder will
follow the heat - it will literally flow to the hottest point, and
you can even pull it around with the torch. Finally, If you use the
above thoughts, which are just the basics of soldering, and your
metal is clean and fluxed, it WILL work. There’s no big mystery, you
just have to play by the rules. And truly finally - take your time.
You can’t take all day with a hot piece, but just use the torch
wisely, apply heat as needed, no hurry, making sure everything gets
what it needs, and then the solder will go phluggh, and voila’ - a
soldered ring.


I have learned that fluxes do act differently. So maybe give it a

An American Cameo Artist


Hi Michael

Don’t ever be afraid to ask about anything…all problems are
overcome with experience, and soon you will be the one giving

About all I can offer you is a rehash of what you have already been
offered, but maybe you will see something in the writing. First of
all, be sure to obtain a nice clean straight joint for your solder…
Cut it with a saw, and run a parallel file through it to even the
sides up. Bring the sides of the shank together so the joint is nice
and tight. Firecoat ( I use Methyl hydrate and boric acid ). I put
the ring or item in a third hand with the joint to be soldered the
farthest from the tweezers. The tweezers can act as heat sink and
make it harder to flow the solder. Warm the shank a bit. Using a
tweezer, dip a small piece of pre-cut solder in batterns flux and
place it on the joint. I place the solder on the joint on the
opposite side from which I am going to direct the flame. The solder
will run toward the heat source. The flux on the solder and warm
shank will help it to stick in place and keep it from flying off
when you put the torch to the joint. The next step is the most
important. with a soft flame ( VERY slightly reducing… if you can
hear the torch hissing and the blue tip is very small, you are using
too much heat and will have a tougher time to control it. ). Start by
making an effort to heat the entire shank from shoulder to shoulder,
and as it heats up, bring the movement of your flame gradually closer
to the center where the joint is. For the solder to flow and
penetrate well onto both sides of the joint, it is important that
both sides are adequately heated. Heat the shank up so the heat from
the shank melts the solder. Don’t try to melt the solder with your
torch, and force it to go into the joint. You will find that you can
almost make the solder go where you want it to by changing the
direction of the heat. Try doing this very slowly at first. it might
seem like it takes forever for the solder to flow, but you will end
up with nice strong solders. As you get better with your heat
control, it will become easier, and you will do it more quickly.

Just a few thoughts, and what has worked for me.

Good Luck

... The only thing I haven't tried is a different flux. I usually
use the green Batterns flux. Will that make a difference? 

Hello Michael,

If you check the Orchid archives you’ll find a lot of discussion on
this subject. That said, a change of flux can make all the
difference in the world and what works for one person may not be so
great for someone else. It depends on the metals you are working
with, your work habits, even the kind of torch you use can effect
your results to a certain extent. Personally I was rather unimpressed
with Batterns --mind you this is a few years ago now-- and after much
experimentation I ended up just making my own.

The classic flux formula is 1 part Boric Acid + 3 parts Borax in
enough water to make it as thick, or thin, as you like. It works
quite well. Some of the commercial fluxes are better for specific
applications but few can match the general wide-ranging usefulness of
this classic formula.

Understanding fluxes can be pretty invaluable. If you can it is very
much worth getting your hands on a copy of Erhard Brepohl’s “The
Theory and Practice of Goldsmithing” and read both the section on
reducing fluxes in Chapter Four (pp. 122-4) and especially section
8.1.2 “Fluxes” in Chapter Eight (pp. 295-300). Those pages will
bring a lot of clarity to this important but confusing topic. Another
useful resource for beginners is the soldering and flux articles by
Sara M. Sanford at the Lapidary Journal site (see

For several years I used a home-brew flux from Brepohl’s book and
found it better than any of the commercial products I’d tried to
date. Since I’ve started working in Argentium Sterling I can’t say
that is still true. I now use Thessco’s “F” flux and very pleased
with it but as I’ve said, your mileage can and probably will vary.

After all is said and done there’s no substitute for simply trying a
number of different fluxes to see what works best for you … IMHO.

Trevor F.
in The City of Light


Good Morning,

This may sound silly but it’s a good way to learn and cheap. Go to a
hardware store and buy some copper pipe, slip unions, flux and
solder. Practice with short pieces of pipe and the unions. When you
do it right the solder will draw all the way to the inside so when
you look inside the slip union you will see a ring of solder at the
end of the pipe. This way you can experiment with different methods
and see how you can use the heat to draw the solder where you want
it. Since this type of soldering is done at a much lower temperature
than silver soldering and you won’t hale to worry about overheating
or ruining the piece, it will be easier to get it right. You will
then be able to take the experience and confidence you have
developed to apply it to precious metals


The classic flux formula is 1 part Boric Acid + 3 parts Borax in
enough water to make it as thick, or thin, as you like. It works
quite well. Some of the commercial fluxes are better for specific
applications but few can match the general wide-ranging usefulness
of this classic formula. 

Ooopsy! Make that alcohol (I prefer denatured ethanol) NOT water.
Water just makes the solution clump up and settle into a nice hard
little brick at the bottom of the container.

Trevor F.
in The City of Light

green Batterns flux. Will that make a difference?


I had this same problem years ago, I have used Handy flux (white
paste flux) after I used a fire scale guard (made up of 50/50
denatured alcohol and boric acid powder). The primary thing is that
the metal has to be very very very clean and the denatured
alcohol/boric acid mix is a great base flux that keeps the metal

Good luck,


Hi Michael,

Don’t apologize for asking these questions! We’ve all been there at
one time or another! I don’t know if I’ve seen all your previous
posts or replies, but all I can think of is… if you have already
cleaned your metal properly, alocohol/ boric acid burn off, flux…
is perhaps your solder is contaminated - try a new source… and then
you maybe be being too nervous at applying enough heat! I would try a
larger hotter flame, run your flame over the whole piece to pre-warm
it, then really get right in there and heat it faster (larger flame)
sometimes we drag out the process tooooo long and just hang in there
too long with a flame that is not hot enough. Good luck, and you
should get it. Try some practice pieces first- actually melting some
to get the feel of too much heat- you’ll begin to know exactly how
much heat you need before you’ve overdone it. Is there a local
jeweler you can observe for a bit? Sometimes it really helps to just
SEE someone do it…



THE two main reasons things won’t solder…they need to fit close
enough light will not show through and they need to be clean. With
those two problems solved I have used any kind of flux and use an
acetylene torch for all my work. I never have a problem getting
things to solder if the work fits and is clean. No fancy fix, not
complicated, clean and fit, that’s all.



Hi all,

I went to Lowe’s and bought the Bernz-o-matic pencil torch many of
you recommended. It was $11. It seems to be itentical to the
plumber’s torch I already have, right down to the serial numbers
stamped into the nozzle. Does anyone know if the Bernz-o-matic
pencil torch listed in the Rio Grande catalog has a finer tip than
the one you get the in hardware store? I’d hate to think I’m paying
$60 for just a hose. I don’t mind holding the bottle that much.

This is about my 4th attempt to solder chain. I’ve spent hours
reading soldering articles and practicing, so I’m familiar with the
basic rules. (Every month or so I spend two or three days trying to
solder and then give up for a while.) This time I’ve had some
success. I’m trying to make half persian 4-in-1 out of 19 gauge
5.0mm ID argentium sterling. I’m using argentium solder I got from
Rio Grande and some water soluable paste flux I got at the hardware
store. I’m now able to reliably solder a single ring (95% success
rate). However, as soon as I start to link them together, I can no
longer get the solder to flow. The solder will form a neat little
ball and look like it’s about to flow, but nothing. I can fuse the
ring together, or even melt the ring, but the solder is still as
hard as a rock. I’m using the exact same technique that I use for a
single ring. I’m using pliers to hold the ring about an inch ahead of
the blue cone, since I don’t yet have an appropriate soldering
surface. (My 16" ceramic tile is good for setting hot stuff on, but
it will crack if I point the flame at it for an extended period.) Can
anyone suggest a different technique for soldering chains than
soldering a single ring?

Thanks for all your sage advice,
Natalie Horvath



Try new flux.

I, too, had major problems with soldering when I tried to set up my
home studio about 4 years ago. I tried “everything” from different
(natural bristle) flux brushes to cleaning my solder chips and
soldering workstation EVERY time I tried to solder. Still didn’t
work. Like you, I read everything I could find and asked my
fabrication instructor, etc… I tried everything I read about and
learned some very good soldering habits/tips.

... The only thing I haven't tried is a different flux. I usually
use the green Batterns flux. Will that make a difference? 

Finally, I thought it may be the green Batterns flux. For safety
reasons, my soldering station is outside on my deck (in Florida). I
kept some flux in a small, clear glass jar on the tabletop, ready
for use. Every afternoon, the sun would shine on the workstation.
Then the flux would no longer be useable, the solder would not flow
in the fluxed areas.

As soon as I started protecting the flux (Batterns)–by keeping it
in the dark unless I was soldering–I started having good results.

This is what worked for me. Obviously, I learned a lot while
investigating the issue and I could not tell you scientifically if
the sunlight really affected the flux or if I just assumed that it

Good luck,

Mary Oehler


One suggestion I can make is to make a little furnace out of three
charcoal blocks. Wrap them in biding wire and then wrap them
together so they don’t collapse while you are soldering. This will
create a very hot environment. I haven;t followed the rest of the
thread but oxy/acetylene with a hoke handle and a rosebud tip could
help you get an even heating for the rings. And better yet,
oxy/natural gas which is used to solder platinum.

You can also get solder filled wire and there is a solder machine
that connects solder filled wire on contact.

Just a few ideas.-T

I'm using the exact same technique that I use for a single ring.
I'm using pliers to hold the ring about an inch ahead of the blue

Could be that the pliers are acting as a heat sink and preventing
the solder from melting.


Learning myself but my instructor told me something that no one in
books as mentioned when soldering several times you need to be aware
of the low med and high solders

first solder is high ie joining two pieces for a pendant next the
bail use med if you are going to ad a bezel or low if it is the last
solder that way when you heat the silver the hard solder will not be
affected as each subsequent solder flows at lower temperatures. you
can get a soldering surface for $3 go to lowes or whatever and get a
fire resistant brick

An American Cameo Artist