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Still can't solder


#1

I have good news and one more question. I found some Handy Flux in
my shop that my Grandpa had stored away and didn’t use anymore. I
followed cleaning and prep procedures, but used the Handy Flux this
time. Wow! When the solder flowed it looked completely different and
made a very strong solder joint. I hope that this is my remedy, but
I don’t want to jinx myself. Now my new question. This flux has been
kept sealed in a glass jar, but is probably older than me. Can it go
bad? When I used some it seemed to work great. By the way, someone
on here asked me what I was soldering and it is 10 and 14 karat
white and yellow gold pieces. Thanks everyone for your help. I
noticed that people who know what they are talking about are always
patient with simple questions like mine and everyone on here is very
helpful.

Thanks again,
Michael Wise


#2

Michael.

        I found some Handy Flux in my shop that my Grandpa had
stored away and didn't use anymore. I followed cleaning and prep
procedures, but used the Handy Flux this time. <snip> This flux
has been kept sealed in a glass jar, but is probably older than me.
Can it go bad?

No, the Handy flux won’t go bad , but it may dry out. Just add a
little water and mix it up and it will be just fine. :slight_smile:

Jerry in Kodiak


#3

Michael,

My solder bench is outside on my patio. The Outside temperature
ranges from 115 degrees to 40 degrees. I use Handy Flux.

The only time I have known it to go bad was when it lost its
moisture. It then turns into a rock. Because my flux is stored
outside I store my Handy Flux in the original container, then place
the original container in a sealed plastic container. I put some
water into the outer container to keep the moisture content around
the Handy Flux at a high amount. Seems to work for me.

Note: I vaguely remember that Handy Flux changed their formula to
prevent it from turning into a rock.

Use as little Handy Flux as possible as it will wash away the
anti-fire scale flux from the joint leaving a ring of fire scale
around the joint.

Lee Epperson


#4

Soldering: illusive, fretful, illuminating and the foundation of
what we jewelers do.

I absolutely love soldering and create pieces that require multiple
connections, often as many as 15 on a single piece. I also teach a
3-day workshop to help others. Here are some of the basics.

  1. The perfect fit. No matter how clean your work might be, solder
    cannot jump over a canyon. Your bezel might look straight and your
    filing precise, but stare at your connection through a loop and you
    will wonder about what demons came to your bench and ravaged the ends
    while you weren’t looking.

Solution: Achieving the perfect fit. I may solder well, but I can’t
file a straight seam worth a damn. I purchased a miter jig. This is
an expensive tool, but one I can’t live without. Fabricated from case
hardened steel, insert each end of your bezel strip and file against
the jig. Perfect connection, perfect solder. Yum.

  1. Soldering different metals. Some metals expand at different rates
    because of their melting temperatures. The second band ring I
    fabricated had a nice wiggly, sweat soldered flattened piece of
    copper over silver. I tried soldering this sucker several times and
    couldn’t get it to fit until I bound the thing to an inch of its
    life. Copper has a higher melting temperature than silver. The
    experience was like trying to cook a perfect Thanksgiving turkey when
    I just passed the exam on making toast.

  2. Silver Solders. Here is what I have learned.

Solder from Rio Grande, Easy and Medium are fine. The Hard won’t
melt if I put it under a blast furnace. It kind of blobs.

Hauser and Miller: More alloy, less silver. All around good, E, M,
H, all do what it needs to do. Color match is good. It’s a good all
around solder for my students, flows nicely and easy to work with.

Hoover and Strong: Less alloy and needs more heat. They have the
best color match solder around. It takes more heat to flow, but worth
it when it does. I rate this as a minimum intermediate skill level
solder.

Gold Solders. Honestly, I don’t like any American made gold solder.
I find you need a spot welder to make them flow, and they don’t flow,
they sort of goo in place. I use German solder from C Hafner. It
flows, it moves, it makes working in gold a pleasure.

  1. Flux. My favorite for silver is Superior Six paste flux. Jeffrey
    Herman of the Society of American Silversmiths fame,
    http://www.silversmithing.com/, turned me on to this. For silver it
    creates a lovely bluish skin which allows me to solder and resolder,
    without having to pickle each time.

Boric acid and alcohol is good for gold, as is Batterns. I haven’t
worked with white gold or platinum, so I won’t comment there.

  1. The Great Gas Debate. One of the most hotly contested of all,
    which gas is best. Well it depends, what are you doing[xxxxx] I use
    propane/oxy and acetylene /air. For big stuff, larger pieces like the
    6-8" size, I go with acetylene/air. For silver, I use Prips to keep
    the firescale down. For smaller pieces, I like propane/oxy. Honestly,
    use what works the best for you.

We also have natural gas/oxy because I was lucky enough to get it
plumbed in when the building was remodeled. However, I didn’t find
out in time that you need at least 5 psi of gas to work with the
regulators. The G-Tech gas booster was a life saver.

  1. Torches: We use the Smith torch tips for acetelyne/air, the
    Little Torch and the Meco Midgett.

  2. Fire brick: ceramic vs solderite vs firebrick vs charcoal. This
    does get confusing. A few do’s and don’ts. Don’t use past flux on
    charcoal. It gums it up. Solderite boards don’t like it either.
    Firebricks are fine. Clean your soldering surfaces. If you have a
    dirty surface, you will take away heat trying to bring everything up
    to temperature. Start clean and end clean.

  3. Tweezers are handy, they also act as huge heat sinks. Tip, heat
    the tweezer by the tip. You don’t need to get it bright red hot, but
    by doing this the steel in the tweezer takes a while to cool down and
    your soldering area stays nice and hot.

  4. Learn to use your flame in your good hand and teach to pick and
    place in your other. Why? Flame control is the essence of good
    soldering. Once the pieces are in place, you won’t have to switch
    hands.

  5. Heat control. I often find my students taking out a oo Smith
    torch and trying to solder a giant piece of metal. Unless you have
    nothing else to do for the rest of the day, there is no way that
    anemic flame will raise enough heat to solder. Rule of thumb. If you
    can see your piece from a foot away, use a bigger torch tip. If you
    need to squint, a smaller one is best.

Your flame doesn’t have to do all the work. Build a little oven with
heat bricks, or take away heat by burying some of that chain or piece
in your pumice chips.

Soldering is a balance of heat, hand, eye and focus.

Karen Christians
M E T A L W E R X
50 Guinan St.
Waltham, MA 02451
Ph. 781/891-3854 Fax 3857
http://www.metalwerx.com/
Jewelry/Metalarts School & Cooperative Studio


#5

Dear Karen,

Thank you for the very detailed and enlightening piece on soldering.
I have just a couple of questions remaining.

  1. How does one get the C. Hafner solder? Can I buy it through
    Metalwerx? If so, whom do I contact about it?

  2. Where can I find the Superior Six paste flux?

  3. Where can I find the miter jig?

Thank you again for your generosity with knowledge and experience. I
am looking forward to your reply.

Ayalla D.
@Ayalla_Dollinger


#6
Learn to use your flame in your good hand and teach to pick and
place in your other. Why? Flame control is the essence of good
soldering. Once the pieces are in place, you won't have to switch
hands.

Well said Karen, and thank you! I have been advised to use the torch
in my left hand several times during an open studio and always felt
like I was giving up some of the control. I continued to do it the
"wrong way", with the torch in my right hand because it worked for
me. Thank you so much for explaining why (and giving me a great
comeback line). I am also going to buy the miter jig I have coveted
since day one, now I know I need it!

Jean Marie DeSpiegler
Near Tampa Bay in Florida, and happily looking forward to meeting Karen
in person at Revere Academy East in North Carolina!


#7

Hi Ayalla,

I used to get my German solder from a friend. I still have quite a
bunch, so I haven’t ordered any in a long time.

Here is Hafner’s address:

Germany C.Hafner GmbH + Co
Bleichstrasse 13-17 PF708, D-75173 Pforzheim 
Germany 07231/920-129 07231/920

We order Superior Six from H & N Electronics.
http://www.ccis.com/home/hn/index.htm
Nice friendly people.

Superior also has a website
http://www.superiorflux.com

the jig. Also called a tube cutting jig, they are available through
most suppliers. Rio, Allcraft, Gesswein, Otto Frei, Contenti. They
are quite common.

Karen Christians
M E T A L W E R X
50 Guinan St.
Waltham, MA 02451
Ph. 781/891-3854 Fax 3857
http://www.metalwerx.com/
Jewelry/Metalarts School & Cooperative Studio


#8

Dear Jean Marie,

I don’t agree with Karen about the torch hand. It’s true that as a
beginner one wants the fire in the stronger hand but I’ve always
found that I need the most dexterity for picking up tiny chips of
solder, adjusting bits that shift, and sometimes bringing a part to
another part (earring posts come to mind) in the hand that’s not
holding the torch. It’s easier for me to control the flame than to
move those tiny parts around with my left hand

Just my 2 cents,
Janet


#9

My advice is to become ambidextrous with the torch. Being able to
use either hand as the occasion requires will be the most practical
and beneficial approach.

Michael David Sturlin
www.michaeldavidsturlin.com


#10

I agree with Janet about torch hand selection. As a right hander, I
keep the Smith Little Torch in my left hand, as I need more
dexterity for solder placement that comes from my right hand. I have
been at the bench for 37 years, and I am very particular where all
my tools are positioned on the bench as well as which hand does
which job better for me. If I were to go blind suddenly, I may no
longer be able to do the job, but I know that I could tell when my
hands are in the right position to do it. Even my chair being just
an inch or 2 over from the normal spot causes me discomfort in my
hands when performing any one particular task such as soldering,
filing, setting or various watch repair duties.Memorizing hand
position is crucial to quality repitition of individual tasks. I
open dzs of watches daily, and am usually being talked at by the
customer as I am doing quick battery changes, and tool placement on
the bench, and tool position in my hand allows me to keep working
fast as possible. So establish habits that are comfortable to you if
you wish to gain speed and quality in your work .

Ed in Kokomo