Tack Welder Question

Does anyone out there in Orchidland have experience with tack
welders used to tack weld settings in place before soldering?
I am not talking about the Sparkie type fusion welder I have
used them and understand that type of machine. Rio lists 2 one
is the Lightning which sells for $450 the other is the Flash
that sells for $770. Is one better than the other ? are they
both a waste of money?


James Binnion Metal Arts
4701 San Leandro St #18
Oakland, CA 94601

Jim: I purchased both the Flash & the Sparkie a few years ago.
The Flash is great for general tacking purposes but it has become
obsolete in my shop because I purchased a Laser welder.
Everything I did with the Flash I can do with the Laser. I will
sell my Flash.

Charles Eichhorn

I met the owner of Triad, Andrew Harney, at the Atlanta Jewelry
Show last Feb. He let me try the Flash welder- it is very easy
to use, and will easily tack findings together. Like the Sparkie,
if you have a use for it, it will come in handy to position
settings for soldering. It is NOT a substitute for soldering like
a laser welder, however.

Rick Hamilton

I use a tack welder from ASI. I use it mainly for tacking
settings onto pieces. You can position the setting looking at
the front and getting it exactly where you want it. After you
tack, if you don’t like the position you can easily break the
tack and try again and again. You can then solder from the back
or any position which makes your soldering easy. It is
especially useful for platinum where the soldering setup is more
challenging and you can’t see as well due to the high temp. and
dark glasses. I find it indispensable for some jobs, but it has
several major drawbacks. 1) If your contact between the setting
and the piece isn’t firm and clean, you can get an explosive arc
between the pieces. Although not dangerous, this is scary and
often destroys the setting, pits the piece and blackens the
soldering area. On some jobs this can happen fairly often. It
is such a problem that I am the only one in my studio willing to
use the welder – everyone else is too scarred of it! Dipping
the setting in water and lots of practice will eliminate most of
this problem.

  1. The electrical contacts between the electrodes and the piece
    or the setting can be a problem. If it is too small a contact,
    you can get a weld there as well as where you want it. It also
    can have the same arc and explosion, leaving serious damage to
    your piece I use a lock tweezer connected to the welder to hold
    the setting. Almost always the setting welds to the tweezer as
    well as to the piece. You can ruin your tack weld trying to get
    the tweezer off - VERY frustrating! With practice, you find you
    can use a small dental pick type of tool to release the tweezers
    grab on the setting by prying it gently without ruining your
    tack. I make my own tweezer and modify the tips to get a good
    contact with the setting. Over time with use the tweezer will
    erode and you get a ratty contact and therefore more arcing and
    sticking. You need to maintain and replace it as necessary.

Like many tools, this one requires experience and a thorough
knowledge of its potential and limitations. I find it
indispensable and well worth the learning curve. My welder from
ASI , the Tack 1, cost about $450 and works well for my small
pieces, even platinum which requires more power. The
accessories can get pricey but the ones which hold the piece and
the setting are the critical elements to success.

Tom Kruskal;

I bought a Tack II from Gesswein a number of years ago. It sits
on the shelf never found it truly useful! Good concept but it
least for that one the details seem lacking, I was getting burns
at contact points rather than at the joint that needed welded!

Mark Chapman

I don’t know about the lightening, but I have and like a Flash
unit. These operate on about the same principal as the sparkie,
being a capacative discharge machine. the current spike causes a
tiny, poor quality weld, which is enough to hold parts in
position till you can solder them properly. Sometimes, the weld
is even slightly flexible, so you can refine positioning after
tacking it. I especially like these for platinum use. The big
limitation I’ve found is this: The weld takes place most
effectively when the contact with the parts to be joined is
minimal, at just a tangential contact point. Often this is the
case and then the machines work very well. But if you attempt
to tack two peices that actually have good intimately fitted
contact with each other, then that contact provides good
electrical conductivity, and it’s a low resistance contact.
Then, it usually turns out that the highest resistance connection
in the circuit is not the joint you want to weld, but rather
where the piece you’re tacking is held by the tweezers you’re
using to hold it in position. Then you get your piece tacked to
the tweezers, instead of to your work. Annoying. And
occasionally, that contact, even if it doesn’t tack, leaves a
slight scar, just as the posts sometimes get on the sparkie, so
you have to be careful where you hold the pieces. Tack welders
don’t do it all. They don’t replace binding wire and other forms
of holding pieces in position for soldering. At least not all
the time. But they greatly add to the arsenal of methods for
work holding, and when they are appropriate, they can be great
time savers. Oh, and check Swests price on the Flash. I think
it may be cheaper than Rio, if I recall correctly… (might be
wrong, but I seem to remember that it is closer to 500 or less
from Swest…)

Hope this helps.

Peter Rowe

I’m wondering why anyone would want to do something twice?
Soldering isn’t that difficult after much practice. Tack welders
seem to be a waste of money. (In my opinion.)