The solder challenged

Hi All,

Although I feel that I’m an accomplished jewelry artist, I have (so
far) avoided soldering most of my pieces. Fine silver is my
forte…mainly fusing rings into chains, and using the metal in
cases where I need to avoid any firescale. I still use some
sterling, but mostly for forging and texturing.

I’ve had limited experience with soldering using paste solder
recently, but the results were mixed…sometimes it worked and
sometimes it didn’t. I know that part of the problem is that the
paste solder might be too old…but I still had trouble using tiny
snippetts of wire solder. As far as torches are concerned, I have
been using a jumbo butane torch. Perhaps that isn’t hot enough? It
should be hot enough according to “Soldering Made Simple” by Joe
Silvera. Maybe there is way too much heat-sinking going on.

I really want to get this down…other jewelry artists solder as if
they were born soldering. I’m so tired of the frustration, I’m ready
to ask for a Little Torch System for my 60th B’day if that would
help. My sales at a local gallery are starting to pick up, and I
want to give my customers something new and fresh…soldering would
give me more design freedom…including stone setting.

Do you guys recommend getting a hotter torch, like the micro torch
propane and air system? (and I KNOW I need fresh paste
solder…that’s a no-brainer…even for me!).


Do you guys recommend getting a hotter torch, like the micro torch
propane and air system? (and I KNOW I need fresh paste 

Get a hotter larger torch, propane and O2 do work well and are
clean. I am a fire and brimstone guy. I do work very hot, hard solder
and really close to fusing with acet and O2. Add more flux to your
paste, even up to that nasty white fluoride stuff. (water it down a

No time to be timid, blast the hell out of the piece. Sure you will
melt stuff but that phase will pass. I think that most soldering
problems are caused by not enough BTUs. Axle grease on the joint is
not a good idea but a random finger print won’t kill ya.

Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing

Hi Betsy.

…exactly MY thoughts…I’m having some success at the gallery I
sell through, but it is time to ‘up’ my game and offer something new
and fresh. I, too, am new to ‘soldering’, but the best trick I
learned is:

…place the ‘snippet of solder’ on the soldering board (I use
medium)…place the seam of your piece on top of the solder where
you need to make the join…using a natural bristle paint brush
(Dollar store type) ‘paint’ a little flux at the seam. (I use the
Batterns self-pickling liquid flux)

Using my jumbo butane torch (yup, I use it, too!) heat the WHOLE
piece in circular motions and slowly move into the area where the
seam is…your flux will bubble…‘frost’ up and then turn
clear…be patient…keep moving your torch…and magically
it will appear like your solder ‘jumps’ up onto your piece and flows
up through the seam towards your heat.

…remember…you’re not melting the solder…you’re heating
the metal…flux helps to attract the solder and ‘move it along’
…if you don’t have success and your solder melts but doesn’t
flow through the seam…quench the piece…pickle and try
again…solder won’t flow on fire scale.

After a soldering ‘success’, quench, pickle, rinse and dry. Inspect
the seams…if there are pits or ‘missed bits’…solder again with a
fresh snippet…

I’m also thinking it is time to get a ‘real’ torch…

cheers, and hope it helps!

For soldering your small rings use a nice sharp propane torch, you
don’t want heat all over the place. It needs to be focused. I use
oxygen and propane which takes the heat into exactly where I want it.
Silver is more difficult to solder than gold because it conducts the
heat away very quickly. If you hold the ring in tweezers while you
try to solder the silver conducts the heat to the tweezers, so don’t
hold with anything. Also what flux are you using the simplest is the
Borax cone which you grind on a slate to produce a milky solution to
paint on the area to be soldered. I cut my solder panel into the flux
so that they are covered with flux before placing, they must be
fluxed as well.

Hope this helps, if you have any other questions don’t hesitate to


Hi Betsy,

There really is no magic answer. It’s probably down to the need to
practice, practice, practice. There is a list of things to make sure
are right, such as working clean, making sure the piece is fluxed
(if using ordinary solder), bringing the whole piece up to soldering
temperature so that the metal flows the solder, not the torch flame,
etc, etc. But really it’s a practice thing.


Fine silver is my forte...mainly fusing rings into chains 

If you can fuse fine silver using your torch, you can solder
sterling. Try using snippets of sheet solder and solder just like you
fuse only faster. (The solder melts before the silver)

More than needed heat is a waste of fuel and possibly $$. Why don’t
you get new paste solder or if I were really being asked what to do,
I would say use flux and solder rather than paste-solder. Also,
practice helps, A LOT in the case of working with silver.
Silver is more difficult to solder than gold. Keep allows/metal
sources consistent, keep as many variables down to the absolute
minimum. Practice, practice, practice, as it helps!!!

john dach

Hi Betsy,

I’m about on par with you, I think, with level of soldering
experience. But I think that it IS definitely something that can be
learned. I’d also just about bet cold hard cash that not one person
on the Orchid Forum just sat down one day and started turning out
perfectly soldered pieces. It’s definitely a hands-on skill acquired
only with practice. I was lucky enough to get to get some private
tutoring from a very kind local artist, and I intend to get more in
the future (as soon as I find some time and brain space). But, that
said…I’d been using a butane torch. I don’t think it gets hot
enough, honestly. I got an acetylene torch. And I’d been using paste
too–but April (the lady who was teaching me) put me on to chip and
wire solder and applying my own flux (and most importantly, how to
actually use it properly), and I swear I’m never going back to paste.
I have a very, very long way to go before I consider myself anywhere
near accomplished, but I got enough from just a single tutoring
session to keep working on my own, and have a much higher success

I’ve no idea where you live, but find somebody who can show you the
techniques for soldering. Spending the money for private tuition will
be invaluable. It is for me.

Hope that helps!


After years now I think I can solder in my sleep…

I sometimes have a humbling moment but it’s really rare. I really
love my oxygen propane set up with the Versa Torch by Smith. Why do
I like it. It’s really hot. There is no frustration. I teach just a
couple times a year at a school near me that has traditional
acetylene torches… because I am not use to them they make me
crazy. (If I used them everyday that would not be the case.) I also
have the Little Smith Torch and had only that torch for the first 5
years I worked. It was ok but the Versa Torch is just that much
better - wish I would have had it first. I have seen several artists
at shows and in tutorial books that use butane torches… not sure
how they do it. It would make me crazy in the patience level
department. You could probably do 1x1 inch pieces pretty easily but
any bigger? I guess someone else will have to chime in…

I use sheet solder that I cut into snippets. I crease a piece of
paper and cut them on to that and pour them in to a little snap lid
container so I have enough for the week without cutting them all the
time. I don’t prefer wire solder - again just what I am use to. I
have never even tried paste solder and probably won’t. I am so use
to the way I set up each piece.

When I was frustrated this is the steps I took to solve my problems.

  1. Everything is clean… silver, solder, your hands, your pick and
    your tweezers 2.Everything is fluxed, warm the flux up so it’s not
    bubbling your solder all over the place 3. Place your solder exactly
    where you want it. 4. Place your silver exactly where you want it
    over the solder. 5. All metal must be touching - no gaps 6. Apply
    the correct amount of heat - which for me is as much as possible
    because I like that. That does not work for students/beginners
    because they burn everything or destroy it.

Using fine silver is pure pleasure because it’s soooo dang pretty
and not the unsightly fire scale! So keep on using fine silver. Love
the stuff. Somethings need to be stronger but if you can get away
with fine silver all the better!

Oh, practice with some copper first. I use to make everything in
copper and then in silver just so I wasn’t ruining things. Practice
soldering something useless all day - not worrying about design or
ruining metal. You will have it by the end of the day! Have fun and
Yes - get a torch for your birthday! New tool! What could be better!
Happy 60th Birthday! Enjoy starting fires daily ~ I sure
do!.. :slight_smile: j

Joy kruse


Having helped a lot of folks learn to solder I have always found
some common problems that cause failure.

  1. Dirty metal… especially when using fine silver. It oxidizes
    faster than sterling and is harder to clean. scrub it with fine
    steel wool…then keep your mitts off of it…that’s what God made
    tweezers for!

  2. The Wrong torch… Your torch is PLENTY hot… you can solder
    silver with half the heat any propane torch will put out… but
    perhaps you are oxidizing the silver before it can let the solder
    flow. Turn the flame down and work as far away from that blue cone
    you can see as possible. If you don’t work in Gold…and you ask for
    a torch, ask for an acetylene torch that uses atmospheric
    oxygen…and NOT oxygen in a bottle. Prestolyte makes a good one.
    Use a sort of “Feathery” flame with that type of torch.

  3. The wrong flux. For 35 years on silver, I have never used
    anything but Batterns self pickling flux for hard solder. Apply as
    little as you can, then cut that in half! (smile)

  4. Heat the entire piece… don’t heat one spot. Keep the torch
    moving…and again, stay away from that blue cone in the flame.

All that being correct… spend some time on smaller
pieces…scrap…that you can solder on and then send to a refiner
or something. Sterling is easier to solder than fine…so, perhaps
learn on sterling then move to fine. I don’t know where you are but
if you get toward Amarillo, I’ll donate an hour or so!!! I can teach
you the basics and technique in that length of time.

I hope this can help. Good Luck. Dan.


When I’ve helped students figure out their soldering problems, it’s
always one of the following issues, in order of likelihood:

#1. Heat - not enough heat. It’s the volume of heat that matters,
not just the temperature of the flame. The butane torches are ok for
working on tiny workpieces. For any volume of metal, you’ll need a
good volume (big bushy flame). Also make sure that tweezers or
something aren’t acting like a heat sink.

#2. Fit - spend the extra minute to get a good fit of the pieces to
be soldered. Make sure you can’t see light between the pieces.
Solder can’t jump a seam with a space in between.

#3. Contamination - the metals need to be free of oil, grease,
scale, dirt, etc.

#4. Flux - make sure the solder doesn’t cook off (when #1 happens)

#5. Gravity - the solder will want to follow gravity. Position your
piece to take advantage of gravity whenever you can.

#6. Solder - occasionally students use a snippet of metal instead of

Good luck,

Hi Betsy - I had the same issue and no one to ask - I became SO
frustrated I put everything away for 4 years! What a lamentable waste
of time!! Finally found out that my solder had oxidized. Dirty
solder+heatround blobs of solder, not shiny spreading liquid. Throw
your snippets away (or pickle them to clean maybe?), get some wire
solder and keep a scotch brite pad with them - before soldering
anything, draw the solder wire through the pad a few times, then snip
what you need for the job only, and you should have no problems. Even
with old flux, unless I’m mistaken, just add some distilled water to
get desired consistency and stir well.


Sam Kaffine

Hi folks, I put a piece of Pacific cloth inside each bag of solder
and silver. It helps keep the oxidation at bay. Hit it with a
Scotchbrite just before soldering if needed and away you go!! Enjoy
the sunshine! Helen

Amen, Sam. Dirty solder is the culprit. EVERY TIME you solder PULL

Rose Marie Christison

Finally found out that my solder had oxidized. Dirty
solder+heatround blobs of solder, not shiny spreading liquid.
Throw your snippets away (or pickle them to clean maybe?) 

I have been soldering sterling for 40 years and I have never cleaned
my solder. I use both sheet and wire.

I have no problem with solder not flowing. I have always used paste
flux from a welding supply.

I do not have pitted solder seams or any other problem. I suspect it
is an issue of source of heat and proper flux. Metal has to be clean.

Richard Hart G.G.
Denver, Co.

Amen, Sam. Dirty solder is the culprit. EVERY TIME you solder PULL

I disagree. I have NEVER cleaned the tarnish off my silver solder,
and I never have any problems soldering.

I agree except that I have never used paste flux. I make a
supersaturated solution of reagent grade boric acid and the same
quality denatured alcohol (though I’m sure off the shelf roach boric
acid and hardware store denatured alcohol would work equally well…I
just happened to be at a chemical supply house when I bought mine.)

Finally found out that my solder had oxidized. Dirty
solder+heatround blobs of solder, not shiny spreading liquid.
Throw your snippets away (or pickle them to clean maybe?), 

There is no need to through it away. Simply pickle or wipe down, it
is not really a worry unless you have great piles of crud on the
solder. Cleanliness in the solder joint area and of the solder is
important but it is not going to keep the solder from melting and
flowing in a well fluxed joint. The biggest problem I see in folks
that have trouble soldering is they don’t get it hot enough fast
enough. Use a big enough and hot enough flame and the solder will
take care of itself but, if you dawdle around with too small a flame
or otherwise spend too much time you will burn out the flux, oxidize
the metal and not have a good soldering experience. Practice speed of
heating and heat the metal not the solder.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts

I have NEVER cleaned the tarnish off my silver solder 

Me neither, and it always solders successfully, even if it’s been
sat there for weeks/months at a time, already cut into snippets.


I’ll second what Richard Hart says. I still have some dirty ol’
solder from the ancient days of university classes, and even dirty,
it flows just fine. (We won’t define “ancient”!) I rarely use those
bits since switching to Argentium solders.

Judy in Kansas, where this spring has been so beautiful it is
scary!! My fear is that the summer will be another scorcher.