Trying to learn silver soldering on my own

I have read several books on soldering and am at a total loss. I
have some of the equipment, but I am not sure it is the right

I am using a soldering pen that reaches 2500 degrees and using
regular sheet solder. But when I put on the flux and a tiny piece of
the sheet solder, the solder just does NOT melt. It just goes into a
very small ball and in the meantime, the silver wire I am trying to
solder melts too. What am I doing wrong?? I am using a charcoal block
and it has cracked and turned to gray during the times I am using it

Help. Jane

hi there, I just wanted you to know that I got some wonderful and
very detailed responses to a very similar question over the last few
days! The title of the thread is “soldering exercises”.

(let’s see what I learned: it sounds to me like your metal is not
getting hot enough- that’s why the solder is cringing into a ball
like that. )


Hi Jane,

While the soldering pen may reach 2500 deg., the temp isn’t the only
thing that needs to be considered. Generally when soldering precious
metals the biggest problem is the amount of heat that’s required.

Soldering pens transfer heat by conduction. The tip of the pen must
contact the metal being soldered & bring it up to soldering temp.
The small area of contact between the pen tip & the item being
soldered isn’t large enough for the heat transfer to take place. Most
precious metal soldering requires the use of a torch with an exposed
flame. Depending on the size of the item being soldered, the size of
the tip on the torch can also play a big part in how the soldering



It sounds as if you are not get enough heat into the joint. Take a
look at this post…

Regards, Gary Wooding


there was just a very similar thread about silver soldering so maybe
try searching the archives for a few pointers?

everything you are using seems correct, charcoal block, flux,silver

The problem may be the type of flux you are using but im guessing
that the soldering pen may be the problem, heating the metal too
slowly and destroying the solder by the time it reaches melting

Soldering is really quite straight forward. Heat metal, solder
melts, job done…

Use a flux.
Keep piece clean.
Keep joints tight.
Don’t heat to slowly or the solder wont flow.
Finally, dont over heat or you will get pin holes in your join or
melt your piece.

Maybe try using a heavier gauge metal instead of wire or a lower
melting silver solder. This should give you some practice with torch

All the best and good luck!
Jon Horton

Hello Jane,

the charcoal block is reflecting the heat.

Do not heat the solder but point your heat to the area which needs
to be soldered. In other words, Set your silver solder opposite the
flame you’re heating with. The solder will melt (if the joint AND
solder are clean AND fluxed) due to the temp of the silver object and
NOT because you are heating it. If the silver solder balls-up, you’re
heating the solder more then the joint itself.

Preheat you entire piece first and watch the color of the silver.
The color gives you an indication of the temp you’re working with.

Another method is to use a solder pick. Let the solder ball-up and
touch it with you solderpick. It will stick to it but will not joint.
Heat-up your silver object after fluxing the joint. Watch how your
flux become glasy and then place your solder to the joint. The solder
will flow easily into the joint when temp is reached and the joint is
clean. Again, don’t heat the silver from the direction where you
place the solder but from the opposite direction. Solder placed on
bottom of the joint will be directed towards the hottest point
nearest to your torch. Solder will ALWAYS flow to the hottest area of
your piece if all conditions are good. Controlling your flame i.e.
heat is the same as controlling your solderflow. Move your torch
towards your piece for intensive heat and withdraw your torch to
decrease the temp but NEVER pull it back completly in the soldering
operations untill you are finished or your silver becomes liquid (not
good at all if this happends).

Keep your eyes focused on the entire object and not alone on the
joint. You’ll experience in time why you have to do so-))

I hope this will help improving your solder work.

Hi Jane, soldering pen isn’t helping it has a pinpoint flame and is
hotter than you need. Try using a plumbers torch, a bit awkward at
first, practice moving it around without a flame for a while. Make
sure your using a high temp flux used for brazing or soldering
precious metals. Make sure your metals are clean

and well joined. Heat the silver not the solder, when the silver gets
hot enough the solder will flow. I hope that gets you started.

Good luck,
Jim Doherty

I am using a soldering pen that reaches 2500 degrees and using
regular sheet solder. But when I put on the flux and a tiny piece
of the sheet solder, the solder just does NOT melt. 

Soldering pen is designed for electronic work, not jewellery.
Plumber’s torch is a much better choice. Pen simply does not output
enough heat. Temperature alone is a poor indicator of torch ability.

Leonid Surpin


Sounds like your torch is way too small (little butane pencil torch
?) Usually bigger is better, you melt less stuff as insane as that
sounds. Charcoal blocks always crack, a dozen turns of binding wire
around the edges (short sides) will keep the bits together, rubbing
it on a side walk will restore the top surface if it gets too bad.
Just don’t let the neighbours see you :slight_smile:

Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing

Jane, you need to head both metal parts that you are trying to
solder together. The pen may reach 2500 degrees but have such a tiny
flame that it cannot heat the whole thing high enough. Heat on solder
boils out the alloy that enables it to melt before the things that
you are trying to solder together. Hum-mm, rereading your message, it
seems you have a soldering iron of some sort. Silver soldering or
brazing as a welder would call it, needs a torch or kiln. Check out

for about torches.

Balling solder means the metal and solder are dirty- clean
everything including your hands before beginning. Then the pen you
speak of, should work just fine- I use hand held torches with
students a lot for silver work. the solder flow point , even if hard
should not be problematic, but it sounds like you are overheating and
not fluxing both metal and solder and it’s always good to use an
anti-firescale/firecoat too, build up layers if necessary by gently
warming the clean metal and then spraying a fine mist of whatever
product you prefer (Cupronil being the best thing out there, unless
you want to make your own borax,. methanol mixture : just add the
alcohol to a glass vessel with a non metallic tight fitting lid, and
add pure crystalline borax (20 mule t eam will do in a pinch) until
no more can be dissolved, leaving a liquid with the consistency of
cream. shake to use it. dipo the parts in, reseal when done). Solder
doesn’t fill gaps- major thing to keep in mind when preparing the
join. make certain everything fits perfectly and you can’t see light
when you hold it at eye level and look through it with a light source
behind the piece.

Once the material fits, warm the piece on both sides of the join, add
any flux, anti-firescale to the gently warmed metal and then heat
till the flux liquefies - in silver that indicates a near flow point
in most fluxes/solders, also the liquidus point of the metal so be
careful one the flux clarifies, then if you are using charcoal you
can melt the solder and move it into place with a pick, use a pick to
make sure a paillion stays in piece then remove it when it starts to
melt, and if you use wire, touch it to the join at the point the
metal is at temperature.

From your description you are overheating the metal and burning the
charcoal. Wrap the block with iron bailing wire or stainless steel
wire a few times to absorb excess heat and prevent it from cracking
and buy hard charcoal until you get skilled at soldering then the
soft is OK to use. You should saw or sand or otherwise resurface your
block, or the pieces and wrap them with wire at this point to salvage
what you spent on the stuff as they aren’t cheap and making them is
not as easy as you would think. You can also use pieces to create a
reducing wall around your work it helps prevent firescale to some
degree but does help it heat faster… there you have it!.. rer

Hi Jane,

I too have had to learn on my own. Soldering skill can be one of the
hardest skills to learn. You will always face some new challenge when
you come up with new designs. Your torch dosen’t seem to be the
problem I don’t think. I have used charcoal but I don’t care for
them. I use an old piece of firebrick which you can get at a
fireplace store. I would try to hold your piece with some good cross
lock tweesers or use something to get it off the soldering block.
What type of flux are you using? I have used several different brands
of flux including the cone borax stuff. Didn’t like any of them much.
I use Batterns and I assemble the pieces and then slightly warm the
metal until I hear a slight sizzle when I apply the flux. Be sure and
get flux on the solder too and make sure it is clean. Then be sure to
heat the metal evenly to get the whole area to soldering temp. As the
metal startes to show color you may have to back off and use the
wider part of the flame. The soldering pen you’re using does it have
a very small intense flame? It may be very difficult to control the
heat from a tiny flame. If you’re using hard solder you only have
about 200 deg to play with. Especially if you’re soldering wire
because it heats up very quickly. You might try some practice with
some sacrificial wire pieces. It is difficult to offer advice without
seeing what you’re doing. Surely someone else will have some advice,
probably better than mine. Good luck and don’t give up!! Another
thing you might look for is videos of soldering on this site.

Howdy… I too have learned on my own. Looking back the very
hardest times I have had was with dirty solder. Gave me fits and
still to this day inevitably ends up dirty! I try to keep it clean
but it oxidizes or something. So I usually make sure the solder is
clean before I fire up the torch… Bob


Imagine that you have two items. in one hand you have a thin plastic
coffee stirrer with thin holes in it through which water can flow.
In the other hand you’re holding a garden water hose. Now. at the
same time turn on the water so that it flows through the coffee
stirrer and through the garden hose. Picture the difference in the
amount of water that flows through each one in just a few seconds.
Can you feel how the temperature of the water is the same? The
temperature is the same, but the “quantity” of heat each can deliver
will be very different.

Now for the next imagining. picture that water as the amount of heat
coming from different size torches. Even though the temperature is
the same, the amount of heat flowing to your work is very different.
It is why we have different tips for torches, different torches for
soldering and melting (not the inadvertent melting we all suffer from
time to time.), different gasses and combinations of gasses, etc.

Please forgive me if this seems simplistic. I had trouble with the
concept at one time and this analogy helped me.

Mike DeBurgh, GJG
Henderson, NV

Hi Jane,

Your problem could be due to any of a number of reasons, or a
combination of more than one, but here are my own thoughts on your

I think your torch is your number one problem. A pen torch would
suggest a really small flame, despite its temperature capabilities.
John Donivan wrote a very good post a while back and he made the
whole thing click into place for me regarding torch capability. He
said (and I’m speaking from memory so sorry if I’ve got anything
wrong John) that it’s not the flame’s temperature (or the temperature
which your fuel gas is capable of achieving) alone which indicates
whether a torch will do a certain job. It’s the number of BTU’s
(thermal units) its gives out, which is the important point. So even
if you’re using the right gas, with a hot enough flame to melt silver
in theory, you need to ensure that your torch will give out enough
VOLUME of that gas to provide the required number of BTU’s.

On the same note, because the torch is (probably) not giving out
enough heat, it’s taking far too long to accomplish the soldering
job, meaning that the solder pallion has balled up and oxidised,
meaning that it will no longer flow due to oxygen contaminating it,
but you are eventually getting enough heat into the piece to actually
melt your main silver parts. That’s why people say you need to get in
and out as quickly as possible when soldering. Therefore a torch
giving more BTU’s would allow you to solder quickly, avoiding the
contamination of solder, and enabling you to successfully solder.
The other advantage to a flame with more BTU’s (and therefore more
volume), is that it envelopes your soldering operation more
adequately, thereby helping to eliminate atmospheric oxygen.

It will come. I had some difficulties initially - everybody does -
but after making a few changes to my routine, I found what worked
for me, and you will too. Don’t despair - enjoy it, it’s fun and feel
free to email me if you have any questions I may be able to help


sorry if I've got anything wrong John) that it's not the flame's
temperature (or the temperature which your fuel gas is capable of
achieving) alone which indicates whether a torch will do a certain
job. It's the number of BTU's 

I’m going to post about why we’ve been missing on Orchid in a sec…

Molten lava is an average of about 2000F or 1200C - something like
1/2 the temperature of an acetylene torch or even most torch flames.
Even a candle flame is the same or more… Yet you can hold the torch
in your hand but you can’t get within 30 feet of lava. The reason for
that is BTUs - the ~quantity~ of heat. It’s a most important concept
that’s not necessary to know in detail (thermodynamics, again). A
1/8" (3mm) hose will make a 5,000 degree flame, and a 2" (50mm) pipe
will do the same, but the small hose will boil water in an hour and
the large one will do it in 2 minutes - same temperature, different
BTU. Good to understand…

A 1/8" (3mm) hose will make a 5,000 degree flame, and a 2" (50mm)
pipe will do the same, but the small hose will boil water in an
hour and the large one will do it in 2 minutes - same temperature,
different BTU. 

Thank you John. Your description was better than mine. I was hoping
you’d pick up on it and explain it better. I’d just remembered that
it was your description which made it all click into place for me,
but I didn’t have time to go searching the archives to find it, so

BTW, glad you had a great time in Italy, and I have to admit to
being more than a little envious! Italy is the one destination in the
world I really hope I get to travel to in my lifetime.

Nice to see you back - I wondered where you’d gone.


I learned “the protocol” this week! Could be why all the earlier
pieces I tried at home alone came out awful. I’m so proud of myself.
Let’s see, Denatured alcohol to clean your piece. Fire lightly to
remove the alcohol.

Dip or brush on protective flux, fire to white. Adjust solder joint,
add a dab of cleaning flux, add your solder chip, heat the whole
piece from top down or sides in, towards the seam, but don’t heat to
red, but just below. Place flame near joint, under it or to side or
in the direction you want the solder to flow and flame lightly just
until solder melts and flows. Voila! Done. Let cool slightly, rinse,
pickle, rinse and on to next step.

How’d I do Don? LOL

MikiCat Designs

I haven’t seen this mentioned, but I may have just missed it.

One thing I’ve seen students not aware of is the ability to control
the heat being put into the piece by the proximity of the torch. To
get a larger piece up to temperature rapidly, and not overheat and
melt the metal, start with a flame sufficient to quickly heat the
bulk metal using the hottest part of the flame. As the metal
approaches soldering temperature the torch can be moved further from
the piece to utilize a cooler part of the flame so that the
temperature can be maintained and controlled within the desired
range. Depending on the piece and situation, this can also be
accomplished by using the hottest part of the flame and moving the
flame on to and off of the piece.


Did quite well Michelle. Just a bit more though. Be sure to warm the
join after adding the cleaning flux. If you put the solder on without
doing that, it will probably be boiled off of misplaced. Re ‘don’t
heat to red’, this actually depends on what you are soldering, its
size, the solder being used (hard, medium, easy), and the flame you
are using. Nonetheless, you would be more correct by saying, ‘don’t
overheat’. Otherwise, I think you’ve got it!

For more check out my article in Art Jewelry magazine,
“Flux and Flame” from a year or two ago.

Cheers, Don.