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Use picks for soldering


#1

Was: Soldering gold with swiss torch

Another advise is never use picks for soldering. If soldering pick
is required, it means that joint was not planned well. It should
always be possible to solder just by placing a small (as small as
possible) square of solder and gently heat until it runs and locks
the joint. 

Using a pick to solder does NOT mean that the joint was not planned
well at all. I used to use the method you prescribe, ie placing a
small square of solder - but they used to jump off the joint when
the heat of the flame made the flux bubble. Someone advised me to try
pick soldering and now I use it for all joints where I have a free
hand with which to use the pick. You introduce the tiny ball of
solder on the pick when the piece is up to soldering temperature and
the flux has done its job already. Obviously you can’t use a pick to
solder if you need to hold the torch in one hand and you’re using
crosslock tweezers to hold a part to be soldered. Also when
soldering a bezel onto a backplate, I don’t generally use a pick. I
place tiny squares of solder around the joint and heat, but I may go
in with solder on a pick if there are any tiny gaps where solder
didn’t flow.

A solder pick is a VERY useful soldering tool and its use does not
imply laziness or bad planning.

Helen
UK


#2

I too use a soldering pick: in a variety of ways depending on the
job. I use it to place paillons just immediately before the temp is
reached (like you Helen), and to adjust the placement of the solder
if required, and to apply (powder) flux, to re-apply the flux during
prolonged soldering, and to entice solder to run, say, along the
inside of a big bezel/base join by applying the extra localised heat
of the pick tip.

Perhaps smearing the solder into a join with the pick EVERY TIME is
rather poor practice, I’d possibly agree.

It’s also a bit messy, like leaving a paillon ‘ghost’. If I don’t
want a messy ghost, I’ll use the stick method - from the inside!

A soldering pick helps with the complexities of jewellery-making!

Cheers
Brian

Auckland NEW ZEALAND


#3
Using a pick to solder does NOT mean that the joint was not
planned well at all. I used to use the method you prescribe, ie
placing a small square of solder - but they used to jump off the
joint when the heat of the flame made the flux bubble. 

It is only after I hit “send” button on the post you refer to, I
realized that I may be opening a can of worms.

Picks have their place, but my comments were addressed to a
beginner, and when you just learn to solder, picks are very
detrimental to the development of proper skill.

About solder jumping off. Here is recommended sequence: Apply flux to
a joint and heat slowly. Watch the surface of the metal. At first the
flux will bubble; keep heating until flux melts and surface begins to
look wet; take a small square of solder, deep it into flux and apply
to the joint. Due to residual heat the flux covering solder will melt
and square will be temporarily glued to the joint. Apply heat until
solder flows.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#4
A solder pick is a VERY useful soldering tool and its use does not
imply laziness or bad planning. 

I would challenge anyone to tell which of two identical joins was
made with a pick, after the fact. If they could point out the
differences in the finished article solely on the basis of pick/no
pick it would be enlightening.

You don’t want to burn your solder and a well seasoned pick (all of
mine are so damned old and ugly, but have the right stiction) will
let you drop that solder when you need it. Some joins just need alot
of heat and if your solder was there thru the whole process it could
burn changing its flow and maybe be subject to pitting.

'Course there are times when placing solder is the thing to do.
Neither is all bad nor all good. Do what the situation suggests.

Well, its either that or I’m lazy and a bad planner, which in the
rest of my life I readily admit to.


#5

Ok, I have to step in here. First, take a look at my titanium
soldering pick on my site at the end of this message.

Pick soldering and Chip soldering. Both are good, but both are
different and have separate uses.

For a simple jump ring with a pick solder method, you can do
multiples quickly.

To access a tiny spot on a bale, or to tuck a piece of solder into
an area where the solder hasn’t completely flowed, pick soldering
works really well for this.

  1. Place a chip of solder on a solderite board or charcoal (no paste
    flux on the charcoal block please)

  2. Flux it

  3. heat the chip of solder just until it balls up. Don’t overheat!
    It shouldn’t look orange yellow glowing hot. If you do this too much,
    you will burn off the alloy and it won’t flow.

  4. Now heat your pick and dunk it quickly into your flux.

  5. Begin heating the end of your pick and move the heated tip
    towards your solder. The solder will magically jump onto the pick.

  6. Begin heating your piece or at the joint (depending on what you
    are doing) and and also heat your pick and solder back up. When the
    two come together, the piece should be hot enough so the little ball
    of solder will nicely roll right into a tiny fluxed hot crevice.
    Touchdown! Now heat your piece and the solder will flow.

  7. Silver solders have alloys to make them flow, and by REHEATING a
    piece, you will be able to extend your hard solder into really, hard,
    hard solder.

If you are able to attend the MJSA Trade Show for Jewelry Makers on
Sept. 17 & 18 in Providence, I will be doing a seminar on a piece of
jewelry that required 25 solder joints. Some were used with a pick,
some with just the solder wire and some chip. It’s not one over the
other, it’s what is right for the work.

And why do I use such a high grade of titanium? Because you can
throw it in pickle, you can heat it over and over and you can press
down on an area while the solder is flowing and the pick won’t
distort. I got tired of my solder picks looking bent over and
crooked. I made another one that works.

Karen

Who loves soldering and the magic of the flame.

Karen Christians
Waltham, MA
http://www.cleverwerx.com


#6
I would challenge anyone to tell which of two identical joins was
made with a pick, after the fact. If they could point out the
differences in the finished article solely on the basis of pick/no
pick it would be enlightening. 

The difference becomes obvious in due time, but not right away. When
joint and solder have the same temperature, which are the condition
in paillon ( no pick ) soldering, the solder penetrates very deeply
into the surface of the joint. It becomes an integral part of the
alloy. If pick is used, due to difference in mass, solder is much
hotter than the joint and it simply adheres to the surface without
penetration.

Such joints do not last long, but may or may not last longer than
standard warranty. The time before such joint fails depends on the
difference in temperature between the solder and the metal. The
larger
the difference, the shorter the time interval before joint fails.

The interaction of the solder and the surface of the joint is more
complex, but the above should do. No need to delve into the
technical mumbo- jumbo.

I guarantee my jewellery for 25 years. I can do 50 years, but I may
not be around to fulfill my obligation. That is why I do not use
picks.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#7

I don’t use a single soldering pick for soldering anymore.

I use a pair of tweezers. Much easier to pick up and put down solder.
And if I need a pick, I use one point of the tweezer. I file the
tweezer down to a fine point from time to time, and then heat it
cherry red to get an oxide layer on it so the solder does not stick.
The best tweezers are those ‘stone holding’ tweezers the Rio sells
’J ’ on page 62 in the 2008 catalogue.I just file the black off at
the tips.

http://www.meevis.com
http://hansmeevis.blogspot.com


#8
The difference becomes obvious in due time, but not right away.
When joint and solder have the same temperature, which are the
condition in paillon ( no pick ) soldering, the solder penetrates
very deeply into the surface of the joint. It becomes an integral
part of the alloy. If pick is used, due to difference in mass,
solder is much hotter than the joint and it simply adheres to the
surface without penetration. 

A couple comments.

First, properly used, the pick is only a means to place the solder
accurately and sometimes to help guild it’s flow. You melt the solder
just enough to pick it up on the pick, but it solidifies there. You
then heat the joint area until you can touch the solder, still solid
on the pick, to the joint, and have it melt down just as it would do
with the paillon. The pick guides placement. Properly used, it
shouldn’t be a case of the solder already being much hotter than it
needs to me when introduced. If that’s happening, you’re doing it
wrong. The pick is not a means of introducing already superheated
liquid solder to a cooler joint. That just doesn’t work very well at
all.

Second, if the solder is way too hot, as you imply, and the joint
not hot enough, the solder will not flow properly into the joint
until the temps equalize. If it flows, then the temps are pretty much
where they’d be if you used paillons. Even if the solder briefly is
hotter than it would be as a paillon, the moment it touches the joint
and melts down into it, it’s temperature will equalize with the much
more massive joint. So the degree of penetration of the solder into
the joint, and from there, diffusion into the parent metal, is about
the same, and still dependent mostly on the torch control and heat
control over the parent parts of the joint. Slight or even
substantial overheating of the very tiny mass of the solder won’t
have much effect on this, IF the solder has been flowed evenly, and
looks right.

If it’s not, and gives the sort of “cold joint” you imply here, then
it won’t have the same appearance as a properly flowed joint either,
That’s true with cold joints achieved by use of pick soldering, or
with placed paillons, and in both cases, would be more the fault of
uneven heating of the two pieces of metal being joined.

The situation you describe of joints not being well adhered can
happen with either paillons or solder pick placement, and would be
due to insufficient heating so the solder does not fully wet and
penetrate into one or both sides of the joint. Factors here are both
the temperature of both sides of the joint being enough to flow the
solder, and also, the amount of time the joint is held at those
temps, allowing additional diffusion of the molten solder into the
parent metal, which increases the joint strength. I’ve seen plenty
of joints that have failed for one reason or other, heads soldered
on, or ring sizing joints for example, where obviously the joint was
done too fast and the soldering not allowed to fully complete.
There’s no reason to assume this was because of pick placement of the
solder, however. I’ve seen it with joints I KNOW were placed paillons
(such as on platinum joints, from an era before people tried exotic
metal solder picks with platinum, or those where I happen to know
the goldsmith didn’t use picks…)

However, Leonid, there IS sometimes a notable difference in pick
soldered joints and placed paillons. With placed paillons, the solder
melts only once, and generally is not overheated in the process. With
pick soldering, you are correct in stating the potential (though it’s
not inevitable, if the pick is used with skill) for the solder
getting too hot. If, usually during the initial melting and picking
up of the solder, it gets much hotter than it’s melting point, then
some of the more volatile componants of the solder alloy may be
driven off, or oxidized. The result is that the solder may end up
with a somewhat higher melting point, which can affect how much heat
is then required to melt it into the final joint. Normally, this is
not a major effect unless the solder is seriously abused. However,
what can also happen, especially with easier melting grades of
solder, where there’s often more zinc to burn off, is that the end
solder joint can sometimes end up with a bit more pitting and
porosity if the solder was overheated. This doesn’t take time to
become apparent. You see it right away when you clean up the joint
and it’s got a row of pinholes in it. It doesn’t so much affect the
long term durability of the joint, just the looks and craftmanship of
the joint. Other causes of the same thing are a poorly fitted joint,
dirt on the metal, solder, or flux, or things like an overly
oxidizing flame, etc. But frying the crap out of the solder alloy
before it ever even gets to the joint is a pretty good way of
getting a less than perfect joint. That’s certainly true enough. I’d
just point out that this is in no way inevitable, if the solder pick
is used with some skill.

No matter how you look at it, soldering is a skill. It takes skill
to do it well by any methods, either with or without a soldering
pick. Used poorly, the pick may indeed make it seem easier to solder,
but the results may not be the equal of what good soldering with
placed paillons will give. But placed paillons also requires skill to
keep things from messing up, and done poorly, the results can be
equally unsatisfactory. Whether or not you use a soldering pick will
depend on many things. The metals and solders you’re using, the type
of jewelry you’re making, your torch and skills with it, and simply
you’re preferences. There is room for both methods, and either one
can be used, when used correctly, to achieve excellent work.

Peter Rowe


#9

Hi Leonid,

Picks have their place, but my comments were addressed to a
beginner, and when you just learn to solder, picks are very
detrimental to the development of proper skill. 

Why do you say this? I learned 35 years ago and the only method I
learned at that time was to use the pick. I still use it and I also
cut pallions and place them… I find the use of the pick the best
method for me. For one: I know where the solder is when I put it down
and it can be placed very close to an edge especially for a bezel
placement. If I am soldering a bezel to a base and I want the solder
on the outside of the bezel, (Now why would anyone want to do that?)
the placement with a pick allows for the solder to flow just where I
want it and I can draw the solder to the inside. Additionally, I find
that placing pallions on the inside of a setting can get gloppy and
the pallions can jump and end up in the center of the base plate.
Using the pick with tiny round balls puts them just where I want
them.

Now, about the placement on the outside of the bezel. I am an
enamelist and I do not want my solder to show up anywhere on the
inside of the bezel, it creates an uneven surface that I don’t want
to spend time grinding away and the solder (even if it is IT or
eutectic) has to be pickled and I spend more time than I want
cleaning up. It is just easier to place the solder on the outside ede
and not have it climb the walls either.

jennifer friedman
http://www.jenniferfriedmanstudio.com


#10
The difference becomes obvious in due time, but not right away.
When joint and solder have the same temperature, which are the
condition in paillon( no pick ) soldering, the solder penetrates
very deeply into the surface of the joint. It becomes an integral
part of the alloy. If pick is used, due to difference in mass,
solder is much hotter than the joint and it simply adheres to the
surface without penetration. 

The pick is used to place the palilon, then removed from the joint,
however, I have used a pick to move slushy solder to get it right
where I want it for the neatest cleanest joints you have ever seen.
I have done repairs, ring sizings, fabrication and soldering heads
and settings in pendants, rings, earrings, bracelets over a thirty
year period, Sterling, 14kt. and 18 kt. gold at my present location,
17 years, I have no problems with joints failing. I have had a few
cold solder joints over the years, but I do not believe it was
because of using a solder pick, it was not enough heat on the joint.
I am not arguing, it just is not true for me in my experience.
Sometimes what works for one person does not work for another.
However the people I have taught have the same results I do, which I
expect as they are my employees, and I believe my standards for
quality are at least as high as anyone else’s on this forum.

Respectfully, Richard Hart


#11
The best tweezers are those 'stone holding' tweezers the Rio sells
'J ' on page 62 in the 2008 catalogue.I just file the black off at
the tips. 

Unfortunately I can’t comment about the tweezers Hans is
recommending because my Rio Grande tools catalogue has pages 51-66
missing. But anyone who has a set of Karen Christians’ soldering
tools will confirm, her hi grade titanium soldering tweezers really
ARE the best out there. No need to ever file any black off at the
tips - they will stay as good as new indefinitely. I don’t ever need
to buy another pair of soldering tweezers because they’re that good,
but I’m going to buy another pair from Karen, because two pairs of
blooming fantastic tweezers are better than one!

I have no affiliation, etc - just very happy user of her tools.

Helen
UK


#12
The interaction of the solder and the surface of the joint is more
complex, but the above should do. No need to delve into the
technical mumbo- jumbo. 

Yes we would not want any technical mumbo jumbo to get in the way of
a strong opinion. The interaction between solder and the joint is
complex but using a paillon or bead on a pick will make no difference
with a clean, well fitted, properly fluxed, uniformly and rapidly
heated joint. In fact a very good case can be made for a paillon
being worse than a bead on the end of a pick due to a phenomenon
called liquation where the lower melting phases flow away from the
paillon before it is fully heated enough to reach the liquidus for
the solder alloy. This is the cause of the shadows or skulls that are
sometimes left behind by paillons of certain solder alloys and often
incompletely filled joints. For those that want more technical
about solder flow and its variables the AWS Brazing
Handbook is a good read. You don’t need to be an engineer or
scientist to read and understand it.

Jim

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550


#13
The difference becomes obvious in due time, but not right away. 

What?!! You can’t be serious!! Someone fed someone a line of…
The pick “places” the solder and sometimes helps the solder to move
throughout the joint. Remove the pick and, joila, you have a solder
joint…heated the same temp as the surrounding material. The pick
is not a heat sink. Cold joints are the result of improper flame
work, not the pick.


#14

It might be helpful at this point to talk about how one uses a pick.
As I know it and do it, the pick is used after temp has been
reached, solely for the purpose of introducing the solder. It isn’t
too cool to drag solder along an uncooperative seam. In this case,
yes the solder may not really flow and grab although it may look like
it did. (The way to tell is if the solder joint looks fat (incredibly
subjective), it probably didn’t penetrate). Additionally, gunk from
the pick may get deposited in the seam. The real problem here is the
joint was not cleaned/fluxed properly. Once you heat up (beyond a
certain point) an unfluxed join, adding more flux is a 50/50 thing.
Maybe help, maybe not.

If pick is used, due to difference in mass, solder is much hotter
than the joint and it simply adheres to the surface without
penetration. 

As counterintuitive as this sounds the above is describing a cold
joint. Momentarily remove the flame as you introduce the solder with
pick.(if you introduce the solder thru the flame the likely result is
the solder bonding itself to the pick instead because you have
overheated the pick. A bad pick/picker is one where you see gold or
whatever already coated on the tip of the pick, before its even
used). If its done right the solder ball will just shift its
attraction from the pick to the piece. So now the solder is where
you want it but it hasn’t been over heated. Re-introduce the flame.

If the solder is ‘much hotter’ than the piece, it would suggest
inappropriate heating technique which is a different subject,
perhaps masquerading as The Trouble With Picks.

I’m sorry, but the post makes it sound like a pick necessarily leads
to catastrophic failure, when really its the pick getting the blame
for just plain incomplete soldering, which would be the technician
not the technique.


#15
Properly used, it shouldn't be a case of the solder already being
much hotter than it needs to me when introduced. If that's
happening, you're doing it wrong. 

“Properly used” is a loaded term. Let us see what it implies.

A joint with average mass let us say 0.1 gram is exposed to the
flame which raises joint temperature at a rate of 100 degrees per
second. (numbers are for illustration only). A piece solder with the
mass of 0.001 gram is exposed to the same flame. The rate of
temperature increase would be 100 times as opposed to the joint, or
10000 degrees per second. In order to achieve equal temperature or to
borrow your phrase “properly use”, one must accomplish the
introduction of the solder in 0.001 second.

May be you can do it. I definitely cannot ! I am also positive that
asking to perform such a feat of speed and precision of a beginner
would be asking too much.

The usage of the pick to direct solder flow, in my opinion, must
never be done. If solder does not flow where we want it to flow, it
simply means that target area is either oxidized (improper flux use),
dirty, or of the wrong temperature. Use of a pick is a wrong remedy
for any of these conditions.

As I said before, the original comment was addressed to a beginner.
In practice picks have their place, but never for the joints designed
to withstand significant stress.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#16
Why do you say this? I learned 35 years ago and the only method I
learned at that time was to use the pick. 

I simply expressed my opinion that beginner should only use
paillons. It allows one to understand temperature control and how
solder interacts with a joint.

Let me offer a comparison. We start riding a bike using training
wheels. When we become proficient, the training wheels comes off.
However, if I would have to use bike to transport something
irreplaceable, I put the training wheels back on because I do not
want
to take a chance.

Using paillons or picks is in essence the same choice. If you solder
a prong which should hold 2 carat diamond, wouldn’t you take any
possible steps to insure that this prong holds ?

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#17
Additionally, I find that placing pallions on the inside of a
setting can get gloppy and the pallions can jump and end up in the
center of the base plate. Using the pick with tiny round balls puts
them just where I want them. 

I mentioned this once, I will again. I ran out of sheet solder, I had
some wire solder. I cut small pieces, prepared bezel and back plate
as usual, fluxed and heated the piece until the flux starts turning
clear. Place small snippets of wire solder on the inside or outside
of the joint parallel to the joint to be soldered with tweezers, heat
a little and they will stick, you can move them while heating using a
pick if you need to adjust where they need to be. I used to ball all
solder and place along seam to get good contact for better flow. The
small pieces of wire have the round shape that puts it in contact
both surfaces and when it flows it runs along the seam quite nicely.
If you are soldering the bezel closed, flux seam, the wire solder
goes along the bezel seam, touching both sides of the seams, and
flows along the seam. Like a balled up paillon, but longer and it
seems to stay in place better.

Richard Hart


#18
The interaction between solder and the joint is complex but using a
paillon or bead on a pick will make no difference with a clean, well
fitted, properly fluxed, uniformly and rapidly heated joint. 

That is quite a list of requirement and I can add some more to it,
but the larger point is that use of paillons is the process which can
be controlled completely by the application of flame alone. Use of
picks required many things to be done very rapidly and correctly and
still success or failure would be left to chance to some degree.

When many joints needs be soldered, pick soldering is even more
problematic due to fatigue factor. One may do it once, twice, three
times,…, but it takes only one mistake and all the efforts are
wasted.

Personally, I do not believe that there is a jeweler who can execute
pick technique perfectly, but some may come pretty close. To stake
one’s reputation or not, is a personal decision. Nothing more can be
said about it. On the other hand, soldering with paillons, once
understood, can be done consistently over and over again.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#19

Given that when the solder is flowing and kept up to temperature, you
can use the pick to move the solder in its liquidous state and coax
it to the right place. This is the exception, not the rule.

-k
Karen Christians
Waltham, MA
http://www.cleverwerx.com


#20

In my last post, I described transferring a small ball of solder
onto a joint for the final soldering.

An uncooperative seam is only pesky if the fitting is not good.

Folks, it is important when you are soldering, that you must put
away your artist hat here and put on your technical hat. Soldering is
a technical process. Your seams should fit well, the area as clean as
possible. If you make a mistake, if something is not working
correctly, STOP. JUST BACK AWAY! Take a deep breath and look at
everything that is going on. Adding more flux is not going to help in
every case. If you force the work, it will look forced and messy and
you will spend time on the back end cleaning up your mistakes.

PLAN your design and your soldering steps ahead of time. This will
save you hours of cleanup and disaster.

When I teach soldering to students, I ask them to do a dry run. Are
your hands in the right position? Will you be able to transfer the
solder from a pick or place a chip in a position which is comfortable
for your body. Are your hands shaking? IF so, rest, take a break.
Your piece of jewelry is not going to suddenly evaporate into thin
air. RELAX!

I’ve rushed at times, finding the ergonomic position of what I am
soldering has actually had the flame pointed at my hand. OOPS

Taking a few extra minutes to orient your hands in the soldering
step will save you headache and heartache in all the prep you have
done to get you there in the first place.

One last point. Learn to reflow and remove something you have
soldered. Once you master this technique, you will feel more
confident in your torch skills. Fire can be daunting, soldering can
be scary, but with a few simple steps in your prep and your planning,
no soldering task is insurmountable.

Karen