I've been investigating the possibility of using one of the soldering
clays on the market to hold pieces in place for soldering when a
third hand or binding wire won't work. Anyone have any insights on
Rio's Water-Soluble Soldering Clay vs. a product on Otto Frei called
Thermo-Fix Soldering Clay? The Otto Frei product is considerably more
expensive, so I'd love to hear any thoughts.
Cynthia- The very best way to hold things while soldering is by
hand. It's the sign of an accomplished and professional metals smith.
Learn to hold crowns, prongs, earring posts, parts etc. in tweezers
and then bring them in just as your main piece reaches soldering
I almost never use my third hand and use binding wire maybe once a
It takes practice but really is the way to go. No fiddling about
with wires, pastes, and third hands. Just get in and out in a matter
If it's not straight, just a quick adjustment by hand instead of
taking things apart and resetting up.
I have a favorite pair of wider tipped locking tweezers that I have
carved a small perpendicular groove in the ends to hold ear posts
and wires snugly while soldering. Tim likes his notched tweezers
notched at an angle, The wire just locks into place. It makes things
so much easier.
I'll never forget the sense of shock and pride the very first time I
soldered on a post free hand and got it straight.
One of our favorite shop mottos is "If at first you succeed try to
hide your astonishment." Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Just use casting investment in foil or bottom of coke can.
In an hour it is hard and cheap and on hand in every workshop.
Kate Wolf's clay works great! Think Rio might sell it?
Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio
I'll never forget the sense of shock and pride the very first time
I soldered on a post free hand and got it straight. One of our
favorite shop mottos is "If at first you succeed try to hide your
She is right I will never forget that first wire it felt so amazing
and I was shocked lol I use tweezers and an occasional t pin That
and I had a tiny corner of a warehouse a friend had for her quilting
business and the first potato steam cast ring. I ran to the front
office going. I made a potato ring I made a potato ring LOL
If, like me, you have a significant tremor, this can be all but
Superglue is great to hold things in place while you set them up
with sand, clay, investment, or whatever. It burns out cleanly at the
first touch of heat.
I agree Jo, I have my torch permanently attached to the bench and
take everything to it. So almost everything is done freehand, if its
not straight a slight adjustment fixes it. I favour a pair of dental
tweezers for my left hand (bought from a dentist) like the ones they
use to pull teeth or adjust braces, they have 'teeth' and can be
locked, although I almost never lock them because they will mark the
hot metal. Occasionally I will use binding wire, say to solder two
This week I learnt my lesson on rushing jewellery and why I don't
like to berushed, it's when mistakes are made! I like to take my
time, do a good job and feel good and be proud of my work.
I spent several hours fixing my mistake!
The very best way to hold things while soldering is by hand. It's
the sign of an accomplished and professional metals smith.
I'm very curious to know if you hold the tweezers with your right
hand or left when soldering. Another way of asking is in which hand
do you hold the torch. Janet in Jerusalem
Janet- I am kind of ambidextrous with a bit of left dominant. I hold
the torch in my right hand and solder pick in my left. Though I can
use one with both hands, I keep my flex shaft on my left to keep it
out of the torches way and to spin the dust and metal towards my
bench and not towards my face. I saw, file, hammer and use pliers
with both hands. I write left handed but play the guitar right
Did I mention I'm profoundly dyslexic? Until I was 40 I thought that
the sign of the devil was 999. I didn't catch on until my brother and
sister told me the joke "What's the neighbor of The Devil? 665."
Insert sibling snorts and laughter here.
Jewelry turned out to be the perfect career for someone with my odd
Have fun and make lots of Jewelry
Just to add my two cents I think each jeweler should feel free to
learn from others while maintaing an open mind to finding whatever
works best for them rather than adhering to a hard and fast rule
about any "how to." This doesn't mean any disrespect for those who
have developed high levels of skill, but rather an openness to
unique solutions to problems including technical ones.
I ask, in the spirit of maintaining and open forum, that I not be
chastised me for my opinion. Disagreement is good for dialog but
censure is not; I have been through art school and have had a
lifetime of such reactions to stating what seems to me to be
invaluable in learning anything; that is having an open mind.
The wonderfully inventive Charles Lewton-Brain has some tips for
soldering in this forum using investment (do a search for "soldering
clay" in the entire Orchard archives on top of page).
I am fortunate to have an amazing teacher who has encouraged this
approach. We both have shaky hands so we often need to come up with
setups for steadying them. At the same time she does not have lower
standards for the results of the finished piece, just encourages an
problem solving attitude towards how to get there.
I may be right-handed, but I'm utterly incapable of using the torch
in my right hand. I found unconsciously I was using my left hand for
the torch and my right hand for tweezers. I need my fine motor
skills to manipulate the tweezers for I do a lot of tweaking,
adjusting, free-hand holding, pick solder, stick soldering (which I
have that down to a fine art much to the envy of my students and
fellow jewelry friends), putting solder on ends of wire and placing
wire onto the metal object to be soldered. Torch always stays in my
left hand, which is very good at holdingtorch and adjusting flame
with the same hand as well.
Just sit down at your soldering bench, don't think and just reach
for the torch. Once you have torch in your hand and light it, then
see what hand torch ends up in. If that does not work, then do some
soldering exercises, which you hold torch in one hand and tweezers
in other hand. Do a soldering job. Then switch hands and do another
soldering job (butt join on a ring, nothing fancy). Then see what
you find you are most comfortable with. Oddly enough, almost all of
my students solder withtheir left hand and tweezers in right hand.
Now, I don't know if they are copying my way, or that's what they
found to work best. I don't tell them what hand to use - that's
their job to figure out.
I know there are other jewelry teachers and experts who says you
HAVE touse your dominant hand to hold torch, but it's not going to
work for 100% of the population. For those who are ambidextrous like
me and my grandfather, it can go either way, but you have to go what
works best for you, not what the experts say. Good luck and happy
Perhaps we could change the topic to: Do you hold the torch in the
right or left hand? I would love to see a survey on this...
I have been soldering for almost 40 years with the torch in the
right hand....(I started with a foot bellows and benzine can, so it
was the right foot as well....). So I guess I just learned to use my
left hand for complicated, delicate operations over time. I figured
it was the preceding years of violin practice that gave me the
ability to do the hard work with the left hand, but I always
wondered how others managed. I always thought everyone held the
torch in their dominant hand. Don't know why.
Janet in Jerusalem