Wicking off excess solder on sterling


I encountered a problem while soldering sterling this weekend. I’m
not sure where the extra pieces of solder came from (could have been
previously stuck to my screen), but I ended up having extra solder
flow on the fronts of some earrings.

I tried to reheat the metal and “pull” some of the excess off with a
soldering pick, but just ended up spreading it around more.

I can save them by filing off what I can, but I won’t be able to dip
them in LOS because it gives an uneven appearance. In my experience,
excess solder tends to suck up more color.

So, was there a better way to wick off this solder? Just asking for
future oopsies.


So, was there a better way to wick off this solder? Just asking
for future oopsies. 

Nope. If you’ve got excess solder, stop heating, so it doesn’t flow
beyond where you want. The remove the excess mechanically (files,
abrasives, gravers, etc.) Continued heating just lets the solder
penetrate further into the metal. You CAN remove enough of the solder
in many cases, that you’ll be back to clean metal, and can again use
LOS for a finish. But you might have to do a bit of work to get
there, including perhaps removing the LOS, taking off a bit more
metal where it’s revealed that there are still problems, and redoing
the patina again… Wicking off excess solder is a method used with
tin/lead electronics solders on circuit boards and the like, made
possible simply because the solder melts at such a very much lower
temperature than the items being joined, and simple copper wire braid
will soak up excess. There isn’t an equivalent and equally effective
method with high temperature solders. As you’ve found, one just
usually makes more of a mess.

By the way, scotch stones, also known as “water of ayre”, I think,
stones, are a naturally mined slate like stone that’s sold as an
abrasive material. Very fine grained, used with water, it is
wonderful for cleaning up things like this without making even more
of a problem with the metal. Allcraft in new york carries them. they
were unavailable for some time, when the Scottish factory burned
down, but apparently are once again available in limited quantities.
Other abrasives, of course, are also available, but the scotch stones
are one of the traditional fixes for this type of cleanup problem,
and they work very well.


Hi Tracy,

are you using lead (soft) solder or silver solder?

Best wishes

In school I opted for grabbing some spare copper wire, letting the
solder flow to it, since I have done some electronic work and the
braided copper use for soldering irons to remove tin solder I feel
would be awesome for this task. THat’s what I would try if I were
you, local electronic stores should have this product, hold with
third arm if you need mobility.

Good luck.

K. David Woolley
Fredericton, NB
Diversiform Metal Art & Jewellery

Hi Tracey,

I have been theRe: tried fine braided copper wire used in electric
cables, well fluxed. This will suck up solder, but the risks of
melting previous joins, and of the solder penetrating even deeper
into the silver are not worth it. After wicking off the solder you
will still have to file, sand and polish afterwards to remove the
last traces of solder. Forget the wicking and go straight to the
filing and sanding, it is quicker and safer.

Cheers, Alastair