Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Working on a copper project


#1

I have a gorgeous Bruneau jasper that is rather large (1.5" wide by
1" long by 1/8" high), and it is screaming at me to be mounted in
copper. The colors just look so much better in the copper than using
a silver mounting.

I could not find copper bezel so I did cut some copper out of 20 g
sheet and used my new rolling mill skills to take it down to 26g and
make my bezel.

BUT

I have spent 2 days trying to make the pendant and I have managed to
wreck 3 bezels and my base plate.

I think part of my problem was that I used a hammer to texture the
base plate before soldering the bezel and as a result the plate was
not flat. I then had issues getting my bezel to meet the base plate
without gaps. And the fact that the cab is BIG made it hard to sand
the bottom edge to meet the plate.

So here are my two questions (ok three):

  1. is working with copper really that different than silver?

  2. Any hints tips or tricks that would help with a bezel this large?

  3. should I give up on the copper and use silver and then antique it
    with LOS?

PS, I know my skills are ‘ok’ cause I made a silver bezel pendant
just the other day!

laurie kern
Adventures of An Aspiring Silversmith -
http://lauriejanekern.ganoksin.com


#2

I believe you have already diagnosed the problem. The base plate was
not flat. Try soldering the bezel on a perfectly flat plate, and
then do some skillful texturing on the part of the plate that is
exposed, either by hammering (dont hit the bezel), or adding some
decorative elements.

Alma


#3

Laurie, you really do have to remove the gaps between your bezel and
your base plate. You may have to anneal the plate if your forging
has warped it. If gaps are very tiny ones due to some uniform texture
that you have put on the surface, well, dont do that next time.

You might want to try using a thicker gauge of bezel. Copper is very
malleable, and you can, with some more effort, still compress it
over the stone.

On the other hand, a few pieces of copper sheet soldered to the
plates surface, and some patina, might look just as good as the all-
copper concept.

Another thing to try is to lighten up your back plate by piercing out
the center of it inside the bezel, leaving just a rim inside there to
hold the stone. That will make it heat faster, keeping it more even
with your bezel in mass.

Keep at it; we all go through these things when learning,
particularly if alone without a mentor there to help.

Carry on!
Mlou


#4

Hey Laurie, Copper is much softer than silver so its not really the
best material for stone setting, however have you considered using
claws to help keep the stone in place if youre having problems with
your bezel? You can get some cool affects with asymmetrical claws on
a big stone. I found this picture.

Good luck!
Laura London


#5

Wow, Laurie, I follow your progress with interest and admiration!
I’m no expert compared to many here on Orchid, but here’s my two
cents worth!

Is working with copper really that different than silver? Yes! It’s
a lot softer, it’s dirty stuff to solder and not so easy to keep
clean on a finished piece. And unless you have some special solder,
you’ll always see the solder seam.

Any hints tips or tricks that would help with a bezel this large?
Yes - cut the base plate to fit INSIDE the bezel wall so the solder
seam is on the underneath, not at the side. That way, you will have
two flat edges together, even if the base is textured.

a) Form and solder the bezel first, making it higher by the
thickness of the base plate material plus .5mm.

b) Make sure it fits the stone tightly and perfectly, because you
are going to cut the base plate to fit inside the bezel wall and the
solder seam will be underneath, not at the side.

c) Next, lay the bezel on the material you will use for the backing
carefully scribe a line around the inside of the bezel wall. Make
sure you don’t distort the bezel wall at all whilst you do this.

d) Now cut out the backing making sure you saw just outside your
scribed line.

e) Then, very carefully, file the edges until the base plate fits
precisely into the bezel wall. If you do it right, there won’t be
any gaps at all.

f) Now remove the base plate, flux the inside and bottom edge of the
bezel and the inside and sides of the base.

g) Stand the bezel wall on a flat, even surface and slip the base
plate back into the bezel, making sure it goes right to the bottom
so that when you turn it over to look at the underneath, there is a
flush surface.

h) Now you’re ready to pop the whole contraption onto the soldering
station, lay your solder paillons around the inside edges and
solder! Just make sure you get both surfaces equally hot; because the
base plate is thicker, it will take longer to heat than the wall, so
with a big bezel like that, I would warm up the centre area first,
with my torch quite a distance from the material. Once the flux
begins to bubble a bit, the solder will tend to move towards the
centre and away from the edges where you want it to be, telling you
that the base plate is hot enough.

i) Now move the torch to the outside of the work, away from the
centre and angled towards the bottom of the bezel wall, to draw the
solder back to where it should be, then bring the torch in a bit
closer and the solder should flow smoothly into the seam. Because you
have been aiming the torch angled towards the bottom of the wall, the
solder brick will be extra hot and will help the solder flow right
through to the bottom of the seam.

Alternatively, if you have a wire frame and can apply the torch to
the underside of the work, that is even easier.

Should I give up on the copper and use silver and then antique it
with LOS. YES, YES, YES. But not just any old LOS, I suggest you use
Katherine Palochak’s beautiful iridescent patina recipe, which allows
you to control the final colour - and you can achieve a coppery tone
that should suit your piece of Jasper nicely. Here’s a link to the
recipe, still where I first found it.

Do experiment with a few scraps first. By the way, I’m one of those
who uses a few drops of the liver of sulphur solutions used to spray
roses instead of a small lump of LOS. but be warned, both must be
used fresh or you’ll be disappointed.

By the way, I’m a big fan of fitting the base into a bezel and
having the seam at the bottom - that way, even if after time, it
happens that the seam does begin to show, it’s on the underneath!

Good luck, Laurie.
Jane Walker


#6

Hey Laurie

When working with copper note that it oxidizes rapidly and the
oxides prevent solder flow so you have to solder as fast as possible.
You might want to make your bezel a bit thicker than you would if it
were silver. Mine are always 24 gauge, but I close my copper bezels
with a small tack hammer where I need to. Try cleaning the solder
edge of the bezel with a green scouring pad but be careful not to
make it collapse. I often just use a file. With 24 gauge it’s easier
to clean the soldering edges with a file. I lay the file on my bench
and pull the bezel across it. Maybe try 25 gauge, but I suspect 26
gauge is perfect.

Yes, the peaned surface is an issue. But if you use copious amounts
of Soft or EZ silver solder you should be alright, but if you don’t
get a good flow, but a partial flow, stop, pickle, add more solder
and try again. Sometimes I don’t use solder. I use silver scrap
instead.

Also, acetylene torches are dirty which might make it more
difficult. I use propane. Let the heat do the work, try not to force
it or you will have problems. Take too long and you’ll have problems.
I suspect you forced it. The copper gets bright red, but try to keep
it from going liquid. There is a point where you can see it going
liquid and you can pull the torch away. It’s a fine line. Walk that
line. If it starts to liquefy STOP. Time to pickle, flux, add more
solder, try again.

And even after all these years I still wreck things. Oh well.

I suggest you keep working with copper. Get to know it. My first
gemstone pendant was made of copper and Ellensburg Blue Agate. I’ve
been using copper since 1992.

Keep trying. I imagine you’ve learned a bit by your attempts
already.You can get it to work.

You might want to try marking out your base plate where the bezel
goes and don’t texture that area. Or create a stamp that mimics the
hammer blow and decorate after the bezel is soldered.

Good luck and good skill.

TL Goodwin
Lapidary/Metalsmith
The Pacifik Image
http://thepacifikimagestore.com


#7

Thank you all - as most saw, I did finish the project but with all
the advice posted and via private emails my next copper project will
go quite a bit easier.

laurie kern
Adventures of An Aspiring Silversmith -
http://lauriejanekern.ganoksin.com


#8

Hello Laurie,

If you cannot get the close fit necessary to solder the base into
the bezel, go ahead and solder the bezel onto the copper sheet. Then
cut a piece of copper that will go over the bezel and cover the
joint at the base. Obviously the center cut-out has to fit closely
against the base of the bezel. Solder the cut-out to the base and
texture it. Trim as you see fit. The bulk of the solder will be
concealed because it is UNDER the cut-out.

I hope this makes sense. I can see it in my mind and am inspired to
play around with the concept using mixed metals.

Judy in Kansas