New technologies and materials are emerging every year and the Orion
and the PUK seem to be improving to the point where they have earned
a significant place in the studio. That being said pulse arc welding
is not, at this point and in my opinion, the revolution that Terry
has portrayed it to be. I’m not sure when and even if the pulse arc
revolution has begun. The learning curve is steep on these machines
and, while I use my Orion 150s every day, I have most likely
scratched only just below the surface. But I’ll offer my experience,
since some have asked.
I looked at these machines for some time before I laid my money
down. The technology appealed to me not so much for what existing
technology it replaced but more for what new possibilities it
opened. Let me say that my studio practice does not include a lot of
re-tipping or even very much ring sizing and repair. I do make a lot
of wedding rings and one of a kind work. Much of the latter includes
non-metallic materials such as bone, wood and plastic (such as ping
pong balls) and I thought that this type of welding would help me
open new doors, which it has to some degree. I also liked the idea
of being able to make “seamless” band for instance. Let’s start
I should say that I often torch weld yellow gold, rose gold and
palladium white with good results. When I torch weld, I try to forge
the seams (leaving rings a bit small with this in mind) which seems
(no pun intended) to refine the larger grain structure left by the
melting and re- solidifying of the metal from welding. I have welded
seams with the Orion in both nickel and palladium white golds, rose
gold, yellow gold, silicon bronze and lots of sterling. Most golds
seem to weld well with the Orion, bronze and sterling fairly well.
But I notice a big difference in the character of the welds. It
seems that pulse arc welds benefit from being compacted with a
rotary burnisher and without that followup can contain a certain
amount of porosity (although to be fair, torch welds can have the
same problem, depending on the metal, which is mitigated by forging
or burnish compacting). But in my experience these welds do not
respond well to any significant forging: welds want to split. And
these welds seem more brittle than their torch welded or brazed
As I said, I like the idea of welding because it leaves no
difference in color since a different alloy is not involved as in
brazing. (For this reason I make my own wire for filling since
alloys can vary so much.) One way I have found around the
brittleness is to pulse arc weld the outside or more visible side of
the seam. the outside of a ring shank, for instance-- and braze the
inside. In this way I gain both flexibility and color match.
Pulse arc welding is also great for filling pits or casting flaws.
It can save a less than great casting, allowing me to weld the same
metal as that of the casting into the flaw for a truly seamless
repair. The casting is healed. Jeffrey Herman is doing amazing
things filling in engravings in vintage sterling objects with his
PUK 4 welder (The Lambert analog to Sunstone Engineering’s Orion).
He is truly giving them a new life. Torch welding doesn’t really
For something like attaching a post to an earring–at least during
initial manufacture. I am going to braze (solder). The attachment is
strong and the coincidental annealing is easily dealt with by twist
hardening. The point of contact is also clean. I’m not sure how you
would get a similarly strong, clean and durable attachment with the
revolution of pulse arc technology in this instance. I have heard
that some people are getting great results by drilling through the
earring and welding the post from the front. plug welding. but this
involves altering the front, which is not always feasible.
On the other hand, for a repair, pulse arc welding can save the day.
I was able to replace the broken sterling shepherd hook wire on the
back of a pair sterling earrings bezel set with large oval amber
cabs. The wires were sweat-soldered (brazed) to the back of the
earrings and then bent up so that there was a long seam where the
wire contacted the flat back of the earring. I ground off that
remaining wire and replaced it with 20guage stainless wire, welding
that right to the sterling and filling in a bit with sterling wire.
Because the seam was so long, brittleness was not really an issue in
this scenario. The repair was awesome and the springy stainless wire
was actually better than the original.
For a clean sweat seam, say a flat applique of gold on a sterling
plate, pulse arc welding is not a great choice. unless you can weld
through access holes from the other side.
I have tried welding long seams on tubes and spiculums but the
flexing involved in drawing the tube down or rounding the spiculum
by bouging can pop or crack a seam. If I really needed a seamless
speculum or tube (for appearance rather than strength) I might braze
the seam for the manufacturing and then grind through that seam with
a separating disc and pulse arc weld it. But that can take a long
time on a long seam. The capillary action of brazing. especially
around a bezel or setting. is hard to replicate or beat.
Not all metals weld as well as others. Stainless and gold are great
(I have not used it on platinum), palladium less so with welds being
very brittle. Sterling can be tough because it is so conductive.
Same with bronze. I have found that blunting the tip of the anode is
helpful since it spreads the energy of the weld out a bit.
But for some things my Orion has sped things up. Lets say that I
have a thick plastic disc, like a button, with three holes drilled
in it. I want to braze a sterling tube in each hole to a sterling
back sheet so that, when I am finished, the plastic button will slip
over the tubes and rest on the sterling back sheet. Before, I would
braze the first tube in place then slip the button on (after
pickling), mark where the next tube will go by either scribing
through the hole in the button or crazy gluing the tube on and
carefully removing the button and then brazing. Then I would test
fit before moving on to the third seam. More often than not, I would
have to adjust one of the tubes by re-flowing the solder, testing,
etc. It could take a while.
Now, I can tack weld each tube in place with the button in place so
that each tube is just where it needs to be. Then the button is
removed and the tubes brazed. Very cool. I have also been able to
build some of my plastic chicken or my pingpong ball jewelry with
the Orion, objects that I am not sure that I could have built
When I was getting close to buying a machine, I had some people
lobbying me (heavily) to either the Orion or the PUK brands. They
both had their reasons. The PUK folk said that the machine was great
in argon management. I went with the Orion and I must say that I go
through a lot of argon which, at $50 a bottle, is a concern. My PUK
friends say that their argon use is much less. The folks at Orion
have been very attentive, sending me new regulators several times.
But in then end, it may just be the machine…
One more thing. Lasers and pulse arc welders are not necessarily
interchangeable. I have very limited experience on the former. But I
know that you are not dragging along a lead or wire in a laser
welder. Also, there are interior corners and areas that a
line-of-sight laser may be better at. I have also heard that pulse
arc welders have a deeper penetration. But that’s out of my
I want you to understand that I am not heckling you Terry, or
"hating" any practitioner invested in pulse arc welding technology.
And let me say again that characterizing those who challenge or
question you is offensive and ridiculous. If I were the people at
Orion I would thank you for your enthusiasm and ask you to stop
using the Orion name since your inability to deal with disagreement
reflects poorly on the company.
My Orion (and the PUK) is a great tool that belongs along side the
others in our shops and studios. I just don’t see it as a
revolution. I won’t throw away my torch any time soon. After all, I
can’t anneal with my Orion.