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Soldering

Jewelry Making Basics Using a Torch and Gas

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Soldering

Aquamarine Ring With Soldered Prongs

Maire Loughran

Reading general arts and crafts trade magazines, it's clear that jewelry making consistently ranks highly for popular arts and crafts businesses. There are a number of different types of jewelry making approaches. This article discusses the jewelry making skill of soldering which is commonly used for hot connections while metalsmithing. Soldering uses a torch and an alloy solution to join metals together to make pieces of jewelry.

Soldering Overview

I think learning how to solder is like learning how to drive a car. I still remember when I first got behind the wheel, feeling like the car was driving me. With some practice, the skill becomes automatic and as long as you follow the rules of the road and pay attention to the task at hand, driving is a successful event that we do every day.

Well, soldering is the same. When you first start to learn this skill, it seems like you'll never get it right. Using the correct tools and techniques, one day, it just seems like the whole process flawlessly comes together.

Learning how to Solder

With patience, using trial and error, you can teach yourself how to solder, I think learning how to solder is a jewelry making skill that's best learned in a classroom setting. My primary reason is that of safety. It doesn't matter what type of gas you use, all are potentially dangerous. Regular maintenance and knowing when to replace parts of the torch and the fuel tank is crucial. It's just better to get the full safety scoop from a trained professional. Check out community colleges and other schools in your area to find arts and crafts classes including those focusing on soldering.

Soldering Basics

Soldering refers to the fact that two pieces of metal are joined together using heat and the appropriate type of solder. The best way I can describe solder is it's a metal alloy that 'glues' pieces of metal together. Use silver solder for silver, copper and brass. Gold solder for gold metal - which requires a higher temperature than silver.

A jewelry making torch is used to solder. Ever see someone welding (also known as brazing)? A jewelry making torch is a scaled down version that regardless of size is a little scary when you first get started. That's because this technique uses gas and a flame - both recipes for disaster if not handled properly.

Common fuels for your torch are propane, gas-air or MAPP® gas. FYI - no matter how it's advertised, a butane cooking torch or soldering iron will never reach the temperature you need for jewelry making . These solders require a temperature range of 1,200°F to 1,800° F.

Three Tips for Soldering

  1. Keep it clean: Solder won't flow and join your pieces of metal jewelry together if any part of the equation is dirty.
  2. Get rid of gaps: Join the metal pieces you're soldering tightly together. Solder will not fill gaps in metal.
  3. Solder flows towards heat: Never direct the flame from your torch directly at the solder. Heat the metal where you want the solder to flow (towards the pieces needing joining).

Example of Soldering

The image shown on this page is an example of rudimentary soldering. This is a white gold ring setting. To make the prongs, cut pieces of gold wire and attach them to the basket with gold solder. When done properly, the joint will be seamless and with proper care last for many years.

Soldering Supplies and Tools

In addition to a torch and appropriate gas supply soldering requires bases to support your work, pokers to move the metal pieces while soldering and tweezers to position your metal and solder. Tweezers are also used to hold metal pieces together while soldering. You'll also need basic metalsmithing tools such as sanders, polishers, files and cutters.

Flux, a compound that helps the solder flow and pickle, a solution to clean the metal after soldering are mandatory soldering supplies.

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