Posted by: alenegeed | July 27, 2013

Confessions of a Jewelry Soldering Junkie


Soldering Away!

Yes, it’s true. I love to solder. Next to hammering it is my favorite jewelry technique.

Of course it was not always so.
I have destroyed many a piece of silver during my early days.  
Life has gotten much easier since I have broken the code on this process though.
Seriously I do love the designs I can create now and will offer a few tips that I have put into practice over the years.
 
soldering first attempt

Early Soldering attempt

Before I do that I want to show you a piece that was one of my first soldering jobs.
Not only did this take about 10 times longer that it would today, but the finished product is one that any fellow jeweler would take apart in seconds.
Why not redo this beautiful dichroic cabachon, then and create something more to my skill level??
Because every time I wear this it reminds me of how far I have come.
Not only are sides rough, but I heated this piece so MANY times that part of the bezel melted!
This piece has enough solder in it to set at least 4 more gemstones.  I just kept adding solder each time when some of the joins did not ‘join’

OK, so this is what NOT to do. 

Soldering well  and consistently takes time and lots of practice. I still have lots to learn..
Here the tips I have found to be helpful in my learning process.
Keep it Clean:  every part of the process must be clean.. The metal, the solder and the flux. Any one of these components not completely cleaned will inhibit the soldering.
Keep joins tight: Early on I was taught to get the two pieces to be joined to be exact. I spent lots of time on this little tidbit.. and reduced the size of more than one bezel (so it would no longer fit the stone). Somewhere along the line I discovered a pair of Lindstrom Shears that made this process seamless. Keep in mind, though that solder does NOT fill in gaps! The two pieces of metal MUST be touching at every point you want to solder.
Heat from Below: Another tip from a class I took. Heating from underneath the piece makes the solder flow so much easier.
solder colors

Color Coded Solder

Keep it organized: I keep my solder in small film canisters (remember 35MM film??). Each one is marked with the solder type (hard, medium, soft) and each piece of solder is color coded so I don’t mix them up! (very easy to do when you are working on more than one project at a time) You can color code these with Sharpie markers.
Use the correct solder:  Hard solder for the initial bezel join, medium solder to join the bezel to the base and easy solder to attach the bail.

Oh, and just in case you wondered… I still have my days where nothing works the way it is supposed to. In fact I have learned to use soldering as a gauge to my ability to work.. What do i mean my that?

If I am soldering several pieces and all goes well (or at least 90% well) I know that my time at the bench is meant to be.

On the other hand, if my soldering projects are just not gelling for me.. (some of the piece doesn’t solder or a variety of maladies… I know that it is now time to clean up and go do something else!.. Watch TV, read, go for a walk, have a drink… whatever!  Just DONT stay at the bench.

I hope these tips have been helpful. Check out my designs at Alene’s Adornments


Responses

  1. Just started a class and my second piece was a total melt down. My teacher sent me your blog. It has helped me so much.
    Thank you,
    Barbara

    • Thanks so much for your comment Barbara! It does get easier with practice. And it IS worth the pain.


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