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December 13, 2018, 04:30:47 am
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Soldering love-hate.

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mdfa.ca
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« on: December 16, 2014, 11:12:16 am »

I have a strong love/hate relationship with soldering. I LOVE it when it works the way it's supposed to - it's like magic then. The quick flash of silver and suddenly two pieces are joined.

And then there are the other times.... saved5 that leave me in tears of frustration!

I've done some soldering and it seems to work for me about 30-40% of the time. Most of the time I have no idea why things go wrong. I've watched countless tutorials on youtube and read many on line. It took a while to sort things out and figure out how things should be done. And still, I just can't make it work consistently. I think part of the problem is my present choice of torches. Either my little handheld creme brulle butane type (probably not powerful enough) or a portable propane one used for plumbing (maybe too powerful and not adjustable.... much). This will be resolved as I'm getting an orca torch for Christmas, but I want to finish a pendant before that and am having too many issues.

The main one is this:  Clean the silver, flux and apply the pallions. Start warming - flux sputters throwing the pallions away. So I have to stop, rearrange the pallions and continue. many times when this happens, when I re-apply heat, the flux just soft of burns and the pallions either burn as well or become sort of like pumice - soft and crumbly. How can solder even burn before melting?????

Yesterday I had a totally different issue. I decided to do some soldering before doing my main important pendant, to get some more feel and hopefully spot where I'm running into trouble. So I tried to work on a little pendant I'm making for myself. Wanted to solder a 1/2 fine silver jump ring to the back of the setting as a bail. The flux spat, I rearranged the pallions, re-heated, and , lo and behold, the solder actually flowed and it seemed to have worked. I picked it up and quenched - and the bail fell off! What the heck??? I looked at it closer and it was as if the solder just disappeared. Is there an issue soldering fine silver to staerling silver?

I'm so frustrated... Anybody wanna come over and solder my bezel onto the backing for me? I'm too scared.
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dickb
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« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2014, 11:37:49 am »

Your fear is real and you need to learn to relax when soldering. It sounds like you are trying to heat the metal too fast and not taking enough time to warm all the metal first. Remember that solder runs to heat so you want to draw the solder into the joint. Watch the flux as it starts to clear your metal is now coming to the melting point of the solder and in just an instant the solder will flow to the heated joint.

If you know someone that is a silversmith in your area, you could ask to watch as he/ she is soldering. That way you can see how the flame is played over the metal and the concentrated at the joint just before the solder flow. It is a learned technique and having a tutor will shorten the learning curve. In lieu of that, it comes down to just practice on scrap till you understand what needs to be done to make a good join.

I might suggest playing with copper first then after you see and know what to expect you can work with the more expensive silver. Sterling and fine silver solder together just fine.  Most silversmiths use sterling sheet for the bezel back and fine silver for the bezel because the fine silver will roll over the stone easier that sterling silver.

Good luck and just relax while soldering and pay very close attention to that is happening as you heat the metal.  All important is that solder flows to the hotest point.

Dickb
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« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2014, 02:03:33 pm »

See here I would advise a beginner to stay away from copper as it is a little more difficult to solder than either sterling or fine silver. One thing that I have found over my years of making jewelry is to put something like iron wire under the larger pieces of silver to elevate them off of the surface of soldering pad, this allows the heat to surround the work. If the work is laying flat on the soldering pad things tend not to go as planed. I frequently use a solder pick to pick up my pallions of solder and place them where they need to be after the flux has quit all of it furious bubbling and boiling, then they are not jumping all over the place. The more you do of the soldering the better you get, it is just a matter of practice really, I melted a lot of stuff in the beginning too.
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« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2014, 03:17:00 pm »

I recently discovered a secret to making perfect bezel cups... every time!

Use a tripod and apply heat underneath the back plate. I used to bungle about 50% of my bezels by over heating from the top. Either that or I'd melt the hard solder bezel join before it flowed on the back plate. I made up some new swear words using my old method.

Using a tripod with screen is really cool, and predictable. First, I hold the torch on top and lick the flames to the top of the piece until the flux settles down, sort of a pre-heat. Then I blast the flame from underneath trying to keep even heat over all the underside. Watch for the topside to go clear and then flash as the solder flows between the bezel and backing. I have yet to bork a bezel using this method.
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« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2014, 09:13:17 am »

All important is that solder flows to the hotest point.

Dickb

Dickb,

your quote above might have been the most important point. I knew it in theory but I just didn't get it. I think what happens sometimes, depending on the size of the piece, I don't heat it enough and then think it should be hot enough and concentrate on the join, but because the piece isn't hot enough, solder doesn't flow. So I may have been "cooking" the solder but it couldn't flow because IT was the hottest piece. Sort of: "all heated up and nowhere to go" situation.  I've tested that hypothesis last night and it worked. Here is my little practice piece I've been working on:


It's a very cheap stone and the bezel looks like it's all chewed-up - it was. It was a scrap piece I basically saved from garbage, rolled out and straightened as much as I could. Perfect for practice. In the end, it's a pendant that will never be sold but I'm not ashamed to wear it either.

thank you, it is so good to have the support of more experienced members here!
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« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2014, 09:30:35 am »

See here I would advise a beginner to stay away from copper as it is a little more difficult to solder than either sterling or fine silver. One thing that I have found over my years of making jewelry is to put something like iron wire under the larger pieces of silver to elevate them off of the surface of soldering pad, this allows the heat to surround the work. If the work is laying flat on the soldering pad things tend not to go as planed. I frequently use a solder pick to pick up my pallions of solder and place them where they need to be after the flux has quit all of it furious bubbling and boiling, then they are not jumping all over the place. The more you do of the soldering the better you get, it is just a matter of practice really, I melted a lot of stuff in the beginning too.

Bentrion,

I would have to agree with you on the copper thing! This copper piece was the first soldering project I've ever done:



It gave me nightmares and I think I had to pull it apart/pickle/sand/try, try again about 5 or 6 times before it actually worked. I still shudder thinking about it.
And thank you for the suggestion about putting the pallions AFTER the flux does its dance. That was a great idea as well. I did that last night and it worked great. From now on I will do that instead of placing them right away.

M
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« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2014, 09:49:11 am »

I recently discovered a secret to making perfect bezel cups... every time!

Use a tripod and apply heat underneath the back plate. I used to bungle about 50% of my bezels by over heating from the top. Either that or I'd melt the hard solder bezel join before it flowed on the back plate. I made up some new swear words using my old method.

Using a tripod with screen is really cool, and predictable. First, I hold the torch on top and lick the flames to the top of the piece until the flux settles down, sort of a pre-heat. Then I blast the flame from underneath trying to keep even heat over all the underside. Watch for the topside to go clear and then flash as the solder flows between the bezel and backing. I have yet to bork a bezel using this method.


Bilquest

The idea of a tripod is intriguing. It would certainly solve, or at least help with, the problem of irregular heat distribution due to absorption through the support. Would you be able to post a photo of your setup? Darn it, I don't think I have a tripod though I do have some steel mesh. May have to rig something up.
Thank you!
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dickb
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« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2014, 12:42:18 pm »









Here are some video's that will give you an idea of how the tripod is used and how the heat is played over the metal to bring it up to temp and then flow the solder into the joint.

It just takes practice and patience.

Good luck.

Dickb
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« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2014, 12:45:09 pm »

I recently discovered a secret to making perfect bezel cups... every time!

Use a tripod and apply heat underneath the back plate. I used to bungle about 50% of my bezels by over heating from the top. Either that or I'd melt the hard solder bezel join before it flowed on the back plate. I made up some new swear words using my old method.

Using a tripod with screen is really cool, and predictable. First, I hold the torch on top and lick the flames to the top of the piece until the flux settles down, sort of a pre-heat. Then I blast the flame from underneath trying to keep even heat over all the underside. Watch for the topside to go clear and then flash as the solder flows between the bezel and backing. I have yet to bork a bezel using this method.


Bilquest

The idea of a tripod is intriguing. It would certainly solve, or at least help with, the problem of irregular heat distribution due to absorption through the support. Would you be able to post a photo of your setup? Darn it, I don't think I have a tripod though I do have some steel mesh. May have to rig something up.
Thank you!

Make sure you use a screen that is not soldered at the cross joints - household screen.  The lead solder will eat up the silver.  Use a woven screen.  There are smithing screens for sale at jewelry supply outlets.....................
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« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2014, 01:14:09 pm »

if using a liquid flux, preheat it after applying to the join and burn off the liquid component. then place your pavilions.
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« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2014, 07:05:27 am »

>  Clean the silver, flux and apply the pallions. Start warming - flux sputters throwing the pallions away.<

Yeah, I used to have this problem too.  To get around it I purchased some paste solder from Rio.  I usually get the 'super easy' stuff because I'm not actually using it as solder.  I tried that before and it just does not make strong enough joints for me. 

Anyhow, I take each pallion of solder and coat one side of it with the paste solder, then place it carefully exactly where I want it, using the paste solder as...well...paste.  While the paste solder does have flux in it, I generally apply additional flux to make sure that the solder flows to the entire surface I want it on. 

The paste solder also works great for temporarily sticking together small filigree pieces.  It allows you to assemble the piece and get it looking exactly the way you want before you apply any heat.  I always then apply small pieces of sheet solder to each joint and usually can fire the whole thing in one go.  While it might be a bit tedious to apply the pallions one at a time, generally you ultimately speed the project along because you don't have to go back and redo things.   yes
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« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2014, 08:59:08 pm »

Well, I am beyond frustrated. I have read all the suggestions (many of the I use already), watched all the videos numerous times and practiced on small pieces. I seem to have no problem with the small stuff, using either solder wire or solder paste.

Here is the proof:



The small piece is my test piece. The two outside spots are soldered using solder paste, the middle one is the solder wire. No problem, everything works as it should. The solder melts as expected.  And then I try to solder the bezel to the setting on my pendant and it just won't work. I've tried 3 times now I think. The process I use is this:

1.  clean the pieces
2.  firescale protect (denatured alcohol+boric acid mixture, burned off)
3.  apply flux
4.  Preheat until flux done bubbling
5.  apply pallions
6.  heat evenly

Well, I heat and heat and nothing flows. The piece gets almost red hot (or at least it looks like it does) but solder won't flow. In case of the paste solder (my last attempt), it looks like it "boils", then dries out and that's it. I end up with this dry, pumice-like crumbly stuff you can see in the close up below:


It crumbles off easily and, thanks for the fire scale protection, there doesn't seem to be much damage to the setting, but I still have to pickle it and then sand it and if I have to do it more times, there won't be much left of it soon....

I just don't get what I'm doing wrong. Does anyone have any ideas?
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« Reply #12 on: December 30, 2014, 11:39:33 pm »

I'm seeing way too much flux.

Old way:
1.  clean the pieces
2.  firescale protect (denatured alcohol+boric acid mixture, burned off)
3.  apply flux
4.  Preheat until flux done bubbling
5.  apply pallions
6.  heat evenly

New way:
1.  clean the pieces
2.  firescale protect (denatured alcohol+boric acid mixture, burned off)
3.  apply just enough flux to coat the joint
4.  add flux coated pallions, spacing them equally around bezel, the flux should hold the pallions in place
5.  Preheat the whole piece slowly till the flux starts to clear like glass
6.  heat slowly and evenly bringing all the metal up to temp  and watch for the solder to flow and run into the joint.

Can You post a picture of the set up just before you are ready to heat and a picture of the torch your using.

You are closer to getting the job done, than you realize.

The solder join in the middle of the first piece is what the completed join should look like. I don't think your getting the bezel and back plate up to temp to get the solder to flow. Look at the bezel video closer and watch how it comes to temp and the flux clears then the solder flows. It may be the solder flux your using, a picture of the flux bottle would help also.

dickb
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« Reply #13 on: December 31, 2014, 06:42:54 am »

What torch are you using? Looks like you need to be hotter.
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« Reply #14 on: December 31, 2014, 08:26:14 am »

before i solder a bezel, i have draped a really worn 600 grit piece of sandpaper over the center of my sink and sanded the back/bottom of the bezel under water flow.
This way, the bezel is perfectly flat on the bottom too.

I was having this issue also until i remembered that i had to sand each plumbing fitting plumbing houses so the solder would flow easier.
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