Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Soldering Tips

Small Butane Torch
Recently we have been getting a lot of questions about soldering. Regardless of what type of torch you use or what type of fuel it is powered by, there are a handful of simple rules that must be followed to solder successfully. Most of the time, when folks have difficulty soldering those problems soldering can be eliminated by answering a handful of simple questions; if you answered “no” to any of the questions below, go back and start soldering over.

Is Your Metal Clean?
Clean the metal you plan to solder. Solder will not flow if the metal is not absolutely clean. Remove all oxidation with sandpaper. Remove all grease and grim with acetone. Remove all dirt, grim and residue from sanding or acetone with dish soap and water. If the metal becomes oxidized as you heat it with your torch, the solder will not flow; stop and clean the metal again.

Is Your Seam Flush?
Check that the seam you plan to solder abuts. Solder does not fill gaps. The metal must be flush to solder successfully with your torch. Adjust the metal so that there are no gaps so the solder will flow and bind the metals. If gravity alone will not hold the metal flush, you can use a clamp, binding wire, a third hand or another tool to hold the metal while you heat the piece with your torch.

Did You Flux?
Flux the seam you plan to solder. Often solder will not flow because the metal oxidizes as you heat it with your torch. Flux prevents oxidation. Flux also helps you know when the torch has heated the metal up to the soldering temperature. The flux will begin to boil as the metal heated with your torch reaches the soldering temperature.

Did You Economize Use of Solder?
Use as little solder as you can when soldering with your torch. Excess solder will spread over the metal and will not add strength to the soldered seam. Excess solder will cause additional work when fabricating.

Did You Use Even Heat to Heat the Entire Piece?
Heat the entire metal evenly with your torch. Do not heat the solder directly with the torch. Heating the solder directly will melt the solder but it will not seal the seam. If you heat the metal evenly, most metals will turn cherry red when the metal heated with a torch reaches the soldering temperature. Once the metal is cherry red, draw the flame of your torch along the seam to direct the solder in the space you want. Begin by pointing the flame at the end of the seam where you placed the solder. Use the bushy part of the flame about an inch or so above the blue cone of the flame. The solder will follow the flame of the torch.

Did You Let the Piece Cool?
Allow the item to cool to room temperature after you have finished soldering with your torch. Do not put a hot item into an acid pickle bath as the seam may burst or the item may explode.

Bee Pin, Soldered Multiple Times
Tip: Use Dirty Metal for Subsequent Soldering
Solder will not flow over dirty metal. You can use this principal to your advantage when you need to solder multiple seams with your torch. Leave the soldered seam dirty and clean only the subsequent seam you want to solder. The solder will stay in place and not melt or come apart where the seam is dirty from oxidation. You can also make a seam dirty to prevent the solder from flowing by painting the soldered seam with yellow ochre powder mixed with water or alcohol or Liquid Paper. Work in a well-ventilated space when using these products when soldering.

Further Reading
Step-by-Step Jewelry Workshop: Simple Techniques for Soldering, Wirework, and Metal Jewelry (Step By Step)
Hot Connections Jewelry: The Complete Sourcebook of Soldering Techniques
Art Jewelry Magazine: Precision Soldering Simplified; Give a Classic Ring a Twist with an Easy Forging Technique; Make a Basic Chain with Spring Links (Vol.3 No.1 November 2006)
The Complete Guide to Jewelry Soldering: What Works, What Doesn't, and Why!
Complete Metalsmith: Professional Edition

Solder-It Pro-Torch 220 Butane Torch, Model# PT-220
Smith Little Torch Soldering Welding & 5 Tips, Hoses


Vinod said...
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Yeefey Huang said...
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