Monday, November 29, 2010

Thoughts on Soldering Torches & Other Equipment

One of the most common questions we get about soldering is "what type of torch should I use?" It is an important question as there are a lot of different torches to evaluate and there are many different fuel choices as well.

My answer is often frustrating. It really does not matter. Many artisans will speak passionately about their torch. That is good since it means the artist selected well for their needs, but what torch is best is a matter of preference. There is no one perfect torch any more that there is one perfect car. The perfect torch is the one that works best for you for the projects you undertake most often.

Consider the cost, size/heat of the torch, available torch tips and fuel when you select your soldering torch. If you are making jewelry for a hobby and are just beginning then a low cost Blazer GB2001 Self-Igniting Butane Micro-Torch may be just the ticket. If you plan to become a professional metalsmith, then you may want to invest in the more advanced torch set up using acetylene (or acetylene and oxygen if you want an even hotter fuel) such as the Smith Little Torch with 5 Tips. If you are looking for a torch that is larger than a butane torch, less expensive than a jewelry torch and availalbe in the hardware torch than you should consider a plumber's torch using propane (or propane and oxygen), such as the  Bernzomatic - Welding, Brazing, and Cutting Torch Kit (OX2550KC)

Regardless of the torch you pick, there are certain soldering tools that I would not want to live without. These include:

1. Charcoal soldering block. Charcoal blocks radiate heat and make it easier to bring your piece up to soldering temperature. Charcoal blocks are especially helpful if you are using a butane or other low temperature torch.

2. Soldering pad size 6 X 6 X 1/2 and size 6 X 12 X 1/2. You can stick pins in these soldering pads to hold your piece in place when you solder.

2. Soldering and annealing pan. Fill the annealing pan with the pumice pebbles. Place the soldering pad on top of the pumice (and the charcoal block on top of the soldering pad). I like a pan that spins. Being able to move the pan makes in easier to focus heat where you need it without disturbing your piece while you solder. Use the pumice to reflect heat and support and arrange your piece while soldering.

3. Third hand or double third hand. We all would like to have assistants but these tools are the next best thing. Third hands can also be used to act as a heat sink when soldering really small parts, like posts on earrings.

4. Soldering, brazing and welding safety goggles. Protect your eyes. Always wear safety goggles when looking at a flame.

5. Ventilation fan, hood or system. There are many available to suit your work space, but having proper ventilation when soldering is a must.

6.  Range Kleen Counter Mat. Our studio is not large enough to have a single area dedicated to soldering alone. All our work surfaces have to be used for multiple task. We put down the metal  counter mat when we solder since it is an inexpensive, fire safe work surface.

Related Tutorials
Soldering Tips for Jewelry Makers
Soldering Checklist
How to Prepare Metal for Jewelry Soldering
How to Make Pickle
How to Solder Using a Small Butane Torch
How to Correct Soldering Problems when Jewelry Making
How to Light a Torch
Braze Aluminum Tubing
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

Happy soldering!


Samual said...

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Vinod said...
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