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Author Topic: Silver soldering  (Read 1661 times)
grimnir
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« on: March 02, 2013, 06:21:21 am »

Hi there Smiley

I'm going to be attempting to make some steampunky jewellery soon, mostly in silver. I've ordered a micro torch, researched my flux and pickle, 'borrowed' some silver solder rods from work and am impatiently awaiting the deliveries of all my various components.

I'm planning on adding to this thread as I learn, but so far these are my starter tips...

Pickle - a term used for the acid liquid used to clean off the excess flux and fire scale. There's lots of different ones around but for me it's going to be white vinegar. It takes a little longer than the other acids but doesn't need to be kept hot and has the bonus of being stupidly cheap compared to commercial pickle liquids.

Flux - this is used to both help the solder flow better and to prevent oxidization and fire scale, which prevent solder from flowing and getting a good join. I've had a look at the commercial ones and done a little research, and plain old borax mixed to a thin cream consistency is the base of most of them, so I'll be going that route too.

Solder - the metal used to join the various pieces together. Silver soldering is so called as the solder contains a percentage of silver. The one I use at work is 35% silver. It does have a slightly gold/brass colour so the joins won't be perfect on silver, but as silver solder costs the most of all the materials I need to start out, I don't think I'll mind a thin gold line lol. In the future I may well decide to go the proper route, but even then I'll keep some of the 35% around since it should give a lovely result on brass. You can get solder in rod, sheet and paste and it's one of the most debated things in silversmithing as to which you use.

Torch - possibly the most debated item is the torch though. At work I use an Oxy-Acetylene torch to braze and solder mild and stainless steel tubes. At home, I'll be using the cheap little butane micro torch. If I ever get that good that I want more flexibility I'd go oxy-acetylene but that won't be till we have our own place - you shouldn't keep those cylinders in the house really! Another option is propane. You can get torch heads to fit the small bottles sold for camping stoves.

So, that's it for now folks. I would appreciate hearing from anyone else who does this and would love to hear about your setup and preferred kit Smiley

All the best Smiley
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Kindest regards, Raven

Drew P
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« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2013, 01:04:50 pm »

Can't wait to see your work and notes!
This is another something I want to get my hands into-I will watch eagerly.  Grin
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« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2013, 02:11:08 pm »


Oxy-acetylene isn't ideal for soldering silver, it's much hotter than necessary and the flame can contaminate silver. It's also a lot more expensive to run than propane. The very high flame temperature that acetylene can generate is essential for welding but overkill for soldering where a softer, lower temperature flame is usually preferred and the total heat output is much more significant than the maximum flame temperature.

Something you might find useful is a few fire bricks, these can be arranged to contain and reflect the heat from your torch, making it easier to achieve an even temperature in your work. Chunks of firebrick can also be used to help support work, reverse action tweezers and soft iron wire are also useful in this respect. Having the work well supported is very important in soldering as it takes a little while for the joint to set properly and any premature movement or stress can substantially weaken it. Also the heat required for soldering can sometime make work sag it is isn't well supported.

Borax paste should be fine for silver soldering.

One thing to watch out for is that the silver solders used for brazing steel will have quite a high working temperature so some care will be needed not to melt the work.
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grimnir
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« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2013, 02:22:05 pm »

Yes, the melting temp is something I'm worried about. I may have to bite the bullet and get some silver solder after all, but will give it a go first
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Maets
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« Reply #4 on: March 02, 2013, 03:33:30 pm »

Interested in learning more about this. Thanks for keeping us updated.  Best of luck.
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IGetPwnedOften
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« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2013, 12:32:02 am »

I have a tiny, palm-sized blowtorch that was designed primarily for plumbers to allow soldering of copper pipes in very cramped spaces. It's about the size of a Zippo lighter but still has a self ignition system and is fantastic for small, fiddly jobs. I also used it a couple of times making stained glass windows.

Most of my soldering nowadays is for electronics so I use an iron, but I've found that the smaller blowtorches used by chefs can be very useful too, as they allow for a precise application without overheating the surrounding areas too much.

Having said all that, I too am very keen to see how this thread progresses. I don't get to work with metal nearly as much as I used to.
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grimnir
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« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2013, 03:38:58 am »

Isn't it annoying when the post takes SOOOO long to arrive? I want to start this now! Until then, here is a pic of me at work...


Raven at work by Wolfs Crafts, on Flickr
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IGetPwnedOften
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« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2013, 11:51:26 pm »

Tell me about it. I'm waiting for a bunch of stuff to turn up for my rocketpacks, and while I've got stuff to be getting on with, the delay drives me nuts...

Anyway, I like that pic - textbook way to work safely; nice tidy workshop, leather apron, hair tied back, safety glasses, and a big grin on your face  Grin
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Captain Shipton Bellinger
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« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2013, 07:11:06 am »

For any sort of intricate jewelry work that has several joins very close to each other you'll almost certainly need more than one grade of solder. Plan the assembly order carefully and start with the highest melting-point solder, using successively lower melting-point solders for subsequent joins.

It's damnably annoying when previous joins slip, slump or just come apart as you attempt the final join.

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frances
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« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2013, 09:47:25 pm »

I've just booked myself onto a soldering course in Rochester.  I have the equipment and a friend tried to show me what to do.  But it was hopeless - I could not even get the solder to land in the right place.  *feeling helpless*. 

Then someone told me about this course at the end of April.  I want to solder an appropriate hairslide.  I keep taking my hats off to show people how they are made / how they collapse, and so my hairslide is on show a lot.
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grimnir
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« Reply #10 on: April 05, 2013, 02:43:27 am »

The solder I was hoping to use is no good for this work, the heat requirements are too high. Since I'm currently off work with a bad back as well, and having to claim what meager benefits I'm entitled to over here (not much I can tell you) then the project is on hold until I can afford some more kit.
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