Beginning soldering tips. Share yours in the comment box and share the wealth … although you don’t have to ramble like I do … unless you want to …

After I made this bracelet I decided that I wanted to use some more of the aquamarine beads.

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And thought I’d show you my process again.

Mostly for Jane W :)

Of course, half way through I became too involved and forgot to take the photographs.

Sorry.

I’ll show you what I have though.

From the beginning.

I found a stone that I thought I could use.

This one is a drusy from – HERE.

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And drew a rough sketch around it.

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I took my bezel wire which I buy from – HERE.

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And wrapped it around the stone to make a collar.

Tip.

When you have aligned the cut ends of the wire ready to solder together, take a pair of flat nosed pliers and gently squeeze where the two ends touch. This will flatten the side of the collar slightly and ensure that the ends are perfectly flush.

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You can just about see the unsoldered join below. This is what you’re looking for, a nice flush connection.

I seem to have snipped my thumb also.

Oh well. That’s it for being a hand model I suppose.

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(Don’t look at my poor jewelry making fingernails!)

Fitting the bezel wire around a stone takes a bit of practice. You don’t want it too loose or too tight and it can be a bit frustrating at the beginning trying to get the right fit.

Be brave. It will come in the end.

The key is to cut the bezel wire too long first off, then keep checking it by wrapping it around the stone and snipping away at it, and not your thumb, until it’s good.

Then you’re ready to solder.

I think everyone has their own way of soldering, but this is mine.

I like to hold the collar in my third hand, as the alien said to the shirt maker.

Again you can find this at Rio Grande – HERE.

I used to solder the join on the inside of the collar, but now I solder on the outside. I changed because I still sometimes get a solder bump at the join which can affect the fit of the stone. I also found that as I continued working on the bezel, by adding the back and any decorations, often I could see the join in the finished piece, which annoyed me.

By soldering on the outside I can more easily file the bump down when I’ve finished, and it seems that the join remains hidden no matter how much more work I do on it.

I tell you this solely so you can send me your first-born whom I will train to make my tea.

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As I was taught there are three types of solder. You can correct me at any time, but I warn you, I may have to send your first-born back and then you’ll be left paying for their schooling and worrying about EVERYTHING they do even though they’ve left home and you think things are all good now.

Not that I speak from experience you understand.

The types are Hard, Medium, and Easy.

Go figure.

Each has a different melting temperature and so you use them in sequence as you build on your piece.

Depending on how many stages you will go through to build up your bezel setting you will start with the hardest. So for instance I would start with the hard solder on my bezel collar. When I next solder the collar onto the backing plate I would use the medium solder. This ensures that the solder will flow at a lower temperature than the hard and won’t ‘undo’ the first solder. And so on.

I don’t do this.

I just use regular ol’ easy solder or whatever I’ve got hanging around and wing it.

Which is probably why I always got that solder line at the end, but as I’ve fixed that problem now with the outside soldering trick I say all is good.

Choose your method at your own risk.

I use two types of solder. Chips – HERE, and wire – HERE. You can also use solder sheet which you can cut into your own chips but I haven’t got around to that yet.

I typically use the wire for larger areas, as in joining the bezel collar to the back, and use the chips for the more delicate areas.

I used wire on this collar as even though it’s a more delicate join I sometimes like to break my own rules.

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Next you want to cut out the back for the piece.

I used 24 gauge fine silver sheet – HERE, and drew a circle slightly larger than my bezel collar with a template.

This gives you wiggle room.

Note this is just a simple bezel. In other designs you would cut out the back accordingly.

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Although I don’t need this cut to be perfect I try to use every opportunity to practice my sawing. That way, when I really do need a perfect cut I will have already put in the practice.

I found sawing the most frustrating when I first began. Lots of broken blades, and wonky lines, but practice makes perfect, and that applies to most jewelry techniques.

Then clean the back up and make sure it’s as flat as it can be. You want the join between the bezel collar and the back sheet to be as clean and as flush as you can make it. I use sandpaper to clean mine.

(Still not a perfect round. I just don’t know how those guys do it!)

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Sand the bottom of the bezel collar also.

Here’s a photo of me doing this on another piece. I have a couple of squares of sticky back sand paper (HERE) on my table to make this easy for me.

Tip. Sand the piece in a figure eight movement. This helps keep the bottom level.

MAKE SURE that your stone fits into the bezel collar afterwards as the sanding may have distorted its shape.

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Now flux the two surfaces.

I use this.

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Which you can find – HERE.

I’ve used various types of flux, but so far this is my favourite.

Cut the solder wire into pallions, which is a fancy way of saying small pieces, and place them evenly around the join.

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When you start to heat the silver the flux will begin to melt and the pallions will jump about and you will have to use your soldering pick (HERE) to push them back into place. To help prevent this, heat your piece very gently at first.

(You can find various soldering blocks – HERE. I prefer the honeycomb block, but any of them will do.)

Circle your flame around the piece without it quite touching the silver. Every so often wave the flame over the silver and back out again. Keep your flame moving and at a, let’s say, two-inch distance from the silver. You will begin to see the flux start to whiten. When this happens you can start bringing your flame over the metal more and more. Still gently.

Take your time.

The key is to keep your flame moving. You are trying to heat the silver, NOT the solder. The solder will run over the hot surface when the silver has reached the solder’s melting temperature. If you keep your flame in one spot the silver will not heat evenly and the solder won’t always run everywhere you need it to. Also you will be in danger of melting the bezel collar.

As the silver continues to heat up, every so often rest your flame in the center of the piece, but take it away almost immediately. Remember the bezel wire is much thinner than the back sheet and will heat up faster.

I also like to hold my flame downwards. Depending on how large the piece is that I’m working on this seems to heat the area more evenly. If you hold it at an angle, toward the piece, even though you are moving the flame around the piece, the heat is coming in from one side only.

This might not mean anything, but works for me.

Could be magical thinking.

Just when you think nothing is happening you will see the solder start to change and run around the join.

Be patient.

If you have any gaps between the back sheet and the bezel collar the solder will not join the two together. Sometimes pushing down on the top of the collar with your soldering pick as you heat it is enough to allow the solder to join them. Hold the stick horizontally so that you push both sides of the collar down simultaneously. If you push down on one side only the other side will raise up.

You’ll get the hang of it, or I can come round and show you.

Keep heating the silver gently until the solder has run the whole way around. You can use your soldering pick to help it on its way.

You can just see that shiny piece on the inside left hand side. That’s what the solder will look like when it melts.

It’s a beautiful thing.

The brown stuff is the flux. You will put the soldered piece into pickle (HERE) to get this off. Oftentimes I wait to do this as I don’t like to use the pickle too much, also I’m too impatient.

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Note on Soldering.

Sometimes there’s just nothing to do but to stop trying and start over.

If you haven’t done everything His Fickleness requires you may as well just bang your head against a wall and take up bowling.

The metals, including the solder wire, have to be clean, and the two pieces needing to be joined together have to be flush against each other. Once you get the hang of it you will begin to see when it doesn’t matter how long you keep heating up the silver the darn solder just isn’t going to melt.

Don’t let it get to you. Turn the torch off, cool the piece in the bowl of water that you always have at the side of your soldering brick, put it into the pickle to clean it, and, or use some of THIS remarkable stuff to clean it even more, and start over.

Now file down the excess from the sides.

If you have a lot of silver left around the sides of the bezel collar, which you should try not to as silver is very, very expensive, you can use your jewelers saw (HERE) to remove most of it first, then use your file.

I just bought myself a new ’00’ file with larger teeth because I’m too impatient to wait for my ‘0’ to do its job.

It’s brilliant.

There is a great selection of files – HERE.

Note. If jewelry making is something that you can see yourself doing for a long time it’s worth buying the best tools you can afford as you will only waste money later by replacing them with better ones.

I like using the Grobet barrett files and the half rounds. I typically only use the larger tooth files however as I find sand paper is more than enough to do the rest.

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You can also use the sanding discs on your Dremel, or Foredom.

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BEFORE you test your stone in the setting drill a hole into the back of the silver so you can push the stone out again.

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O.K. So this is where I started to get a bit forgetful.

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I started fiddling around with things and forgot all about you.

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Sorry.

But I was enjoying myself, and practicing for my audition for the X Factor.

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James Morrison was helping me by singing along although he couldn’t quite keep up with my take on the tunes.

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So after a while I had to switch to Michael Jackson, although I do have to say he was slightly off also.

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And voilà!

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Before I knew it, it was doneth.

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It looks exactly the same as my sketch, don’t you think?

Jane, I hope this helps a little bit. I do tend to wander off in my descriptions so you can well imagine just what’s going on in my head as I make this stuff.

The key is to practice. One day you’ll pick up the torch just after you’ve decided to give up, and it will be a piece of cake.

Here’s the torch I use.

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You can find one at your local welding supply shop.

If you’re just starting a small hand-held torch might be the way to go.

Theres a nice little soldering kit – HERE.

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And as for the pickle, I have a small, very cheap, crock pot in which I put about two inches of water and a couple of teaspoons of the pickle granules from Rio Grande.

You can just see my pickling pot back there in the corner.

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And remember.

Always keep your table perfectly organized.

;)

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Drink lots of tea.

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But don’t listen too much to the BBC world news on the radio as it will put you in a funk and you have to go into hiding of a couple of weeks.

:)

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About coldfeetstudio

I am English, but live in Houston, TX. I have a degree in Sculpture. I love to make art. I sell my art for charity as I believe there should be no reason for someone to go hungry in this world. I am a wife, mother, pottery maker, jewelry maker, quilt maker, painter, cat lover, and, dog liker. And I am very fortunate to be all these things. View all posts by coldfeetstudio

22 responses to “Beginning soldering tips. Share yours in the comment box and share the wealth … although you don’t have to ramble like I do … unless you want to …

  • Margaretha Van Oostenrijk

    Hello Cold Feet Studio, I very much enjoyed reading this post. I feel much better now and will be less frustrated and hopeless in my jewelry making endeavors.

  • wiredweirdly

    Great post! I’ve read this sentence, “I like to hold the collar in my third hand, as the alien said to the shirt maker.” like a dozen times and it just gets funnier every time!
    I love your style and your informative posts and would LOVE to know more about how you get the little leaves soldered on… they’re simply fabulous!!!
    I’ve never used anything but hard solder (wire, as cutting those chip things pisses me off), not that I do any kind of multi-soldering pieces. Someday maybe.

  • Jane Winningham

    thank you thank you for doing all this for me,im so happy,thank you ,i will be trying all this out i just bought a tumbler im really happy with that,i will show you what i made when i made it :) keep up the good work and thank you again for being so kind xxx jane

  • Paula

    Just love your website!! Your jewelry is beautiful and your sense of humor is terrific. I made some (actually many) forged links from one of your earlier posts and I love the necklace I created. I also like your method of soldering the bezel from the outside–I have the same issue with the join becoming visible again after subsequent soldering. I place a piece of dental floss under the stone with the ends hanging out over the bezel when I’m checking the fit. So far I’ve always been able to grab the ends and pull the stone back out of the setting (though I probably just jinxed myself)!

  • Gale White

    Your explanation is not confusing in the least. In fact, it’s all very clear and easy (in theory), with moments of comic relief. If you would let me come over and show me, though, I would make your tea, with no training necessary. I guess this will have to do for now, however. At least you’ve given me the gumption to buy some larger files….until I can maybe work myself up to a big-girls’ torch.

    I’m glad you forgot about us for a while and gave all your attention to your necklace. It’s amazing in its entirety, and I can’t stop admiring the climbing leaves.

  • connie

    hi,
    i’m in nashville tennessee and i’ve been fabricating metal jewelry for about 20 years now. i think your work is great and i admire your attention to detail. especially how you accentuate your ability to display your skill level by the intricate artwork on the back . nice.
    you’ve got a great set up!!! have you tried your hand at repousee ?
    connie

  • Sally G

    Wow! What an awesome job of sharing your process– complete with the usual delightful humor! I put a link to your post on the Facebook page of Handmade on the Front Range to share the awesomeness.

  • Moe

    I opened up my computer to your tips on soldering this morning. I must have click on it late one night and fell asleep but did not get to read it. Meanwhile, i have started on working with 16g brass wire to make my clasps. I made one that i was quite happy with, see below. and was thinking that i need to start working with soldering. but i am afraid. not sure if of the fire, or the additional madness that will ensure with the additional tools and material that comes with it. I had promised myself that I would limit my craft to one room, to one medium, to avoid spilling over all over the house., but that it not what is happening.

    look at the clasp, we must have tapped into the same pool of inspiration

    Let me know what you think…

    Cheers!

    Monicque

  • Rachel

    Thank you very much for sharing all these tips. By the way, the design looks very beautiful.

  • Brandy

    “His Fickleness” lol!! I know him well ;) It is much easier to train a first born to make tea than to make a bezel in my experience thus far….. Lovely job on the necklace!

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