Lexi’s Solder Tips

LexiHeadshot
Anyone who knows me knows that I am passionate about soldering. It’s one of the very basic techniques needed when making jewelry, and one that many people don’t understand. In fact, I have been in a class where the teacher actually said “I don’t know how solder works, but its just magic.” Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not “just magic”. There is really some very elementary physics and chemistry at play here, but not something so hard that everyone can’t understand it. It’s all very easy, so please allow me share some of my favorite tips.

1. You all know the 5 rules of solder:

1)the pieces to be soldered must fit tightly together; 2) the piece and the solder must be clean, so pickle or sand each one; 3) you must apply flux to help prevent oxides from forming and help the solder flow; 4) you must place your solder where you want it to flow, and 5) solder flows in the direction of the heat (flame of the torch). But in addition there are a couple of other rules.

2. Silver’s favorite thing to do is to cool off.

This means the flame must play over the entire surface of the piece, otherwise if you just heat the joint, it will take a long time for the heat to go all the way to the other end of the piece, and then back again, so help the solder by heating the entire piece, and when your paste flux turns clear, then concentrate on either side of the joint… and every now and then let the flame run to the end of the piece and quickly back again.

Flame over
Both sides of the join have to reach the same temperature at the same time. If your solder turns black, its because too much heat has been placed right on the joint, so its best to keep the flame on the entire piece, and this should keep your solder from oxidizing.

3. Solder’s favorite thing to do is to hide.

Most people, especially beginners, think that more solder means a better joint, and that’s not so. I use wire solder, which is much easier to cut than the sheets of solder. Hammer it flat or run it through the rolling mill, and it won’t roll off during heating. Cutting one large piece of solder will to save you time.

solder
Several small pieces of solder will melt quicker than one large piece, so help solder melt by keeping your solder chips (called pallions) about 2mm long or smaller. Solder wants to run right along the joint by capillary action, and it really doesn’t want to flow under the bezel and leave a solder “ghost” on your piece. You can always add solder, but removing too much solder is very difficult. And how do you know exactly how much solder to use? Experience.

4. Please don’t cut up your pieces of solder ahead of time or purchase packages of pre-cut tiny pieces.

Cut what you need at the time. The reason is because the small pieces will oxidize, and that may hinder the solder melting and flowing properly. It’s hard to clean those tiny palllions by sanding them, and you will never get them out of your pickle pot! Just keep your wire solder rolled in an airtight container or zip lock bag, (throw in one of those silica packages to help keep it from oxidizing) and it will stay clean and ready for your use. Be sure and keep it well marked, because nothing is as disappointing as cutting and making a lot of 20 gauge jump rings, only to find you have just cut and filed all your wire solder!

5. People always talk about the melting point of solder, but never about the flow point.

Sure, it is hard to tell what the exact temperature of the solder and metal is, but use your paste flux as a temperature indicator. It will turn clear at around 1100 degrees, which is also the proper annealing temperature. So watch closely after the flux turns clear, and if you see your solder ball up, it has reached its melting temperature. But you don’t want it just to melt, you want it to flow….so keep the flame on the area and it will soon flow right along the joint, and join the two metals together. The flow point is 50-90 degrees hotter than the melting temperature.

These are some of the tips that have helped my students, so I hope they help you. Remember, I am always here for you, and will answer your questions. If you have soldering questions, please don’t hesitate to write me at lexi@wubbers.com, and I’ll answer your questions, and perhaps even answer them on our Wubbers University FaceBook page, so all may benefit from your question.

Happy soldering, and may your bezels never melt.

Hugs,
Lexi

Lexi’s Solder Station!cropped solder station

The most common roadblock that keeps jewelry makers from learning to solder is setting up a safe place to solder at home. Lexi’s Solder Station by Wubbers is the perfect solution. It is:
  • Fireproof and safe!
  • Effortless cleanup-easily wipes clean
  • A rotating turntable with Lexi’s favorite soldering surface-a firebrick
  • Keeps you organized
  • Portability–it goes with you
  • Stability–the carefully designed lip on the front holds the station securely in place
  • Solid construction that lasts a lifetime
Did we say fireproof and safe?!  No matter your level of skill, Lexi’s Solder Station by Wubbers is perfect for all jewelry makers.

Get Lexi’s Solder Station with a FREE BONUS for a limited time!

Special Bonus!

Buy any piece of Lexi’s Soldering Station and receive a pair of Lexi’s Bezel Cutting Shears FREE! Offer good until Monday, September 14, 2015.   One pair of free shears per order.  Valued at $12.95

shearsJust want the shears? CLICK HERE TO BUY!

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Posted in Free Classes, Jewelry Making Q&A, Jewelry Tips, Lexi Erickson
One comment on “Lexi’s Solder Tips
  1. Christina L Ramirez says:

    Do you have advice on how to set an uneven piece into a bezel setting? The bottom of stone or piece would be what is not flat.

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