**Warning, if you are reading this to try and learn how to solder for computer circuits, read no further. Soldering jewelry involves an open flame torch and temperatures up to 1700 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 930 degrees Celsius. This will very likely destroy any circuitry that you attempt to use this technique on. Unless, of course, you intend to destroy said circuits, then by all means, read on.***
The next page will include a list of tools and materials you will need for this project.
Step 1: Materials list
- Sterling silver wire or jump rings
- A torch. The one I am using is a small butane powered plumbers torch by Ronson which I got for about $30 at Walmart. Butane refills are about $2 each and fill it up almost twice.
- A soldering pick. I got mine in a set from Home Depot for about $5, but just about any kind of long thin steel rod will work.
- Borax Flux. You may need to look for a specialty store or order this online.
- Silver Solder. Silver solder is an alloy of silver, copper, and sometimes a little zinc. It comes in three main grades - Hard, Medium, and Easy. Hard melts at the highest temperature, Easy at the lowest. For this Instructable, I used Medium as my torch is a bit small to melt Hard very quickly. If you have a larger torch you might want to start with Hard, then use Medium on your second solder joints to prevent reflowing your Hard solder and loosing the connection. You will probably have to order this online or over the phone from a precious metals supplier.
- Wire cutters. Use these to snip the silver solder into small pieces.
- Tweezers. You may want these to hold something in place while soldering. Good ones have wooden grips so that they don't burn your fingers during extended soldering.
- Pickle. No, not the food. Pickle is a weak acid that is used to dissolve oxides and flux from the metal after soldering. Basically it makes the metal really clean by eating away all the dirty stuff. Also, never put anything made of steel in the pickle. The steel reacts with the pickle, making it so that the pickle will copper plate your silver. It's a weak acid, but it's still an acid, so if it gets on your clothes it will bleach or eat holes though them, and you should wash it off if it gets on your skin, and be especially careful to keep it out of your eyes. Update: I've heard some people use citric acid or a salt & vinegar solution instead of the acid pickle you can order from jewelry supply stores. I've never tried these methods myself, but they seem like cheap and easy options for beginners so I thought I'd list them.
- Some kind of plastic/ceramic container to put the pickle in. I just used a old Tupperware container. You can't use metal, especially steel.
- Earring hooks to attach to your earrings to make them dangly.
- A short length of thin copper wire. Use this to dip your silver in the pickle. Never put steel in the pickle.
Optional tools or materials you may want:
- Sandpaper - Use this to clean up your solder seams. I prefer 320 or 400 grit, but these will not leave a high polish.
- A polished hammer and anvil. You can hammer the silver to flatten, harden, and planish it a little bit instead of sanding, saving a lot of time. Planished silver is shinier than sanded silver, but you can't use a regular hammer for this because if there are any marks in the hammer face, those marks will transfer to the silver. The same applies to the anvil.
- If you're looking to save some money, or you want to practice with something less expensive than sterling silver, these techniques can also be applied to copper or brass wire and sheet as well. Just remember that if you use silver solder on copper or brass, the silver will show up against the brown or yellow of the other metals.
http://www.hauserandmiller.com/ - Hauser and Miller supplies precious metal materials such as Sterling silver wire and silver solder. They have low minimum purchase requirements, and their shipping is fairly low too. Their selection is somewhat small though.
http://www.ccsilver.com/ - Another good site for raw silver materials such as wire and solder.
http://www.riogrande.com/ - Rio Grande can supply you with pretty much everything you'll need for this project. The only problem with them is that they have some high minimum purchase requirements for raw materials, such as silver wire or solder, and they also have high fabrication fees. They do however, have an enormous selection. This would be a good place to find flux, pickle, sterling components such as ear posts or hooks, etc. You can also purchase tools from them such as hammers, small anvils, soldering tweezers, and torches.
http://www.monsterslayer.com - I've never ordered from them before but I hear their prices are pretty good and they seem to have a decent selection of things like raw materials and findings.
While I am by no means saying you must order your materials from one of these sites, several of them I have used previously and not had any major problems with them. If you prefer to do your own research, these sites may be a good starting place to compare prices, although for most silver items the price fluctuates daily with the precious metals market, so the best way to check prices on silver items is to call the company and ask for a price check.