Introduction: Learn How to Solder to Create Beautiful Jewelry
So, you would like to move on from beads, resin or just dive right into soldering to create jewelry. When I first began using solder, I had no idea what it even was, I thought it was using the soldering iron and I was convinced I could not afford to silversmith. I was taught the basics from my aunt who had taken a class at the local college, and I was HOOKED! Everyday I create a new piece of jewelry, I am obsessed with learning more through classes, books, and Youtube. Metalsmithing and soldering are addictive and it opens doors to a million possibilities. I began with making bead jewelry and cheap chain jewelry. Many of my tools have crossed over to be used with my new passion. I have slowly built my tools and supplies but it is a never-ending process. For true beginners I suggest getting the Rio Grande catalog, I did not do this and it is difficult to truly know the size and dimensions of what you are ordering without it. I just recently got mine in the mail and I was like a kid in the candy store. This "Instructable" will teach the very basics of jewelry soldering with the least amount of materials. It takes time and money to grow your tools and supplies, and I do not want that to deter anyone who is interested in this hobby.
To begin, these are the materials you will absolutely need:
- Aspace to work with good ventilation. (An open window works). There is a picture of my work space but I have also worked at my kitchen table.
- A heat resistant surface to protect your table you are working on. I use an old cookie sheet.
- A solder block. There are many choices for this. You can choose ceramic, charcoal, honeycomb, solderite, etc. I began with a firebrick my aunt had from a kiln. You can purchase many of these and read the pros and cons at RioGrande.com.
- You will need atorch. Again you have many choices. A butane torch is all that is necessary and the cheapest option. If you are going to be working with thicker metals you will need a hotter torch, propane or acetylene torch, which are a bit more expensive. Butane torches are available at most hardware stores, smoke shops, and of course RioGrande.com.
- You will need Solder. Solder is available in wire form and sheets.You can find copper and other metal solders but from my experience, sIlver is the best (I have not worked with gold yet, still working my way up). It is also available in hard, medium, easy, and extra easy. If you can only purchase one I would go with the medium. It would be ideal to have at least hard, medium and easy, but not absolutely necessary. I have only bought solder from RioGrande.com, but I am sure there are other sources.
- You will also need Flux. This is not the flux or solder that is used in construction. (Believe me I would have already used all of my fiances in his tool bag.) Also available at Riogrande.com. I have found other online sources but the prices are comparable and i like a one-stop shop.
- You will need some tools. You may be able to find them laying around the house.
- Flat pliers
- Goggles (to protect your eyes)
- A file
- A round object (A marker or jar or dowel or mandrel if you have one.)
- 320, 400, 600 grit sandpaper
- A pickle pot (crock pot). You can find a cheap and easy pickle recipe online.
- Two bowls or cups, one with water and the other with a baking soda/water solution.
- Dish detergent
- Brass brush
- A wire cutter
- Last but not least you will need to choose a metal to work with. Copper and Brass will be the cheaper options. Silver a bit more expensive and Gold and Platinum is even more expensive.
Again you can find all supplies at RioGrande.com.
- Metal Saw
- 24 Gauge silver wire
- Small container for flux
Step 1: Choose a Metal
You will need Brass, Copper, or Silver 12-18 gauge wire. It is completely up to you.
Step 2: Make a Circle
I have chosen Copper Wire. If you have a ring or bracelet mandrel available, use it. Because I would like to show the process with the minimum amount of tools, I used a highlighter I had laying around. You can make a small ring sized circle or a large bracelet sized circle.You can use copper, silver, brass wire. It all works the same.
Wrap your wire around the circular object.
Step 3: Bend Your Circle Slightly for Ends to Meet.
Using your pliers (Preferably nylon pliers, but any flat pliers will work.) Bend the Circle slightly so each end can meet and touch. You will need to use your file to file the ends so they are flush. Kiss the ends together so there is not a gap.
Step 4: Cut Solder Prepare Flux
Cut the Solder into very small pieces. You can put flux into a container and dip your metal and solder into it or use a paint brush to "paint" on the flux. You will need your Joint at least fluxed and your solder. The flux helps the solder flow into the areas you need it and helps to keep firescale to a minimum.
Step 5: Place a Small Piece of Solder Across the Joint
Heat the ring up before placing the solder across the joint. You should see a slight bubbling of the flux. If you add the solder before heating the flux it may or may not make the solder "jump" off your joint or move into a bad position. You can place the solder below or above, it just needs to make a bridge between the two joining pieces.
Step 6: Heat It Up
Using slow circular motions with your torch, heat the joining pieces evenly. Solder follows heat, so if you heat one side more the the other the solder will only melt to the hotter side. Heat until you see the solder melt. Immediately pick up with tweezers and place in a dish of water.
The attached File is a video of the soldering process.
Step 7: PICKLE
Put your ring into the pickle pot and close the lid for about 5 minutes. Take out the metal and place into a baking soda water solution and then plain water to rinse it off.
Step 8: Roll It Out.
Our piece is not round and we want it round. Put the ring back on the "mandrel" and roll it. Roll it until it is as circular as you would like.
Step 9: File and Sand
Use the file to file any acess solder and large dings in the metal. Then we will use the sandpaper to sand and shine our rings. Start with 320 grit, move to 400 grit and then 600. This process will take a while, do not give up. It will be rewarding to see it shine.
Step 10: Finished Product?
If all you wanted was a ring, you are finished. I saw the "rings" next to each other and got blindsided by some inspiration.
Step 11: Get Creative!
I used my silver ring, some 24 gauge silver wire and a swarovski bead to create a sparkling ring. I used the Copper and bronze rings to create a pendant on a chain. Be creative, don't let anyone tell you it can not be done. Some things do not work as you have planned, sometimes you have to junk an idea and sometimes a different idea is born from the first inspiration. Happy Soldering!