Introduction: STERLING OR COPPER SOLDERING WITH SIMPLE TOOLS
This is cheaper method to solder sterling silver (or copper).
Some of the material involved to soldering, like the soldering blocks, the pickle or the flux can be quite expansive, and they don't last very long. This is a way to save some money, and to have a nice wide soldering surface.
It is not good to solder small pieces, like small bolls, as they can be lost in your soldering pan.
Step 1: WHAT YOU NEED
- table salt;
- silver solder;
- pumice gravel;
- thick copper wire;
- a plain ceramic tile;
- backing soda.
- an old pan or heat proof mold;
- 2 jars;
- a small brush;
- propane torch, or any specific jewelry soldering torch (I'm currently using a butane-propane combination).
Step 2: THE FLUX
Prepare your flux:
mix in a jar 1 to 1/2 borax to table salt: for example 2 spoon of borax to 1 spoon of salt.
Add a bit of water until it turn in to a paste.
You can also use dry flux, for the more difficult to reach spots, but paste flux is way easier to apply and use.
(Use all the general warning as for any other possibly unsafe chemical product: don't eat, etc etc..)
Step 3: THE PAN
Take a pan or a heat proof mold and fill it up with the pumice gravel.
Pumice is easy to find in garden supply store or hardware store. It is possible to find it also in flower beds around the city.
Fold your copper wire in a serpentine and place it on top of the gravel, it will make easier to control the position of your piece, and to place it really flat if neaded, and to allow the heat to reach the back of it.
Anyways if you don't have one, I think is possible to go without it too.
Step 4: TILE
Place a plain tile behind your soldering spot, it will help contain the heat.
Step 5: THE PICKLE
The pickle is easy to make: you just need some vinegar and table salt. It is a safe and effective way to make your own ecologic pickle. (the one in the photo is been used many time with copper, that's why is so green).
Add a big tablespoon or two of salt every cup of vinegar. Heat up a little and fully dissolve the salt.
Place it in a glass jar, do not use any other material.
Use only copper pliers or plastic in the pickle, as any other material will electroplate to the jewelry you are cleaning.
It is good to use numerous time,but when it is too dirty just make some new one.
The pickle is more effective when used warm. To warm it up place it bain-marie in another container, do not microwave, as the vinegar dissolve some metal from your piece in the pickle.
Step 6: PREPARE THE PIECE
The surface that need to be solder always need to be really clean, with sharp cut, and the two surfaces that need to be soldered need to be in perfect contact with each others.
Step 7: PREPARE THE PIECE
To make a nice contact surface in rings or other pieces, fold a piece of fine sanding paper in half, insert your ring in it, and sent it till smooth.
Step 8: CLEAN YOU PIECE
You can clean you piece, where it need to be solder, with sending paper, or pickle the whole piece.
Remember to place your piece in backing soda after pickling (it is a neutralizer for the acid of the pickle).
Step 9: PLACE THE FLUX
Place some flux on top of the part that you have to solder with a brush.
Make sure it goes also in between the pieces.
Place your piece in the pan, flat on top of the wire.
Step 10: PLCE THE SOLDER
Cut a small piece of solder on the flux, right on top of the part to solder.
In this case somebody prefer to place the solder in between, but I found it easier this way.
Step 11: SOLDERING
Start to heat up the whole piece from around it, and under, until you notice the flux melting.
Otherwise the flame will make your sterling solder move.
When the piece is all hot you can also place the flame directly on the part than need to be soldered.
You can move around a little the solder with the flame: the solder is always attract from the flame.
The hottest part of the flame is at the very tip of the blue.
Step 12: PICKLING
Place your cooled down piece in the warm pickle and leave it for 10 minutes up to half hour, until all the flux is gone.
Step 13: NEUTRALIZING
Wash your piece with warm water and backing soda, to neutralize completely the acid of the pickle.
Step 14: DONE
Done, your piece is ready to be worked with, hammered, polished, etch etch.
This method is ideal for sterling silver, but at the moment I'm using silver solder for copper as well, as the piece in the photo, but you will have a splash of silver in your piece. You can clean it better with sanding paper, or just use specific solder for copper.
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