Let’s Set-up a Soldering Station & then Solder a Sterling Silver Bangle!
Whether you are a beading enthusiast or a budding metalsmith, soldering can be an invaluable lesson to learn. From permanently closing those unreliable jump rings to the prospect of adding new depths to your existing skill level, soldering can add so much more to a jeweler’s life. I completely understand, though, the hesitancy that you’re feeling. A torch is not a toy, it is a serious tool that should never be taken lightly. However, I assure you that soldering can be safely accomplished at home.
Now, you don’t need a studio, a garage, or a jewelry bench, you can create a safe soldering space on a kitchen table with just a few items. Set-up space, take time to practice and your fear of soldering will quickly become a thing of the past. In no time at all, you’ll be closing those jump rings, joining those links and permanently soldering close those finger rings.
Note: Stay focused! When you first begin to solder, remove all the distractions, such as pets and phones, from the room and make sure you have plenty of ventilation.
Let’s get started...
Step 1: Tools & Materials
- 18”x18” (or 16”x16”) Tile
- Solder-ite Board (or a Tripod with a mesh screen, charcoal and magnesia blocks will also work)
- Soldering pick
- Butane (purchase from hardware or camping supply stores)
- Flux (liquid or paste: small paintbrush is optional)
- Solder (Medium)
- Copper Tongs
- Quench Bowl
- Clean Rag
- Paper Ruler (or string)
- Permanent Marker
- Wire Cutters
- Ring Clamp (optional)
- Flat File
- Rawhide Hammer (or Nylon)
- Texturing Hammer (optional)
- Bangle Mandrel
- 16ga Sterling Silver Wire
- Sandpaper Variety (for finishing)
- Safety Glasses
- If your hair is long, tie it back!
Step 2: Protect the Surface
A soldering station can be set up anywhere. Let me show you how to safely create one on your kitchen table at home. Place a large tile where you would like your station to be set –up. The one in this photo is 18x18”, which has plenty of surface space for all of your tools and supplies.
Step 3: Place Your Soldering Brick (or Tripod)
Always solder on a heat resistance brick, soldering board or tripod. Place that in the front center of your tile.
Step 4: Layout Your Tools & Supplies
Place the soldering tools you will need close to you where they can be easily reached. This will include the soldering pick, tweezers, solder, flux and copper tongs.
Step 5: Pickling & Quenching
Now that you have your immediate station set-up and ready to go, you’ll need to set-up a crockpot and quench bowl nearby.
Crockpot: Fill your crockpot with approximately 2/3 of water. Next add your pickling solution to the water. Since solutions vary, read the instructions on your pickle container for the proper amount to add into the crockpot.
Note: This crockpot can no longer be used for food; it can now only be used for pickling.
Quench Bowl: Fill a container with water. We use an old plastic Tupperware container here, but you can use anything that’s deep enough to quench your pieces in. Now that your station is all set-up and ready to go, let’s move on to the torch.
Step 6: Filling Your Butane Torch
Note: Make sure you have proper ventilation. Either open a window or have the kitchen hood turned on if you’re near it.
Turn your butane torch upside down. At the bottom of the tank, there will be a screw with a hole in the center; this is the fuel refilling hole. Using a flathead screwdriver, turn the screw to the open position. Take a can of butane, place the nozzle of the butane can onto the tube in the center of the screw. Push down to fill the tank with butane until it starts to spurt out of the top and then remove the can. Close the screw with a screwdriver, it will depress the tube as you twist so don’t be frightened if butane comes out. Your butane torch is now full.
Step 7: Familiarize Yourself With Your New Torch
On the back of the torch is a button to push; it is the ignition button. Directly below it is the safety lock, so first you will need to release the locking mechanism below the button. Push down on this.
Next, slowly push the ignition button in and the torch should light. It may take a couple of starts to get the butane going, but that’s normal. Just repeat pushing down on the safety lock and pushing in on the ignition button until it lights.
Adjust the flame on the top right side of the torch. You can vary between a small and large flame. Go ahead and slide it back and forth now so that you can get a feel for the different flame sizes.
The flame lock on the top left-hand side locks your torch in the on position so that you don’t need to keep the ignition button depressed while using the torch.
Note: If you have the flame locked, you can quickly unlock and shut off the flame by pressing on the ignition bottom on the back of the torch again. This button not only creates the flame, but it also turns it off as well. This works with the Micro torch, it may vary between other butane torches.
Tip: Turn it on and off several times so that you become familiar with it! This simple, repetitive step will build up your confidence level and make you more relaxed as you begin to solder.
Read our article: Butane Hand Torch Troubleshooting if you are having issues with your torch.
Step 8: Creating a Sterling Silver Bangle
Now that you’ve set-up your soldering station, filled your torch with fuel and have become familiar with it lets make something. I teach new employees at Halstead how to solder and the very first class they take is to make a sterling silver bangle. This is an easy, fun project and you can finish them in multiple ways. Texture them with a hammer, use a Liver of Sulfur solution to patina them (buy a separate crockpot for this), or polish them until they have a bright mirror finish. Have fun with this and take your time.
Step 9: Bangle Soldering Steps & Video
1. Measure & Cut (wrist measurements & wire cutting)[Video Timestamp -00:08]
Note: Measure 1/4in smaller than your wrist if you plan to texture
2. File (flush joins are crucial and take the most time) [Video Timestamp -01:32]
3. Prep (lightly sand joins to remove oils and dirt) [Video Timestamp -05:45]
4. Flux (helps with solder flow and minimizes firescale) [Video Timestamp -06:52]
5. Adding Solder (we’ll use medium wire solder = XS20M) [Video Timestamp -07:33]
6. Soldering [Video Timestamp -08:52]
7. Air Cool [Video Timestamp -10:33]
8. Pickle, quench & dry [Video Timestamp -11:00]
9. Finishing [Video Timestamp -13:34]
* Add a texture and/or patina (optional)
Step 10: Soldering Checklist:
Print out this handy checklist and keep it near your soldering station. It will help you stay on track for all of your soldering jobs, especially when you are first starting out.
Step 11: How-to Solder a Sterling Silver Bangle
Step 12: Additional Information:
Halstead has a bestselling Jewelry Soldering Kit, which has almost all of the items needed to start soldering. It costs about $80, but you will still need Butane, pickle pot or crockpot, soldering pick and a quench bowl.
Erica Stice is the Studio Coordinator at Halstead in Prescott, AZ. She’s addicted to the flame of the torch and is always looking for excuses to solder. Forging is her second favorite technique.