Tuesday, June 5, 2012

First rule of soldering

Okay, last Thursday was one of those days.

I decided that I needed to tackle bezel setting and use some of the stones that I've had for a long time.  I have done bezel setting before, in three separate classes (under the watchful eye of a teacher.)  I made my own cab and bezel set it way, way, way back in college (and that one was fully soldered, unlike working with metal clay.)  They all turned out successfully.  But, since I hadn't done it by myself for quite a while I was rather hesitant.

When working with metal clay, the bezel can be shaped, the ends soldered together, and the bezel pushed into the wet clay.    This method is quick, but often results in cracks in the clay as the clay shrinks around the bezel.

A more accurate method is to make the clay piece and the bezel separately.  Solder the bezel and fire the metal clay piece by itself.  After firing, the bezel is pasted to the metal clay piece using paste which has lavender oil added to it.  Don't rush the drying at this step, let it air dry.  Then re-fire both pieces together and finish as usual.  Now here is where my problem came to light.

In class, I didn't pay any attention to the type of solder paste we were using.  (A major error!)  So, I went merrily on my way, soldering not one, but three bezels.  Since I had a design in mind for only one, I proceeded with that one.  All was going well, until I took it out of the kiln and noticed the solder was gone and the bezel had a crack where the solder should be.

Then it hit me (like a ton of bricks as they say.)  My firing temperature was hotter than the melting point of my solder!!!!!!

Okay, live and learn (again and again and again.)

All is not lost on my other two bezels though.  Paper clay can be cut into a small strip and used like a band aid to hold the seam together.  Whew, at least I remembered that from my metal clay bezel setting class.  (And I'm hitting the books to jog  my memory on some standard bezel setting practices.)

Now all I need is some info on making a square or triangular bezel.  (All the directions are for ovals, and circles!)

This photo is a finished bezel set piece that I did during a class at the conference in 2009 (or was it 2008?)  Anyway, it's just to prove that I can do bezels (but still working on making a cleaner seam.)


Zoe Nelson said...

I haven't had a lot of success with bezel setting. I've tried it several times and only had two that came out well. If you discover any secrets, please share!

Alice Walkowski said...

Will do!

Anonymous said...

Ha! As soon as I read "solder" I knew where this had gone. Of course, I had the advantage of your "one of those days" warnings!

Now, you know how I go on and on at times about all the things I do without using metal clay paste. But my other "Ha!" was that bezels are one place where I do use it (oil paste, handmade or purchased) rather than solder.

I look forward to seeing more posts as you continue to practice these.