Sunday, November 17, 2013

Facing an Old Fear

Back when dinosaurs roamed I took a fabrication class with fine silver during my freshman year of college.  I loved it.  I tried it all.  We learned how to work with a jeweler's saw to cut out a shape and learned how to cut out an interior piece.  I actually took a piece of granite, used the wet saw to cut out a slab and shaped it into a cab on the grinder, then polished it.  After that I made a back piece, attached the cab to the back with a bezel and incorporated it into a body ornament.  (No need to go into all this, I think I've done that before.)

The point is, I did some major soldering back then and thought nothing of it.  Those days we used silver sheet solder and cut tiny pieces to be used between two shapes.  I do remember that solder will not fill in gaps, therefore the two pieces need to have a good connection.  What I can't remember is how does one know when the solder has melted and flowed when you can't see it.

Luckily for me, I use paste solder and only on places where I can see it flow, like earring backs and now jump rings.  The solder comes in a tube and has "flux" already in it.  Flux is what makes the solder flow.  When we soldered in class, we had to brush on the flux before placing the tiny piece of solder.  The paste solder is applied with a "pick", which is a pointed tool.

Up until today, I had only soldered earring backs (a piece of cake.)  Today I soldered jump rings closed.  (Also, a piece of cake.)  I have avoided doing it for so long out of fear I guess.  So, I went to YouTube and found a demonstration.  Geez...... how easy!

A lot of fancy tools are not needed; just a fire brick set on a cookie sheet, the solder and a torch.  (I used my kitchen torch.)  A very tiny bit of solder is needed for the seam of the jump ring.  Apply heat to the jump ring for just a few seconds until it turns red and you see the solder flow.  Then quench in a glass of water.  It's that easy.

Afterwards, the piece will need to be set in some kind of pickling solution to remove the fire scale.  But, that doesn't take much.  I finished off four delicate chains today with soldered jump rings. They are all ready now for the clasp and a focal point.

Originally, I was doing this so I could solder a cross that a friend commissioned.  I usually use "Snapeeze" jump rings in all my pieces as I really, really trust them to hold.  But the chain in this piece was so delicate that I couldn't get the 4mm Snapeeze through the link.  (Although, later on I was able to get it on the ends.)  In the end, I didn't solder this piece at all.

Soldering can be daunting at times.  But for what I do it is not.  Time to quit putting things off out of fear.  


Anonymous said...

Good job, Alice!

I don't "fear" soldering; I just don't enjoy it that much. I can do it, but reserve that for only when it's necessary....

Have you tried working with either fine silver or Argentium silver instead, and just fusing rings shut? It's a very similar process, but without the solder, flux, or pickle! I find that makes it just enough more tolerable that I'm OK with doing it...

Alice Walkowski said...

I have tried the Argentium. That didn't seem to work as quickly as the solder did. For these, I used some rings that were very thin, much thinner than the Argentium wire that I had on hand. Had to use thin wire to get through the hoops on the chain. Although I could have soldered the jump ring to the end of the chain instead. (I shudder at the thought of that doing that.)