How to Prepare Your Solder For Jewelry-Making

How to Prepare Your Solder For Jewelry-MakingMaking jewelry is an exciting venture — whether you’re a jewelry-making hobbyist or have a professional studio. Soldering is one of the most common techniques jewelry designers and artisans use. It goes without saying, but knowledge of soldering is vital to every jewelry maker. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps for how to prepare your solder.

Once you’ve got these steps in your repertoire, you’ll be able to conjoin metals and push the bounds of your creativity. First step? Let’s deconstruct the basics of soldering and set you on your way!

What is Soldering?

In short, soldering is the process of joining, or fusing, two separate metals together. Jewelry makers employ soldering to connect metals together and form intricate, unique designs.

Solder is the material used that is made of lead and tin. Soldering is the process of using solder to melt metals together with heat and iron.

So, you know the process, now how can you do it? Here’s how to prepare your solder for jewelry-making.

Jewelry Soldering Tools and Materials

The first step to soldering jewelry is to have all the materials and tools you’ll need. In addition to setting up a safe space, you’ll need these items:

  • Sheet solder or wire solder (soft, medium, and hard)

  • A charcoal block, kiln brick, or ceramic block

  • Soldering pick

  • A torch (preferably Microflame butane)

  • Tweezers, pliers, and tongs

  • A water cup or jar

  • Flux or Solder Paste

  • A pickle pot

In addition to these jewelry soldering tools, you’ll also want to take care to set up a safe, and well-ventilated workspace. Be sure to work on a fire-proof surface, wear safety glasses, keep a fire extinguisher handy and tie your hair back. You’ll also have to wear natural clothing, as synthetic can be a fire hazard. You’ve got all your materials in your workspace, now let’s talk about how to prepare your solder!

Roll (or Hammer) Your Solder Thin

In order to start soldering jewelry, you’ll have to get your solder nice and thin. Doing so will make the solder easier to cut and maximize your materials. There are two ways to do this: by hammer or through a rolling mill.

To use a rolling mill: Feed the solder through the rollers at a perpendicular angle. As you feed it through, the solder will flatten out.

If you don’t have a rolling mill: Hammer the solder flat against a steel bench block. Instead of rolling the solder through a mill, you can hammer it out. After you’ve sufficiently hammered one side flat, flip it over and hammer the other side, this will give you a nice, flat, thin and even surface.

You’ll be working with a variety of solder, especially if you have easy, medium and hard. As you solder, it can be difficult to know which variety you are working with because, well, they kind of look the same. We’ve got a solution!

Organize Your Solder

If you’re working with multiple solder grades, keep things organized by color-coding them with a marker. Choose three colors and associate each one with a grade of solder. It’ll make things a lot easier if you look at a red solder piece and know instantly that red stands for hard solder.

Or, if you prefer to keep things neutral, segregate your solder with cubbies on your workbench. Use a label maker to identify each one and easily grab solder as you go.

That about covers how to prepare your solder, let’s see soldering in action!

How To Prepare Your Solder and Start Using It

Now that you’ve gotten organized — here are some quick tips for how to solder jewelry metals.

Organize Your Work Space

Organization is the key to efficient jewelry making! As you hone your craft, you’ll naturally accumulate materials and tools. Create a designated area for your solder, rolling mill, hammer, jewelry metals, tongs, flux, and any other tools you work with. If these items float around your workspace, you’ll waste time trying to track them down. 
jewelry soldering

Clean and Prepare Your Materials

Before you start soldering, ensure your materials (and hands) are clean of oils and grease. A great way to do this is to place your materials in a pickle pot and clean them for a couple of minutes. Once your materials are spick and span, use your tongs or a pair of pliers to gently place your metals together on a brick.

Use Flux

Are your materials neatly in place? Perfect! Now you can cut the solder into small pieces. Time to bring in the flux! There are two ways to go about this step:

  • Use a paintbrush to apply flux to the area you plan to solder

  • Use a thin brush to apply a flux paste (like Borax), then heat the metal before adding the solder

Add the Solder

Use small tweezers to apply your small cuts of solder to the metal. You really don’t need to apply too much solder, but in the beginning, you may need to experiment with learning the technique.

Fire Up The Torch

Now it’s time to let the flames heat the solder and metal to bind them together. You might think of naturally applying heat directly to the solder, but this will actually work against you. The better approach is to let the flame attract the solder to it, which will enable the solder to run through. Once that happens, remove the torch.

Water the Solder

Grab your metal with pliers and dunk it in water to cool it. In many cases, you’ll have to solder the metal a few times. If this happens, don’t worry, it’s part of the process. The only thing to keep in mind is that you’ll have to switch up the solder to either soft or medium to get the right hold.

There you have it! You’re on your way to becoming a soldering master! Seem like a lot to grasp? Don’t worry, as a beginner, soldering can feel like an intimidating technique. Like all new hobbies: practice makes perfect! With your proficiency will come the confidence to make bold designs and flourish in your creativity.

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