Here’s a fun little project that we recently made here in the Halstead Jewelry Studio, where we hold classes for employees. In three hours, all participants walked away with three rings and stronger confidence in their soldering skills. Their creative sides shined, as shown in the rings pictured above. Want to try it? Here’s a step-by-step guide.
- 16ga Sterling Silver wire (Item# SW16GA)
- Scrap Wire (Sterling Silver, copper, bronze..etc) for granules
- Graph Paper
- Permanent Marker
- Solder – Medium (Item# XS20M), Easy (Item# XS20S)
- Flux (Item# X950 or X952)
- Pickle (Item# X163 or X802) Mix according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- Pickle Pot (Item# X584)
- Soldering Pick (Item# X930)
- Copper Tongs (Item# X958)
- Third Hand (Item# X165 or XT119)
- Solderite Board (Item# X420) or Charcoal Block (Item# X480)
- Calipers (Item# X169)
- Ring Gauges (Item# X111)
- Ring Mandrel (Item# X225)
- Bench Block (Item# XJ22 or X525)
- Sandbag (Item# X570 or X571)
- Sheet Shears (Item# X536)
- Sandpaper and Files (Files and Abrasives)
- Round-nose Pliers (Pliers and Crimpers)
- Flat Nose Pliers (Pliers and Crimpers)
- Ring Clamp (Item# X650 or X651) (Optional)
- Liver of Sulphur (Item# X610) (Optional)
- Flex Shaft (Item# X150) (Optional)
- 1mm Drill Bit (Item# X189) (Optional)
Note: It will take approximately 2-3 hours to make three rings.
Review 5 Steps to Start Silver Soldering before you begin to prepare your work area and take safety precautions.
Step 1: Use the finger ring gauge to measure your fingers and choose which ring size you’d like to make. Then, use calipers to take the inner diameter measurement of that ring gauge and write it down in millimeters (mm). Next, take the mm measurement of the wire and write it down. Add those two numbers together and then multiply the total by 3.14 to determine the necessary length of wire.
Step 2: Using your calipers, cut three wires to that size adding a few extra mm’s for the next step. (Note: If you’re planning to texture your ring, decrease the size by 5-6mm since texturing will spread your wire up to the size desired).
Step 3: File both ends of your wire straight across taking as little off as possible (I use a ring clamp for speed and accuracy). Repeat this step for each wire.
Step 4: Take a flat-sided needle nose file and gently knock the burrs off that are around the ends of the wire. Do not file at an angle or the ends will not lay flush at the join. Repeat this step for each wire.
Step 5: Prep the area for soldering by lightly sanding both ends of the wire to clean off any oils or dirt. Repeat this step for each wire.
Step 6: Begin rounding the wire by wrapping it halfway around a ring mandrel by hand or with a rawhide hammer. When it is shaped like a “U” take it off the mandrel and use round nose pliers to lay the ends flush together. Repeat this step for each wire.
Here’s what your rings should look like now. (Lightly sand around the joins again if you’ve touched that area.)
Step 7: Move the three pieces to your soldering station and flux them.
Step 8: Add medium solder to each join. (If you find it hard to balance the solder onto the joins, spray a little flux into a small container, dip in a small brush, then pick up a piece of solder and “brush” it onto the piece where you need it.)
Step 9: Heat the wire until the solder flows.
Step 10: Drop the rings into pickle and let them sit.
Step 11: There are two options for creating granules to attach to your rings. Our favorite tip is to use a Flex Shaft to drill shallow holes into a charcoal block to hold the scrap pieces of wire that will become granules. This is a very messy step, so work over a trash can, if you can.
Step 12: Drop pieces of cut wire (using any type of metal) into the pre-made holes. The length of the wire will determine the size of the granule. 3-4mm will make a small granule, go longer for larger granules. If you don’t do the charcoal block method, then you can place your scrap wires 1″ apart on a solderite board.
Step 13: Heat them with the torch (do not flux). Once they take a round shape, turn off the torch. If they are large enough to retrieve from the bottom of a pickle pot, then go ahead and pickle them. If not, let them air cool.
Step 14: Once they’re cool, carefully tip the charcoal block over so they can roll out.
Step 15: Pull the rings out of the pickle and quench. Dry them off and shape each one on the mandrel by using the rawhide hammer. (Optional: Texture the ring now, too).
Note: it is critical during this step to keep track of the size of the ring. Check the ring size often using the sizes on the mandrel or by placing it on the finger that you want to wear it on. Texturing really stretches the ring quickly so check it often and stop texturing when it fits!
Step 16: Prep the rings and granules for soldering by sanding where the two will touch (Note: I used a pair of non-serrated, flat nose pliers to hold onto the granules while sanding).
Step 17: Place the rings on the soldering board and nudge the granules in place (be sure to place the sanded sides of the granules against the ring). Flux, and place the easy solder onto the joins where the ring and granules meet. Torch, air cool (if placed in pickle while hot, the rapid bubbles can knock the granules off) pickle and quench.
Step 18: Polish your rings and they’re done. Have fun!
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