For this article, I’d like to show you how to sweat solder 14kt gold soldering ornaments onto sterling silver blanks. Sweat soldering is a wonderful technique to learn. When you sweat solder you have more control of the solder, the heat, and there’s less clean-up. This technique will quickly become a favorite of yours if you’re just starting out.
Let me first start by saying, that we’ve recently added dozens of soldering ornaments to our inventory. Since normally I work almost exclusively with sterling silver, it has been a lot of fun adding 14kt gold soldering ornaments into the mix. Now, there are many positive benefits to adding these gold findings. The mixed metals look beautiful, it also adds value to your jewelry designs while at the same time, the ornaments are inexpensive to purchase. The combination of these benefits truly makes it worthwhile.
Since I’ve had the opportunity to play around with these new findings, it’s given me plenty of soldering time. The first thing that I needed to decide on was what solder to use, gold or silver? I found both worked well, however, I felt that silver solder looked cleaner around the bottom of the 14kt gold ornament. The faint ring at the bottom of the ornament popped when it was a gold solder but blended when it was a silver solder. Having said that, I did choose the silver solder, but the choice is yours.
The next important choice to make was which solder to use. Since there are several types of silver solder in jewelry which one was the right one? Pallion chips? Wire? Sheet? It all depends on the size of the ornament you are soldering onto. Once it melts the solder spreads, and on an item like our small ornaments you need a tiny piece of solder. So I chose one medium pallion chip for the job. When melted it spread just enough to create a tiny hump under the ornament and when it spread it created the nice ring around the ornaments edge. If I had chosen wire, the solder piece would have spread too far and forced me to have to clean up the excess solder.
Let’s walk through the steps on how to sweat solder. There’s also a video at the bottom of the article, which shows you the soldering set-up and process as well.
What you’ll need:
- Pickle pot
- Quench bowl
- Soldering pick
- Copper tongs
- Soldering board
- 3rd hands or a tripod
- Medium Solder
- Sandpaper (800 grit)
- Sterling silver blanks
- Soldering ornaments (14kt gold)
- and most importantly safety gear (apron and safety glasses)
Sweat Soldering Steps
- Clean your pieces with the 800 grit sandpaper, this process will remove any oil and dirt. You will want to sand in the areas where the solder will be. In this case, the solder sits in between the sterling silver blank and the soldering ornament charm. So lightly sand the top of the blank and the bottom of the ornament. Note: Make sure you don’t touch the sanded areas after you’re finished cleaning them.
- Place your ornament upside down on top of a soldering board (clean side up).
- Flux, then place a small piece of medium solder in the center of it.
- Turn the torch on and begin to heat the piece slowly by moving your torch in a wide circle around the ornament. This will prevent the solder from popping off while the flux dries. If it does pop off just nudge it back into place with the soldering pick. Once the flux turns white, bring the flame in and heat the ornament, keeping your flame moving the entire time. Note: Always hold your torch in your non-dominant hand, and hold the soldering pick in your dominant hand.
- Once the solder melts (don’t allow it to flow yet), remove the heat and let it air cool. Note: If you are soldering a sterling silver ornament, go ahead and pickle, quench and dry it at this point.
- Place your sterling silver blank into a 3rd hand (sanded side up) and raise it high enough to heat it from underneath.
- Flux, then begin heating it from underneath.
- Using the tweezers, carefully place the ornament (solder side down) onto the sterling silver blank (it should be fairly warm now so use caution). Make any adjustments to the ornament by using your soldering pick.
- Once the solder flows, you will see the ornament drop flat down onto the sterling silver blank or you will see the solder flow just under the ornament.
- Let it air cool.
- Drop it into the pickle until the firescale is removed and the sterling silver is clean, remove using copper tongs.
- Quench it in water and dry.
Shop at Halstead to find all of the jewelry findings and tools listed in this article.
Here are a few inspirational soldering articles :
Instructables Article: Granulation in Jewelry: From Start to Finish
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