Soldering Questions

Last updated: 02/01/18 by: Nancy LT Hamilton

Moving a piece, that is incorrectly aligned, after soldering.

Does flux do more than just aid in soldering? Should I use a firescale protectant?

How do I know if my piece is fully soldered when sweat soldering?

Balled up solder, solder flowing into the wrong places

Making a prong setting, can you tumble pearls

Solder paste and color matching solder with metal

Solder balls up and doesnt stick

Several common soldering problems:  balling up, not flowing, join not tight, etc.

Color matching solder and how much solder to use

Soldering sterling silver bangles to make into rings

How to remove White Out after using it to block solder from flowing

Soldering Sticking to Charcoal Block

Is A Join Made With a Soldering Iron Strong?

How do I solder two ends together to be perfectly flat and aligned?

How Do I Differentiate Silver From Solder Wire?

What part of a torch flame is best for soldering sterling silver?

Solder Wont Flow When Trying To Solder A Bezel For A Cabochon To The Surface

How to keep solder out of patterned metal

have a torch, need to set it up? Heres how.

You need to understand what you are working with!

Important techniques for creating square edges like on ring shanks, tubing, settings, etc. pretty much any two pieces that you want to solder together!

Important steps before you solder.

Mark your solder before confusion reigns!

Extremely important information that every jeweler should know!  Dont risk your life or your health!  Know the dangers of metal dust?  If not, dont sand anything yet!

Creating Consistently Sized Spheres

how do you make perfectly round spheres?  You might need to know!

an important skill to have otherwise, you can damage your metal and work twice as hard!

Want broken wire?  How about melted wire?  Need your wire soft and bendable? These tips will help you to avoid these problems and work with ease!

DIY Fume Extractor for the Studio or Shop

One of the BIG ONES for studio safety.  Learn to make your own!

How to Make a Bezel and Set a Cabochon Part One

Want to solder thin material to thick?  Want to set a stone or two?  Learn how to create and solder bezels.

How to Make a Bezel and Set a Cabochon Part Two

Soldering Jewelry: How to solder settings, bails and wire. We solder dissimilar shapes and sizes of metal together, all the time.  Want to stop melting your settings or bails?  Can you solder wire without melting it?

Soldering Jewelry Sweat, Flush, or Applique Soldering

How to solder two pieces of metal on top of each other.  Learn tricks for successful joining of dissimilar sizes and how to apply solder.

My YouTube Soldering Playlist A list of all my soldering videos on YouTube.

Learn all about the material you use.

A huge page with so much more than info on Acetylene!  Learn all about torches, soldering and how to protect yourself!

Soldering related charts.  Includes things like: annealing temps, compressed gas valve sizes, what temperature does your gas burn at, what are the melting points of your metal.  Also, there are wire gauge charts, millimeter to fractions and inches charts, drill bits to wire gauge charts.  Lots of information!

nice to know if you plan on soldering anything!

On Pickle, Acid, Crock Pots and Baking Soda

How to remove the schmutz left from soldering, how to make your own pickle, how to use pickle and how to neutralize pickle.  Tons of info!

Why does oxidation occur?  Why do you keep getting fire scale, how do you get rid of it.  Learn the whys of what is happening when you solder and the solutions.

The 4 Steps for Successful Soldering

The 4 steps will help you to achieve soldering success!

How to mark your solder so that you always know what type it is.

Jewelry Tools Harbor Freight

Cheap tools for the studio!

:  Having a hard time squaring up the ends of your ring shanks?  Check out this tool!

See what others have had problems with and find the solutions!

How long to hold your annealing temps. Kiln annealing.

Balling up wire, tapering wire, work hardening wire, straightening wire and more!

They arent just for cookin anymore!

Removing Broken Drill Bits From Your Metal

-snapped your drill bit and cant get it out? Heres how to remove broken drill bits.

i.e.:  How to remove the copper coating you might get from pickling.  Also, how to remove copper from brass or bronze that comes to the metals surface after soldering.

:  Trying to figure out what you need to make fire in your studio?  Check out this information before you buy!

my list of basic necessities for soldering.

Youre looking at it!  One of the most asked after subject matter.  Many of my web pages have been inspired by soldering issues and questions.

Portable vs. regular torches, problems with torch, butane torches, water torches, setting up a torch safely, buying torches.

I was wondering if you could recommend a solder and flux to use with the annealed steel wire that I am using.

I am banging my head against the walls picking and choosing which solder and flux I need to get the job done. I like to make loops and try to solder the ends closed but i just cant.

I want to use this steel and my soldering just doesnt work. I dont know if I am not using the proper solder and flux or what.

I am cleaning it, trying a torch, just a soldering gun, which I dont think is really enough heat but, even the butane torch doesnt work.  I have a propane but I havent tried that yet. I am not sure if it is the heat or the wrong kind of solder and/or flux.

I just  tried it  and was successful.  I used binding wire (the same as you have, it seems) My-T-Flux, a butane torch and silver solder (hard).  Basic soldering principles apply:  clean metal, tightly fitting parts (no gaps), flux and even heat.  If you are trying to solder stainless steel, then you will have a problem.  That needs special equipment and materials but, for basic steel wire, this works.  Thefluxis at Rio Grande, as is thesilver solder.

Something in your process, obviously, isnt working.  It could be the solder type, not enough even heat, wrong flux or dirty metal or a combination of things.  First check that you are using the right solder with the right heat source.  Next check that your metal is clean (the solder should be clean too!). To clean the wire, drag it through sandpaper (wrapping the paper around the wire, as you do so) or use steel wool.  Wipe clean.  Also, check the fit.  Are the wires fitting together with no light showing through?  Is the fit tight?  Hard silver solder doesnt jump gaps, it works via the process of capillary action and this process doesnt work for large gaps.

Flux your metal well and your solder well.  Apply even, hot heat to both sides.  Bringing both pieces up to the same temperature at the same time, otherwise, the solder will run from one side and not stay between the wires.  If your solder balls up, something  the wire or the solder  is dirty or you didnt heat the metal enough. Sand or wire brush after, to remove oxidation.

A soldering gun is used with a different type of solder.  This is called soft soldering. If you are using hard solder, you need to use the butane or propane . This type of soldering is called hard soldering.  Both the butane and the propane gas torches are too hot for soft solder.  Soft solder melts at 300 842 degrees F.  Hard solder melts at temps from 1200 1490 degrees F depending on the type:  extra-easy, easy, medium, hard, it.  The gas flames from these torches reach anywheres from 3500F to 6500F. Way too hot!

See these pages on my website for more information on how to solder:

.  These should help. I also have a bunch of videos on

on soldering.  The soldering videos are filed in my Soldering playlist. Happy experimenting!

Moving a piece, that is incorrectly aligned, after soldering.

I made a ring. All went well until I was trying to fix a problem with the bezel. All is ok but, the top of the bezel is not smooth. Is there a fix?

question:  I started a pendant and shaped the body. Next I shaped the bezel and began soldering but, the bezel it is not quite where it is supposed to be. Can I move it. Or do I just need to scrap it and start over?

In your first question, I am assuming that you mean the upper edge of your bezel is bent or marred in some fashion?  If so, its an easy fix.

Turn the ring so that the bezel faces down.  Tape a piece of sandpaper (the roughness of the grit depending on how messed up the edge is) to your bench.  Using either 220, 320 or 400 grit sandpaper, sand the edge flat by moving the bezel, over the sandpaper, in a figure eight pattern.  If is really damaged, you can start by filing away the worst scratches.  Its easiest to hold the item in a vise or ring clamp so that you can file evenly or you can drag the bezel along a wide file.

If the edges are deformed (no longer parallel, maybe rippled) and you can still insert the stone, dont bother fixing it as the bezel wall will adjusted during the setting process.

If you cant fit the stone in, anneal (if hardened) and, using a burnisher, push the edges of the bezel out.  (Burnisher is inside the bezel).

The Answer to the second question is regarding moving a previously soldered item:  yes, you can move it.

There are two methods, that I can think of now. The first involves moving the bezel while the solder is liquid and the other involves removing the bezel and starting over.

In the first scenario, pickle and flux the entire piece.  Use a firescale/firestain preventative if desired.  Hold the piece, level, in cross lock tweezers or by resting on an even soldering block. Heat the piece with occasional flicks towards the bezel especially if it is a larger bezel.  Smaller bezels may need no heat at all. Keep heating the metal, moving the torch closer to the seam but, trying to keep the flame off of the bezel.  Always heat the largest, thickest pieces the most.  In many situations, the setting/bezel/applique, doesnt need any heat at all as the heat from the larger area will heat it sufficiently. Watch for the solder to flow and then gently tap or push the bezel in place using a soldering pick or other soldering tool.  Be very careful as the metal, in this heated state, can be very fragile and break or crumble.  Try to not overheat the metal.

The second method involves removing the bezel and resoldering.  Hold the piece in the air   with the part that you want to remove facing downwards.  Heat the back of the piece until the solder is liquid.  VERY gently tap from behind until the bezel drops off.  You can also hold it in a third hand or other contrivance and push it off with a solder pick. Sometimes, the bezel survives sometimes NOT.  Watch that your metal doesnt get too overheated as the tapping my crack or warp your piece especially with Argentium silver!  Sterling tends to crumble when pressure is applied especially, if it is very red.

Worst case scenario:  pulling or sawing off the bezel and removing any excess metal stuck to the pendant/ring.  You will lose the bezel in this instance and a new bezel can be resoldered.

Re-sand, reflux, replace and re-solder.

Since you are the great and powerful guru of silversmithing, maybe you can help me.

Flux is used at the points you intend to solder to aid in its adhesion. When soldering, do I need to protect the piece from fire scale with a boric/alcohol bath first?

I just purchased Batterns liquid flux and thought I was all set. Now I am receiving advice about the bath first. What are your thoughts? What brand flux do you use?

Total immersion or coverage would only be important if you were concerned with fire scale/fire stain because you were creating a mirror finish, at the end.  According to the research, that I just completed, if you are working with sterling silver, bronze, brass or gold (besides 24K) you should either:   Use a fire scale preventative that contains boric acid.  Check to be sure that the preventative can also be used as a flux.  See my updatedinformationon oxidation, fire scale and fire stain.

Boric acid and borax are not the same. See my section onFirescale/Firestain.

If oxidation is present in the metal, and it has been through several soldering/annealing steps, and you want a mirror finish, the heat from the buffing process will probably bring the copper molecules up to the surface in a random pattern.  It is explained more in the link above so, please check that out.

The reasoning behind total immersion is that the flux or preventative will reduce the amount of interaction between the 02 in the air and the metal, helping to reduce the quantity of oxidation and therefore, perhaps, reducing the chances for firestain/firescale to form on the entire piece.  Whereas, painting flux only at the join point only facilitates soldering and offers little to no protection to the rest of the metal.

Check the highest temperatures that your flux can survive at fluxes are not all created equal.

is effective at 1,1001,600F (593871C).

, at Rio Grande, is effective from 1,100-1,700F (593-927C) 200F higher than the Grifflux.  Once you exceed the effective temperature range of the flux, it is no longer doing its job.  So, reducing heat helps to avoid stain/scale by allowing the flux to remain active.   Check your fluxs temperature ranges and try to keep your heat from exceeding them.

, an anti-firescale and flux has effective ranges of: 1,1001,500F (593816C).  My thoughts:  if your flux is good until 1,700F and the anti-firescale is effective only until 1500F, Id just coat the entire thing with the flux.  Now, saying that, I have not run tests of the two, side-by-side.  That will have to wait for now!

Boric Acid and denatured alcohol anti-firescale and borax-based fluxes have effective temperatures in similar ranges so, without actually testing each type against one another, I cant recommend one over the other.

So, you can either run tests yourself or just use your flux and watch that you dont overheat your metal.  A smaller, hotter flame can help focused soldering so that the entire piece doesnt get overheated.

Another option to avoid fire scale/ fire stain is to not have a shiny finish.

:  textures, patterns, surface treatments, patinas, etc.

Argentium silver is also firescale/firstain resistant.  Actually, some say that it is impossible to create either.  But, Ive also read of people encountering firescale/firestain when using Argentium.  Whether they used the metal properly or not, I cant say.  The best thing to do is to experiment AND dont mix your silvers together as you may accidentally use the wrong material.

To determine the type of metal (if your silvers are mixed up), lightly sand then heat.  Sterling will turn black as will the Argentium BUT, if you remove the torch, allowing 02 to interact with the germanium in the Argentium, then you reheat, the Argentium will return to a silver/white color and the sterling will stay dark.  If you have fine silver, the color will not change to gray/black at all. Argentium info from Cynthia Eid.  See link below.

See Cynthia Eids post on Ganoksin:

How do I know if my piece is fully soldered when sweat soldering?

When I am soldering two pieces flat together and no solder is visible when its done; how do I know when the solder has melted. I have a tendency to over heat Im sure, which works right now as I am using copper, brass and nickel silver.  But, as I go forward, how do you know at what point is enough?

I like to see the solder on the edges.  When sweat soldering, place the solder around the edges  if the piece is small.  If it is large, place around the edges AND in the center areas. You should be able to see solder all the way around the sweat soldered pieces edges.  I do some sweat soldering in one of my recent videos:How to make a bezel and set a cabochon,  that might help.  There are two parts to this video not sure which part it is on. Dont forget to heat from the back.  Use a tripod or an enameling trivet or other mechanism to hold the metal off the soldering area.

I left a silver piece in the pickle to long. When I remembered and removed it (I am talking days in cold pickle) it has a gray coating on it. Looks like thick glaze. Is there any way to remove the glaze without damage. Help

From what Ive found, and Ive researched this a lot, the gray is actually an etched surface.  That is the best explanation Ive received after contacting several manufacturers and suppliers.  I think it was theSilver Institutewho supplied the info (but, am not positive). You can try torching it (annealing temp.) a few times, pickling it in between each heating.  If that doesnt work, abrasives might need to be employed.  Try3Ms bristle discsfor areas with patterns or recesses and sandpaper for the rest.  The etched layer isnt too deep (I hope).  Good luck and sorry this happened to you!  It has happened to me many times especially when Ive had to pickle metal clay.  Timers help.  Its so easy to get sidetracked in the studio!!!!!

I am having some of the pieces I work on stick to my soldering brick/block do you have this occur and do you have any ideas why and how to prevent this from happening?

You probably need to wash your soldering block.  Is it charcoal?  With charcoal, I turn it upside down in a bowl of water and let it soak a bit.  Then I use a toothbrush or other brush to scrub off any flux and goop that is present. Let it dry out a bit before using and be cautious of steam!

If it is a solderite board or a magnesia block, use a rough file or drywall sandpaper and sand down a layer until it looks clean.  Wear a mask!

With a ceramic board, (only do this with a cool board because hot ones will crack) immerse in water and do the brush thing.  Usually, sticking is caused by flux residue.

Heres a good resource for charcoal blocks:The Charcoal Block,  written by Mark Nelson, at Rio Grandes blog:Rio.

Why is my solder balled up and flooding the wrong areas?

The rules:metal must be very, very clean.  The join is tight.  The heat is appropriate for the metal. Flux.

Without seeing what is going on it is very hard to determine why your solder is not flowing where you want it to and why it is balling up.  It sounds like you are doing everything right. The only things that I can think could be the problem are:you are not heating the smaller piece enough.  When the solder flows around where you want it to go, it usually means the section where the solder is flooding is hotter than the other piece.Both pieces must come up to the same temperature at the same time. Dont forget the most important thing:  solder follows the heat.

Check the fit on your ring shanks again.The fit must be tight.Also,dont aim the torch at the solder. Youre not trying to melt the solder with the torch but, you are trying to get the metal hot enough so that ITS temperature can melt the solder.The seam (preferably from beneath the area where the solder is) should be the last place to put the heat if you need to hit it at all.  If both sides of the ring shank are heated evenly, the solder should flow.

Are you holding the ring shank in a pair of cross-lock tweezers?  They can act as heat sinks. Although, they are great for soldering ring shanks, wire, jump rings, bezels, etc.,   I often start my torch work by heating up the tweezers to discourage heat flowing towards them.

PS you can stretch that ring with a leather mallet and a ring mandrel.  Just hammer it a bunch on the upper edge, flip it over and hammer the other side.  If it doesnt fit, anneal it and repeat the process.  There are also ring stretchers that can help.Amazonsells several. Saying that, I own one and have used it 0 times.  So.

Sometimes, you dont get enough heat with those butane torches especially if the metal being joined is very thick and/or very large.  Another thing, when you burn off the alcohol, are you getting a lot of burned looking areas?  These areas could be inhibiting the solder flow. IF this is a consistent problem, you might consider a different flux.

Balled up solder usually means dirt is present somewhere.  Try cleaning your metal by heating it up with the torch, pickling, keeping yourCLEAN hands off the soldering area, brass brushing or sanding it and trying again.  The flame is the best cleanser I know of.  Balled up solder can also mean that you didnt get the metal hot enough for it to flow.

Experiment with some scrap metal.  Try combining different thicknesses and sizes together.

Soldering two different types of metal together can also be a problem.Copper, brass and silver all contract and shrink at different rates (with heat) so, one piece might be moving one way and the other piece, another.Also, metals like copper, brass and bronze create a lot of oxidation so you have to get in hot and fast before too much smutz builds up.

Why is my solder not flowing? What am I doing wrong!

I have a couple of questions for you:

Are you using the correct flux for your metal?

How large is the piece you are soldering to?  A jump ring is very small and really doesnt need much heat.  BUT, what you are soldering it to does.  Maybe you arent heating the main piece up enough.

What is a mini torch?  Is it butane or is it a Smith Little Torch?  Butane is not a hot gas.  It can be very difficult to solder large or even medium sized pieces with it.  Your torch may not be hot enough.

What is the solder doing?  Does it melt, ball up, do nothing?

Let me know and maybe I can help more. But first, please check out my web pages on soldering if you havent seen them already. Here are the links:  1.

The Four Steps for Successful Soldering.

Would you teach me how to create a prong setting successfully?

Is it safe to put the freshwater pearl in a sterling silver setting inside the Tumbler for a few hours of tumbling? Without doing so, how do I harden the sterling silver prong legs to insure the pearl is firmly guarded? 3) I soldered one prong fine but then, when I tried to solder the other prongs,  the 1st solder joins melted and the prongs fell over.

Sorry about the prong problems. Heres what you need to do:  First off it would be best if the pendant was not yet connected to the chain:  the greater the mass of silver, the greater the heat sink (the heat is drawn away from where you want it).

Solder all the prongs at the same time.How?

(1) Drill holes (in the flat base basically, whatever you are soldering the prongs onto) the

The hole needs to be a tight fit for the wire

a little hard twisting and pushing is a good thing.  If it is way too tight either go up a drill bit size, swirl the drill bit in the metal (in a circular motion) or use a round, mini needle file, to open it a bit.

every couple of strokes as it is really easy to over-file (and drill).  By using this method the prongs wont fall out or slide down. This technique also makes the solder join much stronger because more surface area is being soldered.  I always use this method when soldering ear wires too.

(2) When creating a prong setting that has prongs all the same height, mark even lengths on each prong with a scribe or a sharpie. This is to ensure that your prong placement is correct.

With uneven material like your pearl, you will probably have some prongs longer than the others. You can skip the scribing step (2) and do the following:  check the fit, make sure that your prongs are annealed, push the prongs into the holes, put the pearl into its location and gently bend the prongs over.  Make adjustments as needed a little more height or a little less.Dont over work the metal or your wires will break from too much work hardening.If youve been futzing with the prongs for a while, go and annealing them you can keep them in place in the main piece as they shouldnt fall out.  DONT FORGET TO REMOVE THE PEARL!!!!!!

(3) Push the prongs into the holes lining up your lines with the top of the hole (if required).  If they stick out the back no problem.  After soldering you just clip them, file, sand and polish.

Apply flux and a tiny piece of medium or easy solder on the side of each prong.

Use a firescale preventative, if desired.  See my

Heat up the metal not the prongs.

Keep the torch away from the prongs.  You want the solder to flow from the top of the piece, down the wire (inside the metal). Focus the torch near the first prong, then the second, etc.  Remember:

solder flows because the entire piece reaches flow temperature AND solder follows heat

.  Many people have success by heating from beneath.  See below.

(6) Are you using a charcoal block as a soldering base?

reflects the heat back onto the piece

.  Sometimes, I place the silver across 2 blocks of charcoal if the metal is thick (22 gauge and up) and sterling.

Do not overheat or do this with fine silver or Argentium.

All scenarios (overheating, fine silver, Argentium) will cause the metal to slump.  Another option is to

use a tripod and heat from the underside

.  The one drawback is that the tripod screen is a heat sink and will pull away your heat.  But, it does work and it keeps you from melting your prongs.  Never get the silver cherry red it will reach failure temperature (when is slumps, crumbles and loses its form) and then melt.

Dont put pearls in the tumbler.Tumble only the metal and then set the pearl.  Pearls are too fragile, like opals and other soft stones, for the tumbler.

The process of setting the pearl after tumbling will work harden the prongs.  If they feel a bit too flexible, they can be gripped with a pair of pliers and twisted A LITTLE!

Please see the my illustrations below they correspond with the numbered items above.  I do love a good visual!

P.S. practice on scrap first!If using copper as a practice piece, realize that the copper will behave differently than the silver.  If you mix metals, (i.e.:  copper base with silver prongs) you will have other results too as they put off different amounts of oxides AND they melt at very different temperatures..Practice, practice, practice.

For further research check out myWire and Sheet Metal page(metals are arranged alphabetically),The 4 Steps for Successful SolderingandAbout Solder

I have some old sterling silver bangles that I would like to make into rings. Can this be done and can I use solder paste for soldering. I would like to use the closest color match for this and dont know if I should use medium or hard solder. Also would I have to treat these bangles before I reuse them.

The best match for all silvers is hard silver solderbecause it has the most silver in it.  Please see myweb page on solderfor an explanation of solder types. Hard solder is usually used for the first several solder joins although, if youve practice, you can use it all the way through construction.  Because it has more silver in it then say, medium solder, it is also stronger.  Do you know, specifically, what metals that you are allergic to?  I ask this because (depending on the manufacturer) solder contains zinc or other metals.

Your solder paste is fine for any soldering operations although, I prefer wire. Use as little as possible saves on cleanup.  If you venture into my favorite new metal: Argentium, you will probably want to use Argentium solder.  See my page on this:Wire and Sheet Metal for more on Argentium. (Scroll down the page to Argentium Silver first of the silvers that I discuss).

You can cut those bracelets down and make them into rings with no problems.  I have several pages on soldering please read them for more information:Soldering,About Solder,Oxidation, Flux and Firescale PreventionandThe Four Steps for Successful Soldering.They should answer all of your questions.

BTW, color match is not that big of a deal if finished properly, (see myvideosand visit my web page onfinishing.) you shouldnt be able to see the seams even on copper, brass or bronze.

On treating the bangles before working with them:You will probably need to anneal them before trying to re-bend them.  This will take off any patina that has developed so, be prepared to re-patina them, if this is the look you want.

The solder burns up and sometimes just balls up and doesnt stick.  I bought some copper color solder and finally got two jump rings to solder.  I know the surface needs to be clean.  I did sand my practice pieces should that be enough to clean the surface.  My torch is a mini butane.  I think I should buy a max butane?

Your problem is a common one.My first question is why are you using copper color solder?  Does the solder actually stay copper colored?  Si