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How to Solder Silver (or gold)

Hi, Dave Wilson (from Celtic Dreams) here again and today we’re going to look at the different types of solder that are available because it can be quite confusing if you’re a beginner. So I’ve got some solder strip, I’ve got some solder wire and I’ve got some of the paste solder.

So I’m going to show you how you can use each one of these, some tricks, tips, techniques and the merits and benefits of each one. Get out your blow torch and follow me.

First up we’ve got some strip solder and this is probably the first thing you learn to use. Of course there’s hard, medium, easy and if you shop around you can even get extra easy. Of course the difference is the temperature, this is hard here, so this is the highest temperature and then you’ve got medium, easy and extra easy. This is a strip of easy so this melts at a lower temperature than the hard. So when you’re making a piece you should always start using hard solder, and if you want to add anything to it later you can use medium or easy. You can solder that without melting your hard solder.

Now one of the great advantages with these solders is you can cut off as much as you want, so I’ll just show you briefly how to do that. What you might want to do, which is what I usually do is just put my finger over the end and just cut little strips of like that. If you want very small pieces then what you need to do is what we call ‘fringe’ it. What that is, make a few lengthwise cuts, in the end, just a few millimetres and then just pop your finger over the end and just cut horizontally. It’s kind of like shredding and if I just hold my finger there, you can see you’ve got very small little pallions. What I do is cut a few, put them in a little tray like this and I’ve got a good assortment for big and small projects.

 With pallion strip solder you need to use flux. Now, I’m using borax here, you can use pre-made flux but you know where you are with borax, I’m used to using it, it’s a matter of personal taste. So a little drop of water, this is just a water bottle. Put your cone it, grind it up and you’re looking for a white creamy paste. There we go and then use a paint brush, dip it in and I’m going to put that onto my piece in a second.

This is the piece that I’m going to make, I’m going to solder a ring. Now with larger items like this, this is where the pallion solder really comes in because you can get a really nice big piece. So borax, now remember whatever type of soldering you’re using, you still have to obey the basic rules. It needs to be flush, it needs to be clean and it needs to be well fluxed. Make sure your joint is nice and clean. Now I’ve cut off quite a large piece and I’m going to put it on the top so you can see it. Normally I will put the solder on the inside, so that’s my solder there, hard solder and I’m just going to get a solder pick to one side. We’re all set up, so all I need to do now is apply the heat.

I’ve got my oxy-propane torch here and I’m just applying a little bit of heat. Nice and gentle first, one of the problems with pallion solder is that when your flux boils in can sometimes fly off. Just nice and steady, just heat your piece and there we go, all the borax is nice and melted now. So I’m just applying heat, a soft flame and you need to heat up the whole piece. I can see the flux turning now, going brown, almost there, you need to get the heat on both sides of the joint. Remember the solder will always flow towards the heat, and there’ it’s gone. So there we go, I’ve pulled the solder through both sides nice good solid join, I’m quite happy with that. I’ll let it cool for a second and then I’ll put it in the pickle to clean it up. Stick it on the ring mandrel and I’ve got a ring!

Now, next up, I’ve got a slightly more complicated project. I’ve got this Celtic knot here, now I could solder it using pallions but it’s very difficult to keep them in place and stop them from falling off. There is a technique where you could use a solder pick to ball up your solder, put it on the end of the solder pick and then use your solder pick to put it where you want it. But it’s quite time consuming and it’s still very awkward. So the solution here is to use solder wire, this is 0.5mm easy solder wire and it is easy, it does melt very easy.

Something I like to do is just cut a piece of this off and these are a pair of locking forceps you can buy these in fishing shops and I like to just plump it like that so my fingers, as it melts down, my fingers don’t get burnt. I can solder away like that with my blowtorch, let’s get some flux on it, get the blowtorch out and give it a go. Here we go, I’ve got lots of flux on it, a bit of borax and I’m just going to heat my piece up slowly. Got to get it warm first otherwise the solder won’t melt at all. I’m just going to touch it to it and it’s a bit like you would solder electronics, put a little drop of solder on that, and then I‘m going to move down to this one here.

Again, just heat the piece, get it red and took the solder to it, but as it melts, it will detach. Now if one of these pieces hasn’t soldered it’s very easy to go back in and apply another little drop of solder. The great thing with this method is there’s very little cleanup because you’re only applying a very little small amount of solder. There’s hardly any cleanup afterwards, so it’s a very neat and efficient way of working. If you’re working with chain mail or Celtic stuff like I do that’s very fine and intricate it really is a nice clean way of working with solder. There we go, let’s just have a look at that and see how we’re doing. There we go, all done, so I’ve got one, two, three, four solder joints. All I need to do with this now is put it in the pickle and run the final thing in the tumbler. I don’t need any cleanup so it really is a great efficient way, so that is solder wire.

The last job I’m going to do is I’m going to solder this jump ring here that I’ve replaced on the bracelet. This is a typical kind of repair, now for this I’m going to use syringe solder. Comes in a syringe and it’s kind of a soft paste and you apply it with the needle there. The advantage of this is that because I’ve got these spring loaded lobster clasps on there, I don’t want to get too much heat on it because any heat will damage the spring. I don’t want to get too much heat on this end because the chain end might de-solder and fall off so I need to be very precise and I need to use low temperature solder. This is easy solder I’m using, now by using the syringe I can just apply just a tiny, tiny little drop just on the tip there.

Now you’ll notice I’m not using any flux, you don’t need to use flux with syringe solder, no borax, no flux, but that’s no excuse for sloppiness. You still need to make sure your joints are nice and clean and closely fitted. You still have to obey the basic rules of soldering. That’s it so just put a little touch on and we can apply a little bit of heat and solder it. Simple as that. Here we go, you can see the solder paste on the top there, that’s where the joint is so I’m just bringing it in. I’m angling my torch towards that area but trying to get the flame away from the component and hopefully you can see this all, my torch is is the way of the camera. Just apply a little bit of heat and literally that’s it, it’s gone, it’s as simple as that.

This is easy solder, it fluxes the joint, it melts, it runs. Yes, the syringe solder is about three times the price of the pallion solder but if I tried to put a pallion on there it would fall off. If I’m using the stick solder it’s a little bit delicate and awkward and I might put too much on. I could use this syringe solder of course for the ring that I did earlier but that could have been quite expensive. I could have used it for the Celtic knot but if a piece falls off you can’t really re-apply it when the piece is red hot because it dries in the nozzle as soon as you torch it.

Different solders, different uses, different purposes. I hope you’ve enjoyed spending some time in my workshop with me. I’ve been Dave Wilson, thanks for watching.

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