Updated: Jan 25, 2019
So you want to learn to solder? For me this was the scariest part of the jewelry making process. I don't know why I was so frightened!? Maybe because of the big gas tanks, torches and weird smells. But I can assure you that is really isn't scary at all. It does take a lot of time, practice and patience, so don't be discouraged at first. Just clean your metal off and try again!
What You'll Need:
Solder Setup (torch, kiln brick, jelly roll pan, solder picks, quenching cup, solder tweezers, safety glasses, fire extinguisher, pickling solution)
(1) 1"x1" square of 24 gauge brass or copper sheet metal
(1) 1/2" diameter circle of 24 gauge brass or copper sheet metal
About 6 small pieces of easy-grade sheet solder
Flux and a brush
Step 1: Prepare the Tile & Apply the Solder
Clean both pieces of metal. I use steel wool to do so. Place the circle on top of the tile and trace around it with your marker. Set the circle aside. Paint flux onto the tile and place the pieces of sheet solder in the center area where the circle will go. The solder pieces should be about 1/8" apart. Then place the circle on top of the solder chips.
Step 2: Begin Heating:
Begin heating the piece, keeping the torch about 6"-8" away and moving in slow circles. Note, a smaller torch will take a bit longer to heat these size pieces. Be patient and don't move the torch in too soon.
Step 3: Complete the Join:
When the flux is glassy and the pieces start to glow dull red, move your torch in and begin focusing on the inner tip of the flame around the rim of the circle. Periodically sweep the flame back over the tile to keep the entire piece heated and bring it to a bright glow. You should see the circle "settle" on the tile and also a thin molten line of solder run around the edge of the circle as the solder flows. Focus the flame for a few more seconds and you should be done! Allow it to air cool for a few seconds, then quench it using tweezers and a quench cup.
Step 4: Test the Join:
After quenching the piece should cool enough to handle. Test the join to ensure your join was completed. If the circle popped off, don't worry! Don't get frustrated. Just check out the list of tips below and try again.
Select your solder based on the job - I found paste solder to be better for smaller pieces while sheet solder covers larger areas.
Hold the torch with your non-dominant hand - This may sound scary but it gives your greater dexterity with your soldering picks, allowing you to manipulate the solder and metal more easily.
Use your flux as in indicator - white paste flux turns clear/glassy around 1200 degrees Fahrenheit, just below the temperature at which solder melts. So, I always watch the solder to change, and just as it does I know that I'm heating the piece evenly which should melt the solder soon.
Now you know how to complete a one-step solder! Great job! Think of all the things you can make now. It took a lot of practice to master this very difficult technique and there are still times when my piece doesn't solder together properly. But what I love most is that I'm always learning from every experience!
If there are any specific jewelry making or metalsmithing techniques you would like to see featured on the blog, just shoot me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. And be sure to subscribe to the blog and follow along on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!
"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm."
-Winston S. Churchill