Things You'll Need
- Solder sheets (silver solder works with copper)
- Tile or board, heatproof
- Soldering board, perforated
- Paintbrush, thin
- Water in a dish
- Copper or wood tongs
- Tweezers, non-stainless steel
- Pickle solution
To solder means to make whole, to unite. Metals can be soldered or united together with the use of the appropriate filler metal, also called solder, and the application of heat. Soldering, brazing and welding are similar but differ in small ways. Soldering uses a lower melting point filler metal than brazing does. Welding differs from soldering in that in welding the base metals are actually melted and fused together, creating a very strong bond. Soldering copper for jewelry unites the metals without melding them together. What follows are the basic steps for soldering copper jewelry using a technique called sweat soldering.
Soldering Copper Jewelry
Prepare your work surface like this: heatproof tile or board on the work surface with the perforated soldering board on top. Work on top of the perforated soldering board.
Prepare the metal pieces for soldering by cleaning them. Make sure the pieces lie flat. Lay both pieces onto the perforated soldering board. For the purposes of these instructions, identify which piece will be the foreground and which will be the background. Cut a bit of solder from the solder sheet and put aside.
Apply flux to each piece but apply only to the areas to be soldered together. Use the paintbrush to apply the flux.
Place the small bit of solder onto the flux-painted side of the background piece and then place the foreground piece, flux-painted side down, on top of the background piece.
Light the torch. Begin heating the assembled piece evenly to bring the solder to melting temperature. Do this by moving the flame slowly and in a circular manner. The solder has melted, and it is time to turn off the torch, when you see the foreground settle into the background and there are no gaps around the edges of the united metals.
Using tweezers, lift the piece and drop it into the dish of water to cool it off.
Using copper or wood tongs, lift the piece out of the water and drop it into the warm pickle solution. This cleans the piece and frees it of oxides and excess flux from the heating process.
Ceramic boards are great for using as your fireproof surface. A little bit of flux goes a long way. When cleaning metal before soldering, avoid cleaning products that leave a chemical residue behind. The residue prevents soldering. Clean your project after pickling by polishing with polishing paper.
Always work on a heatproof surface and follow basic safety rules.. Flux is poisonous. Wash your hands and tools after using. Use flux in well-ventilated areas.
Alex Burke holds a degree in environmental design and a Master of Arts in information management. She's worked as a licensed interior designer, artist, database administrator and nightclub manager. A perpetual student, Burke writes Web content on a variety of topics, including art, interior design, database design, culture, health and business.