Need Some ‘How To’ Tips for Soldering Brass or Copper

by Robin Miller.
(Bucks County, PA)

question-mark-purple-on-tan-diagramI work with brass and copper and want to find out how to use solder .

Does anyone do this, and have some advice on what kind of solder would work, whether to use a torch or a soldering iron, etc?

 

Robin Miller
Argee Bargee Designs

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Comments

  1. If you are using copper to make jewelry, your best bet and most easily accessible solder to use is silver solder done with a torch. Once, I found a copper solder out there that was randomly at a jewelry supply store, but I’ve never seen it since. It was nice stuff to work with, but it only came in one grade, which had a lower melting temperature than extra easy silver solder.

    When using silver solder, you will have a silver line at the seam. You can try to use this as a design element, or you can find ways to mask it. The two easiest ways are to use super-saturated pickle, or electroform a layer of copper over the finished piece. The electroforming will require specialized equipment, specificially a rectifier.

    The Cheaper way of doing it is to use supersaturated pickle to lay down a layer of new copper over the whole piece. This is done by taking your pickle (It should be really vibrant blue, which means that there is a lot of copper ions in it), and putting it in your crock-pot like you normally would with pickle. then you put your piece to be plated in, as well as a bit of ferric metal (A ball of iron binding wire works well for this). The iron wire causes an electrical reaction that will plate the copper metal. Just make sure you don’t use iron in your regular pickle, because it can cause the same effect (undesirably) on the pieces you are trying to clean.

  2. Rio Grande carries copper-colored solder. It’s only available in 1 pound coils though. Rio’s website has a video on how to use it. You can also use a product called Copper Brite Patina- brush it over your silver solder lines. This is a super shiny finish though, which may not work for all projects.

  3. A micro torch will do the work nicely for smaller pieces (not thick pieces though) and easy or easy easy silver solder is the most commonly used, though, as Kat said, copper solder and, in fact, brass solder too, is available and can be purchased as paste or wire from various suppliers.

    There’s lots of good advice online and in books on how to solder, the most important points to learn first are:
    – Make sure your joints are absolutely perfectly flush with each other (solder does not fill gaps, ever) and if there’s any risk the join might open up during soldering, use binding wire or other suitable methods to keep it tightly closed. If you do this perfectly (and it’s not easy), you shouldn’t have a visible silver line on your copper or brass piece.
    – Clean very well and flux the joints carefully, this will help your solder flow where you want it to flow by preventing oxidation as you heat up the metal.
    – Heat the metal, not the solder, don’t use too much solder and make sure the whole joining space is an even heat, to make the solder flow evenly. The flux will burn off and the solder might ball up before flowing. As a general guide, when you see a flash of silver across the joint, remove your torch – the solder has flowed.
    – Pickle copper – and follow Drake’s advice about electroplating if you have a visible silver line. Brass is made from copper and zinc and pickle can remove the surface zinc (this is fine if you want a pink piece), so it’s better to boil any remaining flux off in plain water.
    – When you’ve polished and finished your piece, I’d recommend using a microcrystalline wax (such as Renaissance wax – a small tin lasts a very long time) to seal it. This prevents oxidation.

    Practice lots on scrap pieces, try to get a feel for the right amount of solder needed.

    Good luck with your new skill!

  4. Lots of good tips already posted. Google will fill in almost all the “info” you need and youtube has lots of videos, but if you have an opportunity to take a class do it! Nothing beats hands on experience.

    twincitysupply.com and monsterslayer.com are two places to check for copper solder.

    A soldering iron is not the way to go for quality pieces. It can give you some practice but the bond created with this type of solder is not a very strong bond. Also, many solders made to be used with a soldering iron will have lead in them.

    Cheers,

    Jennifer

  5. Ir a una clase de soldadura es lo mejor. Usted aprenderá a “comprender” la llama de su soplete. Hay varias maneras de regular la cantidad de gas. Eso se ha de aprender junto a un profesor. Recuerde que aprender una cosa mal es el peor regalo que usted se puede hacer a sí misma.

    Go to a welding class is best. You will learn to “understand” the flame of your torch. There are several ways of regulating the amount of gas. That has to learn with a teacher. Remember that learning itself one thing wrong is the worst gift you can make yourself.

  6. I’ve been doing jewelry work for many years and out side of using silver on copper they do have a copper solder that is made of 7% phosphorous and 93% copper, one of the supply houses should carry it like rio grande.

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