Another Soldering Quandry!

by Jess Broghan.
(Washington)

Another Soldering Quandry -  - Discussion on Jewelry Making Journal

I recently purchased “solder copper wire”, Silver Solder hard and Silver Solder medium.

I want to know if it’s possible to get each of these solder types to melt using only a propane torch?

I’ve attempted soldering copper with each of these and have not had any luck getting the solder to melt and form a bond.

Any help will be appreciated.

I’m sure the info is available somewhere…I just haven’t found a description of the appropriate torch requirement for the various types of solder.

Jess Broghan

FREE - Get 7 Super Jewelry Making Hacks

Get Rena's 7 Super Jewelry Making Hacks, plus the Jewelry Making Journal Newsletter - all for FREE.

We Respect Your Email Privacy

  • Ann says:

    I’ve had difficulty with copper solder too. It has “jumped” around after melting. I’ve gotten different types of silver solder to work on copper, but of course it leaves a silver color at the seam. I’ve been using and acetylene torch. Have not tried it with a propane torch.

    Following….

  • Jess,

    Yes your propane torch will melt it and form a good bond. The trick with these torches is smaller items. I started with a butane torch and still use it occasionally but with larger items I found I needed to put two torches on the join. The larger items just absorb more of your heat. Otherwise, make sure you have a perfect no gap seam and add flux to your piece and the solder. Try joining a couple pieces of smaller scrap. Feel free to email or facebook me if you need more help.

    Duane

  • Judy Bjorkman says:

    Jess, the propane torch should give you plenty of heat, unless you have a large metal item. I assume your pieces to be bonded are free of grease, etc., and that you are using some flux. If the solder is not flowing, it is likely because it has not gotten hot enough (which usually means that too much of the heat from the torch is radiating off into the air). To cut down on this, make a little “furnace” to keep the heat in — surround your piece to be soldered, with some pieces of fire brick, on three sides (or so), to keep more of the heat on the area to be soldered. (Be sure to use a light type of fire brick, both to solder on and to surround your piece, not the heavy kinds, which would just be heat sinks!)
    I also assume that you are knowledgeable about where the hottest part of the flame is — really, just go online for this type of information. But the answer to solder not flowing is almost always — not enough heat! But I doubt you need another torch. Good luck — soldering is loads of fun!
    Judy

  • Jenn White says:

    Hi Jess, Somewhere between taking metalsmithing classes and going off on my own I too experimented with copper and copper solder. It was a great intermediary step for me, as it required little financial risk, and it gave me a chance to explore. Here’s my 2 cents:

    First make sure the metal at the join is clean. Just before you take it to your block hit it with some type of mild abrasive like pumice powder, steel wool or sand paper. Water should sheet off the metal when it’s rinsed—you should see no beads or droplets. Don’t forget to clean your solder.

    Solder will only adhere to pieces of metal that are touching, so make sure you have a good fit between your pieces. Set your work up on the block and verify you have good contact by shining a light behind your piece to make sure you don’t see any peeking through before you light your torch.

    Copper is a “dirty” metal which means it oxidizes quickly and develops black fire scale when you apply heat. Oxidation will prevent your solder from flowing, so you want to make sure you use a good flux to prevent contamination of your joint, as well as the copper solder itself. I use Handi-flux, but there are other brands out there that will work.

    Finally, remember—the goal is not to melt the solder with your flame, but to apply enough heat to the surrounding metal so that it is transferred to the solder. You don’t mention the size of the piece you’re working with, so I’ll assume it’s not a monster-size piece bigger than a bracelet cuff. When you snip your solder pieces, the smaller the better, and make sure they’re touching both pieces you wish to join. You might also try elevating your work off your soldering block with something small like a steel cotter pin or even a couple of copper pennies. (If you choose the latter, be sure to use pennies struck prior to 1982, because newer ones are made from zinc which will melt and destroy your work. I learned this the hard way!). Work AROUND the joint with your flame and direct your heat underneath the metal.

    Hope this helps!

    Jenn

  • Jess Broghan says:

    Thanks, Ann, for responding. I just bought a butane torch to play with. Hopefully, I’ll get the “connection” I want. Always fun to play with metal as you can get such interesting results if you’re persistent!

    Jessica

  • Jess Broghan says:

    Duane,

    I was probably just too excited about the copper solder that I didn’t prepare enough or give it enough time to melt. Used to the quick melting of “easy” solder. Will try again. I just bought a butane torch and, if need be, will try with that. Thanks for taking the time to respond.

    Jess

  • Jess Broghan says:

    Judy,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond. Those are good tips for me to try and that I haven’t thought of. I soldered stained glass prior to my short time working with metal and I’m finding them to be very different soldering situations. I will try the “furnace”.

    Jess

  • Jess Broghan says:

    Jenn,

    Thank you for these tips and for taking the time to respond. I often forget to clean my pieces well, esp. the solder. So, that could be a big part of my problem. I’m always in such a rush to see everything work together. I will definitely take your advice and try this again. Also, thanks for the “penny” info…never thought about various metals used to create them. Living in my own little creative world, oblivious to the rest!

    Jess

  • Catherine says:

    Hi Jenn and community,
    I’ve been using a butane torch and like you I’ve been having lots of problems with soldering using silver solder. I was using a Blazer micro torch and was told by a jewelry expert that the flame was probably not hot enough. I then purchased a Blazer Big Shot and it’s much hotter. I’m still having some problems probably because I want to do complex soldering on large pieces.

    I have a propane tank that I’ve been using for camping, and was thinking of trying to use it for soldering, but don’t know what to buy to connect to the tank, or even if this is feasible. Also I had heard that one should never cook on a propane stove indoors, so I assume that good ventilation is paramount in using a propane torch. Any tips on what kind of torch “head,” tubing, connections I should look for? Thanks for your help.

  • Judy Bjorkman says:

    Jess, go to a hardware store and see the propane tanks with torch heads used for soldering. Actually, if you have a little extra money, I’d get Mapp gas, rather than propane (it burns a little hotter) and a self-igniting torch head for it (saves a little time when lighting the torch). That should give you plenty of heat for the larger things you want to solder. Let us know how it works out!
    Judy

  • Margie says:

    I have done some torching, but am interest3d in attempting a copper/silver bond attempt…Is 5his where the flux would come in use? And are there websites you would suggest for viewing?
    Thanks, Margie

  • Duane Aldrich says:

    Margie,

    Yes, you’ll want to use flux anytime you use solder. Flux cleans the area and allows the solder to flow.

    Duane

  • Judy Bjorkman says:

    Margie, bonding copper with silver should not be a problem. I’d suggest using silver solder and always use flux (for hard solder) with it. Make sure the two pieces to be soldered are in perfect contact (no space in between)– hold up a little flashlight behind it and see that very little or no light comes through the join area — solder does NOT FILL IN any spaces like that.
    Hard soldering is a different world from soft soldering. You will need to know how to pickle the metal after soldering, and how to remove any oxides formed, etc. As for instructions, just google “hard soldering for jewelry.” Have fun!

    Judy

  • >