Need some advice on soldering for beginners? Or are you looking to refine your basic soldering techniques?
Simple, flat silver rings are a good place to start to get your silver soldering techniques up to scratch. Once you have mastered the art of accurately preparing for the soldering process and carefully using the right tools, you’ll be able to move onto more complex soldering projects.
Cooksongold’s Top Ten Jewellery Soldering Tips for Beginners – click the above image to learn more about how to solder silver and other sheet metals
In our beginners’ guide on how to silver solder a flat ring, we’ll take you through a step–by-step process. You’ll learn which type of silver solder to use for the best results, how to use flux effectively, and soldering tips and tricks for a professional finish.
What you’ll need:
• Bench peg • Flat file • Triblet • Vice
• Rawhide mallet •Ring bending pliers • Soldering torch • Soldering sheet
• Cutters • Pickling solution • Soldering block • Liquid flux
• Flux brush • Fine point tweezers • Plastic Tweezers • Emery paper/sticks
Preparing your Silver for Soldering
1. Before soldering your flat silver sheet, you will need to prepare it. File down the edges of your sheet to ensure you have a straight line at each edge of your silver. Hold your silver sheet vertically against your bench peg for support, and using your flat file, file the edge of your sheet in a forward motion – applying even pressure for a straight edge. This will make the entire soldering process easier, ensuring you have a clean, accurate finish when forming the band ready for soldering.
2. Now is a good time to prepare your pickling solution. You will need a specialised pickle tank which can be heated and resist acidic solutions. If you don’t have a specialised pickle tank, a good alternative is an old slow cooker. This is ideal, as the solution needs to be used while warm. Heat approximately one litre of water to 50°C in your slow cooker, then add the pickling granules and stir. Carefully follow the instructions that come with your pickle, as the amount of pickle you add to water may vary depending on the pickle you use.
3. Once you’ve filed the two edges of your silver band, the silver will need to be manipulated so that you begin to bring the two edges together to form a band. Secure your triblet into place using your vice, and place your silver strip horizontally across the triblet. Using your rawhide mallet, hit the metal at the point where it stops making contact with the triblet. This will gently curve your silver. Continue this process by moving your metal across the triblet, remembering to secure the straight part of the silver strip in a horizontal position. Repeat this process at the other end of your silver band, until both ends come together to form a circle. If you don’t have a triblet or a vice, you can also use ring bending pliers to create the curve. Just be careful not to mark your metal with the pliers, or the finishing process will be more difficult!
4. You may notice that after a while your silver has become more difficult to manipulate. This is known as work-hardening, where the manipulation of the metal has caused it to harden. This can be reversed by heating the silver to anneal it, making it easier to work with. To soften your ring, place it onto a soldering block. Begin to heat the band using your soldering torch. Move it across the surface of the band evenly until it turns a glowing ‘cherry’ red, then remove the heat from the band. Carefully remove the band using tweezers and quench the silver in a bowl of water. Carefully remove the band using your tweezers. Now place it in your pre-prepared pickling solution using plastic tweezers. Leave in the pickle until the metal has turned a white colour, then remove and rinse.
5. You can now further manipulate your silver band, bringing together the two ends of the silver strip so that they meet accurately. Use your rawhide mallet or pliers to manipulate the band into a more finished shape. Don’t worry if the shape of your ring is not perfect at this point – this can be corrected after soldering. To get the two ends of your ring to meet perfectly, you can bend the ring so that the two ends overlap, then pull the two ends apart until they meet together tightly. The desired effect will come with practice.
Silver Soldering Process
6. Take your cutters to prepare your silver solder strip. Use a medium or hard silver solder to make your first join. As a hard solder has a hotter melting point than medium and easy solder, this makes it possible to solder jewellery multiple times without melting your previous joints. Cut your silver solder down into small pieces, approximately 2mm long and 2mm wide. This doesn’t have to be an accurate measurement. These small pieces of silver solder are referred to as pallions. The size and shape of the pallions will depend on the amount of soldering you have to do. With your straight, flat ring, you will only need small pallions and a small amount to solder the joint.
7. Remove any dirt or grease from your silver sheet by pickling, or by rinsing thoroughly with soap and water.
8. Now coat the area you’ll be soldering in flux using your flux brush. You’ll also need to coat the pallions with some flux. The flux will help to clean any contaminants from the precious metal, and aids the soldering process. Once you have added flux to the metal, simply wait for the water content to evaporate. To speed up this process, you can briefly heat the area you have coated with your soldering torch.
9. Place the pallions on the area you will be soldering, using your fine point tweezers for precision.
10. Turn on your soldering torch, and switch the flame to its highest setting. With the tip of the blue flame, heat the ring evenly by moving the flame in a circular motion, before focussing the heat more towards the area to be joined. Keep a close eye on the solder, as you will need to spot the point at which it starts to flow.
11. Once up to temperature, the solder will flow through the seam. At this point, you should remove the heat from the piece, then carefully pick up with tweezers and quench in the bowl of water. Do not place the ring immediately into the water because quenching as soon as the solder has flowed is too high a change in temperature and will most likely cause the seam to break apart from the stress.
12. Place the ring in the pickle using your plastic tweezers. Avoid using iron or steel tweezers as this can affect the pickling solution and leave a copper coating on your work. Once the blackened oxides have disappeared and the metal has turned a white colour, you can remove the metal from the pickling solution.
Soldering Silver Jewellery – The Finishing Touches
13. If your silver ring has changed shape during the soldering process, you can now adjust it. A simple way of getting a professional shape is to use a rawhide mallet and metal triblet to reshape your ring. Secure you triblet using a vice on your bench and place the ring on the secured triblet. Using a light hammering motion against the flat of the ring. Your hammering motion should also be directed down the triblet intermittently. Gently strike the top edge of the ring down the triblet to get that perfectly round shape before turning the ring and repeating this process. This will reshape the band for a neat final shape.
14. Now you can file and sand your jewellery to remove any excess solder using files, emery paper and emery sticks. A half round file is ideal for working on both the inside and outside surfaces of your ring. You may want to invest in a fine emery paper for this particular project, although a range of emery papers is ideal.
Now you have all the advice you need for soldering silver and making your first flat ring. Make sure you invest in all the right tools required for a professional finish. Take a look at our range of jewellery soldering supplies as well as our beginners soldering kit. It includes all the tools you’ll need to get started with all your basic silver soldering projects. Refer to our equipment list above and use our soldering guide to take you through the process, step by step.
Looking for your next beginners soldering project? Why not try to make a simple silver box with John Ross.