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Author Topic: Soldering problems  (Read 1535 times)

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MorgannaWylde

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Soldering problems
« on: July 11, 2017, 05:36:48 AM »

Hi all! I am not exactly new to metalsmithing, but it has been awhile. For years I fabricated and successfully soldered silver jewelry. I never had a join fail, ever. At the time I was using an oxy/acetylene set up. Years intervened, and my equipment was sold. I am back at it now, working primarily in copper, using either a mini butane torch or a little smith oxy/ propane torch. These days, I cannot solder the 2 paddled ends of 14ga wires together to save my life. I thought perhaps my silver solder was old, I replaced it. Thought maybe I had the wrong flux, bought a different kind.  I have tried paste solder and copper wire as well. Does paste solder go bad? Still no luck. I heat the copper to the point of weakness, and can't get any of it to flow. I have tried heating the metal on a tripod, on a solder block and holding it with tweezers. I really think my problem is in how I'm heating the metal, but am at a loss. Would a charcoal block help? I have never used one, but will get one if needed.  Is there a trick to these torches I don't know. Any tips and/or advice would be much appreciated!
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edgarscale

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Re: Soldering problems
« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2017, 09:11:55 AM »

oils from finger tips will inhibit a bond.  try cleaning ALL parts by sanding them and if wet sanding completely drying the pieces.  flux then bond as usual.
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womanwithatorch

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Re: Soldering problems
« Reply #2 on: July 11, 2017, 10:27:40 AM »

Copper oxidizes more quickly than silver.  This advice from another forum helped me, "if you're soldering copper, you'd better be using paste flux and lots of it". When I need to solder copper, I use "lots" of paste flux (like Dandix or Handy Flux), a bigger flame like my "plumber's" torch, and sometimes binding wire, which I never use with silver. Good luck.
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MorgannaWylde

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Re: Soldering problems
« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2017, 10:52:56 AM »

Thank you both for the tips! I have been cleaning both the joints and wire solder with steel wool before attempting to join. I have also been using binding wire. By plumbers torch, do you mean a mapp gas torch or just the larger propane torch? I will admit to trying the mapp gas torch, and it blew the solder clear away :dontknow: my solder area is somewhat small though, I can try again in a more open space with the larger torch. I will get a different flux asap and try that, I'm a tool, gadget etc junkie, so no problem there. This has become an obsession of sorts, but I will persevere, lol.
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FLRocks

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Re: Soldering problems
« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2017, 07:33:17 PM »

I think the steel wool may be your problem. If you rub it between your fingers you will feel the oil used to keep the steel wool from rusting. Use only sand paper then clean it with Acetone. If you must use alcohol then used 'denatured' not isopropyl from the drug store. Sometimes it has oils in it
Especially if it is advertised as Rubbing Alcohol.

Use these and the other mentioned remedies and your problems will disappear (well maybe)




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MorgannaWylde

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Re: Soldering problems
« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2017, 08:41:29 PM »

Thanks for that tip. I hadn't thought about steel wool having oil. I don't have the right alcohol or acetone though. I will try copperbrite or baking soda, that works to prep for etching so it may be worth a try. If not, well back to the store.
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ileney

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Re: Soldering problems
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2017, 10:29:00 AM »

The other thing is that I personally find thick copper and brass plates (haven't done much with wire alone) to be much harder to solder than silver because they oxidize so quickly, and once oxidized, won't solder. I always use a large tip on an acetylene torch at full blast to solder heavier brass, bronze and copper super fast before it has a chance to oxidize much. I actually hate soldering that stuff because it is so filthy IMO. I can't answer on the charcoal block as I avoid that too as I just hate the dirty stuff.
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womanwithatorch

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Re: Soldering problems
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2017, 01:46:48 PM »

"Plumber's torch" is what I call my torch from the hardware store. Blue one pound propane canister with a screw-on torch tip, it's flame is larger than the little torch or the butane torch. I agree with ileney, big hot flame to get it done fast, and with FLRocks about the steel wool. If you want to clean the copper with steel wool you have to wash it with warm soap and water after, then rinse well.
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gemfeller

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Re: Soldering problems
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2017, 01:49:58 PM »

Thanks for that tip. I hadn't thought about steel wool having oil. I don't have the right alcohol or acetone though. I will try copperbrite or baking soda, that works to prep for etching so it may be worth a try. If not, well back to the store.

Do you have an unused 3M Scotch Brite green scouring pad available?  That was part of my standard kit for cleaning metal before soldering when I was doing a lot of silver work.  I've never worked with copper but the principle should be the same.  It also gives a nice soft scratch finish to pieces where high polish isn't desired.

 
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Steve Ramsdell

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Re: Soldering problems
« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2017, 01:58:16 PM »

You may want to kick the heat up by switching from propane to mapp gas (same size tank, but yellow).  Found in almost all big box builders supply.  Gives much more heat.
Steve
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MorgannaWylde

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Re: Soldering problems
« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2017, 02:24:18 PM »

Thanks everyone! I will try all these tips! I live in the boonies so waiting on my handi flux from amazon. I do have a mapp gas torch, it is large for my indoor solder area, but will set up an outdoor space. Getting ready to try my hand at sand casting and copper enameling, so an outdoor space is high on the list anyway. Cross your fingers for me. I'm thinking I'll either solder it or melt it.
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MorgannaWylde

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Re: Soldering problems
« Reply #11 on: August 16, 2017, 09:15:48 AM »

---update--- hi everyone, thank you again for all the tips. My husband has been dealing with cardiac issues, so it took longer to try them out than I had hoped, but the very first time I was successful! I used the paste flux and mapp gas torch. I really feel that the advice to use "lots" of paste flux was/is the key. My test piece was completely oxidized, except where the paste flux was. I will try again with my propane/oxy set up, since I feel more in control with the smaller flame. If it doesn't work out, no big deal, at least I can get the job done!


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