10 Fusing and Soldering Micro-Torch Tips: Make Wire Findings and Bezels for Found Objects
No matter how often I use a full torch setup, I admit that I still choose my micro torch over the larger torch whenever it will do the job just as well. I like to work with fine silver, too, which is ideal for micro torch use. Perhaps I like fine silver because it allows me to use the micro torch, or perhaps I can use the micro torch because I usually use fine silver–who knows. (Chicken? Egg?)
Either way, if you want to try soldering and fusing metals but don't have the space, budget, or interest (or courage) in using an acetylene or other jeweler's torch, a micro torch is a really great alternative. It's convenient, feels less intimidating, is easier to find and keep fueled up, and it's lightweight. Denise Peck, editor in chief of Step-by-Step Wire Jewelry and senior editor of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, has created countless pieces of gorgeous silver jewelry using a butane torch. She's also created two awesome videos that will show you how to do the same thing!
In her Metalwork DVDs Wire Fusing and Other Micro-Torch Techniques and Making Bezels for Stones and Found Objects, Denise shows how to fuse fine silver, how to create accent balls out of silver and attach them to your work, how to create bezels for cabochons, buttons, and just about anything else in your found-object stash, and more. Used together, the two videos are a complete resource for making artisan-quality fine silver and sterling silver jewelry using a micro torch–no big gas tanks or compressors required.
Here are some micro-torch fusing and bezel-making tips gleaned from the two videos to whet your appetite.
1. Scraps of silver almost instantly turn into perfectly round silver balls when heated with a micro torch. You can create silver accent balls in almost any size to embellish your wire or metalwork jewelry designs.
2. Fine silver will melt and fuse to itself without using solder. Sterling silver is an alloy that contains copper, not a pure metal, so it will not fuse to itself. Fine silver also resists oxidation, so it will tarnish less and you won't have to polish it as much.
3. Create a safe, fireproof work-station by covering your work surface with a nonflammable surface such as a large ceramic floor tile or a square sheet of stainless steel. Keep a bowl of water nearby to quench hot metals after torching and fusing, and wear safety glasses when soldering, fusing, sawing, cutting, or hammering metals.
4. Be careful not to melt silver accent balls when fusing them onto a base. If you hold the flame directly on the ball for too long, it could simply melt into a liquid mess. Be sure to keep the flame moving so that you heat the entire piece gradually until it turns red; then focus your flame a little more directly onto the area being fused–but don't linger there too long.
5. Did you know that you can use a micro torch (also known as a kitchen torch, mini torch, handheld torch, or a crème brûlée torch) to form balls on sterling silver, Argentium sterling, fine silver, or copper wire ends to make balled head pins? You can use any wire gauge you need and make them exactly the right length for your wire jewelry designs.Zero waste! And you'll save money, too.
6. As a base for your micro torch work, use a magnesia soldering block, a dense charcoal block, or a Solderite block.
7. Buy a cheap set of "fire tools" (or "hot tools") or surrender your older tools to the micro-torch cause to use exclusively while torch fusing and to grip hot metal.
8. Remember that heat will soften your metal, which can be used to your advantage to anneal hard metals to make them more pliable, but you'll also want to hammer (cooled) torched pieces with a rawhide or nylon mallet or tumble to work-harden them after torching.
9. Like me, Denise likes to do things the quickest way possible, so instead of cutting metal shapes out of silver sheet with a jeweler's saw, she uses kitchen shears. This is a great alternative for folks who are intimidated by a jeweler's saw too–or a great backup when you break your last saw blade in the middle of a project. Denise has found that kitchen shears will cut through 24-, 26-, and 28-gauge flat silver sheet.
10. Instead of using a Sharpie marker, which can sometimes rub off while you're working before you're ready for it to, Denise uses an awl to mark where her bezel wire overlaps during a test fit as well as to trace around the object she's making a bezel back plate for, on the silver sheet.
Now that you're armed with the basic tips and information about soldering and fusing with a micro-torch, ignite your torch and ignite your jewelry making skills with Denise's great Metalwork videos, Wire Fusing and Other Micro-Torch Techniques and Making Bezels for Stones and Found Objects.
They go together like ice cream and summer–so we've bundled them together in an equally tasty deal: You can get both videos in instant downloads for $30, a savings of 25%! In a total of thirteen lessons and seven step-by-step projects, you'll learn to create your own wire findings, chain, and clasps, as well as how to transform just about any found object–buttons, stones, beads, and more–into rings and pendants with bezels. Found-object and mixed-media jewelry artists, you'll love it!