6 Tips for Micro Torch Soldering and Other Jewelry Making from Kate Richbourg
When I get a new craft book, the first thing I do is flip through and see all the project pictures. Then I go back to the beginning and read all the tips–all the little nuggets of information marked “Tip” or “Note” or that are pulled out with an asterisk or put in a box to let us know that it’s something extra and special.
Extra and special is right! I learn so much just from the tips in a craft or jewelry-making book, sometimes it feels like the rest of the book is a free bonus. Here are six jewelry-making tips that popped out at me when I recently consulted Kate Richbourg’s five-star-rated, best-selling book Simple Soldering for some advice about micro torch soldering.
- When you’re soldering two domed pieces together to form a lentil bead shape–or soldering any pieces that will create a hollow shape with no openings–punch or drill a hole or other design into one of the pieces to create a vent. You must allow heat to escape during soldering, or the pieces will pop apart from the heat. I’ve heard people who experience this say the pieces “explode;” you definitely don’t want that!
- Did you know that when you’re sanding and cleaning up metal, a brass brush works fine when wet but metal needs to be completely dry before using Pro Polish pads? I had no idea, but Kate says so!
- Ever get your bezel soldered together, ready to solder onto your back plate, only to find that it’s a smidge too small to fit around your stone? You can size the bezel up slightly, just like you would a ring. Slide the bezel onto a ring mandrel (or a bezel mandrel, if you have one) and tap it with a plastic mallet. Check your progress every few taps; bezel wire is thin and will stretch faster than you might think. You don’t want to make it too large or you’ll have to cut it open and start over.
- If the worst happens and you melt a bezel, all is not lost! You can remove the melted bezel and salvage your project. Just use a third hand (or a friend’s help) to hold the piece down; then heat the entire piece until your solder flows again. Use your tweezers to pull the bezel off while it’s all hot, and then quench and clean up your piece. The excess original solder can be filed or sanded off, and you can start fresh with a new bezel.
- Remember that a third hand and soldering tweezers/pliers are a heat sink, meaning they will take heat away from your metal while you’re heating it. This can cause the entire soldering process to take longer and limit the heat on your piece, which can keep your solder from flowing. Try to minimize contact between your metal piece and the tweezers or third hand by gripping the metal at the very tippy tips.
- Get creative with your metal stamping. Kate suggests using a period stamp or awl to stamp decorative dots in stamping designs to further embellish or alter them. You can even change up your fonts in alphabet stamps by adding a stamped dot above, below, or on the letters themselves. (Awls, with their longer, thinner points, are easier to use on existing stamps than period stamps might be.)
Learn everything you need to know about using a micro torch in our micro torch collection of three videos, two eBooks (including Simple Soldering) and a digital magazine that all focus on using a micro torch in jewelry making, from experts like Kate, Denise Peck, Cassie Donlen, and more. But maybe you need a torch, too? We’ve got a micro-torch collection that includes the popular Max Flame butane torch, too!