Behind the Scenes with Lexi Erickson: Filming Her Soldering DVD

Lexi preparing her soldering samples for the camera.

It doesn't matter how many times you've done something, each circumstance is different. I've taught jewelry making for . . . er . . . a number of years. (OK, twenty-five.) Students have filmed me soldering, and I've done some quick videos for schools or workshops where I've taught. But knowing my peers would see this–well, that's a different matter. Plus, I wanted to put an entire semester of my college Jewelry 101 class on the Metalsmith Essentials: How to Solder Jewelry DVD. I wanted to cram so much info in it, such as jump rings, a band ring, setting earring posts, doing an overlay, and a simple bezel.

My best buddy Helen Driggs was my assistant, as I was her assistant on her two previous DVDs. She helped me set up the soldering station and tools, calmed my nerves, offered to go get me a cold adult beverage (at 8:30 in the morning!).

The Sundance Kid, Robert Redford

Then, to give me something to focus on, the camera crew put a picture of Robert Redford as the Sundance Kid on my monitor. In hindsight, I think it would have been better to have a photo of a classroom because every time I looked at him, I giggled like a schoolgirl. (Bob and I have had this "thing" for some time, only he knows nothing about it.)

"What if I melt the bezel?" I asked.

"No problem, this isn't live," they assured me. "We will just do another take."

I was skeptical. After demoing bezel soldering and setting to thousands, I'm familiar with what can go wrong at the least opportune time; though usually when I have an audience, and know I have to do everything the correct way, the bezel always lays right down. It's in my own studio that I cut corners and end up melting something.

I read my intro, smiled at Bob, and from then on I was winging it.

Lexi's tray of all the bits and pieces needed to demonstrate how to solder metal jewelry.

Everything went like clockwork. I explained the five rules of solder, showed the different types of tanks and torches, talked about solder, and then I was ready to demo. Helen attached the hoses to the tank while I explained, and we were assisted by our muscular cameraman in snugly closing all the valves. I looked at the camera and said, "Now when you open the valve, the needle on the gauge will immediately swing up to show the pressure in the tank . . ." and I opened the valve. Nothing. Zilch. Nada.

I shot Helen a nasty look and hissed, "You didn't tighten it." (Maybe the word "moron" slipped out . . . I don't remember.) She looked at me and hissed back, "You must have broken the gauge when you loaded this in the car." (Did I hear the word "moron" again?) We tightened everything and tried it again. Nothing.

I was getting a pure "alcohol-y" smell from the open torch–not acetylene as I expected, nor acetone, which would have been OK, too. I turned it off and said, "I'm not lighting that." We all agreed that would probably not be the smartest idea. Helen and I both stood there, camera running, with this look of total disbelief on our faces. Luckily, I brought another Smith torch set up, brand new, in the bubble pack. I quickly undid everything, and with the able help of said muscular cameraman, this one was set up and ready to go. Take two, same as before.

And again . . . nothing.

A soldering station set up doesn't seem like all that much stuff until you have to pack it up to take it on location with you!

No registration on the gauges, which would only mean one thing. I had a bad tank of gas! In twenty-five-plus years of making jewelry, I had only had two bad tanks, and one of them was TODAY. As I stood there like a blithering idiot, in total disbelief, saying over and over again, "This never happens," the production assistant found a welding supply. We made a mad dash five miles away to the supply house and got a new tank. I breathed a big sigh of relief when, after attaching the gauges and opening the valve, the needle swung right up to the anticipated spot. But I won't say my confidence wasn't shaken.

As I finished showing how to solder closed jump rings, set earring posts, solder a bezel (which I didn't melt), and more soldering tricks, the cameraman (yes, Mr. Muscles) said, "Wow! I'm amazed how that solder just follows the torch all around the bezel. It's really remarkable to see that bright silver line."

And with that, we were done. I got an entire Jewelry 101 soldering course demo'd on one DVD. It all went so fast that I really don't remember what I said, except, "You didn't tighten it" (and maybe "moron").

Helen, the crew, and I were discussing things later over a few adult beverages, laughing about all that could go wrong when you least expect it. She and I have many shared stories of our escapades together. Hopefully sometime we can tell more of those tales here on Jewelry Making Daily.

So, I hope you enjoy my Metalsmith Essentials: How to Solder Jewelry DVD, and every time you see me really smile, know I'm probably looking right into the Sundance Kid's baby blues. OH, BABY!

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