Brazing 101: Hot-Connecting Copper Jewelry Joins Without Soldering
When you read the word “brazing,” what comes to mind–copper or a roast? For the roast, you’d want braising, but for joining metal, brazing is the term. Brazing for copper jewelry is a unique alternative to traditional soldering and an excellent skill to add.
What is Brazing?
According to Merriam-Webster, brazing means “to solder with a nonferrous alloy having a lower melting point than the metals being joined.” But you don’t use solder in the sense that we usually discuss solder; for brazing, it’s referred to as a brazing rod or filler metal. A common brazing rod is made of copper and phosphorus and requires no flux.
The lower melting point of the brazing rod is key. The heat that causes it to melt (flow) comes from the heated metal pieces being joined, not directly from the torch, as with soldering. Brazing is very similar to pick soldering, in that you apply the “solder” or brazing rod after heating the metal components, not before applying the torch. Then that hot metal heats the brazing rod, causing it to melt and “flow” like solder. However, brazed pieces aren’t connected in the same way that soldered pieces are joined.
Successful Brazing Techniques
Brazing joins are strong and permanent, like soldering joins, they just rely on a slightly different process. I once heard someone describe the difference like quilting and sewing, with soldering more like quilting and brazing more like sewing. In her video Beginner Brazing for Copper Jewelry Making, Kim St. Jean describes it well with her fingers, as shown below, with the type of join achieved by soldering on the left and brazing on the right.
When heating metal for soldering, the metal heats to a point near melting, which creates openings (between the fingers, above) into which the solder can flow. They’re not seams, but much smaller chambers within the metal. However, with brazing, the molten brazing rod material doesn’t flow into the heated metal to be joined but rather it binds or attaches the two metal surfaces (at the fingertips, above), similar to how glue binds two objects together–but much stronger.
The keys to successful brazing are some of the same as those for soldering: well-fitted seams and proper heat control. The main difference is the solder material–in the case of brazing, a brazing rod–and when it enters the process.
Master Brazing from the Beginning with Kim St. Jean
Order your copy of Beginner Brazing for Copper Jewelry Making and learn the difference for yourself! With expert jewelry maker and instructor Kim St. Jean, you can learn this alternative metal-joining technique from the beginning–no soldering experience required.
You’ll watch along as she makes a bezel (including a brilliant bezel-wire-cutting tip) to demonstrate the brazing technique, use of brazing rods, etc. You’ll also learn so much more from this expert teacher, including a great lesson about the hottest part of the flame that’s unlike traditional teaching.
After you’ve learned the basic brazing process, you can apply the technique to your own projects. Then, look out!