How to Remove Excess Solder and Other Expert Advice for Making Soldered Jewelry
Whenever a group of jewelry makers gathers to talk shop, soldering issues are sure to come up. More than any other jewelry-making technique, soldering seems to have the most nuances and pitfalls that lead to interesting “Have you ever. . . ?” and “How do I. . . ?” conversations. One I hear (and read online) most often is “How do I remove excess solder?” (More on that below.)
Even if you know how to solder, and even if you know how to solder well, there’s always more to learn about it. That kind of “continuing education” is exactly why we create special issues dedicated entirely to soldering. Making Soldered Jewelry: Projects, Basics and More is a “best of” soldering compilation packed full of:
- 70+expert tips and nuggets of technique advice
- 10 detailed, illustrated soldering projects
- three articles about torches (including micro torches)
- an in-depth look at the four basic solder joins plus 15 tips from Helen Driggs
- a detailed look at three different soldering setups from three different artisan jewelry makers
- soldering FAQs and seven info-packed articles on solder, flux, finishing, and more by Lexi Erickson
I was fortunate enough to learn how to solder jewelry with Lexi, in her personal studio, and I’ve often wished that all of you could learn to solder with Lexi as well. Though I know that isn’t possible, I can offer you a close second in this soldering special issue, which includes everything Lexi taught me about soldering and much, much more–including a tip for removing an excess “solder blob.”
How to Remove Excess Solder
“I learned this invaluable tip from Anne Larsen many years ago, who in turn, learned it from watching people who solder electronic equipment and circuit boards,” Lexi says. “It’s called a ‘spudger’ and is very simple to make. I use 30-gauge wire, usually copper, and loop about 8-10 loops around two or three fingers. Remove the wire from your fingers. Loop more wire around the top of the piece several times so that it will hold the 8-10 loops securely, then clip that wire. Cut the bottom 8-10 loops so that you have a mini metal-whiskbroom-looking ‘thingy’ (notice my correct jewelry terminology here).
|“Heat the spudger while holding it with burn ’em up pliers,” Lexi says. “Heat the solder, and when the solder gets shiny, touch the hot spudger to the solder, and the molten solder will flow right up the twisted wires. It’s important to keep the spudger hot, because solder flows in the direction of the heat.”|
“Now heat the solder blob, and when the solder gets shiny, put the spudger right down into the solder. Remember, solder likes to hide and works by capillary action, so it will run right up the spudger. This trick may not get rid of every bit of that offending solder, but it will get rid of a lot of it,” Lexi says. “You may need to hold the spudger with insulated tweezers or some inexpensive/expendable ‘burn em up pliers’ because the spudger may get hot. If you drop the spudger onto the piece, it may solder to the piece, and then you’ll have a whole different set of problems!”
Well that solves one problem! Another big issue I often hear is determining the most effective way to solder two pieces. Are your surfaces all flat, all curved, or both? Are your surfaces the same or different thicknesses? With Helen Driggs’ soldering flow chart in Making Soldered Jewelry, you can determine which type of soldering techniques are best for your particular project: sweat solder, butt solder join, point of contact solder join, or “T” or strip solder join.
I can’t think of a question I’ve heard someone ask about soldering that isn’t answered in Making Soldered Jewelry. If you’re ready to learn to solder, it will teach you all of the basics and beyond, from more than one point of view so you know you’ve got all the best info! If you’ve been soldering for a while, you’ll surely learn some helpful tips or a new approach that improves your technique. No matter how good your soldering skills are, Making Soldered Jewelry will make them better!