How to Solder Jewelry: Lexi Erickson's Memories of Learning to Solder and Her New Soldering eBook

 

Even after years of soldering experience and those 1,400 times, I still get frustrated by some projects. So don't ever give up!

I remember my first foray into soldering bezels. My teacher didn't give us a lot of info, he just demoed a bezel for a very small stone, a round stone about half the size of a dime, and that was it. Presto. "Nothing to it," he said. Pure magic. It was our third week of class, and we were all still wet behind the ears, having just learned the week before how to saw something out of metal. We knew nothing about metals, melting points, and nothing about soldering. Plus, he didn't give us any dos or don'ts on the subject, just a demo and told us to buy some bezel wire and a round or oval stone for the next class. Being that I was only planning to take this class once (boy was I wrong), I didn't want to spend much money on the class, so I brought a pretty "oval-ish" smooth river rock I had found in a stream while on a New Mexico vacation.

 

Save money using Lexi's choice of solder picks. You can purchase enough to last a lifetime for the same price of the flimsy expensive ones that bend when you push on them!

The next Tuesday night I sat at my bench in class and tried to fit this wobbly piece of very thin metal around my beautiful river stone. After about twenty frustrating minutes (I'm either a slow learner or have lots of patience, I don't know which), I asked my teacher for help. He looked at my horribly mangled piece of bezel wire, laughed, held it up for the whole class to see, and told everyone that I (and as it turned out, over half the class) had picked the wrong shape stone to bezel set.

After making me feel like a complete numbskull and totally embarrassed, he showed the class what I had done wrong in picking out a stone. It had an undercut, was slightly rounded on the bottom, and was too large for my first soldering attempt. I was mortified and wanted to slink under my bench. I'm surprised that I ever went back to class.

 

When soldering a ring or bezel closed, put a thin piece of hard solder right under the join and heat from above. Solder flows in the direction of the heat, so the solder will flow right up the seam. It seems like magic, but it's really the understanding of physics.

How was I to know what kind of stone to get? He just told us to bring a "stone" to class that wasn't like an engagement ring stone or faceted. IF he mentioned the word "cabochon," none of us caught that or even knew what it was. He gave us no instructions about choosing the "stone". All I knew was that I was confused, embarrassed, and thought of never coming back to his class. His actions taught me a valuable lesson that I still use when I teach: students need lots of information, gentle mentoring, and patience when starting to learn anything like metalsmithing because the learning curve is HUGE! My teacher knew what we needed but never explained it to the group of beginning students, because he knew what he meant. From that moment on, I decided never to forget what it was like to be a beginner. I have kept that in the back of my mind with each new student I teach.

What is this strange-looking tool you can make yourself to solve soldering problems?

While writing "How To Solder Jewelry," my ten-part series on soldering for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, I kept that mantra in mind. Therefore, you now have everything you need to know, from "What is Solder?" (it's amazing that so many of our readers write and ask me that very question) to what to do when your solder doesn't flow and why it does flow sometimes and not other times. Learning to solder is not just something like, "And now magic happens!" Oh no. There is a specific science–even physics, if you will–to it. Once you understand that, because I gently explain it in non-physics words, you will be successful with soldering every time. I give you every bit of information you need in painstakingly excruciating detail . . . okay, maybe not that bad, but you will understand the WHY it works instead of hearing, "It just works." I work better with something if I understand the "why" of the procedure, don't you?

And now (drumroll, please), you don't have to order ten issues of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist to get my ten-part series, complete with two projects. For your convenience, How to Solder Jewelry is available as an eBook download right onto your computer, today! (Editor's note: Yay!)

Even if you find soldering on copper difficult, Lexi shows you tricks to make copper soldering easier. What are her secrets?

In my new soldering eBook, I share everything I know about soldering with you, such as the six easy-to-remember words that are the basic rules of soldering plus a few little sayings that, once learned, will help you be successful every time. I'm not one of those teachers who hold things back; I want you to solder beautiful bezels and overlays and make gorgeous jewelry. Yep, I tell you more than you ever wanted to know about the subject of soldering. 

Another thing I have learned in my years of mistakes and successes is that nothing teaches like practice, whether that experience is successful or not. As I say in the How to Solder Jewelry download, "Doing 1,400 techniques do not make you a pro, but doing one technique 1,400 times does." Makes sense, doesn't it? You will eventually learn how much solder is too much or not enough. But you must try. And try. And try again. Also know that I'm here to help in any way. Just think of me as sitting in your studio with you, by your side, as you learn to solder. If How to Solder Jewelry doesn't help enough, also know that I'm here to answer your questions. Just ask your questions in the comments below or in the Jewelry Making Daily Forums. I'll explain whatever you need and be here to help you in any way I can. I remember what it was like to be a beginner and to have a teacher who didn't explain things fully and in detail.

 

Learn to make Lexi's gorgeous wavellite pendant as your final project.

And the next semester? This same metalsmithing teacher told my class that you cannot solder on a textured surface, so I spent the rest of the semester successfully soldering on textured surfaces (grin) . . . but that's a whole 'nother story. So until then, may your bezels never melt! 

Lexi 

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