Lexi's New Soldering eBook and Frank Talk on Learning to Solder

Just yesterday I was talking to one of my students who has decided to move from beading gorgeous treasure necklaces to metalsmithing. She was explaining how different the learning curve is. "Learning a new beading technique or stitch may offer a bit of a challenge," she explained, "but with some patience, the new technique can be mastered in a short time, perhaps an hour or two." As she broke the third saw blade within five minutes, I gently explained not to push so hard on the saw. With feigned disgust, she grinned. "I haven't even started to solder yet! That's not a learning curve. That's a learning 90-degree angle!" We both laughed.


There were certainly NOT this many books available when I started making jewelry back in the Dark Ages. Those notebooks are full of workshop notes.

Her statement stayed with me all evening. I thought back to when I learned to solder a few years back . . . ok, 30 years ago. There was not a plethora of soldering books available like there are today. I don't remember any tapes available on the subject, and the Internet was only a twinkle in Al Gore's eye. There were no forums for asking questions, such as Jewelry Making Daily, and Lapidary Journal existed pretty much as a stone-cutting magazine with articles on mining, rock hunting, and fossils. As fascinating as it was, you can't say all the articles were especially (yawn) stimulating for the everyday reader. Sorry–but it's true. Even as an archeology enthusiast, I can only read someone's account of tracking the rare 2-foot-tall Compsognathus fossil for so long . . . zzz . . .  

The jewelry professor at our local college was talking about this recently. He said, "Historically, silversmithing was a huge secret. It was something passed down from master to apprentice, or father to son/daughter. Maybe you went to a very special school, sometimes in Europe. It was a big mystery how it was done." He's right. The college where I went for my first degree, Texas Tech, didn't even teach metals or jewelry. Now they have a fabulous jewelry program. And tools? Jewelers made most of their own tools. I remember my first catalogue from a major jewelry supply house. Maybe it was a quarter of an inch thick. Now one can get a hernia from carrying the latest edition of the catalogue in from the post box.


It just seems so much easier to close a bezel by putting the solder under the join.

Today, thanks to so many artists willing to share what they know, you can learn so much from JMD or have a "private" class with one of Interweave's artists through our DVDs. Therefore, I'm pleased to offer my new eBook How to Solder Jewelry to help you learn to solder. There is no difficult terminology in it, just me talking like I'm sitting next to you at the bench. There are no half-explained techniques that just leave you dangling and wanting to know more. The title says it all. I simply explain, from start to finish, more than you ever wanted to know about (ta-da) How To Solder Jewelry.

Now I'm probably not the brightest crayon in the box, but I know what works for my students and me. And I like to explain how it works. I try to use good ol' common sense when teaching you how to learn or improve upon your soldering.

Just because I do something one way doesn't mean you have to change the way you are doing it, if it works for you. It's just another way of looking at a situation. Don't change what is working for you or what your teacher has taught. There is more than one way to solder successfully.

For example, I've never gotten the hang of those dad-gum third hands. Back when I learned, they didn't have these fancy ones available, and every time I got the metal to the right temperature, the third hand fell and I ended up soldering the wrong things together. &#%*! But in reality, that taught me how to "unsolder"!

Now, if solder flows in the direction of the heat, why in the world do you place your solder on the top of the join and heat from the top, when it's so much easier to lay your chip of solder on the fire brick and place the join of the bezel on top of the solder? Solder flows in the direction of the heat . . . up the seam. The solder chip won't fly off because the bezel is sitting on top of it. In less than thirty seconds, your bezel is soldered. I was taught to do it with a third hand and was told it's "tradition." But it's harder for me, and I guess I never conquered it, so I found another way. Neither way is wrong or right, it's just what works for you. I guess I march to a different flautist.

So many of these rules that I've gently bent have been around for so many years, and they are perpetuated from teacher to student without ever challenging why it's done that way. It's like the grandmother who cut off both ends of the ham before she put it in the roasting pan, only to have her daughter do the same thing. The granddaughter's husband finally asked the grandmother why she did it. "Did it help the ham stay juicy?" he asked. After all, this was a third-generation ham cooker who cut off the perfectly good ends of the ham. "Oh no," said the grandmother, "that was the only way it would fit in the pan."

So have I bent some of the rules of soldering when explaining the way I do it? Yes. Have I upset some of the "traditionalists"? Regretfully, I probably have. But have I taught a few thousand students how to successfully solder? Yes! So not only do I have the patience of Charlie Brown waiting for the Great Pumpkin, I pass on to you what I have discovered has worked for my students and me, and it will work for you. No more 90-degree angles when learning to solder. How to Solder Jewelry is a very gentle curve. I will be there, right with you, teaching you in my own words, how to perfect your soldering. After you understand the why and how it works, you will see your soldering skills dramatically improve.

And please send me your stories. I love to read what your experiences are.

May your bezels never melt,

Download Lexi's How to Solder Jewelry eBook instantly! It compiles the entire 10-part series Lexi wrote for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist into one convenient soldering guide.

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