Metalsmthing Tools for Better Soldering: Miter Cutting Vise and Jig
Our “You Mean We Can Only Pick 10?” article was published in the July 2006 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. One of our top ten metalsmithing tools featured was and still is the miter-cutting vise and jig. With this precision tool, you can cut and file tubing, wire and sheet edges at exact 45- and 90-degree angles. This is the perfect tool for making repeatable fitted parts for soldering.
Because it is made of high-grade hardened steel sawing and filing will not mar its surface. The V-grooves hold wire and tubing in place securely for cutting and filing. The side-stops align metal sheet squarely for ease in sawing and filing. In the time since we purchased our tool, another version featuring 45-, 60- and 90-degree angles has become available.
Soldering Bail Loop
One of our specific uses for this tool is creating loop bails. Soldering a bail loop to the back of a flat pendent can sometimes present difficult cleanup and polishing situations. It seems that there is always some messy excess of solder directly below the bail loop on the back plate. Of course this is a most challenging area to get into to file, sand, and polish. And no matter how hard you work, it always stands out like a sore thumb. To overcome this situation we have developed a soldering technique that eliminates most of these issues.
How To Use a Miter Vise for Soldering
- Wrap a piece of 14-gauge round wire around a 1/4″ dia. steel/metal rod as if making very heavy jump rings.
- Remove the rod from the coil and saw down the center of the coil to remove several rings.
- Clamp one of the rings into our trusty mitering vise and cut through the other side so you have two C-shaped pieces.
- Reposition one piece then file both ends smooth and flat.
- With the C-shaped bail still in the vise, use a ball burr to carve a spherical depression into each end.
- Place several pallions of easy solder into round depressions in a charcoal block; heat carefully until each balls up. Remove the flame quickly and allow to cool.
NOTE: Because soldering on the bail loop is usually the last soldering operation we can use easy solder.
- Remove the bail from the fixture and set it upright in a depression in a charcoal block.
- Flux the spherical depressions on each end of the bail. Place a solder ball in each of the spherical depressions then heat the bail until the solder just slumps. Remove the torch immediately. Cool. Place the bail back in the mitering fixture; file each end flat so that no solder protrudes above the filed surface and so that the bail stands up straight for soldering.
Putting it All Together
At this point, the back plate has been sanded smooth and highly polished.
- Place the C-shaped bail into position on the back plate and place the tip of a hold-down fixture onto the back of the C-shaped bail. (The hold down prevents the bail from sliding around when the solder melts.) As you heat the back plate and C-shaped bail watch the intersection between the two–the instant you see the solder wink and flash at the joint remove the flame as you don’t want to let the solder spread out.
Each time we follow this procedure it results in a perfect joint. No sanding and polishing are required.
Miter-cutting tools are available from most jewelry suppliers in a variety of prices. They may seem pricey to some but if you’re doing this type of precision work on a regular basis the time saved is well worth the investment.
Tom & Kay
Tom & Kay Benham are Contributing Editors to Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist and author its Ask the Experts column. Have a question for them? Please leave a comment below.
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