Micro Torches 101, Part 2: Torch in Action and Simple Soldering Setup
Are you ready to jump even further into the world of micro torches? In part one, I shared the basics of how micro torches work. This time we are going to move beyond the basics and get those torches fired up for soldering and more.
First, let’s discuss the setup that you need to use a micro torch. Here is the set up that I use at home.
Micro Torch Soldering Setup
These are my six essentials. My micro torch (in this case, the Max Flame), my kiln brick firing surface, a quench cup, soldering tweezers, safety glasses, and a jellyroll pan as my heat-proof protective surface.
I like this set up since I have limited workspace. It’s simple and easy to tuck out of the way when not in use.
Continuing with my simple micro-torch set up brings me to solder. I use paste solder a lot when I fabricate jewelry (no flux needed and easy to apply). I store my tubes of paste solder together in a glass jar along with my titanium solder picks. Note that I have three picks and three tubes of solder. I use the blue for easy (think cool blue, lowest temperature solder), yellow for medium (like the middle yellow traffic light), and red for hard (red-hot high heat). This way I don’t cross contaminate my solder and I always know which pick to grab.
Micro Torch Soldering Safety
I also have a fire extinguisher next to my workbench. Better safe than sorry! I’ve never had to use it, knock on wood, but safety first is best.
When I fire up my torch, I always have my window open for good ventilation. Butane is a clean-burning fuel and the burn time for soldering is relatively short. The main source of potentially harmful fumes, in my opinion, is what you are heating. Melting solder and heating flux and metal do give off a small amount of fumes. Working in a well-ventilated area will keep the fumes at a minimum. You can always wear a respirator as well as a have a carbon monoxide monitor for added protection.
Micro Torch in Action and Simple Soldering Techniques
Now that we have covered safety precautions, let’s take a look at the torch in action. I use the torch most frequently for making balled headpins, annealing metal, and soldering ring bands.
How to Make Balled Headpins
To make headpins, I use 20- to 24-gauge fine silver wire. The fine silver wire heats quickly, does not get firescale, and makes a nicely rounded ball on the end.
Note how I begin heating the bottom inch or so of the wire and then move the torch underneath the wire to heat from underneath. This helps form a nice ball.
How to Anneal Metal Sheet and Wire with a Micro Torch
Annealing sheet metal or wire makes it nice and soft and easy to manipulate. Below you can see a strip of wire that I have textured. The texturing makes the wire stiff and difficult to shape.
For expert annealing every time, simply mark the wire with a permanent marker.
Evenly heat the piece until the mark disappears and you see the metal glow.
Then quench and voila, it’s perfectly annealed! Clean any firescale off the metal, and now it’s easy to shape into a ring band.
How to Solder Ring Bands
Soldering ring bands is quick and easy with the micro torch.
Simply set the band on the kiln brick.
Add easy paste solder using a solder pick (don’t use too much!) and heat until the solder flows.
Move the torch slowly and deliberately around the outside of the ring. As the solder flows, I focus the flame on the inside and outside of the ring . . .
. . . to pull the solder through the seam to make sure the join is nice and solid.
Remove the heat and turn off the torch. After quenching I give the band a quick polish with some fine-grit sandpaper and a Pro Polish pad.
Now you have a good overview of micro torches in action. It’s a great tool to know how to use. I can’t wait to hear what you make. Now get out there and play with fire!
Now that’s an expert introduction to soldering with butane torches! Want to learn more with Kate Richbourg? Plan a trip to Bead Fest this August, where you can take several classes on making metal jewelry and soldering with a micro torch with Kate. Her Simple Soldering Boot Camp is an excellent soldering intro class for beginners!
You can also learn more about micro torch soldering from Kate in her five-star-rated book, Simple Soldering: A Beginner’s Guide to Jewelry Making (which comes with a free bonus DVD).
For ten great ways to put your new micro-torch knowledge to the test, try the projects in our eBook, 10 Easy Wire Projects Using a Micro Torch.