Soft Soldering: Make Decorative-Solder Pendants and Easy Bezels with Wire and Soft Solder
I’ve heard from many of you that you’ve really loved learning how to turn little beauties like broken china pieces, beach glass, and other found objects into vintage-style jewelry with Laura Beth Love’s video workshop, Make Vintage and Upcycled Jewelry. Now Laura’s back to share how to make a heart pendant that combines wirework techniques (which I know you love!) with decorative and soft soldering techniques in Soldered Alchemy: Open Heart Pendant Using Soft Solder and Wire Techniques.
Once you’ve mastered this method of turning wire and soft solder into filled-in forms and solid metal jewelry designs, you can use the same technique to create quick and easy bezels formed right around the stone, bead, or other object you’re bezeling, without worrying about a torch flame burning or melting it!
If you’re new to soft soldering jewelry, here are some basics to get you started.
The Torch: This is a trick, because you don’t use a torch or flame for soft soldering (aka decorative soldering)–you use a soldering iron (at least 100 watts, with a rheostat temp controller). This lower-temp technique allows you to work with materials that would burn, crack, or melt in a torch flame. It also provides a way to work flame-free at much lower temperatures if traditional soldering isn’t an option for you.
That’s the technical side–there’s also a decorative side, as soft solder is often used to add small balls of solder to jewelry designs, just for fun and beauty. You can get various sizes of tips for your soldering iron, but it’s not necessary.
The Solder: For these techniques, you’ll use soft wire solder, but don’t confuse it with the hard, easy, and medium wire solder used in traditional soldering. This soft wire solder is larger (closer to 12-gauge wire size), melts at a much lower temperature, is applied “on the fly” in a molten state (instead of applying and then melting or flowing the solder), and can be purchased at stained glass or hardware stores (but be sure to get the lead-free solder for jewelry). It adheres to copper foil and copper or silver wires; it won’t adhere to glass, gemstones, china, clay, or other non-metal objects.
The Technique: Laura shows how to prepare a soldering iron for soft soldering, and then how to use the hot tip of the iron to melt and apply solder to the wire frame (or copper foil) in your jewelry design. After the basics are done, she also shares how to form and apply whimsical, decorative balls of solder to give your jewelry designs a little extra something.
The Lingo: Learn about tinning (preparing the soldering iron tip for use with flux, sal ammoniac, and soft solder), bridging (the process of creating a solder “bridge” between two wires with molten soft solder, on the way to building solid surfaces), and more in Laura’s tutorials.
Now that you know the basics, put them in action making soft soldered jewelry. In Laura’s video, Soldered Alchemy: Open Heart Pendant Using Soft Solder and Wire Techniques, you will learn to combine two hot jewelry-making techniques–wire jewelry making and soft soldering–into freeform jewelry designs like Laura’s heart pendant as well as easy bezels. And you can learn to incorporate broken china, beach glass, and other found objects into your jewelry designs for vintage style in Make Vintage and Upcycled Jewelry: Dishfunctional Plate Necklace.
If you prefer to learn from books, check out Laura’s soft soldering books, below!