Micro Torch Jewelry Making: Soldering and Fusing Made Simple

Fine silver fuses to itself like magic, without solder.

Cassie Donlen's Rockin Lampwork Bezel Rings

Cassie Donlen’s Rockin Lampwork Bezel Rings.

Even if you’re dying for one, not everyone has the room in their home for a full jewelry studio. But you can still do some metalsmithing, especially fine silver jewelry making, right on your kitchen table. Handheld butane torches are an easy, inexpensive way to do some simple metalwork. Cover your table with something fireproof, like a piece of sheet metal from Home Depot, and use a charcoal block to help retain and reflect heat back onto your piece, and you’re good to go. And even if you have a full oxygen/acetylene setup, a butane torch can be a quick tool for some small, fast jobs.

The Magic of Fine Silver Jewelry
I learned about fusing fine silver in a class with Kate Richbourg, of Beaducation, a number of years ago. It was like magic the way those joins just flowed into each other. Fine silver will fuse to itself when heated with a torch, unlike sterling. No solder needed, and no oxidation or fire scale that needs pickling. Very easy, very clean. I’ve even fused fine silver decorative balls onto fine silver rings, like a granulation technique.

Cassie Donlen's Whimsical Silver Bezels

Cassie Donlen’s Whimsical Silver Bezels.

Make Your Own Bezels
But that’s not all you can do with a butane torch. You can almost solder like the pros! Artist Cassie Donlen makes all of her bezels with a butane torch and solder chips. There’s a limitation to how heavy a gauge sheet and wire you can use, and how large your pieces can be in micro torch jewelry making, because butane torches don’t get much hotter than 2500 degrees Fahrenheit. Larger pieces require a lot more heat. But if you’re itching to expand your repertoire into making bezels for cabs or resin, you can definitely get that going with micro torch jewelry making.

Playing Safe
Some micro torch jewelry making safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Always work on a fireproof surface.
  • Wear safety goggles made for filtering flame flare.
  • Never touch your pieces right out of the flame.
  • Have a quenching bowl of water to cool your pieces.
  • Dedicate some cheap pliers for your flamework so you don’t ruin your good tools.
  • Remember the end of the torch remains very hot even after you turn it off.

Butane torches come in a variety of styles and price points. I’ve had success with many of them, including one designated a kitchen torch, and one that was only around $10. Have fun!

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