Silver Solder Versus Silver Braze
Silver Solder Versus Silver Braze
I just got another call from somebody that had a lot of problems with brazing.
Once we got into it, it became apparent that the problem was that he was trying to use silver braze alloy with a silver solder flux. He wasn’t clear on the difference between silver soldering and silver brazing. He went to a welding supply store where the clerk wasn’t clear on the difference either and the clerk sold him soldering flux for a brazing application.
Flux does a lot of things but primarily it is an oxygen interceptor. It is designed to keep the materials from oxidizing during brazing. If you get an oxide layer formed the braze alloy and the two parts being brazed will not join together.
Silver solder is a solder which has typically 1% to 3% silver in it and melts around a couple hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Silver braze or silver braze alloy may have 30% and 60% silver and it melts above 1100�F. These are approximations but they serve to illustrate the difference.
Typically brazing takes place above 800�F and soldering takes place below 800� Fahrenheit.
Silver solder flux and silver brazing flux are two very different compounds. Silver solder flux is designed to become active at very low temperatures and to work at very low temperatures. Silver brazing flux becomes active around maybe 500�F or so and stays active up to maybe 1500�F.
If you use silver solder flux for silver brazing then the silver solder flux will be all used up before the metals get anywhere near hot enough. If you use silver brazing flux for silver soldering the metals will be heavily oxidized before the flux even begins to become active.
The term silver soldering is often used to cover all joining using silver of any the amount and thus covers silver brazing as well. I am as guilty of doing this as anyone.
I think it would be for the general good of the industry overall, and certainly the new people, if more care was taken in differentiating between soldering and brazing.
The latest guy to call was a nice young guy and he had messed up $50 worth of parts which was a lot of money to him. I kind of hate to see that happen to anyone.
Silver filled wire is brand-new to the jewelry market! It is made up of an everlasting outer layer of sterling silver and surrounded by a copper alloy core. Silver filled wire is coated with an anti tarnish product so as to safeguard the wire against tarnishing. Silver filled wire is the high quality wire product you’ve been waiting for! Silver plated wire is coated with less than a hair’s width of silver, and can come off easily. Silver filled wire has hundreds of times more silver than silver plate – it won’t come off, even on the bench block! See the image below for a comparison:
How does Silver Filled Wre differ from Argentium® and Sterling Silver?
There are many similarities between sterling silver, Argentium® and silver filled wire. Silver filled wire can be soldered, hammered, and pickled just like sterling silver. Silver filled wire is comparable to Argentium® and they have many of the same anti-tarnish qualities. All of the things you love about Argentium®, you’ll love about silver filled wire – at a savings of 50% or more!
Can I tumble silver filled wire?
YES! Silver filled wire can be tumbled, just like sterling silver. You can use liver of sulfur to tumble your silver filled wire just like with sterling silver, and you can solder it with silver solder. Anything you could do with sterling silver, you can do with silver fill wire.
Does silver filled wire cost more than other wires?
NO! The price of silver filled wire is half the cost of Sterling, because of the copper core; that means it is a fraction of the cost of Argentium®, and much more affordable than gold filled. You get all of the qualities you love at a lower price! If you can’t afford Argentium® or gold, or you use a large amount of sterling silver but want a price-saving, non-tarnishing wire, then silver filled wire is the answer!
The premier place for all your jewelry making needs. The best in wire, tools, cabochons, gemstone beads and more. As well as a superior resource for educational support to help build your jewelry making skills and techniques.
Successful silver soldering can be the key to a wealth of creative opportunity once mastered, and there’s a range of different methods that can be used to create a strong join. Regardless of which particular soldering techniques you favour, the basics of good soldering remain the same. So here is a quick reference list for anyone new or unsure of where or how to silver solder.
What is silver solder used for?
Silver soldering is the process of permanently joining two pieces of metal together using heat to melt pieces of silver solder to fill a prepared joint. It is used essentially with silver for jewellery making and silversmithing, but can also be used to join together copper, gilding metal, brass and gold if needs be.
Are there different types of solder?
YYes. There are four grades of silver solder (hard, medium, easy and extra easy) which all come in strip form. The melting point of silver solder will vary depending on the types of solder.
Silver Solder Strip
The idea is to use them in sequence starting with hard, which has the highest melting temperature, so it can withstand prolonged heating as you perform subsequent joins – below you will find a guide to the melting point of silver solder for the different types of solder:
|Hard||745 – 780°C|
|Medium||720 – 765°C|
|Easy||705 – 725°C|
|Extra Easy||655 – 710°C|
How do I heat up metal for the soldering process?
The heat for silver soldering is provided by a blowtorch. They can be small and portable if you are working with limited space, or larger and more complex if connected to a gas bottle via rubber hoses, if that is preferable. Both types of soldering torch produce a hot flame through a combination of oxygen and gas (normally propane, butane or natural gas), which is regulated by a valve to control the mix, thus altering the size and intensity of the flame.
What is flux?
Flux is essentially a cleaning solution which is applied to a solder join prior to heating. Solder will not run without it, so iFlux is essentially a cleaning solution which is applied to a solder join prior to heating. Solder will not run without it, so it is an absolutely vital component of every soldering process. Flux comes in liquid (Auroflux) or paste form (borax dish and cone), and is applied with a small paintbrush.
Where can I do my soldering?
Soldering must be performed on a heat resistant surface which can withstand and absorb the intense heat. A small working area can be easily constructed using heat resistant sheets and bricks (asbestos substitute, magnesia, charcoal etc.), which are perfectly adequate for most small scale soldering jobs. Larger jobs should only be carried out in a purpose built soldering hearth, with adequate ventilation and full fire and safety precautions.
How do I clean metal after the soldering process?
Jewellers use a cleaning solution called Pickle (Picklean) to remove oxides and dirt which build up during soldering. The solution can be used warm or cold, and the jewellery is simply immersed in it until clean.
The Soldering Process step by step
- Clean and de-grease the metal to be soldered using files and emery or wet and dry paper.
- Ensure the metal to be soldered fits together as closely as possible (you shouldn’t be able to see through the joint).
- Apply flux to the joint and heat gently to dry.
- Apply tiny pallions (pieces) of silver solder along the join. The solder should also be clean and grease free.
- Heat the metal evenly using a fine flame. Keep the flame moving and watch constantly as the metal starts to glow a dull red.
- As the metal reaches temperature, watch for a flash of silver which means your solder has run. As soon as this happens remove the blowtorch.
- Allow the piece to cool and place in a Pickling solution to clean.
NOTE: if the solder has not run or has not formed a successful bond, you will need to clean your item thoroughly before trying again following the steps above.
Once you have mastered the art of the basic silver soldering process and you are more familiar with the right tools for the job, you will be able to move onto more complex soldering projects.
Want to make sure your workshop is well-equipped for your next jewellery soldering project? Learn about essential soldering tools along with tools for many other jewellery making techniques with our Beginners Guide to Jewellery Making Tools, which can be viewed for free online here.
Soldering common metals like copper, iron, and so on can be fairly basic and boring. It is done in much the same way and the only variety you get is if you use a soldering iron on one occasion, a soldering station on another, and then a soldering gun on a third.
Soldering precious metals is another thing altogether and you should have the confidence as well as a steady hand when working with these costly metals. To find out if you can solder silver just continue to read our article. It has the information you need.
Can I solder silver with a solder gun?
Yes and no. Yes, silver can be joined together by a soldering iron. But that iron needs to be able to produce the high heat silver needs to be joined together. Here are some iron options available to you:
- Butane powered soldering iron- these have the power and the heat to make silver come together and stay firmly in place
- Old school soldering iron- the lower wattage models will not work on silver. They just do not produce the heat. You will need at least a 40-watt iron or a dual wattage model to get the job done
- MAPP Irons- these burn MAPP gas and they produce a hotter heat than a butane iron will give you. This option makes soldering silver faster and easier. Just make sure to wear protective gear when using them
One tip, when you choose a soldering iron, make sure it will fit your hand and not be too heavy. If you cannot handle the iron, you will mess up your project and need to redo your work.
Tools needed for soldering silver
As with any project, you will need to have the right tools assembled before you start working. Every job goes easier when you use the right tools. Here is a list to help you find those when you are working on silver:
|#1.||Soldering board||This needs to be heat safe and you can use a charcoal soldering board, fire brick, or even stainless steel kiln shelves|
|#2.||Sterling silver||20 gauge sterling silver wire is good depending on your project. You can buy it by weight or the foot.|
|#3.||Silver solder & FluxA silver solder paste has both mixed together and can save you some money. It comes in 1/2 tubes and you do not need to use a lot at one time.|
|#4.||Soldering iron||You know your choices already. Pick the one that is best for you and the job|
|#5.||Fire coat||Made from Boric Acid & Denatured Alcohol and you need to coat the silver to stop burns from taking place.|
|#6.||Lighter or matches||These work with the fire coat. A striker is needed to start your gas soldering iron.|
|#7.||Tweezers||Because fingers just aren’t small enough to hold the silver piece and pliers are too bulky|
|#8.||Silver prep||This cleans the oxidation when you are finished soldering|
|#9.||Steel block & hammer||These tools help you shape your silver|
How to solder silver
Now that you have your tools ready it is time to do the actual solder work.
- Place your solder surface in its position- a charcoal block is good as the soldering won’t work if the surface or the atmosphere take away too much heat
- Cut the silver solder to the length you need- do not use lead solder as it just won’t work and it is very hard to remove from the silver items you are working on. The silver solder comes in many forms
- Start your soldering iron- make sure it can produce the right amount of heat before you get started. You will want a flat chisel tip to conduct more heat to the metal. Silver does conduct heat away from the point of contact
- Apply the flux- you can use the mixture mentioned above but regular flux will also handle the task well. Brazing flux is good for silver as well
- Start a fan- you will need to be in a well-ventilated area as silver solder releases cadmium, a harmful gas that can cause health issues if inhaled.
- Grab your tweezers- or you can use copper tongs. The latter holds up to heat a lot better than tweezers do
- Heat your silver prep- it needs to be dissolved in hot water and it should be ready for when you finish soldering
- Place a pot of water nearby- this will help clean the silver when you are done
Solder the silver
Just like any soldering task, clean the solder, then apply the flux. Next, position the silver solder where you want to join the silver pieces together and heat with your soldering iron.
When you are done, dip the item into the water then immediately place it into the silver prep. After that, let the item cool a bit and then rinse it off in water again. And you are done. You can admire your handiwork or inspect it to see if everything went as planned.
One tip, you do not need to apply the flame directly onto the solder. Heat the item you want to fix or make and that way the solder should melt smoothly and flow where you want it to flow.
Some final words
Working with silver or other precious metals is delicate work. One mistake can cost you a lot of money. Throughout the process, make sure to have a little patience and take your time. Working carefully helps you avoid mistakes and wasted work.
Once you are done, the reward for your hard work is easy to see. You should have a fine piece of silver sitting in front of you, waiting to be sold or given to someone special.
Soldering silver is a work of art that takes expertise and a lot of skill. But that is made easier by assembling the right tools in the beginning.
To make this project, you’ll need to pick up these key pieces of kit:
Do you work primarily with copper sheet? If copper is the metal of choice for your jewellery designs, and you’re searching for a new approach, why not incorporate silver? Bringing together copper and silver sheet can make your design stand out, with contrasting colours and textures that will set you apart from other designers.
Here’s our beginners’ guide on how to solder copper and silver together using some basic tools and techniques.
Soldering silver to copper:
Many jewellers find learning how to solder copper and silver very tricky, because of their differing melting temperatures. But if you’d like to achieve the unique effect that bright silver against textured copper can give, it’s certainly worth learning more about.
Here are our top 4 tips on how to solder silver to copper:
1. Keep your metal clean
One of the most important things to keep in mind when you’re learning how to solder copper and silver together is to keep your metal as clean as possible. The same goes for your flux too (especially if you tend to use a borax cone, as dust and grime can easily get caught in the borax dish as you work at your bench) So, before you start soldering rinse out your borax dish and pour yourself a new batch of flux to work with.
It’s especially important to keep copper clean as you work because it’s prone to oxidisation and it happens very quickly when you heat the metal. So, after you’ve cut out the relevant design from your copper sheet, give it a quick clean with a brass brush to remove any fingerprints or residue that may have been left behind as you work on cutting out the design.
2. Get to know the melting points of copper and silver
When soldering copper and silver one of the most important things to keep in mind is the different melting temperatures of each metal, especially when you’re soldering together large elements as this can affect the way that you work.
- Melting point of copper: 1085°C
- Melting point of silver: 956°C
As copper has a higher melting point than silver, you do run the risk of melting your silver or having the silver sink into the copper that you’re working with. As you heat the metals, keep a very close eye on your silver. If there is any indication that your silver is becoming molten, make sure you move the flame away from the design before starting the process again. Getting the process right can be a little tricky, but with practice you’ll soon recognise the point at which the solder has done its job, leaving you with a new take on your copper designs.
3. Try sweat soldering
A simple way of soldering together a piece of copper and a piece of silver is to use a technique called sweat soldering. This reduces the risk of heating your piece of silver too much and instead leaves you with a solder joint that is barely visible.
Need to learn the basics of sweat soldering before you get started? Read our guide for beginners on how to sweat solder.
- Prepare your piece of silver for soldering by making sure that it’s clean.
- Now, with a small amount of easy silver solder coated in flux and placed at the very end of some fine tweezers, you can begin to heat it with your hand torch.
- You will have to move quickly, as the silver solder will start to ball up rapidly. As you see it ball up, place it onto the underside of your silver sheet until it flows across the surface.
- Place your silver sheet to one side and apply a small amount of flux to the top side of your copper sheet. Make sure the area that is covered is roughly the same as the size of your silver sheet.
- Once the flux is applied you can place the silver sheet on top of the copper sheet, ensuring that the solder is face down on the copper sheet.
- Now heat the silver sheet in a circular motion until the silver starts to reach annealing temperature or begins to glow a dull cherry red colour.
- Try to use a large enough flame so that you can heat the silver quickly to avoid it sinking into the copper sheet. If you heat with a smaller flame over a longer period, this can create certain oxides that will make it much more difficult for the solder to flow.
- Once the silver has gotten up to temperature, remove the heat and quench, pickle and rinse.
4. Use flux for an accurate solder joint
Remember that the flux will help the solder flow and fix the silver sheet in place. But it’s also worth making sure you continue that circular motion as you heat the silver– the solder will be drawn towards the heat, so this will help it flow where it needs to. The flux will burn off quickly too, so it’s important to remember to work as fast as you can.
Now you know how to solder silver to copper, you can experiment with different designs and styles. And the great thing about working with copper is that you can add varied texture to your pieces too. It’s so simple to hammer or roll a rough texture onto your copper sheet, that the opportunities to come up with new designs are endless!
The above is a short edited extract from my DVD series:
"How to build a Model Steam Launch"
The Text below is taken from my E-Book:
The Complete Guide To Miniature Steam
Many beginners often view the process of silver soldering as a bit of a "black art" – it isn't, but three simple rules do need to be followed in order to achieve success.
1) Cleanliness of the components.
2) Correct flux/silver solder combination.
3) Sufficient heat
It is not possible to successfully silver solder any parts that have already been soft soldered – the two processes do not mix.
To silver solder brass pipe unions to copper pipe you will require:
A suitable gas blowtorch:
The self contained small D.I.Y gas blowtorches for sale in most D.I.Y stores will suffice for pipe union soldering at least up to quarter of an inch diameter copper pipe. if you anticipate doing a lot of silver soldering, consider a larger blowtorch setup & a commercial "Calor" Propane gas cylinder.
For normal silver soldering, "Easyflo number 2" silver solder is recommended with "Easyflo" flux, which comes as a white powder. Some types of silver solder alloys require much greater heat & different fluxes, these are not recommended for simple pipe soldering.
A suitable surface to support the parts being soldered is necessary: A piece of firebrick is very good, or alternatively a small piece of stainless steel or cast iron fire grate held in a vice, like the type used in model steam locomotives.
Using the flux:
"Easyflo" flux is in the form of a white powder; this needs to be mixed with water until the mixture takes on a thick cream consistency. Some people add a drop of washing up liquid to the mixture, to make it "wetter", this is not really necessary for simple copper pipe silver soldering. The flux does not want to be "watery & runny".
Clean the end of the copper pipe with emery cloth, "wet or dry" sandpaper, wire wool or a scourer like "Scotchbrite".
Firstly, do not forget to put the union nut in place on the pipe, the right way round & preferably as far away from the heat source as you can get it. Apply a small quantity of the liquid flux to the end of the pipe – do not get any inside the pipe. Now, push the pipe nipple onto the pipe. Light your blowlamp & apply the point of the flame to the copper pipe just behind the brass nipple. If you apply too much heat to the nipple itself directly, it may melt! When the pipe just starts to glow dull red, watch the flux & when the flux takes on a "watery" almost transparent appearance & "spreads" a little, keep the heat applied & touch the stick of silver solder to the joint between the nipple & pipe. The silver solder will "flash" around the joint by capillary action. Turn off the blowlamp at this stage & do not apply any more silver solder.
When the pipe has cooled to a black colour, quench it in water. This "thermal shock" will remove some of the oxidization. Do not quench the work while it is still red hot!
If you are silver soldering a copper steam boiler – on no account immerse it in the acid pickle bath until it is cool – if you do, you risk serious injury by being drenched in hot acid & futhermore the rapid contraction of the boiler will probably crack the silver soldered joint anyway!
If you need to silver solder a nipple on the other end of the pipe, first thoroughly clean up the joint area as described above & repeat the process – don't forget to put the other union nut on the pipe too – the right way round! Use a scourer to initially clean up the finished pipe, some of the oxidized flux can be very glass like, remove this before final polishing takes place. Polish the pipe with a suitable electric polishing spindle, or if you don't have one of these, use metal polish & "elbow grease". The copper pipe is also now much softer than it was, the heating & quenching process causes the metal to be "annealed" so be careful that you don't accidentally bend it out of shape when polishing.
In the above description, I have not mentioned the need for an acid bath, as for pipe soldering it is not essential to clean up the parts in acid, in fact the acid will discolour the union nuts. However if you move onto more ambitious silver soldering projects, an acid bath is essential to remove flux residue & oxidization. There you have it. Not that difficult is it? But like anything else in life, the more you do it, the better it gets.
Hey there everyone! First let me say that I am in awe in looking at all the work everyone does and know that I am far from anything you do. I have started engraving here recently largely due to the fact I am a long time horseman and have a huge appreciation for the cowboy arts. I am an addict, everytime I enter a tack shop I usually walk out with a new bit or set of spurs. My wife hates it but hey she uses the bits too!
So on to my reason for starting this post. I have gotten the basics down on engraving and would like to try my hand on making my first set of silver spurs. I have a set of spurs that have no silver and would like to add silver to them. I have purchased a torch set that uses Oxygen & Mepp and got a 1" steel bar from the harware store to practice on. I bought some Medium Silver Solder and have been using Cooper to practice engraving on. I attempted to solder a piece of cooper this weekend and well it didn’t go well. I fluxed it well and placed the cooper on the bar. I cut small pieces of silver solder and placed them around the outer edge of the cooper. I then heated it from the bottom which caused the flux to bubble. Then after the solder hardly did anything after a minute or so I just heated it until the bar was red. I attempted this multiple times and just didn’t have any luck.
I feel somewhat embarassed to even ask you guys since you are such amazing artists. If anyone already has something or could help me out I would greatly appreciate any help you could provide. I have been reluctant to even mess with silver until I have a general idea on what I am doing.
When soldering silver, or any metal for that matter, there are a few variables depending on what is being soldered, but for the most part, you follow the same series of steps each time you solder metal.
First, you need to set up a safe area to solder. This will normally require a large ceramic tile, a fire brick or heat resistance pad, and an overhead lamp. The fire brick is put on top of the tile. Also, make sure you work in a very well ventilated area.
Some other items you want to have nearby are a pair of copper tongs, a jar of water, small paint brush, your solder and flux, and a pickle pot.
Once you have an area set up (we have ours in the garage), next you should make sure that whatever you are soldering together fits well. This often requires careful filing to ensure there is a tight fit.
Next, it’s important that whatever is being soldering is clean and free from grease and oils that has been transmitted to the metal from your hands. So, each piece that is to be soldered should be put into a pickle for a few minutes. After taking them out of the pickle, use a pair of pliers or tweezers to handle the metal and arrange it on the fire brick in preparation for soldering.
Once the pieces to solder are cleaned and arranged on the brick, it’s time to cut your solder. Just as the metal should be clean, so should the solder. Though you don’t need to pickle it, you want to make sure you don’t handle it a lot. Either use wire cutters or very sharp scissors to cut tiny pieces of solder. Set them aside on your tile for later.
Now it’s time to flux. There are two different ways and use two different kinds of flux. It's a matter of personal choice. You can do either of the following:
A. Use a type of flux called Battern’s. It’s light yellow in color. The flux is applied to the area to be soldered using a thin paintbrush. Then the solder is placed on the metal. This way the flux and solder are heated at the same time.
B. The second way is to use a borax based flux that is more like a paste. The flux is again applied with a thin brush. However, instead of immediately applying the solder, the metal is heated first until the fluxed area looks like glass. Then the solder is placed on the metal.
If you need some extra time to arrange your solder, then it seems like choice B works better because it also makes the soldered area a little on the sticky side. However, it seems like an unneeded extra step because choice B requires you to heat the metal twice, while choice A allows you to flux and heat the solder at the same time.
Place the Solder
Tweezers work well for placing the tiny pieces of solder onto the metal. When placing solder on the metal, it should be positioned between the areas that will best join the metal. A little solder will go a long way if placed correctly. Unfortunately, this requires some practice.
Once the solder is in place, it’s time to start up your torch. First, all the metal should be heated so that the temperature for soldering is reached at the same time. The solder will follow your heat, so try not to point the flame right at the solder. Instead, you want the flame to draw the solder through the joint being connected. Continue to keep the flame on until you will see the solder run, then remove the flame immediately.
Quench the Metal
Using tweezers or pliers, pick up the hot metal and drop into a jar of water. If you need to solder the piece again, you’ll need to repeat these steps. Remember to change to a different kind of solder, either medium or soft. as described previously.