Metal in Massachusetts: I Love Soldering!

Who knew?

The ultimate project at Snow Farm, my spinner ring.

Spinner Ring, My First!

The full solder technique is clean, slump, solder, pickle, clean. Not everyone slumps but Alyssa showed how it’s very helpful, making the whole process fairly easy and straightforward with a lot less extra work in the end. Slumping is the process of painting flux onto the metal and heating it (until it slumps or as my class termed it, “schlumps”) before placing the solder. We actually did some soldering early on when we soldered ear wires (that we made) to some worked silver shapes. But it was the making of our rings that we really delved into soldering tasks.

We used mostly easy solder because it melts at a lower temperature than the sterling silver we are working with. I did once accidently use medium which took longer but was not a problem because I managed to not melt my metal.

Anyway, back to soldering (and slumping). Really, it’s too cool. The metal heats up and the flux bubbles away then I put the solder bits down and apply heat to where I want the solder to flow. Not to the solder! First, the scary bit: the solder pulls up into itself as if it’s trying to shrink away. Then suddenly it’s liquid flowing to wherever there is heat! By the last day, I could make the solder move up or down flattened wire without a solder pick! Woohoo, it’s dancing!

One of the attractions of this work is that it is subjective. The materials do something or they somehow change and I have to keep my eyes on whatever I’m working on so I can react and take the next step before disaster strikes.

Once I accidentally melted a section of my silver when I was annealing it, (making the metal more malleable for shaping and forming). I still managed to recover the piece for working and Alyssa said that melting was (another) way to learn about the limits of our materials.

As much as I enjoy soldering, though, it’s going to have to wait until I can set up a soldering station in the garage. I think my garage could be pretty good metal work studio if I can regulate the temperature.

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