How to Set Up a Home Soldering Station for Metalsmithing Jewelry
I am finally reached a long-awaited Milestones in Jewelry Design. I had dreamed of working with Wire, Metal and Gemstones for a very long time and now I am finally there.
There are so many tool options to choose from when you begin your path into Metalsmithing, it is hard to know what is right for you and what to avoid.
I use Butane Torches to complete my soldering tasks, so this article with focus on that technique.
I have put a lot of time into research and reviewing online classes and tutorials, both free and paid types, so that I can make well informed choices and I want to share some of the options I have chosen with you.
The setup I use that works best for me and my workspace, but I strongly encourage you to think about your goals and your workspace as you begin to explore adding metalsmithing to your design arsenal.
When you decided to set up a studio in your home, Safety has to come first.
Not only do I recommend that you have a Fire Extinguisher on hand, I recommend that you practice using it and that you keep it in Reaching Distance at all times.
You also want to make sure to protect your eyes. As a Jeweler, you know that many of our techniques require an up close view while we work.
Safety Goggles or Glasses are a must have. Because I have to wear Prescription Glasses, I bought this style, that fits over my regular glasses.
I use my Safety Glasses for
- Sawing Metal
- Cutting Wire
- Using my Flex Shaft
- any other task where small particles have the potential to fly off through the air.
Ventilation is extremely important to your Safety. Make sure that you have some way of pulling the fumes away from your workspace. As you know by now, I work at my desk but I have two windows that provide great cross ventilation. If you only have one window, use a fan to help coax the fumes to your window.
Next Let's take a look at the Equipment....
I had to think clearly about my workspace when choosing my torches and other soldering equipment.
I do not have a designated room or studio. Rather I have a designated desk from which I do all my work, including all my jewelry making, filming my tutorials and all my computer tasks. I even photograph my finished jewelry pieces here on my desk.
So, to say I have a cramped workspace is a total understatement. With all this in mind, when the time came to choose my torches, going with the little portable types, was a no-brainer and pretty much the only viable options for me.
I currently have two torches that I use for Soldering Tasks:
- Micro-Torch– used for most small projects
- Max Flame Torch– used for larger projects and those that require more heat
If you can only get one to start out with…. Get the Micro-Torch first.
- Directs a pinpoint flame for precision soldering and welding
- Safety latch
- Adjustable heat
- Pencil flame
- Runs on butane
- Temperature: 1300°C / 2450°F
- Volume: 22 ml
- Burning Time: 45 ~ 65 minutes
This all purpose torch is a butane operated torch. The Jumbo Torch features a large flame nozzle which is desirable for various uses in different work.
- Large Flame Nozzle
- Self -Igniting
- Quick Refill Design
- Easy Flame Adjustment
- Works any Angle
- Easy & Safe Operation
- Child Proof Safety Lock
- Max. Temperature 2450oF – 1345oC
- Longer Burn time
- Higher Fuel Volume
Of note: Always use a Ultra Refined Butane and Always use the Stands when setting your torch down. You will also need a heat resistant surface to work on. That brings us to our next subject, Soldering Surfaces.
There is a wide variety of surfaces which can be used to solder on. For a surface to be suitable it needs to be able to withstand the heat from your torch and the heated metals used in your projects. You can solder on just about any surface that won’t catch fire, but there are many wonderful benefits to using surfaces designed specifically for this purpose.
In this article we will cover just a few that are inexpensive but suitable for starting out.
Magnesium Blocks are a soft, fire-proof material. They are easy to carve and press pins into to support your work for soldering. Can easily be resurfaced.
Withstands temperatures up to 2000F (1093C).
Cons – Very messy and your work can stick to them.
Charcoal Blocks are unique among soldering surfaces. When using a charcoal block the heating of the block causes it to smolder and use up some of the oxygen in the immediate area around the piece of jewelry helping to cut down on fire scale. It has a soft surface, and can be carved and shaped to support different soldering jobs. You can also get hard Charcoal Blocks.
Withstands Temperatures up to 2000F (1093C).
Cons – It is fragile, and can crack in half. Bind around the circumference of the block using steel wire to hold it together in case it does crack apart.
Ceramic Boards are small and can withstand intense torch work.
Solderite Boards are a non-asbestos soldering pad that is durable, smooth and heat-reflective. Fairly hard so as not to flake or crumble and highly flame-resistant and non-combustible. This long-lasting, all-purpose pad can be used to protect surfaces from burning.
The Honeycomb Boards have a series of open holes you can use to stick pins into. U-pins and T-pins are used to keep your item from rolling while it’s being soldered.
Once you have chosen a soldering surface, you will need to have some heat resistant surface to place your board into or onto to protect your workspace as well.
You can use sheet metal, a floor tile or even an old kitchen pan. I chose to purchase a rotating Annealing Pan which I usually keep in an old 9×13 Cake pan.
The next articles in this series will cover Soldering Supplies and Tools you will need to be successful in Soldering at home.
- Sparex Pickle and Pickle Pot
- Copper Tongs
- Solder Pick
- Soft, Medium and Hard Wire Solder
- and more
I hope you find this information useful and check out this Playlist on my YouTube Channel for more on Metalsmithing at Home.
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Thank you for all your support … have a great day.