Today is the beginning of a new feature for the EtsyMetal blog. Sue Szabo of Lsueszabo and I, Ann Hartley of Hartleystudio, will be answering YOUR questions in a weekly post we are calling "Ask Auntie EM". EtsyMetal has over 100 members with vast amounts of knowledge and far reaching interests and capabilities. We figured if we couldn't answer your questions...someone on the team could! "What can we ask?" Great question! Ask anything! Metalsmithing, enameling, raising, stone setting, cooking, childcare, travel...you got a question, we probably have an answer! Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and YOUR question might get answered next week!
For this first week's post we were in need of a question so we went to a group of metalsmiths we know and put out a plea for a question. They came through for us with this week's metalsmithing problem....
"What is the best way to solder a large piece that is hard to keep evenly warmed? For example a 5x2mm wide bangle join? I have lots of trouble getting the solder to flow and when it does, sometimes it is not even or it doesn't fill the seam all the way through. I have tried lots of different techniques, but none seem to work consistently."
Sue and I discussed this problem and, first, I'd like to talk about torches. In some cases, no matter what you do, if your torch isn't big enough or hot enough, you're never going to get that bangle soldered. Large pieces need lots of heat to warm evenly and allow solder to flow. A Smith Little Torch is probably never going to get you enough heat to solder a large bangle or anneal a big piece of metal. At some point, you're going to need a good size flame to solder a bigger piece of metal.
So, let's say you have a pretty good size flame but it's not *quite* big enough to do the job. I've been there...frustrating, right? You're so close, the flux is turning the right colors, everything is going great but no matter how long you heat that metal your solder just won't flow. You throw up your hands and walk away in disgust. Not anymore! Here's what you do,...you build yourself an oven. I was recently working on a piece and had just such a problem so I built myself a heat retaining wall of kiln bricks around the piece I was soldering and it worked like a charm. Here is what I set up:
I used two non asbestos soldering pads (which, BTW, I love) and two kiln bricks. When I soldered, I slid the soldering pad over the top of the two kiln bricks just slightly to hold in more heat. Worked like a charm. I have to admit, I'm somewhat of a torch junkie and have several at my disposal so this isn't usually a problem but sometimes, one tip is too big and the next size down is too small. This was Sue's wonderful idea and I will be using it a lot in the future, it saved time and I'm sure that, without prolonged heating, it will be a good firescale preventative.
What question will we answer next week? That's up to YOU! Email us at email@example.com and we we will try our best to get you an answer! Have an awesome week, see you next Tuesday!