Monday, January 16, 2012

Ask Auntie EM

By now I would hope you all had heard about the new weekly blog post here on the EtsyMetal blog. Ann Hartley of Hartleystudio and, Sue Szabo of lsueszabo , 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, got a question, we probably have an answer! To ask a question, email it to Who knows, you may get it answered next week!

Well, I'm up for this week. Ann has taken the last 2 posts on the very difficult topics of torches and fuels while I've been on vacation. We've gotten this question twice recently so I guess inquiring minds want to know..... Here's the question-

"Lately I am working with copper and brass more than sterling silver, and
wonder what kind of solder I can use for those metals. So far I've
used silver solder but get a white color seam. This is ok when I oxidize
the pieces afterwards but doesn't work with a polished finish.

How can I get ''colored solder'' for copper and brass?"

Well, I've got some suggestions for you as well as some breaking news (how's that for a teaser?). For this question, we went to our whole team to get their ideas as well.

Before we even get to the soldering, Mark Kaplan wanted to remind you all that copper and high-copper bearing alloys (brass) tend to get dirty fast and deplete flux rapidly so a good quality PASTE flux is best. Liquid flux doesn't seen to have the same staying power as paste flux. I wholeheartedly endorse this recommendation.

Let's talk about brass first. For larger pieces (like sculpture size), Victoria Takahashi uses brass soldering rods that are coated in white flux. These are sold at welding supply stores. She uses this with her acetylene/air torch.

I spoke extensively with Phil in tech support at Rio Grande and he recommends using a yellow silver solder. He says it is amazingly yellow and can be used for bronze, brass, and gold-filled metal. It is sold 2 ways, in sheet and chips. He says Rio carries "brass paste solder" but he personally recommends the yellow silver solder as a better color match. Here is the link for those inclined to use a paste solder. There are no "true" brass solders for jewelry but these sound much better than the silver line left by traditional silver solder.

Now let's talk copper soldering-
There are several copper solders already available on the market. Rio has one here. Here is another from Raw Treasures.

The problem with these copper solders is that they are not a great color match in spite of their claims. The resulting solder seam is a greyish color, not a true copper color. Having said that, I have not personally tried the one from Raw Treasures. They also do not flow as easily as silver solders so there is a definite learning curve and they require more heat.

One of the best ways I know of to deal with solder seams on copper is to "plate" them. Let me explain- just use regular silver solders and finish the piece as usual. Get some very spent (bright blue) pickle and put it in a glass or pyrex jar. The pickle is blue because it is saturated with copper molecules. Wrap the copper piece loosely with steel binding wire. Place this in the super-saturated pickle and the copper molecules in solution will copper plate your solder seams. This may take some time before a satisfactory color is obtained. Just leave it in the jar until you are satisfied. I keep a jar of really blue pickle in my studio for just this reason. This works best if you have enough steel in the pickle to create the reaction and that the steel is close to the seams you want to plate. This is why I use binding wire. Do whatever works for you.

Finally, I have some "hot off the press" news. The tech dept at Rio tells me that after extensive research and development, they have an excellent copper solder that is nearing release. Phil at Rio says it is wonderful and all the guys there that have used it are loving it. It flows easily, like silver solder and is a great copper color match. They are looking into the manufacture of it now and expect it to be available within the next 6 months.
So, those of you who like copper and using mixed metals have a fantastic product on the horizon!

Well, hope that answers your question. Happy metalsmithing til next week,

Please keep those questions coming to our new email-


Amy Nicole said...

Excellent tips! Thank you

MusaLunera said...

Thank you very much Sue!
Can't wait for the nwe copper solder!

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin