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I am trying to teach myself some basic silversmithing techniques. Midway through making a sterling chain, I ran across an article in Art Jewelry Magazine that noted the paste solder I was using was the wrong kind. I am using a product I purchased through Rio Grande (Solder Fast Silver with a flow temperature of 430 degrees). After some online research, I have found some paste solders for sterling that have a melting temp of 1145 degrees. At this time I am using a Blazer Butane torch. I now have a couple of questions and could really use some guidance:
1. Is the solder I am using really inappropriate for sterling? What would it be good for?
2. Should I invest in this other paste solder or abandon paste altogether and move onto sheet or wire solder?
3. What about the chain that I have already made? I hate to waste it, but will the solder ruin the silver over time?
I am terribly eager to get back to my jeweler's bench (AKA my garage floor) and look forward to any thoughts and suggestions.
Thank you so much.
1. The low temp lead/tin based solder that you are using is not to be used for silver since you will not be able to reheat it easily for repairs. The 1145 temp is appropriate and you may want to use even higher temp solders for ease when making more than one solder joint in a project. You normally start with the highest melting silver solder and them proceed down the scale as you make more joints. Since you are making a chain you can use the same solder throughout. The higher melting solders are a better color match for sterling.
2. The choice to use paste, sheet, or wire is a personal one. I use wire exclusively. I am used to it. Some prjects might be easier with sheet chips or paste.
3. Your chain soldered with the low temp solder is salvageable. Many of these low temp solders will desolve in Muriatic Acid. I have used it to remove lead solder from sterling before I needed to make a repair with the higher temp solder. The chain can be immersed in the Acid and watched carefully. It may take several hours to completely disolve the solder. You should notice a color change at the joints and eventually you will see the sludge at the bottom of the container. Muriatic acid is dangerous if not carefully used. If you have any fears. I would just chaulk up the chain to a learning experience.
Hope this helps,
Thank you so much for responding to my query. I was in such a state. I continued to research the paste and discovered that it just isn't the correct product for joining elements, just as you confirmed.
Originally, I was so apprehensive about using wire solder but after teaching myself to handle my little torch, I feel confident enough to at least try. Furthermore, the frustration that I feel regarding my already completed chain makes me wonder why I tried the low melting solder in the first place.
I am not sure what to do with my chain. I do love it-perhaps a little decoration for my studio?! Thank you as well for the information on the acid. I think I'll be skipping that though.
Well, I think I shall go place another order.
Thanks again for your insight.
I have a bad habit of kicking dead horses.........
Could I use the 430 solder paste to join jump rings on charms for a charm bracelet (all elements are sterling)?