Christine Cox

Archive for April, 2012

Soldering Series: I love a 1-handed torch!


When heating non-ferrous metals, oxides form on the surface and prevent the flow of solder and just generally make a mess. This is because 3 things are present; metal, oxygen and heat. Eliminate any one of those 3 things and oxides won’t form (or at least they’ll form much more slowly). An oxide-inhibitor (anti-ox) is a coating that prevents oxygen from reaching the metal just long enough for the solder to flow. You can buy commercial inhibitors, but I make my own by mixing about 2T. of boric acid with about 1/2 c. of denatured alcohol, which I then keep in a covered container. Before soldering or annealing metal, especially if using copper, I dip it into the anti-ox and then burn it off. The alcohol is mostly a carrier to make the boric acid form a thin coating on the metal, thereby preventing oxygen from reaching it.

Boric acid is available at pharmacies (you may have to ask for it at the counter) and denatured alcohol is available at hardware and home stores.

Burning off the oxide-inhibitor is such a quickie little job that it’s kind a pain to light the “big torch” to ignite the inhibitor, and then to turn it right back off while you set up for the actual soldering operation. While most butane torches take 2 hands to light, I use a MicroTorch or other 1-handed torch to burn off the oxide-inhibitor. It’s really simple to light and far safer than keeping an alcohol lamp burning. I even use mine to light my pellet stove!

Soon to be an enamel switchplate

Today we’re making enameled copper switch-plates. Check out those tiny pieces of wire. In spite of bad eyes, years of chain maille has made me love detail work like this.


Bench Pin Customization Series

The bench pin is a metalsmith’s best friend and its design can be very personal. So many people use pins as they come, but they can be real workhorses if you customize yours for your work style and the things that you make over and over. Grab your saw, a drill and a wood file and go to it.

Tip 1. I definitely like a pin with a v-groove in it for safety while sawing. Sometimes the type without the v-groove is cheaper, thicker or closer-to-hand. Either use a band saw or a coping saw (your jeweler’s saw will do the job, but plan on working on it awhile) to cut a v-groove into the bench pin, and then keep your fingers behind the groove when sawing through ring shanks and other small items. They don’t look like much, but jeweler’s sawblades are sharp!

We’re here!

I’m a natural-born teacher so I’ll be using this blog to tell you about bookbinding and metalsmithing. I’ll post tips and tricks, photos and lots of how-to type stuff. Sign up for our RSS feed and enjoy the blog.

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