Christine Cox

Posts tagged ‘soldering’

Torch Comfort

Most metalsmiths set up their torch like thisI set mine up like this

Most metalsmiths hold their torches differently than I do.

Others set up their torch head so that the tip is opposite the control knob. Check out the first photo accompanying this post. Setting up the torch tip this way means that adjusting the flame requires a deft little move involving the joints of your thumb and your index finger. It takes a little getting used to, especially since you’re using your non-dominant hand (or at least you “should” be).

I like to set up the torch so that the control knob and the tip are on the same side of the torch head (see photo). This way I can adjust the control knob with the tips of my index and thumb, and it feels quite natural.

The beauty of working in your own studio is that it’s up to you. Try my way. You may find it more comfortable.

Sponsored by:

Volcano Arts

Metalsmith: Triangles and Squares

Metalsmith: Triangles and Squares
(another installment in a typically occasional series by Christine Cox)

templateA fast way to accurately mark 3 or 4 corners on a piece of work is to use a drafter’s template. For example, let’s say you want to put 3 tiny feet on the bottom of a round box. It can be difficult to line up 3 points that look good. Simply lay a triangle template over the bottom of the box and then find the triangle that is closest in size to where you want the feet. Mark the 3 corners with a Sharpie marker and you’re done. If you want the feet in a perfect square instead, simply use whichever square template is the correct size.


Bookbinding, Metalsmithing and Stained Glass



Metalsmith: Sweating Solder onto Findings

(A typically occasional series by Christine Cox)

Sweating solder onto findings: Dig little holes into your charcoal block and then bury tiny findings (butt-side up) into the holes. This protects the little dears while melting the solder.pinbackscharcoalblock

Metalsmith: Graphite for Alignment


(A typically occasional series by Christine Cox)

When soldering a pin back onto a brooch, use a piece of graphite (you know, for mechanical pencils) to ensure that catch and joint are lined up. The graphite will take the heat of your torch while your pin back stays straight.

Bird brooch available in my Etsy store

Metalsmith: Binding Odd Shapes


(A typically occasional metalsmithing series by Christine Cox)

If your shape doesn’t lend itself to being wired for soldering, like this bird brooch, cut notches in the base-plate. They will be sawed off later with the rest of the excess metal. There are 4 teeny tiny notches around the profile of the bird in this picture.

Bird brooch for available in my Etsy store

Book Hardware Class

A couple of weeks ago I taught a class on Gothic-style book furniture/hardware. My student, Kath Thomas, did amazing work! In spite of having a cold, and having never worked in metal before, Kath was quite prolific and produced what I like to call The Thomas Hoard. I have to say, Kath’s energy is inspiring! Great job, Kath!

Check out her beauties.

Kath Thomas Hoard

The Thomas Hoard

1. Etched corners (most with bezel-set stones, one made to wrap around wooden board), 2. Anchor and catch plates (practice),
3. Etched strap with soldered ring for peg, 4. Textured boss, 5. Etched and pierced fastening with bezel-set stone and soldered peg,
6. Shovel strap and anchor plates

Christine is teaching this class again in May, 2013. Care to join us?


Keep that iron tip tinned

Weller 100

Weller 100 soldering iron with tinned tip

Kris sent me some questions about stained glass soldering this morning. I’ve had similar questions in the past so I thought I’d cover it here too.

Q. Years ago I bought a Weller 100 soldering iron and always had a problem keeping the iron hot enough.  It would start out great and after a short time the solder would quit flowing.

A. If your iron is hot enough when you start, but not later, it’s probably because the tip is getting oxidized. When the tip is oxidized (not bright silver), it can’t melt solder. Here is a tutorial that might help with keeping the tip tinned:

Clean Solder Iron Tip
The tip of your soldering iron should always be silver. If it is any color other than silver, stop soldering immediately and clean it as solder will not stick to an oxidized tip. Normally this is done on a damp synthetic sponge while the iron is hot. If the tip of your iron becomes black and you just cannot get it tinned (silver colored) again, you can use a Sal Ammoniac Block to re-tin the tip.

Hints to Keep the Iron Tip Silver

  • Do not leave the iron plugged in when not in use.
  • Do not use the iron at a higher temperature than is necessary to melt solder.
  • Clean the tip of the iron on a damp synthetic sponge as soon as it starts to change from silver.
  • Even when heating up or cooling down your iron, check that the tip doesn’t discolor. If it does, wipe it on a damp synthetic sponge.

The tip must be tinned and fluxed all the time that you’re soldering. That synthetic sponge thing is critical.

Q.  Would it work better if I had a temperature controller? I see that you have a mini one and was wondering if this would work?

A. Your Weller 100 has a built in temperature controller. It came with a 700 degree tip and that’s plenty hot to melt solder. I don’t think a rheostat is your answer, and the iron isn’t made to work with one.

Q.  Also would like to know what soldering tips you would recommend for jewelry making.

A. Regarding which tips for jewelry making, any tip will do, even the big one that came with the iron. You tend to use only the corner of the tip anyway, but if you’d like to try a narrower tip, I’d suggest the 1/8” 700 degree tip. It’s here:

In case you haven’t already seen it, here is a tutorial for photo charms:

I hope this helps. Hang in there. It takes time to practice keeping the iron hot and the solder flowing.

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!

Tag Cloud