Explorations in Metalsmithing: Creative Chainmaking

 

Explorations in Metalsmithing: Creative Chainmaking

 

Lesson Info

Prerequisite #2: Tools for Soldering

Hello everyone, when it comes to metalsmithing, no tool opens up more possibilities than the torch. But I also know that no tool inspires more fear than the torch. So in this video, I want to talk about choosing the torch that's right for you, how to stay safe when you've got your torch set up at home and I'm gonna introduce you to some of the tools that you need to get started soldering. So if you've purchased or RSVP'd to any of my hands-on classes here in Creative Live, you'll also have access to a PDF list that shares links for where you can get all the tools I'll be showing you in this video. So the first thing that we have to talk about is actually choosing your torch. Now there are lots and lots of different torches on the market, but for the purposes of what we're doing here, especially if you're just starting out, you're probably gonna be choosing between two different types of torches. One is an acetylene torch and that's the torch that I'm actually going to be using througho...

ut this class. You can actually see I've got our torch handle and everything ready to go here. The other torch that you may be considering, probably because you've seen it a lot online, is a butane micro torch or a butane mini torch. And you can see that in the image as well. So there are pros and cons to each and I wanna help you guys make the right decision in terms of which torch is for you. So a couple things to think about when you're deciding between the acetylene and the butane mini. The first one is, how committed are you? Because let's be honest, an acetylene torch takes up more room and it's more of a commitment. We've got a big acetylene tank happening here, we've got a little bit more space, and it costs a little bit more. So if you're just starting out and you're not even sure if you're gonna like this, you may want to stick with a butane torch. The other thing that you wanna think about, is how much do you want to spend? And you wanna think about that both in terms of an upfront investment and over time. Because here's the thing, our acetylene torch, definitely a more expensive setup from the get go. You can get an acetylene torch for somewhere in the $100 to $150 range, but your butane torch, you're looking at about 40 or 50. Now that said, that butane torch runs through those mini butane canisters pretty quickly. So over time, it actually could be more expensive. Because acetylene is actually cheaper and those big tank fills are going to last longer. You also wanna think about how much space do you have? Do you have the space to keep the bigger torch setup? Or do you want something smaller that you can just tuck away? And lastly, are there any zoning restrictions? There are places in the country where you literally cannot even have an acetylene tank. And if you're a renter, you definitely want to check with your landlord and see what's okay, or at the very least read your lease. I am not gonna be held responsible for anything that breaks the lease or upsets your landlord in any way. So you wanna look at those when you're picking a torch as well. Now at the end of the day, I firmly believe that your life is gonna be easier with an acetylene torch. Part of the reason for that, is that with an acetylene torch you can get tips in different sizes. And these different sized torch tips are gonna give you such a bigger range when you're working with your torch. But again, I'm not gonna pressure you into something that you're not ready for. So you can also do all of the lessons that we're gonna be talking about in this class with that butane micro torch as well. So let's talk torch safety now because I wanna make sure that if you guys are using a torch at home, you're using it safely. So first things first, if you're using the acetylene torch, you always need to secure your tank. Acetylene is a really safe and stable gas, but bad things can happen if your torch gets knocked over. So you always wanna make sure that you've got a chain and that you're chaining your acetylene tank to a table leg or some other place that's secure, you can also chain it to the wall. So once you've got your acetylene torch, you wanna make sure that you are chaining it to something where it can't fall over, whether that's your table leg or wall next to your workspace. But the most important thing is that we don't wanna tip this tank over because even though acetylene is relatively safe, bad things can happen if the tank falls over. So I'm just gonna go ahead and take my chain here, and I wanna get this as tight as possible. So I'm just gonna put this around and then go ahead and secure my chain. And now, it should be good. Not gonna fall over if something knocks into it. Regardless of the kind of torch you have, you should have a fire extinguisher handy. You guys can't see one in this shot, but I can actually see it in my line of sight. So I know that I've got a fire extinguisher handy just in case. You also wanna remove anything flammable from your work surface. So that seems really logical, but what I tend to see happen, is that we get a paper towel over here or maybe a towel because you were drying things off or you've got your notes from the class that you were taking or your sketchbook as you're working. You wanna get all of that off your work surface. And ideally, your work surface should be a metal table like we've got here. But if you don't have a metal table, you just wanna protect your work surface in some way. So laying a sheet of metal down on a wood table, even a big cookie sheet or a tray for baking, or the other trick that I like, is I like to go to the hardware store and buy patio pavers and I'll layout a couple of patio pavers on my table and that'll save it as well. And the final thing in terms of safety is that you wanna make sure that you have adequate ventilation. So ideally, that means some kind of ventilation system or something like we've got here which is just this little benchtop smoke absorber. But at the very least, you should work in a room that has a lot of airflow, and ideally open a window or at least place a fan that can kind of blow across your work. So now I wanna just take a minute and show you guys the parts of the acetylene torch. Because if you buy a torch, it's not gonna come all assembled like this, it's gonna come in pieces and so you may not know what some of those pieces are. So it will come separate, your tips won't be attached, what you'll have is your handle which is this silver part here, you'll have your hose, which is this big long guy here, you will have your regulator, which is this piece here with all these knobs and dials, and then that goes on your tank. Now, one of the things to know about acetylene, is that the tanks are not refillable. So every time your tank gets empty, you're gonna take it to a welding supply shop and exchange it for a new one. What that means is, don't waste your money buying a pretty, fancy tank from a company, just go buy one directly from the welding shop, because if it's a little dinged up and battered, it's fine, when that one's empty you're gonna get a new one anyway. Now, to put this together, you're just going to need an adjustable crescent wrench. And so you'll go ahead and you'll attach your hose to your handle, you'll attach your handle to your regulator, and then we'll thread our regulator here onto our tank. Now when you put this together for the first time, you wanna get everything tight and then you wanna take your torch key, which is just this little guy here. Now some acetylene tanks do come now with knobs down here on the end. But ours is an old-school tank which means we need our torch key. So I'm gonna put my torch key on here. And the most important thing when you turn this on, is only turn it on a quarter of a turn. The reason that we wanna do that, is because in case of an emergency, if there's a fire and we need to turn this off, quarter of a turn and I'm safe. If I open it up the whole way, really bad. So once you've got this setup the very first time you use it you wanna take just a little bit of soapy water on a toothbrush and rub it against all your joints. So here and then where your regulator connects to your hose and then you're gonna open it up and just make sure it's not bubbling because if it's bubbled, you have a leak, take it apart, put it back together. Just one more thing, once you've turned it on here, we have to go ahead and tighten our regulator. This is gonna allow pressure to come through here. And so you can see this is gonna tell us that we've got some pressure and from there you're actually ready to go ahead, turn your torch on at the handle, a little too much pressure on that one, turn your torch on and light our torch. So now that we have our torch setup, I'm gonna show you guys just a few more tools that you'll need to start soldering. So the first of those is flux. And what flux does, is it actually keeps your metal from oxidizing or getting dirty while you solder. So flux comes in a little container and it looks like white paste that you used when you were a kid. Except do not eat it, because it is highly poisonous. So this, we'll need our flux and then you can get just a cheap, little paintbrush and that's what you're gonna use to apply your flux to your metal. Then you're also going to need solder. So solder is simply a lower melting temperature metal that you use to actually join your pieces of metal together. Solder comes in a couple different forms, you can get it in wire, you can get it in sheet, or you can also get chip solder which means it's already cut up for you, kinda makes your life a little bit easier. But if you get it in sheet or wire, you also wanna get a few little containers to keep it in, because what you're gonna do, is actually just go ahead and take some scissors and you can see we're going to cut our flux into tiny little strips and then cut it into tiny little chips. And yes, when you cut these half of them are gonna fly everywhere, it's just part of the fun. Alright, once we have our flux and our solder, you're also going to need a surface to solder on. Ideally, I like to use a solderite board or a solder brick. Some people like to use a charcoal block as well. This is just personal preference. The other thing that's not necessary, but is nice to have, is an annealing pan. And the reason that I like an annealing pan, even when I'm working with a solderite board, is because I can spin it to access my work from different angles. So if I've got my torch and I need to move this around, an annealing pan means I can move the pan and keep the torch right there where it's comfortable. Then you'll need a few tools just to hold things. So one of the things that you'll want is something called a third hand because it's pretty hard to hold your torch and move your solder, so we use something called a third hand with a pair of cross-locking tweezers. And they're called cross-locking tweezers because they cross and then when they're closed, they're locked in place. You can see we've got some cute little ones, more commonly, you tend to buy this size. So we mount our cross-locking tweezers into our third hand and we do that to hold pieces in place when we're soldering. So if you want to solder a vertical wall onto a horizontal piece, like this guy here, we use our third hand to hold that in place while we're soldering. In addition to that, you're also going to want some tweezers both for picking up and placing your solder and for also moving parts around once they're hot, because we don't wanna touch those with our bare hands. And you may also wanna get a solder pick, which is basically a pick with a titanium end, which means you can get in there when you've got the torch, push your solder around, move things, move parts if you need to. You may also wanna get some binding wire. This is not necessary but if you're doing more complicated forms, binding wire, which is really just mild steel wire, it's called binding wire, you can use to wrap things together, hold parts together, until you actually get them soldered. Then we've got again our multiple torch tips. So this is what makes our acetylene torch so great, is we can use multiple tip sizes. So the little tips are really great for things like jump rings or soldering a post to an earring. And the big tips are great as you get up to bigger projects like bracelets. And then finally the last thing you need when you solder, is you need something called pickle. And what pickle does is it cleans our metal. Because once we solder, it's going to get very dirty. So pickle comes in a granular form, so I can show you guys here just looks like a little bit of grain. A lot of people also use Sparex, it's just another type of pickle, and so you can see your pickle comes in a granular form and it dissolves in water. And pickle is literally just a mild acid that you use to clean the metal. So what you wanna do is dissolve a little bit of this into some water. Now pickle works best when it's warm. So the best thing to keep it in is a crock-pot or a slow cooker, you can get a smaller size one and just turn it on warm or low, never high because we don't want it to boil, and that'll actually make it work a little bit faster. But in a pinch, really any kind of little ceramic container even like an old glass jar, anything you have on hand you can use to hold your pickle. Just keep in mind that once you've used it for pickle, it is never food safe again, so do not use it for anything else. You may also wanna have a second one of these containers on your workbench just for plain water, it's great for quenching things so after you've soldered them and they're hot, you can dip it in water just to cool it off because we don't wanna quench in our pickle because it's acid and we don't wanna splash it. And it's also great for taking things out of your pickle and rinsing it off. And one last note about that, we never want to use our steel tools in our pickle because they'll contaminate. So instead you also wanna get a set of copper tongs and this is for taking things in and out of our pickle. So that's it, that's all the tools you need to get started soldering. As you can see it does not have to be that intimidating. Now be sure to watch my hands-on classes here on Creative Live so that you can see how to turn these tools into your own amazing metalsmithing projects.

Class Description

Go beyond the basics of handmade chainmaking and discover your own creative voice.

There’s no need to buy boring, store-bought chain. In Explorations in Metalsmithing: Creative Chainmaking, you’ll learn the basics of creating your own handmade chain (including how to get comfortable soldering with a torch) and how to take the basics of chainmaking and add endless variations to create designs that are uniquely yours.

Designer and metalsmith Megan Auman has built her own jewelry line by discovering her signature style in chainmaking, and now she wants to help you do the same!

In this class, you will learn how to:

  • Make and solder jump rings into a basic link-in link-chain.
  • Create variation in your chainmaking through wire gauge, link size, shape, and more.
  • Hone in on your aesthetic to find a style that’s uniquely you.
  • Finish your chains so they’re sturdy and stunning.
  • Turn your chainmaking explorations into amazing earrings, bracelets, and necklaces.

Whether you’re just getting started in metalsmithing, or you’re looking to inject some creativity into your jewelry designs, you’ll leave this class with the skills and ideas necessary to create your own unique chain. Plus, you’ll explore your ideas by creating a series of chain-link statement earrings - perfect to wear, share, or sell!