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Explorations in Metalsmithing: Creative Chain Making

Lesson 10 of 22

Soldering Demo: Soldering Links Closed


Explorations in Metalsmithing: Creative Chain Making

Lesson 10 of 22

Soldering Demo: Soldering Links Closed


Lesson Info

Soldering Demo: Soldering Links Closed

So let's go ahead and start to solder some links. So just a few things to keep in mind, as we are soldering, if you watched our prereq video, you know that in order to solder something, it needs to be clean. We're working with clean metal here, so that's good. It needs to have that right fit, that's why we're closing our jump rings. Then we're gonna go ahead and flux. Flux is a paste that prevents oxidation. So as soon as you put heat to metal, it wants to oxidize, which is a fancy way of saying it gets dirty, so it's no longer clean. Flux is a paste that prevents that. It looks like elementary school paste, do not eat it, it is toxic. Make sure you wash your hands when you're done. And then solder placement, we're gonna actually put our solder on there and heat it up. So I'm just gonna go ahead and actually work you guys through this process. So went ahead and closed a bunch of jump rings a while. So every jump ring that you're going to solder needs to be fluxed, now there are a lot o...

f occasions where you would take a paintbrush and paint your flux on, but I think for chainmaking, it's so much faster to just actually dip my jump ring into my flux. Let me just mix up my flux a little better first. And if your flux is chunky, you can do what I did and add a little bit of water to this here, so we always want it to be more on the liquid side of our paste than on the kind of very chunky, pasty side. And there are lots of different brands of flux. Yeah. I have a question, when you say clean, what are you referring to and what do you do if it's not clean? Good question. So when I say clean, I mean free of any kind of dirt or surface oxidation. So generally, really the process of cutting your jump rings apart is going to expose and edge or a surface that's never been exposed to air. So if you cut them apart, they're gonna be clean. But for instance, if you annealed your wire like we did, that's dirty wire. So I would actually pickle that, we're gonna get to pickle in a second, but pickle is literally just a mild acid that cleans our metal. I've got ours in our crockpot here, because pickle works a little bit faster when it's warm. So you can pickle it so that it's clean. If you had something that was a bigger surface and you needed to clean it, you would actually take some sandpaper to it, but our jump rings are so tiny that literally just by cutting them apart, we've created a new, clean surface. Good question, alright. So I'm gonna dip my jump ring in here and so when we're doing our first batch, we can actually do a lot at one time, so I'm working on a solderite board here. So it's just a surface that's able to be soldered on, and so I'm just gonna set up a line of these guys. And what I have learned over time, is that your gut instinct if you're doing rows of jump rings, is that you wanna start from the front and work your way back, and then what happens is you end up leaning over the stuff that you've already put on there, so it's actually easier to set up your board from the back to the front. So all I'm doing right now is I'm just making a row of jump rings and I'm just dipping them in our flux so that they're covered in flux. And then what I'm doing, is if you notice, I'm actually lining up all of the seams, every seam of the jump rings, so that it's in the front facing me. This is because, depending on what's happening while you're soldering, you may actually not be able to see the seam and so if I'm putting them all in the same spot, then I know where it is, even if I can't see it. So now, I'm gonna line up one row. Where's my seam, I keep losing it. And now I'm gonna go ahead and put solder on these. So solder comes in a lot of different forms. It comes in wire form, it comes in sheet form. And then it comes in chip form. For chainmaking, I really love chip solder, because you don't have to cut it up. So it comes in these teeny tiny little pieces to begin with and for chainmaking, we want little tiny pieces of solder. Solder actually flows pretty, pretty well, so if we put a lot of solder on there, we're gonna end up with big solder blobs that we then have to file off later. And we don't wanna do that, 'cause that's a pain. Especially in a long chain. So we wanna use the smallest amount of solder possible, and while you can certainly cut your wire, and cut your sheet into small pieces, if you're doing a lot of chainmaking, just buying the chip solder is gonna make your life a lot easier. So it comes in little baggies. Chip solder, the one downside to it, is as far as I know, you can get it in the three versions of silver solder, so it comes in hard, medium and easy. Those just refer to the melting temperatures. And again, we're not gonna get into exactly what all those numbers mean, 'cause it's in our prereq video, but it comes in hard, medium, and easy. And then you can also get chip solder in the yellow solder, so it'll match gold filled or bronze wire, but you can't get the chip solder in brass or bronze solder. That you have to buy. As far as I know, in the wire form, so if you're working with bronze and you wanna try to get a slightly closer color match, just know that you'll be dealing with wire and having to cut it up. And that is literally just taking a container, taking our wirecutters, and actually just cutting little pieces into our container. (clicks) You can see pretty quickly why buying chip solder is a huge advantage, right? Chip solder is not perfect for all things, but it is really good for chainmaking. So I'm gonna put solder on my seam and there are two schools of thought when it comes to solder, some people are solder pick people, so they'll take their solder pick, they'll dip it in a little flux, because even though it's not designed as glue, it has that sort of secondary function of holding your solder in place. So they'll dip that in there, they'll take their solder pick, they'll pick up a piece of solder, and they'll put it on there. I've never mastered that move, so I just like to use my tweezers. So I will. My tweezers are a little dirty, so I'm gonna wipe 'em on my apron here. And I'm just gonna go ahead and pick up a tiny little piece of solder and I'm going to stick one piece of solder, this is one of those where ideally, the solder on your jump ring or the flux on your jump ring is still a little liquid, because it's gonna make this piece stick to it. When you're not talking to an audience of people while you're trying to do this. And I'm going to place one piece of solder literally on the top of my seam, here. And I'm hoping we can get in kind of close and you guys can see that, what's happening here. So I'm just gonna put one piece of solder, I hope that's where that seam is. This is how you can see why we... Tweezers are really dirty. This is why you can see we need to make some extra jump rings, because maybe I didn't quite line up the solder to the right piece. Again, things like this are easier when your flux hasn't totally dried, because you were talking to a room full of people. So I'm gonna keep putting some solder on here, do you guys have questions about that while that's happening? Are we getting any questions so far? Paste solder? Yes, so. Everyone wants to ask about paste solder, because it seems like it's gonna be easier. Paste solder is basically little particles of solder that are suspended in a paste, it usually comes in a syringe. I do not like it for anything small like this, because I actually find that it's way more solder than we need in this kind of scenario. And it really ends up being super messy, so where paste solder really excels is when you've got to put something inside something else. So if you were making a cap that went on the end of a woven chain, and you wanted to solder that in there, and you never had to see what was happening, so you never had to actually clean up the solder, that's where paste solder is really great. But in applications like this, what you're gonna find is there's just way too much solder in even the tiniest bit of paste. And you're gonna end up with a lot of solder cleanup. Thank you. Sure. So let's try to do this next row a little bit faster, so you can see that it's not exactly the struggle that it was looking like there. And while we're doing that, if you guys have more questions, keep 'em coming. Once you get your hands free, we'll ask you to reiterate how the groupings work. Okay. The chain groupings. And so, folks out there, you were asking about that. We will get to that when Megan's hands are free. Is there, while my hands are busy, was there specific questions that they had on that? They were just a little unclear on the concept. Okay, and I'm actually going to hold off on that, because I think that's gonna, that's literally what we're gonna work through. Exactly right. We're workin' through it. And so I think, hopefully, that'll become really clear to you guys, but basically if we're thinking about those groupings, all I'm doing right now is I've literally taken half of my jump rings, so if I needed 40 for that chain, plus let's say an extra 10, so let's say we were doing 50. I would've taken 25, and actually because of the way the math works, you should do half plus one. So if I was making that hypothetical chain, I would take 26 of my jump rings and do exactly what I'm doing right here. Which is laying them all out on my board, fluxing them, and putting solder on them. And tell me a little bit about your workflow in the sense of design. Do you have this chain pretty much fully designed in your head at this point, and so you know how many rings you want? Yes, so a lot of times what I will do is if I'm designing a new chain, I will cut my links and I'll probably preassemble everything before I've soldered just to get a sense, at the very least I will go ahead and assemble a section of it so I can get a sense of length, but usually, I'll preassemble something the first time around and then deconstruct it and go back into this workflow. And as we get a little bit further in the day, we'll talk about how this workflow varies if you are doing, the seam was over there, if you're doing chains with multiple links or different kinds of configurations 'cause a lot of the chainmaking that I do it's not a simple link in link, so you might have to alter the order of what we're doing a little bit. Thank you. Perfect, so let me get just the solder on this last row here and then we'll actually go ahead. This should give us enough pieces that hopefully you guys can start to see what this solder process looks like. We have a question from ah, mom something, what do you do sorry, what do you use to solder dark annealed steel wire? Hmm, so I do not solder steel wire. I weld it, which we are not talking about in this class, because it is a more advanced technique and it actually, you cannot use the torch we're using, so. Thank you. But, I personally don't, if you really wanted to solder steel wire, you can actually do this, it's just a little bit trickier, because dark annealed steel wire is dirty, and so you really have to clean it back in order to solder it. Alright, so now I've got my little row of jump rings set up, and obviously I've got a few more here, if I was doing this in my own studio, I would go ahead and fill this entire board, but you guys don't wanna watch me fill an entire board. I think this is enough for us to see the soldering process. So now I'm gonna go ahead and I've got my torch, and with jump rings, you wanna use a fairly small torch tip. So we are using a smith acetylene torch here. As I mentioned in our prereq videos, if you have a butane microtorch, you can certainly use that for this process as well, and if you happen to have a fancier torch than your general smith torch, you can also use that for this process. But this is a nice kind of beginner torch to get started. So I'm using, let's see what tip size I've got on here. I'm using a size zero tip on here. So I'm using something that's fairly on the small side because I want to be able to heat each jump ring individually, so compare that to say a big tip or even the tip size that I used for annealing, we don't wanna flame this big for our little jump rings. We wanna stick with something small, so, usually for chainmaking, I use about a zero. So the way that all solder works is that we need to bring the entire thing that we're soldering up to temperature evenly. So I just used my striker to light my torch always use a striker, don't use a lighter, it's a little more dangerous. If you're also soldering for the first time, I like to practice my striker before I turn on my torch. To make sure I can get a good spark. If you're struggling, you can also spark it against the table. So what I'm gonna do here is I'm gonna actually work... It's really tempting to think that this cone here is the hottest part, but we're actually gonna work a little bit beyond that, because this is actually the hottest part of our flame. Just beyond that. You'll also notice too, I don't have this cranked like crazy hot, like can you hear how it starts to get really hissy? We want to go a little bit down from that. That said, we don't wanna go too low. This is not quite hot enough. So kind of somewhere in the middle of this. You should hear it, but it shouldn't sound angry. When it sounds angry, that's actually an oxidizing flame and it's gonna be a little bit too hot for us. So now what I'm gonna do is I'm going to and we've got like 15 odd jump rings here, so hopefully you guys will see this happen in this process, but I'm just gonna come to my first jump ring and what I'm gonna do is you can see, i'm just gonna start going in a circle and I'm gonna try to keep an eye on here so that my solder piece doesn't jump. But what I'm watching for is this process where my flux is gonna start to go clear and then once it does, then I'm gonna come into my seam and let my solder flow. And now we're just gonna keep doing this, so hopefully a couple jump rings in, you guys start to understand what's happening here. So I'm just gonna go around. And then see how my solder kind of pulled in there. And this is also one of those where in your own studio or in your own space, you're not gonna be under such bright lights, and that's actually gonna make it easier to see. This is actually one of those processes where a little bit of darkness is actually a good thing. Can we do that for a minute? Yeah, let's do that for a sec. See if you guys can kind of see. Whoa. Got way dark in here. So I don't know if you can see that better or not. I know I can see it, but I'm not looking at it in a video camera, so you guys can tell me if that's easier to see or not. Yes? Oh good, okay. So I'm literally just going to keep doing this. And you might find, did I lose my solder? Is it still in there, I don't know. Sometimes you have to chock a link up, like that one's a lost cause, right? Your solder may have jumped a little bit, you may have lost it. So it's always this process of this very general, kind of round and round movement and then when I start to see my flux go clear, that's when I'm gonna hold on my seam. And you really do wanna keep moving evenly, because what'll happen if you don't, is that your solder will jump to one side of the ring or the other, and you won't actually get a nice seam. Like I can see that one kind of jumped a little bit, I was able to sort of catch it and get it back. Is this making sense to you guys? Everyone's so quiet. Are we mesmerized by the... (laughs) I didn't actually expect that answer to be yes. That's kind of awesome. Alright, so let's just go through the last of our row here. (hissing) I have a question. Yeah. What causes the solder to jump? So the reason your solder might jump is very simply that the flux is a liquid and it has water in it. And water, when it comes up to temperature, boils. And so, like that one just kind of moved there, so your solder, literally because the flux the water of the flux is boiling, it basically just sends your solder flying. When I was in school and I was soldering, like there as you can see, my solder just went all over the place, when I was in school and I was soldering something that was really critical, and I was worried about it moving, I would set the whole entire project up and literally let my flux dry under a lamp for like an hour before I would go solder to it, because I didn't wanna worry about my solder moving. With jump rings, it's not so critical, that's why we make some extra ones. And you can also see these first couple here, you see how it's really bubbling, that's a little bit too much flux on those. So the ones that I actually did further down were a better amount of flux. These really just, cause my flux was a little chunky until I stirred it, there's a lot of flux on here, and so that's really why it's causing my solder to kind of jump and bubble around. And ideally, when we're doing this, we don't want our links to get red hot. We're not trying to melt the surface of our metal. Every so often, you can see, I was trying to cheat it a little bit with my solder, but really, I just want my solder to flow and then I want it to move. Now, you may have also noticed, I think I lost that piece of solder, we're gonna turn that off. Alright, we can go back to our regular lights. SO you might have also noticed in here, that actually these started as brass links and now they're looking kind of coper colored. That can happen when you're soldering, and it may also happen when you put them in the pickle. Do not panic, that is perfectly normal. So brass is an alloy of copper and some other metals and a lot of times when you heat something, that will come to the surface. I'm gonna show you guys a little trick in segment four called hyper pickle that's actually gonna take that brass or that copper color right off and bring our brass back to brass color, so don't panic about that if that happens to you. Now once you have soldered these links, you can go ahead and first quench them. So we never want to quench our pieces in the pickle. We wanna go ahead and quench them in water first, because pickle is acid and we don't wanna drop hot things into it. So I'm just taking all of these off. You'll notice sometimes when you do this, like they might stick to your board a little or might even take a chunk of the solder board with it. That's normal, soldering boards do not last forever. Eventually they get kind of chunky, they break down, they have got flux all over them, they're fairly inexpensive, so when yours starts to just look gross and uneven, just buy a new one. But you can usually get a pretty long amount of time. So once I've done this, now I'm gonna go ahead and put all of the links in the pickle. There are kind of two schools of thought here. You can go ahead and just quench them and then work with them as is, or you can pickle as you go along. I kind of like, if they've got a lot of flux on them, I like to pickle as I go along, 'cause I just like to work with clean links. So I'm gonna go ahead and throw these in the pickle. And so the thing you need to know about pickle, so we've got it in a crock pot, pickle works best when it's warm. I personally in my own studio just use it cold, but it does take longer. But we always wanna use it in our slow cooker on either warm or low, never high. We don't want our pickle to boil. And pickle, again it's on your supply list, you can get pickle, you can get spare racks, and it's literally just a powder or granular that you mix in water. But with our pickle, we never wanna put any of our steel tool in our pickle. Because they can actually contaminate, so what happens is pickle removes those oxides, so over time, you'll see your pickle, which right now our pickle is clear. If you use pickle a lot, it'll actually start to turn blue, and that's from the copper coming off your metal. What happens is if we stick our steel tool in there, it's actually going to electrify and it's going to coat everything in there with that copper that was hanging out into the water. Which means, if you have something silver in there, and you stick your steel tool in, you're going to turn your silver thing copper. So what we do is we always use copper tongs and it's really tempting to be like, oh I had my tweezers in my hand I'm gonna use those and drop this in here. But I like to just get in the habit of just always using copper tongs even to put things into my pickle and so what the pickle is gonna do is when we are done soldering, there's still gonna be flux gunk on there, there's gonna be some surface oxidation, and our pickle is just gonna be a mild acid that just takes that right off. So I'm gonna throw all of my links here into our pickle and since we don't actually need these, I'm not gonna throw all of them in there, but let's pretend I threw them all in there, right? And so we put those in there. Now, pickle is one of those where people are always like, how long? This is not a cooking show, it's not put it in your crockpot for 15 minutes and then take it out. It's til they're clean. And that til they're clean time really depends on how strong you've mixed your pickle, how dirty they were when they went in there, and again, they're gonna look copper colored. If you were working with brass or bronze, they're gonna look copper colored when you pull them out, that's normal, it's just how the alloy works, so don't panic, they're not going to turn back to brass in your pickle, so don't wait for that. So generally, a good rule of thumb is probably somewhere in the 5 to 15 minute range, again, depending on how warm your pickle is, how strong you've mixed it. The more you use pickle, the weaker it gets. So this fresh batch of pickle is going to clean it really fast. A not fresh batch of pickle is gonna take a little bit longer. And then when you take something out of the pickle, you always wanna rinse it in clean water. So the other thing that I do wanna say about pickle while we're talking about it, is this is not something you should dispose of down the drain, because not only is it an acid, but it also has now copper in it, so it's something that's contaminated, you never wanna put it down the drain. Instead you wanna call your local trash removal place and just say, hey, I have some spent liquid that has copper oxides in it. How do you recommend disposing it? So we wanna be nice and environmentally friendly here with our pickle. How long does your pickle last, like how long will you use a particular batch of pickle? So it always depends on how much you're using it, so what you wanna look for in terms of time frame is if it's starting to look really blue. That means it's spent. So if you're doing a ton of soldering and a ton of stuff, it might turn really blue in a day or two, but if you've mixed it and you're hardly ever using it, it could go weeks. So really we're just looking for that, when it starts to get really blue, that means there's a lot of copper in there and it's pretty spent and you wanna get rid of it. Cool, and also, question. When I use copper wire, like 14 gauge and copper solder, I sand afterwards to smooth it out. I get a grayish color where the copper solder is. Any advice on how to avoid that? Yeah, so unfortunately, any of those copper, bronze, brass solders, they, if you were to actually look at this in here, you can see it's kind of a grayed out metal to begin with, I don't know if you guys can see that in our little thing. It's not the same as actually the bronze. And so unfortunately, you're always gonna see that, so the best recommendation there is that you want to keep your seam as small as possible, use as little solder as possible and then file off any excess. So you should literally only see the solder in that tiny little line between your jump rings. If you're seeing more solder than that, you need to go back and clean it off. So that's the way to solve that. Because unfortunately, it's always gonna look like a slightly different color. We've got our first set of links, so we took half of our links, remember, and we went ahead and soldered them. Now we're gonna make what I was calling, packets of three. So what I've got here are a little bowl full. And I've actually already put these together, but I will take one apart and show you guys here. So what I'll do is I'll take two of my soldered ones, and you can see here I was fairly lazy and didn't pickle these very long. So they could probably go in the pickle later, but I'm not too worried about it, because I got all the kind of flux gunkiness off of them. And obviously I'm gonna be soldering more and more. So, I'm not so worried about them being totally clean, 'cause they're gonna go back in the pickle like three more times til it's all said and done. So what I'll now do is I'll take one open link, so I've got my one open link here, and I'm just gonna go ahead stick two closed links on here and then this is always easier with two pairs of pliers, and someone asked this in the last class and I'll answer it again, there is no real reason that I have one pair of pliers that's narrow and one pair of pliers that's wide, it just happens to be what I own. Really in chainmaking, these narrow guys are actually better, if you had two pairs, that would be easier, but personally because I have freakishly strong fingers, a lot of times I often will just use one pair of pliers and my hands anyway. So what I'll do is I will take all of my closed links, so every single link that I've soldered closed I will now put together onto one unsoldered link. So every single one in my workflow will now turn into these packets of three, make sense? Alright, so now that I've put these together in my little bowl, I went through and did this whole process because you guys don't wanna watch me assemble like 20 jump rings. I've gone ahead and done that. Now we have to solder this unsoldered link in our packet of three. So when I learned chainmaking, what I was taught is that at this point in this step, we take one of these little packets of three, we put a pair of crosslocking tweezers in our third hand, we put this guy in here with our seam up and we solder this like this. And the reason that we do that is because any time you reheat your metal, there's always a chance that you'll reflow the solder from the last seam. So if this solder from our first solder happens to get somehow stuck on our second solder, then we end up with links that together, right? But here's the problem with doing the process this way, doing one at a time, at a time, at a time is really inefficient. So what I like to do now instead is I will still lay these packets of three on my soldering board, I'm just gonna be really careful about my solder placement, like how I'm laying this on my board, so that the solder of my previous two links is not touching my link that I'm soldering now and so that this joint is as far away from these as possible. So let me show you what that looks like here, so I'll go ahead and I'm still going to flux. So I'm gonna dip, dip my new guy in the flux. Set it up on my board and I'm just gonna make sure that the parts that already have solder are back here away from the guy that still needs solder. I'll also sometimes flip this so that this guy kind of lays flat. Do you see what I did there? And so while this little finagling, let's see, where'd my tweezers go? Oh, they're in my hand, see? That's happened sometimes, when you're talking and trying to demo. Solder, so this little kind of bit of finagling might take a little more effort than putting just one hanging from our crosslocking tweezers, where this actually, this happens sometimes and we just get a new piece of solder, put it on here. Okay. One more time, we'll get this solder on here. What makes this easier in the long run is that now just like I did in the first step, I can set up my whole board like this. With these groups of three, so I'm gonna go ahead and set up a couple more. And so I want to give them a little bit more space on the soldering board than I did with the first batch, only because I do have to be cognizant as I'm heating around that I'm not heating up the seams from the previous one. And just a reminder, when you guys are working with flux, and you're sticking your fingers in it like I am, it's really important that you make sure that you wash your hands before you eat anything. So I'm gonna go ahead and, so see how my seam kind of ended up further away? I'm gonna go ahead and stick that on there. So we'll just do a couple here. So when I start my second row, I won't do a whole, a whole second row, but I'll kind of then stagger these guys and give them a little more space, so that I've got a little more room to not remelt. But now at least I can still get say, 10 or so of these little groups of three onto my board instead of having to do one at a time hanging in my crosslocking tweezers. 'Cause that takes forever. Alright, so now, just like we did in our last segment I'm gonna go ahead and solder a couple of these guys. (hissing) (clicking) And as long as I'm not lingering on the ones in the back, I won't have to worry about reflowing my solder. Now this is where, when you're doing multiple joints, the reason that silver solder comes in hard, medium, and easy is so that if you have to reflow something to get something to melt, you're not actually, you can use a lower melting temperature the next time around, so medium melts sooner than hard, and easy melts sooner than medium. So if you have a hard seam and then you put medium on the next one, you're not gonna reflow your hard. But for chainmaking, I really find that you can use kind of the same level of hardness, and you always want to use the hardest, or highest melting temperature solder you can, because the higher the melting temperature of the solder, the closer of a color match it's going to be. So if we were to put hard, medium, and easy solder on silver chain, the easy solder is going to look much yellower and so we want to use the hard solder if we can. Question, Megan. Yes. Why would you not do all three at once? What's the workflow? So the reason that you wouldn't do all three at once is because you can see how as I'm heating one, the other two are getting dirty. And so, right, and so we need to solder only one at a time because the other ones won't stay clean while we're doing it. So that's the reason why, in each grouping, we're only soldering one at a time. Got it. Alright, so that's what we do there with our groups of three. That's a good question though. There is a method to the madness. So now, and you might notice, like, aw, it's sticking together, that's probably just your flux, like as soon as I quench this, you can see. We've got three links all soldered. All separate. So I'll go ahead, quench these links. And again, throw them in my pickle. So now, what you have is all of the links that you've earmarked for your chain other than the open ones that we have to use to connect our groupings, they're now all in groups of three, make sense? So let me just throw these guys in our pickle and then, again, so thanks to the magic of television, I have some groups of three that are already ready to go. So now, we'll repeat the same process again, so I'll take two of my groups of three, so I've got two of my groups of three and I'm gonna grab the end link on each of those. And put that onto one of my still open links and close that guy. So if I were to spread this out, it's now a link of seven. But what it really is is two of my packets of three, you know, I don't know why I call them packets, but they are, on one of these links, make sense? So I'll put a couple of those together really quick for us, and again, this is where you can see, in kind of wanting to work quickly, I'm closing these with my fingers. Clearly, I can get a nice, tight fit with my fingers. If you can't do that, use your pliers. This is where 15 years of bending really hard wire gives me a little level of control. And then just like we did with the last grouping, I'm gonna do the same thing, I'm not gonna try to hang these, 'cause I like to be as efficient as possible, so if it means that I can get a couple done here, I will do that. So I'm gonna go ahead and, again, just kinda hold my end guy here, I'm gonna make sure that my seams are not touching. And I'm just gonna go ahead and dunk that guy in there. Same thing here. Dunk that guy in. The other thing just to kind of know is that as you're working, your solderite board will, it does hold a little bit of heat. It will get warmer. It's not enough to burn you, but what you'll notice is like, why does it seem like my flux is drying faster the longer I continue to work? It's because there's a little bit of heat in your solderite board now. And I should also mention that a solderite board is not the only surface that you can solder on, you may have seen people soldering on solder bricks, you may also see them soldering on charcoal blocks. Any of those are fine, I find that a lot of it is kind of personal preference. Charcoal blocks, people tend to like because the charcoal reflects more heat, so it actually heats your piece from beneath more. But I find them to be a little bit kind of dirty and messy for my taste. Solder bricks work, I find them a little bit kind of crunchy, like I like that this is kind of a nice smooth hard surface. The one thing that I never recommend that anyone use for any kind of soldering is a steel screen on a tripod. So if you for some reason, in your learning to solder, have encountered a tripod with a steel screen on it and the reason that people like them is because you can heat from underneath, which if you're doing a bigger thing, gives you some kind of additional heat direction. The problem is that that steel screen is a huge heat sink. It draws all the heat away from your piece and sucks it up into that steel screen. So if you've been trying to solder at home and you're doing it on a steel screen and a tripod and you're like Megan, I hate soldering and I cannot master it. Switch to a different surface and you'll probably have a lot better luck. Alright, so let's go ahead and just solder these three. Do we have some questions? Glasses? I don't usually wear them for this. Yes, we have a really good one, Megan, I'm enjoying the class, can you talk a little bit about ventilation? Especially with soldering copper and brass. Yes, so that is an excellent question and you can actually see here, we have this little benchtop ventilator here on our table. This is something that I think you can get for like $35-40 on Amazon, I highly recommend it. And we do talk a little bit more about safety and ventilation in that prereq video as well. But this is a really good starting point. In my own studio, I actually have a kind of jerryrigged kitchen vent hood that I bought at a yard sale and set up behind my soldering area. If you don't have something like this, or something like a vent hood, I always recommend putting a fan to kind of blow things across, an opened window is always nice, if you can do it. Anything that kind of keeps the air circulating through the room. The biggest thing that you don't wanna actually be breathing in is the flux itself. So the more ventilation you can have in the room, the better, but this little desktop guy will actually draw fumes out. It does a nice little job. And also I should point out, in terms of safety, that we have a fire extinguisher sitting down here as well. Read my mind, thank you. Yeah. And then also, do you clean your solderite board? Do you do any cleaning on that board? I don't, I usually try to keep one side a little bit nicer 'cause you can solder on either side, so some of our students may have noticed right before the segment, I flipped it over. 'Cause I was like, ooh, this side is cleaner. But generally they're inexpensive enough, and they kind of just break down over time, so when it starts to just get really gunky and gross, I just throw it out and get a new one. And can you talk a little bit about the tray underneath? Yes, yeah. So what I have right here, is this is sitting on an annealing pan, so it's called that because obviously when we used it earlier for annealing it's got this pumice in here. And this is just something, when you're trying to heat up something big or anneal, this works really well. The reason that we're using it here in the studio is obviously that it spins. Which is just a really, really nice solution when you're trying to make sure that the camera guys can see what's happening, or that you guys can see what's happening. It's a nice to have, it's not a necessary. I actually do not own one of these. I just work on my worktable. And you also notice, our worktable's metal. So if you aren't working on a metal surface, get a sheet of metal and lay it down so it's a little safer, you can also use I actually use, in my own studio, I have a metal table, but then I put patio pavers on it. 'Cause those are also slightly fire resistant and then I put my solderite board, or whatever I'm soldering out on top of that. And I want to add one more thing, this is our little third hand, here. And we happened to, for convenience sake, get a third hand which holds, again, our crosslocking tweezers. We got one that attaches to this board. But you can get third hands that are just stationary and stand still. Cool, couple more. Yeah. Home Depot for the sheet metal, right? Yeah, so I would just get a sheet of galvanized steel at Home Depot, Lowes, any hardware store. Like a nice 2x4, 2x3 kind of piece of metal. I've also seen people use those big cookie, baking sheets, like a half tray or even a full tray like you would us at an industrial restaurant supply, you could get a nice tray like that as well. Thank you, and here's a question from Amy Clemm, when I'm working with sterling, do I need to flux all the links in a packet of seven, even if I'm just soldering one link to prevent fire scale? Yes, so that's a really good question. So just so anyone who has not worked with silver before, with sterling silver, something that you have to be concerned with is something called fire scale. So what fire scale is is sterling silver is an alloy of fine silver and copper but as you heat it, the copper wants to come to the surface and you get this kind of grayish shadow in your surface, that's called fire scale. If you're working with links, I would probably dunk the whole thing in my flux, just 'cause it does give you a little bit more of a level of protection from your sterling silver. If you are super frustrated by fire scale, you can also switch to argentium. It will fire scale, but at a much slower rate than sterling silver. It's another reason that people like it. And it's because the copper content is slightly lower. Thank you. Sure. Alright, so let's go ahead and solder these little packets here. (clicking) (low hissing) And just like with anything, soldering is really a practice makes perfect kind of thing. Every metal solders a little bit differently. Every metal kind of heats a little bit differently, so I do recommend practicing with brass, or bronze, or copper when you're first learning, because you may end up melting things, especially with something small like jump rings. Melting could occasionally be part of the game. And what happens is, silver melts at a lower melting temperature than a lot of these, so that lower melting temperature is much closer to the melting temperature of our solder and so you're much more likely to melt a silver jump ring than you are to melt these brass guys that we're working with here. And so I recommend practicing with some of this before you jump over to silver. Just to get comfortable with the process. But the more you do it, the easier it gets for sure. So now I've made my groups of seven. And I'm gonna go ahead and quench these. And again, I would throw these guys in the pickle to clean them up. And from here, in terms of what you're doing with your order, you kind of wanna make a judgment call. So obviously if you're thinking about our 10x chain earring challenge, I'm just gonna dry this off on my apron here so that I'm not holding totally wet metal. If you're thinking about our 10x chain earring challenge, a seven link chain maybe all you need. And of course you can certainly stop earlier. You can see these are, there's my hair in there. You guys don't need to see that. You can see these are pretty giant links. So a group of three was all I wanted for that. And of course, if you are thinking, well, I want five links for my earrings, you could do your packet of three and then add one more open link one more closed link to get five. So you can kind of make a judgment call from there, but if you're building a longer chain, then you can, again, continue to repeat this process. So you would take two of your sevens, put them together on one open ring. And put that together. This is typically the part in the process, where if I'm making a longer chain, I start to get really impatient, so I might take another packet of seven, put that onto this guy as well and I will solder both of these links at the same time. And I'll show you guys that. The reason that I might do that is because I can set these two links up even though they're connecting the same chain, I can set them up far enough on my board, that I'm not gonna make one dirty while I'm soldering the other one. So let's go ahead and just do that. So this is, like I said, you kind of build the packets but then if you're like me, you get impatient and you're like I just want my chain to be done. So then we go ahead, I'll put these two down, I'll give 'em a little space. And you'll just continue to build out your chain, kind of following this process. Until it's the length that you need it to be. And while I'm doing that, did we kind of answer all the questions about the workflow of the packet of three, packet of seven, are people getting that, or is there still a little confusion. I think the demo is really helping, thank you. Yeah, that's what I figured, that once we did it, it would clear it up. And especially what you said about the when you're impatient and you bring in that extra one, one open one closed. 'Cause that's a big concept, right, the one open one closed concept. Right. And you can see here, I accidentally, my solder is not where I want it to be. And so I'm actually, and then of course my flux dried a little bit, my solder's a little stuck. So what I'm doing here, now, this is a good thing to see. It's nice when you guys see the impatient stuff. 'Cause then it shows you all the little cheats, right? So my solder moved, I'm just putting it back where I want it. And I think now I lost it completely. There it is. See. This is why you should pay attention to what you're doing, instead of talking to a room full of people. Alright, we'll just skip that one and do our other guy. So now at this point, you can see my solder didn't flow. And my link got really dirty. The fix for this is stick it in the pickle and clean it or even, in this case, what I could do, because I've got extra links, is I could go ahead and quench this really quick and just throw a new link in there that's actually clean. 'Cause at this point, trying to solder this... Can you guys see that there? So see how this whole link now has turned black and so trying to shove a piece of solder in there it's not gonna wanna flow. It's probably gonna flow on this side where there's still a little flux, but it's not gonna flow on that side. So I would just go ahead and quench this and, again, since in this case, I know I have extra links, I would just take this guy back out, throw him in my scrap bin, so if I have links or pieces of wire that I'm not using I do save those for scrap. This is a question that came up in the last class, but we'll answer it here. You do wanna save any scrap metal that you generate. Because you can recycle that. So obviously, silver and gold being very valuable, you definitely wanna save those scraps. You can send silver and gold back to most jewelry suppliers are also refiners, so you can send your scraps back to them and they will either give you money or give you trade in on new silver. So you could send your silver scrap in, and usually they give you a better rate if you trade it for new raw material. 'Cause obviously, that makes them more money. But then even like brass, bronze, and copper. Those can be taken to a commercial scrapyard. So usually it takes me a pretty long time, like I might make a scrap run of those like once every couple of years, but I just save 'em in a little bucket in my studio and take 'em from there. So yeah, so I put that new fixed link in there, and go ahead and solder that again. So questions about the basic chain process or anything as we're kind of moving forward there? Yeah. So pretty much the link that you tried to solder, it didn't work, so you just dump it. There's no way to fix it? So in this case, because the solder didn't flow to that link, I could throw it in my pickle, clean it, and I could still use it. Okay. What I wouldn't try to save is if it had gotten some solder, like if the solder had jumped to one side. I would just scrap that, because trying to clean that solder off is just way too much work for the simple task of picking up another jump ring. Okay. Yeah. Thanks. And Sonia B would like to know, when soldering gold filled wire, what type of solder would you use. So for gold filled wire, I recommend yellow silver solder. You can get it, what's nice is you can get it in our handy chip solder, it just looks yellow instead of silver. So that's what I would use. You wanna be careful when you're heating gold filled solder, because you can actually burn off the gold coating if you overheat, so just like I said with silver. Gold filled is more expensive, it's actually more expensive than silver wire. I think right now, silver wire is somewhere in the $20-25 an ounce range, and you're lookin' at probably about $50-55 an ounce for gold filled wire. So definitely a little more pricey, so again, I would practice on brass and things first. And then once you get comfortable, go to your gold filled wire. But use that yellow silver solder, it's gonna be your closest color match. Thank you and, oh yes. You talked about how different types of metal could be easier or less challenging to work with, what about the gauge? That's a great question, so the thicker the gauge, it's gonna take a little bit more heat to do that. So if I was soldering a really thick link, I may even, I would do two things, one I might actually step up the size of my torch tip by one, so I would just go a little bit hotter so I can get it a little bit hotter, a little bit more up to temperature quickly. And the second thing is that if you've got a really thick link, you may need more solder. So if you've got something that's like 12 or 10 gauge, that one little piece of chip solder we used may not actually be enough to flow through the whole seam, and so in that case, I would probably put two little pieces of chip solder on there. Okay. After the group of seven, do you keep adding in threes to make 10? Only if you need 10. So if you need 10, you could do 7 plus 3, but typically you take all of your threes and turn them into sevens and then it's joining all of the sevens together, does that make sense? Or like I did, by the time I got to seven, I decided that was enough that I could basically turn it into a long chain. So yeah, you always double the packet, so it's threes to sevens, 7s to 15s, if you wanna do it the right way. And then it would be like 15s to 31s or whatever that number is. Is there an app for that? (laughing) I wish there was, it really is one of those that kind of just becomes intuitive. Over time, you start to see sort of what makes sense for your workflow. You learn how patient you are, like I said, by the time I usually get to sevens, I'm like, I just want the chain to be done. Stick it all together and solder whatever's left.

Class Description

Go beyond the basics of handmade chain making 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 chain making 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 chain making, 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 chain making 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 chain making 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!



Megan' an excellent instructor and lays things out very clearly, with a lot of good tips based on her extensive experience. I've experience making wire wrapped chain and have taken a beginning metalsmithing class before, and this class had some good refresher information. I particularly appreciated seeing her techniques and process for streamlining production.

a Creativelive Student

Megan is an awesome teacher! She is genuinely enthusiastic about sharing her metalsmithing skills with us. I am really looking forward to trying my hand at designing and making a chained necklace on my own soon.

Vernell Bevelander

Another excellent class! Thank you Megan!