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Explorations in Metalsmithing: Hollow Fabrication

Lesson 2 of 22

Prerequisite #2: Tools for Soldering

Megan Auman

Explorations in Metalsmithing: Hollow Fabrication

Megan Auman

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Lesson Info

2. Prerequisite #2: Tools for Soldering

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 on CreativeLive, 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 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 going to 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 throughout t...

his 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 want to 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 wanna stick with a butane torch. The other thing that you wanna think about is how much do you want to spend? And you want to think about that both in terms of an up-front 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, 150 dollar 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 want to think about how much space do you have. Do you have the space to keep the bigger torch set up, 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 going to 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 you 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 size 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 want to 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 want to 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 that can't fall over, whether that's your table leg, or a 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 want to remove anything flammable from your work surface. So that seems really logical, but what I tend to see happen is that we get like, a paper towel over here, or maybe a towel because you were drying things off, or you've got your notes from the class 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 lay out 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 bench-top 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 want to 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 set up, 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 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. Little too much pressure on that one. Turn your torch on, and light our torch. So now that we have our torch set up, I wanna 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 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. 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 want to 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 going to fly everywhere, it's just part of the fun. All right, 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 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. 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 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. 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 you 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 want to get a solder pick, which is basically a pick with 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 want to 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, it just looks like a little but of grain. A lot of people also use Sparex, which is 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 use it for pickle, it is never food-safe again. So do not use it for anything else. You may also want to 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 want to quench in our pickle, because it's acid and we don't want to 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 want to 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 CreativeLive, so you can turn these tools into your own amazing metalsmithing projects.

Class Description

There’s nothing quite like the magic of turning a two-dimensional sheet of metal into a three-dimensional form. In Explorations in Metalsmithing: Hollow Fabrication, you’ll learn how to create volume in metal through various forming and soldering techniques and how to take those forms and turn them into unique jewelry that will turn heads!

In this one of a kind class, designer and metalsmith Megan Auman will show you how to take your jewelry making skills to the next level to create unique and distinctive designs.

In this class, you will learn how to:

  • Make three-dimensional forms in metal - including spheres, cones, and organic shapes, and more.
  • Use hollow fabrication techniques to create your own ring.
  • Tackle more complicated soldering projects. (Without investing in more tools.)
  • Finish your forms so they’re sturdy and stunning.
  • Turn your hollow fabrication explorations into amazing earrings, bracelets, and pendants.

Whether you’re just getting started in metalsmithing, or you’ve been dabbling for years, you’ll leave this class with the skills and ideas necessary to take your jewelry designs to the next level. Plus, you’ll learn how to create distinctive three-dimensional jewelry - perfect to wear, share, or sell! Join us for Explorations in Metalsmithing: Hollow Fabrication!



After watching Megan solder in this class, I felt like it was something I could take on. There's a lot of soldering in this class! But there's also a lot you can do without soldering that's covered. I have a better understanding of how jewelry is made from this class. I'm looking at things that I own and thinking that I now know how to recreate them!

Silvia Rossi

I liked this course, Megan explains a lot of things about techniques and materials and it's simple follow all the operations to create these types of rings. I think I'd purchase other classes of her.