Skip to main content

Foundations in Metalsmithing: Bracelets

Lesson 14 of 25

Soldering A Basic Round Or Oval Wire Bangle


Foundations in Metalsmithing: Bracelets

Lesson 14 of 25

Soldering A Basic Round Or Oval Wire Bangle


Lesson Info

Soldering A Basic Round Or Oval Wire Bangle

Now we're gonna turn our attention to the torch and hopefully we can get a few more of you over your fears of the torch because as you're about to see, it really gives us a much broader range of possibilities for types of bracelets that we can make. So what we're gonna do now is just use our torch and talk a little bit about soldering and make a lot of different shapes of bangles, we're gonna stick with bangles for a little bit, out of both sheet and wire. For starters, let's just talk about soldering a basic round or oval wire bangle. So that's again, if we think back to some of our examples, literally just our nice, simple little wire bangles and we can really do this out of thin gauge, we can do this out of thick gauge. There's a lot of options here and the process is really the same. So the first thing that we have to do is determine the length of our wire bangles and this is going to look super familiar to you guys. So we're gonna do again that inner diameter of bracelet plus our ...

metal thickness times 3. and since in this case it's wire, so it's not gonna be greater than 4 millimeters, we don't need to add on any extra and we also don't need to add on any extra for our... We don't have to add any extra for overlap, because we're not overlapping this time. We're actually doing a nice simple butt seam to make those fit together. So again, these are kind of common bangle diameters, but your best bet if you're trying to make stuff for yourself is to find a bangle that you have at home that you like the way it fits, measure that diameter, add in the thickness of your metal. We've got our metal thicknesses here. So add in the thickness of your metal and then multiply it times pi, 3.14, and that's gonna get you the length. So I went ahead, and again, just to remind everybody that if you purchase this class, all of this sizing, bracelet, calculation craziness is in a very handy PDF for you, so when you're like, "Oh, what did Megan say "about how to figure out that math?," it's all there for you. It's pretty simple. So what I went ahead and did is I actually just cut some of this to length, so I did the math in advance, cut up some different gauge wire, and all of this wire, again, wire comes in spools, big coils. You can just cut it off with your wire cutters and then we're gonna file our ends. So hopefully, those of you who are watching this class you watched our great pre-req videos that we have here. We talk a little bit about soldering basics, soldering safety setup, so I'll allude to some of that here as well as we're going forward, but we also really dive into detail on that on those pre-req videos which are free for anyone to watch. So first of our basics of soldering, we need to make sure that our metal is clean and that our metal fits well together. So the number one rule with soldering is that solder does not fill gaps. So, if you aren't familiar with solder, solder is actually a lower melting temperature metal that when heated will flow between the metals that we're trying to join. So when we talk about solder, what we're talking about here is not what you picture with, say, a soldering iron. This actually melts at a higher temperature, but it makes a much cleaner join. So if you're ever seen anything that's soldered with a soldering iron, right, it's kind of like glumpy and not so pretty. Yeah, that's not what we're doing here. We're actually look for nice clean joins where you have to almost look pretty hard to see the solder seam. So that's what we're gonna be working with here. The other thing is that when we have our solder, solder comes in a couple different forms and you can choose the way that you want to buy it. So standard solder, for a long time, has always just been silver solder. So regardless of whether you're working with brass or bronze or copper or silver, you used silver solder, and that comes in sheet form, so this is some silver solder in sheet form, it comes in wire form, and it comes in my favorite which is chip form, which is where the little pieces are already cut for you. We'll talk about how to cut those in a second if you don't-- But, now they're starting to offer what is essentially silver solder in other colors. So this is actually bronze solder, so if I were using this with bronze wire, I'm gonna get a little closer color match versus using silver solder on bronze where you're gonna see that silver seam. Make sense? So there are lots of options and, again, when you RSVP for this class, there are links for where to buy the solder in that PDF. So if you guys are like, "I don't know where to buy solder, "Megan," it's all in that PDF for you. You get that free when you RSVP for the class. So, what we want to do is we want to make sure that we've got a nice fit in whatever we're trying to solder because, again, solder will not fill gaps. So the first thing we're gonna do is we're actually gonna take our wire. So I've, again, cut these to length. I did our bangle calculations. Now I need to go ahead and actually file the ends of this flat so that when I bring it around, it's going to fit nicely. So I'm going to come over here to our bench pin and I'm just going to go ahead and file. (file rasps) See if I can find a better angle. File this so it's nice and flat. I'm not trying to round it. I really want it to be just a nice flat seam here. (file rasps) So I'll do both sides. (file rasps) And again, as I mentioned in our previous lesson, if you're cutting wire, you can also cut wire with your jeweler's saw and it's gonna give you a nice flat cut so that you don't have to spend as much time filing. So of course as I was prepping for this class in my studio, I thought, "Oh, I'll just cut all these "really quick with my wire cutters," and had a I take the two extra minutes to actually just cut them with the jeweler's saw, I wouldn't have to do quite as much filing now. But so now I'm filing this so I get a nice kind of flat edge here. Then the next thing that we're gonna do is we're gonna go ahead and bend this around pretty much any mandrel. So let me just grab a mandrel here. So regardless of whether you're making a round bracelet or an oval bracelet, it doesn't actually matter what shape it is when you're soldering it, because we're going to form it after we solder. So our only goal at this point is to get our ends to meet in a nice line. So you can see I'm basically just smooshing this, right, it's like a really, it's a funky-- It's not, they don't meet yet, but I'm getting there, but it's a really funky shape. That doesn't matter. The most important thing is that our ends meet and then we'll go ahead and fix it later. So what I'm gonna do here is I'm gonna get my ends lined up so that this is nice and perfect and if it feels like when you're doing this they don't match, then you might go ahead and just file them a little bit more. So now I'm gonna go ahead and get this set up for soldering. I'm gonna go back to our little soldering cheat sheet list here. And someone made the comment to me. They're like, "Oh, that's so many things to remember "when you're soldering." They watched that pre-req video. They're like, "It's a lot to remember." It feels like a lot, but it becomes really second nature and if you can kind of just keep your focus on the clean fit, flux, solder placement, and getting your heat right, it really becomes pretty natural after a while, unlike riveting, which for some of us, even though we've been doing it for years, never feels very natural. So I want to start working on my soldering setup. So as we talked about before, this is the annealing pan. You do not actually need an annealing pan to solder. I have been doing this for a very long time and I do not have one in my studio. It's just convenient because I can spin it, so it makes it a little easier to get around. The most important thing is what I'm working on here, which is a solderite board. So, there's a lot of different surfaces. Everybody has their personal preferences. Some people like to work on charcoal blocks, some people like to work on solder bricks, I prefer a solderite board, and, again, links to that in the PDF for this class. I prefer this, it's just kind of personal preference. The one thing that I never recommend for soldering is you might see some people talking about using, it's like tripod with a steel mesh screen on top. I never recommend those for soldering because they're huge heat sinks. So if you have that in your studio because someone said, "Buy it and use it," and you've really been struggling with soldering, try soldering on a different surface because that tripod with all the steel, it just pulls all the heat away from your metal, makes it really hard to solder. So I've got my solderite board here and I've got my shape where my ends meet. So what I'm gonna do now is actually go ahead and I'm gonna add my flux, but before I do that, I want to get my solder prepped and ready because we don't want our flux to dry while we're messing with our solder. I'm actually using chip solder, so it's already cut in tiny pieces, but if I wasn't using chip solder, I would need to prep some solder in advance by actually either cutting the sheets or cutting the wire. So I'm just trying to find-- So solder, if I look at these here, these are actually stamped hard, medium, easy. Solder melts at different temperatures, so hard melts at the hottest temperature, easy melts at the lowest temperature. The reason that that's important is if you are doing multiple solder joints in one piece, you'd start with hard, work your way towards easy so you don't reflow other joints. We go into this in a little bit more detail in our pre-req videos too. For most of what we're doing here, it's not super critical because we're probably putting one joint in or maybe two at the most, so I think, this just happens to be medium solder poured in here, so I'm just gonna use medium solder. So if I were gonna use my sheet solder, so what I do to cut sheet solder is I actually cut like a little fringe, so I'll cut little strips and then then want to curl up so I'll kind of flatten them, and then over my container I'll just cut them. (scissors click) You can see how buying chip solder that's already cut up makes your life a lot easier, right? But if you happen to buy sheet solder, that's how that works. And then wire solder, you can just cut with your wire cutters into tiny little pieces or some people like to hammer it flat and then use their scissors to cut it out so that it's little flat pieces instead of little coils running around. Again, I really like to buy chip solder because it's easier, but certain things, like the bronze and the brass solders, only come in wire solder form, so if you're trying to get that closer color match, you'd just know that you'll be dealing with wire and cutting it up yourself. So I've got my solder cut and prepped and ready, now I'm gonna go ahead and get my flux. So a couple things about flux. Flux is toxic. It looks, this is paste flux, so it actually looks an awful lot like the paste that you used when you were a kid in school, but you definitely don't want to eat this one. It is toxic. So make sure after you're done using it you always wash your hands before you eat food or touch your face or touch your mouth and the general rule of thumb is if you were using flux and then you taste something salty, that's flux, so stop, wash your hands, wash everything, start over. So some people are like, "Oh, flux is a glue "that holds your little solder pieces in place." No it's not. The role of flux is to actually keep your metal from oxidizing when you're heating it up. So if you remember from our annealing demo, as we start to put the torch on our metal, it starts to change colors, it starts to oxidize but solder only likes to flow on clean metal so we want to put the flux on because that's basically gonna create a protective coating that lets our metal stay clean as it comes up to temperature. So depending on what I'm doing, sometimes I like to dip in flux, but sometimes I'll just paint on. For most things, really the only place you actually need flux is the seam that you're soldering so I'm not going to bother to paint flux on this whole thing. I do know that when some people who work with silver, they will flux the entire piece, just to help prevent fire scale. If you aren't familiar with fire scale, what happens when you solder sterling silver is that the copper wants to separate from the silver and it gives you kind of this gray purple ghosting, so some people say that fluxing more of the metal will prevent that but on brass and bronze and copper it's not something you have to worry about so I usually just flux the seam. Then I'm going to go ahead and I'm gonna take my tweezers, which are somewhere in this pile, and I'm gonna add my solder right to my seam. So it's really tempting, and I am as much tempted by this as anyone, to want to stick a bunch of solder on there just in case, but then it's really messy and it's more solder you have to clean up later so the least amount of solder you can use, the better. So I'm putting one tiny little piece on here. It is sort of a thick gauge, so I'm probably gonna put, and these chips solder pieces are nice and small. You can see that they're like pretty tiny, so I might put a second one actually just down at the bottom of the seam. You can't even quite see. I actually tucked it underneath there. So I put that on there just so that, you know, I feel like I needed that second piece just to cover the thickness of this wire. This is like 12 gauge so it's a little bit thicker. So before we light the torch, just a couple more things. Again, we took all the flammable stuff off of our table, so we're working in a space that's not flammable. This is a metal table. If you don't have a metal table, get like a nice sheet of metal, like a nice piece of galvanized, at a hardware store and just lay that down. Even like a half of a baker's cookie sheet or something will be perfect to protect your work surface. Even with the solderite board, you still want to protect whatever surface in case you, like me, talk with your hands, and then suddenly your torch is over here, so we want to be careful of that. The other thing is that we do have a little ventilation system here to draw things out. If you don't have something like this little desktop ventilation system, make sure that you're working by an open window or like an open window with a fan blowing across is even better. In my own studio I have a modified kitchen hood that I got at a yard sale and then made my husband rewire and use that to draw the vents up. So there's a couple different options for that as well. If you work in a garage or an empty space like that, usually you're pretty good. The other thing is, because flux is not good for you, you also don't want to like stand over this and breathe it all in while you're soldering. I mean, you've got a hot torch here, so you really don't want to do that anyway, but just be kind of careful about that. Alright, so now we're gonna go ahead and light our torch. So I am just using a standard acetylene jeweler's torch. I like them and I think they're simple, they're easy, they're a good place to start. If you happen to not have that, but you have a butane micro-torch, it's basically like a beefier version of what you use to make creme brulee, you can use that for a lot of this too. So if you're not quite ready to step up to an acetylene torch, the butane micro-torch is a good option to try. Just know that over time, even though it's less expensive in the beginning, over time it can be more expensive because those butane canisters are not cheap and you'll run through them much faster than you will a big tank of acetylene. So kind of pros and cons there, but either of those will work and if you have a different kind of torch, there are other kinds, pretty much any torch that's designed for jewelry or even plumbing will work for this, just not a soldering iron. Alright, the other nice thing with the acetylene torch versus the butane micro-torch is that we can actually change our tip size. So this tip size that I used for annealing is pretty big for this bracelet, so I'm gonna change this, and that was a number three that we used for annealing. I'm gonna use, let's see, this is probably a number one, so I'm gonna use a number one tip on this because it's still got a little bit of size to it but it's not gonna be crazy hot. And really, there is no rule, like if you're soldering this, you should use this size tip, it's a little bit a trial and error. I think most people err on using too small of a tip size, I would err on the side of a little bit larger, because what's gonna happen is if your torch tip is too small, your metal is not going to get up to temperature fast enough and it's actually gonna oxidize before it gets to temperature enough for the solder to flow. Make sense? So I always like to go a little bit bigger especially for brass and bronze and copper. Silver, there's a little bit more of a chance that you're gonna melt it, so with silver I usually err down a little bit but brass, bronze, copper, they're pretty hearty metals so we can really push the boundaries here of what we're using in terms of torch tip size. The other thing that we're gonna do, and I'm trying to get some of this talking out of the way so that I'm not talking with my hands while we're soldering. The other thing that we're gonna do is we're gonna do a general to specific heating. So the way that soldering works is it's not heated to the spot. We actually have to bring to whole piece up to temperature and then the solder will flow. So we'll start by heating up our entire piece and then as the flux starts to burn off, we'll see it go clear, then we'll focus in on the seam and hopefully our solder will flow. So if we can dim our lights. So, the other thing that I want to do here is I want to make sure that I've got a nice cone on my torch. I don't want to go cra-- (fire crackles) Hear how this starts to sound angry? We don't want it to be angry. We kinda want it to be just where it's sort of starting to make noise, but not like so crazy. The other thing is when we're working with this we want to actually have about this part of the flame hitting our metal. We don't want to touch the end of the cone. We want to work about here, so like an inch or so out from the cone. So what I'm gonna do is I'm just gonna start heating my metal. So I was talking a pretty long time and so while I was talking our flux was drying. If our flux was still a little bit wet, I would actually do this even a little bit slower, because what happens is your flux has water in it and as you bring the piece to temperature the water in the flux wants to boil, so it wants to bubble and so that can actually cause your solder to jump. So now you can see how my flux is starting to turn clear. See how it's gone from white to clear? So now I'm just gonna focus in on my seam and I want to keep my piece nice and even because I want to make sure that my solder flows on both sides. You see my solder flowed there? I think we got both, there we go. So now you can see, as I said, even though I know better, used a little too much solder, so I've got a little solder messiness over here and a little solder messiness over here. Ideally we want it just in the seam, so I used a little too much solder, but that's okay, I'll just clean it off with my file. So that is the basics of soldering the round piece and we're gonna solder like ten more things in this, so you hopefully by the end of this segment will really start to see how the solder works. So we can go ahead and bring the lights back up now. Whew, so bright when the come back. So once you've soldered, you do want to quench this in water first before you put in in the pickle. So we're gonna talk a little bit more about pickle at the end, but pickle is essentially a mild acid that cleans your metal. We never want to quench our piece in the pickle because we don't want to throw hot things into acid so we always want to quench in water first and then from there put our piece in the pickle. The other thing you should know about pickle is we never want to put steel in it, because that can actually contaminate the pickle so it's fine when your pickle is clean, but when you're pickle is dirty, you'll see it's gonna have a lot of copper oxides in it. It's actually gonna start to look blue. If you put steel in it, it actually basically puts a charge in there and then all the copper wants to stick to whatever's in the pickle. So if you had a piece of silver in your pickle and then put a piece of steel in there, it would flash your silver copper. So copper tongs are what we're using for our pickle. So I'm just gonna throw this guy in here and like I said, we'll talk about that. We're just gonna let all our pieces magically pickle while we talk about more things. Alright, so once you have your bracelet soldered and then pickled, so we want to pickle it so it's clean, now we obviously have these fairly funky shaped bracelets, right? So this is stuff I prepped before hand. So now what you can do is bring these back on to your mandrel to make them either oval or round. So I'm gonna come over here and just slide this on my mandrel and I usually just like to push it down as far as I can get it with my hands. (hammer taps) And then I'll come around here with my rawhide mallet (hammer taps) And get that shaped. The other thing that you may need to do is like, if I look at it this way, it's a little bit funky, so you can either put it on a steel block or even just put it on your table top. (hammer taps) One of the things you'll notice when I'm doing like this or hitting that there with my rawhide mallet is that I tend to do glancing blows and the reason that I do that is because I'm not trying to actually smoosh or change the cross-section, I'm just trying to shape it and so by doing those glancing blows I'm putting a little less pressure on it so that's why I don't just bang on it with the rawhide, I kinda like smooth it out instead. So the same thing would be the case if I wanted to take this on and make it oval. I'm not gonna switch my mandrels, but I would just go ahead, slide it on here and I could make that oval. Now at this point, other than cleanup, you could say technically this bangle is done, but one of the things that you have to consider is that if you're working with a really thin gauge metal, even if I were to do that, this is still gonna be really really soft, so with thinner gauge metals, we have to think about work hardening. So there are two ways to work harden. One is to hammer and then one is to use the tumbler, so let's talk about hammering first, because it actually requires less setup. So if I were going to give these a little bit of work hardening, first thing I would do, just like we did with the other one, (hammer taps) is put this on here and just shape it. So now I could go ahead and actually hammer this on my mandrel and I could do any kind of hammering that either flattens it or creates textures so maybe I just wanna go ahead and actually (hammer taps) flatten around the surface here and, again, in your home studio, you're a production. (hammer taps) And you get to decide how hard you want to hit this, so obviously if I were to hit it harder or keep doing this, I could even flatten it more or I could do what I'm doing in sort of light hits, so you can work your way around it that way to actually get it to work harden. You can also flatten them the other direction, so let me grab another one here. So if I put this on here, again, get it nice and round, then I can use actually something like my steel plate and I can hammer on it (hammer taps) from the top down and flatten it that way and also work harden it that way so if you were to look at them there's a slight difference. Actually, let me pull our samples here. If we look at these in here. So this first guy, it's gonna be really tough to see, but this first guy here is just our regular round, then this on is the one I flattened from the top down, like on the steel plate. So from the side, it's still actually got a little bit of a rounded profile, but then this one is the one I hammered onto on the bracelet mandrel so that it gets flat around the outside. So part of that is, again, just an aesthetic choice to see what you like with the hammer texture. So that's a really good option as far as work hardening is just to go ahead and hammer texture. The other thing that you can use is the tumbler and I talked about the tumbler in previous classes, did not bring it because it kind of is annoying because it makes noise while it tumbles and also doesn't really fit in my suitcase, so we're just gonna talk about the tumbler here for a second. So they come in a lot of different shapes and sizes. Mine literally looks like those old rock polishers that you could buys as a kid where you'd buy the rocks that were covered in dirt and then you'd tumble them until they got shiny. So basically the same thing, we've got a barrel, we've got some rotors and then you can use different media in it, so I use two different materials. The green is actually a plastic. It gives you more of a matte finish and then the steel, the other metal looking one is steel, and that actually gives you a nice kind of shiny finish. Steel is definitely preferable for work hardening. You can work harden with the plastic media, but it has to be in there a lot longer, like probably overnight, whereas the steel you could really work harden in a couple of hours. The way all of these tumbler media work is you put the tumbler media in the barrel, you add water to just cover it, and then some kind of lubricant. I found that with my plastic media I can usually get away with just a little squirt of dish soap, but with the steel, I recommend actually buying polishing tumbler compound. It comes in a liquid form. You add a little capful of that to your steel with water, toss everything in there, let it go for a couple of hours or overnight, take it out, it's gonna be shinier and it's gonna be work hardened. Okay, questions about the basic soldering of a bangle. Is there any danger of popping the solder seam open when you're banging it with the hammer. There is. Is that something you should be concerned about? There is if your soldering seam is not done properly, so yeah. So that's how you would know that your soldering seam is not done properly. If the solder is done right, then you can hammer the crap out of it and it's gonna be fine. If it pops open, at some point it was gonna break anyway, so you might as well just redo it. Megan, a lot of folks are asking where they can purchase these things, but just want to remind everybody there's a PDF with all our supplies and Megan has provided links so you can go out there and purchase everything, but we do have a question about "What do you think of flux paste "that has the solder added to it?" Mmm, yeah, so there is, it's actually called paste solder and I find that it is incredibly messy and I do not recommend it for most applications. So especially something like this where you're just doing one little seam, you're gonna get way too much solder in there and it's gonna be like a huge mess. Where paste solder really works well is if you're trying to, say you have the end of a woven chain and you're trying to put it inside of an end cap and so you've got this inner space that you need to fill, but no one's ever gonna see so it doesn't matter if it's messy, that's where paste solder works really well. For things like this, you're better off just using your traditional flux and then your chip or cut up solder. I should also mention that this is not the only kind of flux. There's like a liquid flux that you spray on, it's pink. A girl who used to work for me, that was the only kind of flux she wanted, that's what she always used. You kind of develop some personal preference. I've just always been a person who uses paste flux, so there are a couple other kinds of flux as well.

Class Description

Whether you’re just getting started in metalsmithing or have been experimenting for years, Foundations in Metalsmithing: Bracelets will help you deepen your skills while exploring the exciting world of bracelets. From torchless techniques (like forming and riveting) to more advanced concepts (like hinges), you’ll walk out of this class with a heap of new metalsmithing skills! (And a pile of new bracelets).

In this class, jewelry designer and metalsmith Megan Auman will help you build your metalsmithing skills in a way that’s completely approachable - no matter what level you’re currently at.

You will learn how to:

  • Create unique cuff bracelets by forming wire and sheet.
  • Join metal without a torch by riveting.
  • Solder wire and sheet into different shapes.
  • Make hinges (with or without a torch) to take your bracelet designs to the next level.
  • Finish your designs and experiment with color on metal through patinas.

Whether you’re looking to grow your existing jewelry making knowledge or for a new creative outlet that you can proudly wear (and show off!), you’ll leave Foundations in Metalsmithing: Bracelets with a series of bracelets you can call your own - and a new set of metalsmithing skills you can expand into even more jewelry ideas!



This is a great addition to Megan's metalsmithing series. She makes the topic really approachable. Bonus that metal patinas were added in to the class. I loved the class!

a Creativelive Student

I really enjoyed this class! It was very informative and gave me a lot of ideas for expanding a jewelry line to include a variety of bracelets and finishes.

Explore More Free Classes


Enjoy the free classes? Get 2000+ more Classes and watch it anytime, anywhere.

Get The Pass