Alternative Step: Soldering a Post onto Your Statement Earrings
Now we're gonna have a little fun. Not that we haven't been having fun all day, we have. And as I said, you know, you can complete all of this. You can make these earrings, the earrings that I'm wearing, all the samples that I showed you guys, they were done without a torch, right? We don't need one. But I do want to show you guys an alternative, which is to solder a post on instead of using an ear wire for a hook. Just so you guys can kind of see what we're talking about, I'm gonna slide this under our tiny camera. So when I say post, I literally mean a little tiny post that gets soldered to the back of an earring. And in this case you can see I'm choosing to put it on a smaller piece, which I'm then going to attach to my larger element. And we can talk about whether or not you should do that. So there are a few advantages. Oh and then the way this works, let me see if I can find it in here, Is that this post then gets a little back on there when it goes on your ear. There are lots of...
different commercially made backs, but they all work about the same. So there are a few advantages to this. Some people really just are more comfortable wearing post earrings. What you find is that especially women who have worn a lot of heavy earrings in the past, they're uncomfortable wearing an ear wire because they have elongated earring holes, right? So when we've got a post, now you can see this covers up maybe a slightly unattractive ear hole. So that's one reason to do that. The other reason is kind of also just a weight distribution in balance. So this kind of keeps the weight up a little higher. It doesn't want to pull down as much and some people just aesthetically like this better, right? This is a very different look having it hang from this solid plate than having it hang from a wire, right? So really it mostly comes down to kind of personal preference, but this is a really nice skill to learn. And as I mentioned, we're going to solder this. So we're gonna dive into a little torching here. So we need to figure out where we want to solder this post. So generally a good rule of thumb if we look at again our example, is I like to go if I've got something small like this, about a third to a quarter of the way down. So you can see that on this little piece. I really like to use a smaller element like this to solder to. You could certainly solder a post to something like these big earrings that I'm wearing but that would be a pretty awkward post earring, right? Because now we've lost all movement so it might be a little bit uncomfortable to wear. And then on top of that, this is actually much trickier to solder. So our biggest challenge with soldering is anytime we have a little something that we're soldering to a big something, it's much trickier because we've got to keep our heat even. And so what's gonna happen is this little guy is gonna want to get too hot and our big piece of metal is not gonna want to get hot enough. So especially if you're starting out, I like to keep my post element small and then hang from there. So just to kind of give you guys a little bit of an overview, we are not gonna go into all of the details of soldering here in this segment for... Let me get my earring back in here. Hold on. (audience laughing) There we go. So we're not gonna go into all of the details of soldering here for a couple of reasons. One, as we mentioned before in our upcoming chain making class, there are two prerequisite videos. So if you guys are really serious about soldering, I encourage you to go watch those later. So one is all about our safety and our torch set up and the other one is the basic principles of soldering. But what I want to do now is just give you guys a little bit of a teaser of the process of soldering just so that, you know, you can get excited and also see that it's not that scary. So what we'll be doing here just to kind of give you a very tiny overview of our setup. But first of all, if you haven't noticed, (hand knocking) this table is metal. So we're working on something that's not flammable. We're gonna be using an acetylene torch here, and again, in our prereq videos, if you guys are interested in learning about soldering, go ahead and watch those because I talk about the different torch types. But we're gonna be using an acetylene torch. I've also got a little vent here. This is gonna draw up some of our fumes just to keep us breathing clean air. And for safety's sake, we do have a fire extinguisher. So just so you know we're following all of our safety measures. So basically what soldering is is soldering is a process of using a lower melting temperature metal. That lower melting temperature metal is called solder. So it's a process of using a lower melting temperature metal to join two or more pieces of metal together. And the reason that we use this lower melting temperature metal is it does not melt the surface. So when we solder this, our base piece and our post do not melt. It's just our solder that gets liquid. Make sense? Alright, so the process of soldering we're looking at five things. We need our metal to be clean. We need to have a good fit between our two pieces. We're gonna use something called Flux. Flux is basically a paste that prevents oxidation. So solder will only flow on clean metal and as soon as we hit it with a torch, our metal wants to oxidize and get dirty. So we're gonna use Flux to keep it clean and then we're gonna use our torch to make sure that we're heating this up to get our solder to flow. So I think in this case the best thing to do is just set this up and show you guys what's happening. What do you think? Alright. So what I've done here is, again, I've got my little piece prepped and I am going to eye ball where I want the post. I feel pretty confident that I can place it where I want it. If you really wanted to, you could take a piece of sharp metal and actually scribe a little mark. You don't want to draw on it with a Sharpie because a Sharpie is gonna be dirty and it's gonna keep it from sticking. So either scribe a piece of metal or just eyeball it. So what I'll do is I'll start with my little brass piece here. And I'm gonna throw one of these under here. So I like to buy pre-made ear posts. I don't know if you can see our tiny little guy. Can we see that in our camera? Okay. So the reason I like to buy pre-made ear posts is because they have that little notch and they already have the rounded end. So you could certainly take 20 gauge wire and make your own post, but this is just so much easier. You can order them from any jewelry supplier and then it's like set up, ready to go. You just solder it on and move on. So what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna take my little brass guy here and I'm gonna take my Flux. And we want to Flux every surface that we need our solder to flow on. Now, Flux looks like elementary school paste but do not eat it, it is toxic. And you also want to make sure after using Flux that you wash your hands thoroughly before eating anything. So I'm gonna take a little paint brush here and I'm just gonna paint this on my surface. And then I'm gonna use something called cross-locking tweezers mounted in a third hand to hold my post upright because this is obviously not gonna just stand there until I solder it in place. So what I'm gonna go ahead and do is with little parts like this post I actually like to just dunk the whole thing right in my Flux and then I'm gonna set it up. Doing little things is so hard when people are staring at you. So I'm gonna set it up right here in my cross-locking tweezers. And then I'm just gonna slide this into position. And this whole third hand piece adjusts so I want to make sure that this is as vertical as possible because I want this to sit tight. So what I want is I don't want any kind of gap between my little post. See how that kind of moves really tight in there? I don't know if you guys can see that, but there's no gap in that seam. It's literally pressed against it. And that's what we want for solder because solder actually works through a process of capillary action, so the way that, you know, water would move between two panes of glass, that's actually how solder flows. So when I used to teach at the university level, I would make my students get out their notebooks and write in really big letters, "Solder will not fill gaps". Solder doesn't fill gaps the way that, say, welding would, right? Solder needs that really tight fit. Now what I'm gonna go ahead and do is I'm gonna use solder. So solder comes in a lot of forms and it comes in a lot of metals. In this case I'm gonna use silver solder. It's the most common. It's basically an alloy of silver and some other stuff that makes it melt at a lower temperature. And because I'm lazy, not lazy per se, but efficient, I like to buy chip solder. That's solder that's already cut into tiny little pieces. Otherwise it comes in a sheet or it comes in wire and you have to cut it up yourself. If you're doing a lot of things like tiny things like posts on ear wires or chain making where you really need lots and lots of tiny pieces of solder, it's worth it to spend a little extra money and gets some chip solder. Now solder comes in hard, medium, and easy. Hard being the highest melting temperature, medium from there, easy is the lowest. That only matters if you're soldering multiple joints, but we're only soldering one. So I think I threw some medium in a cup here. It doesn't really quite matter. Alright so now what I'm gonna do is I've got my solder here. You guys all staying with me so far? Okay. Everyone's just frantically taking notes. So I'm gonna take my tweezers. So the other reason that I like the chip solder is you're gonna lose a lot of solder. Like I went to pick one up and it just flew across the room. So they always say cut more solder than you need but in this case, you know, chip solder just make sure you've got a lot on here. So I am putting one piece of solder here on the seam and because this is a tiny seam, one piece of solder is really probably all I need. My gut instinct is always to want to over solder. I'm like, "Oh let's put a lot in there." And then what happens is you end up with a lot of excess solder that you just have to file off later. So resist the urge. In a solder seam like this, one little piece of solder is just fine. And then now that I've got this set up, before I turn on my torch, we want to do just a little visual check of our work space to make sure there's nothing flammable on our table, right? So even though we're using this as our nice little display, I'm just gonna move it for a minute. Safety first. No paper towels, no rags. We want to make sure there's nothing flammable here. And then I'm just gonna go ahead and I'm gonna light my torch. Yes?
Question before you do that.
So can you talk us through how you're, what you're... Like give us a little recap of what you said up here and you said one piece of solder and it's on your seam.
Yes, so basically what we have here is, and I don't know how close we can get, but I have my flat sheet sitting here, then I have my post sticking up from it, and right at the spot where those two meet, I just placed one tiny piece of solder. And that's what I mean by on the seam if that makes sense.
Thank you. That was the question, thank you.
Perfect, so now I'm gonna go ahead and light my torch. You always want to light your torch with a striker. You don't want to use, like an actual lighter. It's just unsafe. So use a striker, light your torch. And then the way that soldering works is very simply that solder flows when the entire piece comes up to temperature. So we're not gonna aim directly at that joint, we're gonna try to just bring the whole thing up to temperature mostly by heating our brass piece here because our little tiny post is gonna want to get hot really fast and if we're not careful, all of our solder will flow onto that post and none of it will stick to our brass piece. The other thing that we're gonna do just to be careful is... I don't know why they do this. I know why they do this but... So these cross locking tweezers have wooden handles. They do it so you have something not hot to touch but you do want to be careful about where your frame is in relationship to that. The other thing is when we're soldering, we're gonna touch our metal with about this part of the flame here. So this is actually not the hottest part of our flame at the end of our cone even though you think it would be. Our hottest part is out here. So I'm gonna come in and I'm just gonna start heating this up. And you can see what's happening here is that my Flux is turning white. That just means it's drying out. So that's our first step, is that our Flux is gonna start to dry. And now it's gonna turn clear again. And that means that our medal is starting to heat up. And so what I'm doing is I'm just keeping my torch moving. Now I can see my Flux is starting to go clear. That's a good sign. And there goes my solder. And do you see how much solder came out of that one tiny little piece of solder, right? That was a lot of solder. So it's good we didn't put any extra on. And that is literally it. And now our post is permanently attached to our metal. So now what we can do... So even though these are wood, I would not recommend touching these cause they're still gonna be hot. So then what you can do is actually take your piece, quench it in water, and then the last step is you're gonna put it in pickle. We did not mix up any pickle for this because I already have some that are clean and ready. Pickle is just a mild acid that cleans your metal. And again in our class where we go more in depth in soldering, there's supply lists and information about all of that in the prereq videos. But that is the process.
It's kind of magic, right? And not so scary.
What is the board or the surface that you were working on?
Good question. So this is a solderite board. It's just a board that's meant to withstand the heat of soldering. And then what I have underneath it is an annealing pan. And obviously what's nice about that is it's on a little Lazy Susan. So it's called an annealing pan because if you were annealing metal, which is a fancy way of making your metal softer just by heating it up, you would put it in this pumice surface here. But we're basically using it because it's got this handy Lazy Susan, which makes demoing so much easier. I actually don't even own one of these in my own studio. There is no need for it a lot of the time but it's nice for demonstration. But this is the important thing, which is our solderite board.
Learn the basics of metalsmithing to make stunning statement earrings (and more!) - no torch required!
Getting started in metalsmithing doesn’t have to be scary. In Foundations in Metalsmithing: Statement Earrings, you’ll learn the basic skills you need to start making metal jewelry, as well as the design principles to create your own unique pair of statement earrings, all with less than $100 in tools! (And, you’ll be able to apply those tools and new-found skills to expand your ideas into a full line of jewelry!)
In this class, jewelry designer and metalsmith Megan Auman will show anyone how to get started making one of a kind metal jewelry.
You will learn how to:
- Choose the right tools and materials for your metal jewelry projects.
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- Saw and pierce to create any shape from sheet metal.
- File and finish your metal pieces so they look professional.
- Create your own ear wires to finish off your unique design.
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 this class with your own pair of stunning statement earrings - and the skills and design chops to expand your ideas into a complete line of jewelry!