(c) 2005 Jerry Davis

Reaching your Goal of a Beautiful End Product


Select a design within your capabilities.  You want a project that is realistic for your background of experience.   But choose a project from which you will learn and grow.

Read and research the literature for project descriptions and "how toos" in print similar to the project your are considering.

Follow directions and tips given until you get "On your own two feet", you can always branch out later and try other methods.

Follow techniques and processes being taught while keeping in mind that other methods and techniques may work as well.

Keep in mind there is usually more than one way to successfully complete a project.

Remember there is also usually a difficult way and an easy way to do a project and only experience may show you the difference.

Practice soldering, don't be afraid to start over and correct a technique if one fails.  You must learn by doing.  Practice, practice and more practice.  Try more than one method.

Develop a good finishing technique and use clean but properly charged buffing wheels.


Design > Research > Directions > Techniques > Soldering > Finishing > Success > Beautiful Product


Silversmithing Tips
edited (c) 2005  by Jerry Davis

What to do if solder melts but won't stick?

 If the solder won't stick and just balls up on the piece then it and/or the metal is dirty and not properly prepared and/or fluxed.   Clean the metal, clean the solder, flux well and try again.  Ask about proper fluxing techniques; what kind of flux I recommend, etc.

What to do if solder melts and turns into a crusty ball but won't flow?

The solder is being overheated.  It should have flowed by now.  It could  be the same as above but it could also be that the metal is not hot enough and the solder is just melting on top of cooler metal.  Never play the flame on the solder if you can help it, always try to bring the silver temperature up to a level that will melt the solder from the heat of the metal.  Heat by going around the solder but not on top of it.   Do this very quickly to avoid excessive oxidation and fire scale.

How do you clean silver for soldering?

Pumice - Professionals working with large vessels and art objects use pumice powder moistened with water to clean and prepare metal surface.  Never use dry pumice as it can become airborne dust and be harmful to breathe.

Scouring - Use very fine steel wool and gently rub over the surface. (see caution below)

Filing - Joints can be filed clean while making a joint to fit.

Sanding - Use different grits of fine sandpaper to clean and prepare a joint.

Pickle - Using a warm pickle such as Sparex or Rio Pickle can remove oil from handling and oxidation.

Flux - Different fluxes can be used to clean and protect a joint during a heating process.  The whole piece can be treated to reduce oxidation and fire scale.

Foredom or Dremel - Use a fine grit tip to clean an area to be soldered.

How do you clean solder before soldering?

Using steel wool for tarnished solder wire works very well.  Any of the steps used above will work.  My favorite method of cleaning solder is dipping the snippets of solder into flux just before placing the snippet on metal to solder.  Caution.   Clean the metal well after using steel wool.  If any of the particles from the steel wool gets into your pickle pot, the particles contain iron that can cause copper to be deposited on your silver.  You will not be happy when your silver becomes copper plated.  If you have sheets of solder, then the best way is to place the sheets into a tumbler with some ceramic pellets and some Mr. Clean and let it run for a while.  This will remove tarnish and oily fingerprints from silver or solder.

How do you properly flux silver?

Several ways exist to flux silver.  To me, one of the worst things that happens following fluxing is for the solder to move as bubbling occurs as the liquid boils away during heating.  The problem seems to be that bought fluxes are too saturated with the powdery substance.  It probably would work much better if the solution were much weaker and quicker to dry and not kick around the pallion of solder during heating.

The remedy that works best for me is to use a solution of Boric acid and Ethanol (denatured alcohol).  It doesn't show the popcorn effect as much as other fluxes I have tried.  I also use "StaSilv"  made into a paste with distilled water and placed with a toothpick.

Handy Flux moistened with distilled water works well also.

Do I need sanding boards?  If so how do I build them?  

Sanding boards can be one of the most used tools in your set of silversmithing tools.  Anytime silver is cut in any fashion there is an edge of some kind that needs to be smoothed.  It is very convenient to have boards with several different grits of abrasive paper glued to them.  Of course you can order plastic sanding boards that you can attach abrasive paper to, but I don't like them as well as homemade ones.  

The method I like to use is to cut and shape, with my hobby saw, several boards in a way that they have a handle shape on one end.  A hole is drilled in the handle for hanging the board.  The board needs to be about 1/4" slat from the lumber yard or the thickness of a lumberyard yard stick which is slightly less than 1/4".  Cut the length to about 6 to 8 inches.  If you use a length of 6" then you can get six boards from a yard stick.  

While protecting the handle, spray the area on one side of the stick where the abrasive paper is to be attached..  Spray the back of the paper also.  After both have dried some then force the paper to adhere and smooth it out.  Use a sharp edge to cut off the excess paper.  Write on the handle next to the paper what the number of abrasive this is.  Repeat for the other side with a different size grit.  You can make a plan to wrap this same grit around both sides and then you can get the edges into small areas to sand.

Next, while protecting the wet-dry sandpaper, spray clear plastic spray over the wooden handle including the grit number.  Make several of these boards while you have your hands in the mess, you will be glad you have these boards.  The plastic spray will seal the board from moisture and from dirt and grime.

You can also use boards of different shapes, such as wooden dowels, triangular shapes of wood, etc. and adhere the paper all the way round.

These may not completely replace metal files, but these are extremely useful.  Most of the time you will find yourself reaching for these less aggressive sanding boards instead of the metal files.  I like the idea of being able to sand in both directions, forward and back with these files.

I like to use pallions (snippets) of solder but all I have is wire solder.  How do I remedy this situation, I would rather not use wire solder.

Just hammer the wire flat to the size pallion you need and snip off pieces.  You now have pallions.  Keep them in a marked sealed jar until you need them.  Remember to dip each one in flux before placing on metal for soldering or spray the piece with Borax solution after the pallion is located.  The reason for this is pallions tarnish (oxidize) just like other silver and needs to be clean when using.
Use a " snippet catcher" to catch the flying snippets.  I invented the "snippet catcher"  and it works great.