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How to Solder Glass Pendants

How to Solder Glass Pendants
Apr
18

Our original tutorial on “How to solder jewelry with Simply Swank Tools” has been very popular. Unfortunately, we no longer are able to supply several of the supplies mentioned in the original post. I have attempted, here, to provide information on currently available products, and to answer some questions.

Pink is for Girls necklace

Pink is for Girls necklace

About Soldering

Solder is a confusing topic. There are two completely different soldering methods used in jewelry making, yet people rarely explain which type they’re talking about – much the way people say they spent the weekend simply “at the lake.” (If they are your friends, you do know which lake … and hopefully this post will help you make friends with solder!)

Solder is a metal alloy that is melted to connect or coat metal pieces. Soldering is the act of melting and applying solder.

The two soldering methods are:

  1. Soldering with a torch. Often called hard soldering, brazing or silver soldering, although copper, brass, gold and other metals can be torch soldered. There are different grades of hard solder (which melt at different temperatures, and just to confuse things further, are called easy/soft, medium and hard). There are also different solder formulas to match the color of various metals. This post talks about copper wire solder, which is meant for torch soldering.
  2. Soldering with a soldering iron. This is often referred to as soft soldering, and is used with base metals (like pewter) and plated metals. This is actually ‘tinning”, which means adding a layer of solder to a metal base. The solder is made mostly of tin and has a (relatively) low melting temperature. Soft solder is pewter or silver colored. Never use a soldering iron with precious metal jewelry: it will ruin the jewelry.

Therefore, if jewelry is made of silver or gold, it has to be torch soldered. Successful soldering requires heating the metal pieces, not just melting the solder, so if the piece is very large or thick, it’s probably torch soldered as well.

 

Poppy Field Necklace

Mollie’s Poppy Field soldered pendant necklace uses two #41-254-1 fold over crimp ends instead of jump rings

 

First off, not all soldering irons are created equal. There are many varieties on the market and most were not designed for jewelry making. The two most important things to look for are tip style and wattage. We recommend a minimum of 60-watt soldering iron with a chisel-tip. The pointy tip irons are designed for tiny electronics like circuit boards and are of little use for jewelry, other than sealing jump rings. Lower than 60 watts might not heat up enough. The 60w Hakko soldering iron meets both requirements! The 100 watt Choice Iron and Rheostat combination provides greater control over temperature.

 

pointy versus chisel tip soldering iron

Soldering iron tip comparison

 

The iron on the left has a pointy tip (not recommended). The iron on the right has the recommended chisel tip, but needs to be cleaned! Soldering is difficult when the tip is black and crusty. Try using the wet sponge to clean the heated iron. If you can’t clean it any other way, let the iron cool and then gently sand off the gunk.

Next, the solder itself. It is important to use lead-free solid-core solder. Avoid solders that have rosin or acid cores. Rings & Things sells Choice, SILVERGLEEM, and Staybrite silver solder. All 3 work great with soldering irons; Staybrite is more expensive because of its higher silver content and included flux.

Third, flux. All solder requires flux in order to melt and flow. LA-CO Brite flux is a 6oz package, and is designed to be dripped or brushed onto your project.

Here is a condensed version of the process:

Preparing to Solder a Glass Pendant

Prepare your work area. Remove extraneous (burnable or meltable) items from the immediate area. I like to use a cookie sheet with a Non-Stick Craft Sheet on top. The craft sheet allows for easy clean-up of the drips and spills of solder that will inevitably occur.

Taping the edges

Taping the edges

 

Copper tape creates the metal base needed for the solder to flow onto.

Sandwich images between 2 pieces of glass and wrap edges with copper foil tape, peeling off the tape as you go. If you plan to add a bail or jump ring, overlap the ends of the foil tape where you are adding the hardware. Fold the tape over from the edges to the front and back of the glass, being careful of the corners (think of it like wrapping a gift). Burnish smooth (a sharpie pen works well for burnishing). Clean with alcohol to remove any oils from your fingers – a clean surface is the best soldering surface!

Shaping the solder coil into a snake makes it easier to feed onto your soldering iron.

Solder and Stand

Solder “snaked” for ease of application, Stand ready for use.

Prepare the Soldering Iron stand by adding a few tablespoons of water to the sponge in the reservoir.

retinning the tip

Retinning the tip

If this is your first time using the iron, you will want to “tin” the tip the first time you heat it up and always maintain that layer of solder across the tip. By tinning the tip, you prevent the iron coating from oxidizing, which is a real problem when you have hot iron tips. Oxidation can corrode your tips forcing you to replace them more often, and the hotter your iron the faster they will oxidize. Tip tinning creates a layer of solder between the air and the iron, keeping oxygen at bay.

Plug in the soldering iron and allow it to heat up for a couple minutes. Touch the tip to the damp sponge. The iron is hot enough if the sponge steams a bit when you do this. Holding the solder in one hand and the iron in the other, briefly touch the solder to both sides of the tip. You may have to “rub” the solder onto the iron to start it flowing.

Now that your tip is properly tinned, you can start soldering. Try to solder immediately after tinning the tip, the sooner the better. Tinning improves conductivity and makes soldering easier, as well as quicker, which is a good thing. Periodically while you are working , (when the solder doesn’t seem to be flowing well), clean off any globs of solder on the sponge and re-tin the tip. Keeping the tip clean is important but constantly wiping it on a wet sponge will lower the iron temperature, and can cause early tip failure. Properly cleaned tips are bright and shiny.

Keep the iron in the stand whenever you are not actually soldering with it. Unplug the iron whenever you are working on another portion of the project for more than a few minutes. This is not only a good safety measure, but it will also extend the life of your soldering iron. When you are not using your soldering iron, you should keep a layer of solder on the tip, so before putting your iron in storage, apply a fresh layer of solder to the tip to prevent it from corroding. If you will not be using your iron for an extended period of time, you may want to store it (after it has fully cooled) in a zipper type bag to protect it further from corrosion and humidity.

 

adding solder to the tape

Adding solder to the tape

Soldering a Glass Pendant

Apply flux to the copper tape. Touch your hot soldering iron to the solder to pick up a blob, and run the iron over the copper tape. Repeat. Repeat. (Some people melt the solder onto the tip of the iron and transfer it to the piece. I find I have more control by applying the solder directly from the roll to the tape.) Often you can pull the solder from the edges of the pieces to the front and back taped portions. Completely cover the copper tape with solder. If it looks lumpy, run the iron across the bumps to remelt the solder and smooth it out. Be sure to clean your soldering iron’s tip frequently. If the solder isn’t flowing, either the tip is dirty, your piece is dirty, you need more flux or you aren’t heating the piece sufficiently. Clips, clothespins or a third hand are all helpful tools for holding your piece while protecting your fingers.

This piece is being held in place with binder clips, allowing me to hold the spool of solder in one hand, and the iron in the other.

 

Using pliers to hold the glass  - don't burn your fingers.

Holding the piece steady with pliers.

Here I am holding a piece steady with bent chain nose pliers. Since flux can damage tools, and you may drip solder onto them, dedicate an inexpensive or already damaged pair for use in soldering.

 

adding the jump ring

Using hemostat to hold the jump ring in place while melting the solder blob with the iron.

Add a blob of solder to the point where you’d like to attach your jump ring. Apply flux to your jump ring. Use pliers or a hemostat to hold the jump ring on the blob, and reheat the blob with the iron to secure it in place (watch out: the blob will melt quickly, and the jump ring will sink into it. Do not maintain the heat on the blob or the jump ring, or it will all melt together into a mess). Clean off any extra flux with window cleaner or rubbing alcohol, file rough edges, buff with a polishing cloth, and you’re done!

Microscope Slide Pendants

Microscope Slide Pendants

Making soldered pendants is totally addictive. Microscope slide glass is an affordable way to indulge your pendant-making habit.

Piddix collage sheets are available in several sizes and shapes. The 7/8″ squares work nicely with the 1″ square memory glass.

Soldering Kit

R&T Exclusive Glass Soldering Kit

The Rings & Things Exclusive Glass Soldering Kit provides all the basics for you to start out with a new skill. Just provide your own scissors, water, and work surface, and you are ready to go.

So, DIY and make some unique and meaningful collage pendants of your own!

~ Rita

Hint: If you love the soldered piece, but don’t like the bright and shiny finish, Novocan Patina will darken the solder covered parts.

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Comments (22)

This is an excellent “how to” explanation. Thank you so much.

All I want to do is solder jump rings closed. What products do you recommend I purchase?

Hi Joan,

It depends on what metal the jump rings are.

If they are plated, then you need a soldering iron, soft solder, and flux. Any of the ones listed in the article will work fine.
If they are sterling silver, then there are a few more factors to consider – please describe the material of the jump rings, and what stones or other materials might be near them, and how close they are to the jump rings.

Hi, Polly,

To follow on this question, I want to solder sterling, vermeil, fine silver, gold-filled and maybe 14k gold jump rings.

I’m working mostly with a wide range of semiprecious stone beads, as well as some crystals and glass.

I don’t plan to do any other metalwork at this time, and although I am trained in it, we didn’t do anything with jump rings or stones, and I really don’t want to get into a whole regular soldering setup. I just want to be sure my jump rings on the pieces I’m making don’t come open or catch on anything.

Any recommendations you might have would be very welcome. I did buy a soldering iron intending to use it for this purpose, but now I’m concerned.

Hi Wendy,

I don’t recommend using soft solder (i.e., a soldering iron) with precious metals.
Soft solder can ruin sterling silver (which means also vermeil and fine silver). It doesn’t ruin it when you soft solder it … the potential problem is far in the future if anyone attempts to SILVER-solder the piece in the future.

Gold-fill is very difficult to solder, but not impossible. You need a very delicate touch. (Personally I have not attempted it — but most gold fill jump rings are fairly strong, so it’s usually not needed.)

Soft solder is also not the right color for vermeil, GF or 14kt yellow gold.

Try this page for a bit more explanation between the various types of solder, and the melting temperatures and tools required.
http://www.rings-things.com/resources/solder.html
It will give you a better overview than I can in this brief reply box. =)

Overall, I really recommend using the type of solder that matches your material (soft solder and an iron for silver-colored basemetal, copper solder and a torch for copper, silver solder and a torch for sterling/fine silver, and gold solder — with a higher-powered torch — for gold). Unfortunately, there is no soft solder (yet) for gold-tone basemetal jewelry.
To avoid soldering, yet still get more security, uou might want to try using slightly thicker jump rings, oval jump rings, 2 jump rings, or split rings instead.
~Polly

Hi…I want to melt a little dent in pewter pebbbles to put in a swarovski crystal. Can I use a soldering iron to do that? Can I do that with silver too? Also which soldering iron do I purchase? Btw, love your tutorial! Thank you so much!

I think you can, but it would be hard to control the size and shape, and you might melt a lot more than you want to. When you bring it to a melting temperature, it becomes liquid … and liquids like to flow flat or follow the hot soldering iron, not stay poked down. You would have better luck pulling them upward where they can “freeze” as a point (think photos of Lake Michigan’s iced-over waves during a Chicago winter). So I think you’d be better off using a wide centerpunch or some type of grinder to get your dimple.

For soft solder, you can use one of the soft soldering irons in this article. For hard (silver solder), you need a torch of some type. We sell micro torches (much like a creme brulee torch) that operate on butane, the same thing you fill a zippo cigarette lighter with.

Hello! I loved this tutorial. I want to make a pendant like the one in the tutorial, but plan to encapsulate a beetle in it instead of paper :)
The pendant will have to be much thicker. Would you do anything differently or do you have any suggestions for tackling this project?
Thank you!

Hi Elisabeth,

You might want to use the glass bezels instead of the microscope slides:
https://shop.rings-things.com/cart/search/search.asp?keywords=glass+bezels or these hinged glass pendants:
https://shop.rings-things.com/cart/search/search.asp?keywords=glass+pendant+hinged

Here are a few articles that give some how-to ideas:
http://www.rings-things.com/blog/?s=glass+pendant

I have been seeing necklaces all over and would love to make some for Christmas. I am about to purchase the soldering kit, but it doesn’t look like jump rings are included in the kit. Which ones do you recommend?

Thank you very much!

Elizabeth.

Hi Elizabeth,
I recommend the assorted jump rings, so you’ll have sizes that work for any diameter chain, cord, etc that you may want to use them with: https://shop.rings-things.com/cart/pc/Jump-Ring-Round-Assorted-Sizes-p20649.htm
~Polly

I have created digital art files with a lot of detail. I do not think these details would show up well on1 square inch small areas.
.
1) Do you know if there 2 inch or larger glass covers comparable to the 1 inch microscope slides of this technique?

2) Would it be possible to perform the solder edging process using ordinary small window paned sized glass? I suspect that the small window panes would need non-soldered supports, for example, display stands or some kind of clamps for suspension displays.

Thank you from an ordinary person rather than a professional.

Signing Visual Art as In-Wonder

Hi In-Wonder,
We do have 3×1″ and 2×2″ slides @
https://shop.rings-things.com/cart/search/search.asp?keywords=glass+slides

And I’m going to let someone more knowledgeable about soldering glass, answer question #2.

I know how to solder the glass, but I want to add a wire design on top of the glass. How can I do that?
Thanks,
Leigh

Hello: found your great site quite by accident and you have given me ideas with materials that I had right in front of me ex. microscope slides and the art of sandwiching. Thank you.

Your instructions are easy to understand and helpful!
Are there other things I can use soft solder on? I`m not real crazy about the pendants, even though I have lots of them. I want to see other things I can do. Seashells with jump rings for one. Thanks!!

Hi Linda, As long as the item in question will hold up to the heat of soldering and can be taped with the copper foil tape, this style of soft soldering can be done to it. I don’t have any examples to show here, but in-house, we have wrapped and soldered gemstone beads, flattened marbles, glass bezels, etc. ~ Rita

Hi Polly

Really helpful post, thanks!

Can you clarify which type of file you use, to file rough edges, please?

I also find it tricky to soft solder my jump rings to my oval domed pendants. Not sure if my soldering tip is too thick, but I really want to get a subtle amount of solder on the jump ring, to secure it to the pendant. Also awkward trying to use the third hand, as it won’t hold the pendant [too deep].

Any tips?!

Many thanks…

Helen

Hi Helen,

Polly asked me to offer some advice.

To remove large lumps from the solder, you can either reheat with your soldering iron (be sure to use flux) or use a fine metal file:
#69-252-01-4 EURO TOOL Flat File, 6″, #4 Cut
You will need to be careful not to scratch the glass.

You can also smooth small imperfections with 3M sanding sponges:
#69-257-0005 3M Sanding Sponges, 1200-1500 Grit
#69-257-0004 3M Sanding Sponges, 800-1000 Grit

When soldering on jump rings, a smaller tip is desirable; 1/4″ will work well. Try angling the soldering iron so you are using the chiseled corner and not the entire flat surface of the tip.

For safely holding pieces in place while soldering, we like using folder clips from the office supply store. They are available in a variety of sizes, so one should work for your size of glass. Here is an in-use image:
http://www.rings-things.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/adding-solder.jpg

I hope this helps!

Mollie Valente
Rings & Things Design Team

Hi, I wanted to know which jump rings would be ok to use with the Rings & Things soft soldering kit?

Hi Cody, I suggest either the white plated or silver plated jump rings. Both are available in a variety of sizes, as well as an assortment bag if you aren’t sure what sizes will work best for your projects. ~Polly

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