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Soldering 101

Soldering (pronounced soddering) is the method of fusing metal parts together with another metal of a lower melting temperature. Solder is the metal that melts at the lower temperature. Flux is a substance that cleans the metal surfaces to create a stronger bond and help prevent oxidation. Both soft solders and hard solders require the use of flux. For details about soft solder vs. hard solder, see below. Rings & Things carries a full line of soldering supplies.

What is Soft Solder?


Click here to shop soldering irons. "Soft" solder is a tin-based solder. Because it melts at a low temperature, you can apply soft solder with an electric soldering iron or gun. You might also be able to carefully use a torch with soft solder (it depends on the application). Even though jewelry soft solders are similar to rosin-core tin/lead solders used for electronics and acid-core tin/lead solders used for plumbing, you should not substitute these other solders for jewelry solder.

Use soft solder to create custom base-metal jewelry, fuse base-metal components, repair costume jewelry, and solder shut base-metal jump rings. Brass, copper, and bronze components can also be fused together using hard solders (see below).

Warning: If you use a tin-based soft solder on a piece of sterling silver jewelry, you will never be able to use a torch or hard solders on it. When you heat silver with soft (tin) solder on it, the tin and silver combine and become a very low-temperature melting alloy. Your piece can be destroyed under heat as the metal melts away from the soft solder patch.

We carry the following soft solders and compatible flux:
Click to buy Staybrite soft solder. Staybrite® Soft Solder Kit   Includes lead-free and cadmium-free silver solder, plus flux. MSDS and instructions included. This solder can only be shipped within the USA and to parts of Canada.
Click to buy Choice soft solder. Choice™ Soft Solder   Lead-free soft solder. Flux needs to be purchased separately.
Click to buy SILVERGLEEM soft solder. SILVERGLEEM Soft Solder   Lead-free soft solder with a rich, luxurious finish. Instant freeze properties can reduce the chance of lumpy solder beads. Great for decorative soldering and stained glass work. Flux needs to be purchased separately.
Aluminum soft solder paste. Aluminum Soft Solder Paste   This "pot metal" solder paste from EURO TOOL® comes in a no mess, no waste syringe. It melts at 395°F and can be used with a soldering iron or torch. Use it to solder aluminum (aluminium) to itself and to other metals.
Click to buy flux for soft soldering. Flux for Soft Soldering   Choose from LACO® BRITE flux and the Staybrite® Soft Solder Kit (the Staybrite kit comes with its own flux, but also has shipping restrictions).

Making Jewelry with Soft Solder

Here are just a few examples of how soft solder can expand your jewelry-making options. Click images below for how-to tips, parts lists, and products! Click here for more soft solder jewelry inspirations.

Click for how-to tips and parts.

Click for how-to tips and parts.

Click for how-to tips and parts.

"Pleasant Dream" Barrette
Use soft solder instead of glue to attach base-metal focals to barrette backs and other base-metal findings.
"Queen of Hearts" Necklace
Soft solder can fuse mixed metals and mixed media when hard solder would require too hot a temperature.
"Poppy Field" Necklace
Soft solder is used to create custom frame pendants sandwiched in glass slides.
PDF: "How to Solder Glass Pendants"

What is Hard Solder?


Click here to shop soldering torches. "Hard" solders are alloys that melt at slightly lower temperatures than the corresponding metal pieces to be fused. Silver and gold jewelry require hard soldering. Copper, brass, and bronze components can also be fused with hard solders. In addition to requiring flux, hard solders generally also require the use of pickling solutions to clean and remove surface oxidation from the finished piece.

Silver hard solders work for assembling silver jewelry and can also be used to fuse brass and/or copper (as long as you don't mind the joints being a different color). Gold solders are generally used only for making gold jewelry while copper, brass, and bronze solders are typically used to make copper, brass, and bronze jewelry respectively. Metal workers typically use oxy/propane or oxy/acetylene torches with hard solder, but many soldering tasks can also be achieved with butane torches. Use a butane torch to solder jump rings, create ball-end head pins, make custom wire links and chain, create small bezels, fuse together small metal components, etc.

Confusion sometimes arises because the lowest-temperature "hard" solder is sometimes called "soft" solder. A better term might be "easy" for the lowest temperature hard solder. Hard solder typically comes in "easy," "medium" and "hard" grades. To create a complex piece, start with hard solder, then fuse the next elements with medium solder. Add the last parts with easy solder. This way, the solder holding the first elements will not flow or move while subsequent parts are assembled.

We carry the following hard solders, compatible flux, and pickle:
Click to buy the hard solder variety pack. Silver Solder Variety Pack   Contains cadmium-free sheets of easy, medium and hard grade silver solder. Each grade melts at a different temperature. Use to solder complex pieces with many joints. For use with sterling silver, Argentium® sterling silver and fine silver.
Click to buy hard-grade hard solder. Hard Grade Silver Solder   Cadmium-free sheet solder. Melts at 1365° F (741° C). Excellent for the first stage of soldering a complex piece with many joints. For use with sterling silver, Argentium® sterling silver and fine silver.
Click to buy medium-grade hard solder. Medium Grade Silver Solder   Cadmium-free solder, available in your choice of sheet or wire. Both forms melt at 1275° F (691° C). Excellent for the middle stage of soldering a complex piece with many joints. For use with sterling silver, Argentium® sterling silver and fine silver.
Click to buy easy-grade hard solder. Easy Grade Silver Solder   Cadmium-free solder, available in your choice of sheet or wire. Both forms melt at 1240° F (671° C). Excellent for the final stage of soldering a complex piece with many joints. For use with sterling silver, Argentium® sterling silver and fine silver.
Click to buy copper solder. Copper Solder   18-gauge copper wire for soldering copper. The presence of phosphorous makes this wire solder self fluxing. Melts at 1310° F and flows at 1460° F.
Click to buy brass solder. Brass Solder   Cadmium-free 20-gauge brass wire for hard soldering. Melts at 1200° F and flows at 1330° F. Offers an improved color match for yellow brass designs.
Click to buy bronze solder. Bronze Solder   Cadmium-free 20-gauge bronze wire for hard soldering. Melts at 1250° F and flows at 1410° F. Provides an excellent color match for bronze designs.
Click to buy flux for hard soldering. Flux for Hard Soldering   Choose from self-pickling flux for easier soldering of precious metals (under 2000° F), Firescoff™ Ceramic Flux Spray (for silver, gold, brass, bronze, copper and more), and Magic "Flame" 4-in-1 soldering compound (can use up to 2000° F on precious and non-precious metals).
Click to buy pickle for hard soldering. Pickle for Hard Soldering   Choose from self-pickling flux for easier soldering of precious metals (under 2000° F) and Sparex® No. 2 granular dry acid compound. We also carry a Little Dipper® pot that's perfect for pickling.

Making Jewelry with Hard Solder

Click images below for how-to tips, parts lists, and products to make these designs.

Click for how-to tips and parts.

Click for how-to tips and parts.

Click for how-to tips and parts.

"Kraken" Mixed-Metals Belt Buckle
Medium-grade solder fuses the brass cut-out to the copper oval. Easy-grade solder fuses the copper oval to the belt buckle.

"Fold Formed" Earrings
Use medium-grade solder to fuse custom fold-formed 22-gauge sterling silver sheet to custom 20ga fine silver ear wires.

"Captured Aventurine" Bracelet
Self-fluxing copper hard solder makes it easy to create custom copper chains and other connections.

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304 E 2nd Ave, Spokane, WA 99202 USA | Phone: 1 (800) 366-2156 | Fax: 1 (509) 838-2602
All text, illustrations and images are copyright by, or licensed to, Rings & Things 1996 - 2013