Several weeks ago I was shopping for a fuel source to use for my jewelry bench at home. The butane torch I have was great for small soldering jobs but I needed another heat source for larger jobs, plus I wanted more flexibility with my torch tips. I started shopping around and found it was much harder to find the right torch than I thought it would be. There are so many things to consider when selecting your silver soldering torch tips and fuel type. Here are my findings after careful research across the web.
Jewelry Soldering Fuel Types
Choosing which fuel to use in your jewelry studio can be overwhelming. The chart below compares the most common jewelry soldering fuels. When you order fuel tanks in your local area you will need to find a commercial gas vendor. In Northern Arizona, we use a company called Praxair. These suppliers are an amazing resource. They are used to ushering new buyers through a long list of questions to help you safely and effectively set up your space.
Silver Solder: Melt & Flow Temperatures
It's important to know the melt and flow points of the solder you use. Be sure that your fuel source is hot enough to flow the solder. We use silver solder for almost everything we create in our employee studio, so we keep this handy chart available. But, if you use copper, gold or another form of solder, you'll need to know those melt and flow temperatures, too.
Which Torch Tip?
One thing to remember is that the tip is very important when using a torch. We use two separate torch set-ups here in the studio, the Turbo Torch, and a Smith Torch. Both of these companies use their own numbering system for their tips. We have 5 different tips between the two torches. A-3 & A-11 for the Turbo Torch and 00, 1 and 2 with the Smith Torch. They range from smaller to larger tips covering everything we need. Here are the tips we use and why:
Small (A-3 & 00):
These tips are perfect for small jobs like soldering together a jump ring or soldering a bail onto the end of a chain.
Use for larger-scale soldering such as a large pendant or when you need to heat the entire piece.
Large (A-11 & 2):
This large tip is used for annealing and melting metals.
Soldering Torch Tips
Depending on the size of the piece, you'll want to use the right tip every time. However, there are other things to consider when using your torch. Many items around you will dissipate the heat such as a vise or a tool you are using, this is called a "heat sink". Also, the metal cools quickly. On larger pieces, as you wave the torch tip back and forth across the piece the opposite side is already cooling. When this happens you can reflect the heat back onto the piece by building a simple fire brick container. Try to heat the piece again inside this container and you'll find that you're not losing as much heat as before. This container works well also when melting scrap in a crucible.
I finally chose the propane/air setup at my house. Overall it was enough heat for me with the small pieces that I work on there. Plus, running down to the local store to replace it was a huge selling point for me. Remember, be patient and have fun as you become accustomed to your new soldering torch set up.
If you choose a butane torch, be sure to read this article on Butane Jewelry Torch Troubleshooting.
New to soldering? Watch as I solder with a butane torch to create beautiful sterling silver bangles! I cover bangles from start to finish, including measuring, shaping and texturing.
Further reading for soldering tips:
Halstead is one of North America's leading distributors of jewelry making supplies. Halstead specializes in wholesale findings, chain, and metals for jewelry artists.
Got questions? Email our studio coordinator Erica Stice at email@example.com. We'd love to hear from you. Sorry, studio support is not available by phone. Emails only, please.