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Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Soldering Copper

A few weeks ago I picked up the tools I needed to start soldering. I did quite a bit of research beforehand to work out exactly what I needed to make sure I got the right stuff and avoided buying things I didn't need. I work mostly with copper - I just love the warm, rustic colour - but most of the guides were for silver. Where copper was mentioned it was pretty clear that you can use exactly the same equipment and technique for both.

I did find quite a few blog posts discussing the fact that silver solder is silver coloured and will therefore contrast with the rest of the piece if you make it in copper. I actually used that to my advantage when I made my husband a wedding band. When I was doing my research the most common solution was also very simple - add a steel nail to your pickle pot and it will cause copper to plate onto the solder thus colouring it copper.

The silver solder is clearly visible on
these earrings

It sounded simple so I decided I would do it. Unfortunately it had no effect whatsoever. For some pieces it wasn't a problem, if there is wire wrapping involved I can just make sure to wrap over the soldered join and it will be invisible.

However on pieces like these earrings the silver blobs are clearly visible and clearly incongruous with the rest of the piece. As a result these earrings have still not been listed online. Filing could help to reduce the visibility by smoothing the curve but the silver will still be visible so I decided to continue my research.

I found out 2 things:
The reason the plating hadn't worked was probably because I used a galvanised steel nail rather than ordinary steel. I'm not even sure if nail packets specify the material they are made from but I certainly didn't think to check.

I also found out that you can buy copper coloured solder. None of the large websites seem to stock it but it can be found elsewhere (including Etsy) and I have ordered some.
It hasn't arrived yet but when it does I will definitely post up about my experiences with it.
If you have any experience with either method, or maybe a completely different one, let me know in the comments.

Copper Solder from Unkamen Supplies
In the meantime I have also ordered several gauges of sterling silver wire so I can start recreating some of my more popular designs in silver and also use up the silver solder I bought. Which metal do you prefer? Silver or Copper? Or maybe Gold? Let me know :)

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