Copper Solder Test

In class this week, I gave my new copper solder a go. My usual trick is to simply use silver solder, and then disguise any lingering traces after sanding by adding a little steel wool to a small amount of pickle, putting the soldered item in, and watching it copper-plate.  It works, but what if you could just make your join coppery in the first place?

So here we go.  I ended up doing three tests, because my friend Jane had some copper wire solder she never liked and was willing to let me try.  Similarly, my teacher had some copper solder she didn’t like either, also in wire form, but very thick. Here are my initial thoughts on using these.

Paste–so, so hard to squeeze from the tube . . . but you can get tiny amounts out, and that’s good.

Wire–if you’re in the habit of covering the end of your wire with a fingertip when you snip with cutters (and you should be), you might want to protect said finger with a rag or something; this stuff is hard and can be sharp. You might get cut.

Heavy wire–oh good Lord. This is . . . what, 14 gauge maybe? How are you going to cut a tiny piece of that off with flush cutters? I thought I could hammer the end down to make it easier to snip off a small bit, but it actually crumbled under hammering. Also, when that happened, it was obvious that the product is metallic on the outside and . . . not on the inside. At this point I gave up and stopped trying to get a tiny piece, which is why the join in test subject M below is especially blorpy.

These are the test pieces, after pickling, before polishing:

mm6 Top to bottom:  heavy wire solder, thin wire solder, paste solder

And here they are after I shined them up a bit:

mm5

On tests W and P, I strove to use tiny amounts to reduce solder blorps.  On test M, I didn’t (also, there’s a chunk of soldering board stuck in the corner that I didn’t pick off.) Perhaps if I’d been a bit stingy with the flux, there might not have been so much crazy flow. But flow or no, the color is not a good match, rendering copper solder pointless as far as I can see. But what do I know? If anyone has tips on making it work better, I’d be willing to hear them and try again.

I did rather like using the paste on this foldover wire prong project I’ve got going on, if only because it won’t show once the stone is set:

IMG_3954

And finally, here is the project that got me thinking about copper solder in the first place.  This is a bracelet straight out of Contemporary Copper Jewelry, which I’ve been working on for wire-work practice and because it’s super pretty. My only beef with the instructions involve the link with the hook on it. You’re supposed to just leave the wire end sitting there at the base of the hook, which strikes me as uncomfortable, and a little amateurish. (I’m guessing the book’s author, Sharilyn Miller, knows this very well, but advising the reader to solder something down in a craft book strictly about wire techniques would go beyond the scope of what the publisher wants.*)

All this is to say that I soldered the end of the wire to the outside of the spiral with silver solder, pickled it, and copper plated it just before the end of class.  So, next week, I’ll assemble and polish it.  But for now, here’s what I have:

mm4

Eh, it worked.

__________

*Or maybe I’ve just picked up my teacher’s prejudices.  I’ve reached a point where I can’t even believe how many jewelry books are published with projects featuring jump rings that haven’t been soldered shut.  Seriously, if you have the means, take care of that!

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Filed under bracelet, experiment, metals, soldering, wire

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