Soldering jewelry: workshop

Written by: techguru

Picture of Soldering jewelry: workshop

This instructable is based on a jewelry workshop I followed 1,5 years ago. My mother came across an advertisement for a youth jewelry workshop. She asked me if I wanted to follow it, so of course I said yes.

It will show you the steps I took to make the pieces and provide you with some tips to make your own soldered jewelry. Because it was a workshop, I had quite a lot more materials and machines I could use than usual, I used alpaca wire for example, but I've also provided alternatives where possible.

This workshop taught me a lot of new techniques and approaches, and it was a great afternoon, so a big 'thank you' to Kiona van Herwijnen, who gave the workshop and provided me with the pictures for this instructable.

You might be wondering why I'm posting something that I did 1,5 years ago now: I lost the pictures. I knew I had an email with them somewhere, but I just couldn't find it anymore. Until a few weeks ago :) I felt like I still had to make this instructable, because I also posted a forum topic about this workshop and got quite some positive responses and people were interested in seeing an instructable about it. So, here it is!

I really hope you like it!

When working with tools like a polishing machine and liquids like vitriol, you should always be careful. Being careful can prevent a lot of risk and harm. The use of safety goggles is recommendable, as well as even a mask in some situations. (I know I am not wearing one in the pictures) But, to avoid the risk of getting hurt, it is still recommendable.

Step 1: Designing

Picture of Designing

Before bending the parts, it's helpful to know what parts you actually want and how you can bend them.

The first thing I did was try bending some regular shapes with basic wire. There was a whole sheet of shapes to practice, pictured in the bottom right corner, but the idea behind bending regular wire first is getting the feeling of the bending. Also, after bending a few shapes, it's easier to decide what shapes you want to use in your design.

After bending basic shapes, I started designing. It's easiest to use multiple basic shapes in your design, keep in mind that you should still be able to bend it. Don't try to get the perfect design in one time, just make small sketches and end with the one you want to use. Try to keep in mind that it should still be possible to join the pieces, so make sure they are touching each other in the design.

Also try to think of the final look, with a pendant for example, how you want your piece to hang. If you want to make a loop, it's easiest to include it in the design as well. I decided to go for two loops, one on both ends.

Once the design was made, it was time to start with the alpaca wire. If you don't feel comfortable about using more expensive wire, you could use any wire you want of course, but this was the wire provided in the workshop. 
Use the pliers needed to shape the wire the way you want to. If you are going for a symmetrical part, cut both pieces at once, to make sure they have the right length. By using the same parts of the pliers, for example the bottom part of round nose pliers, it becomes a lot easier to make them look the same.

By laying the piece of jewelry out the way you want it to be, you can also make sure the different parts fit to each others size. For example, I placed a heart between the two irregular swirls, which had to have the exact right size. When you have the other parts already laying there, you can correct the remaining shape and try if it fits.

If something isn't going the way you designed it, it could be a good idea to just improvise. You shouldn't cling on too much to that design. I learned this when making the butterfly ring. What can I say about it? I wanted to make a flower ring.

Step 2: Soldering the parts together

Picture of Soldering the parts together

When all the parts have been bent, it's time to solder them together.

For the soldering, I used silver solder and a burner. After the soldering I used vitriol.

There are three types of the solder: Hard, middle and soft. Hard solder has the highest melting point: around 740 degrees Celsius. Middle solder has a melting point of around 680 degrees and soft solder has a melting point of around 650 degrees.

These different types of solder are useful when you need to solder multiple parts on one place. I used this to make the ring: I started by making the butterfly shape. I soldered the two halves together using hard solder and when soldering the butterfly to the ring, I used soft solder. Because the soft solder has a lower melting point, the connection made with the hard solder won't be broken when heating this part again.

When a part only needs to be soldered once, middle or hard solder is recommendable for a strong connection.

To solder the parts together: Carefully place a piece of solder on the connection you want to make. Since the pieces are quite small, it's easiest to use tweezers. Take the burner and heat the part you want to solder. When it's hot enough, the solder will melt. When it does, you can stop heating it. What might cause a bit of trouble here, is the flame from the burner actually blowing away the solder. If this happens, try heating it with a different angle.

Once you have soldered all your connections, place the piece of jewelry in a small bowl (large enough for the piece of jewelry of course) of vitriol (10 % sulfuric acid, 90 % water). This will dissolve the remains of the soldering.

Make sure not to get any iron in your vitriol - if your jewelry piece is in there, it will change the colour of your piece. When you leave something made of iron in vitriol for a while, it will dissolve.

Step 3: Polishing

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To polish the soldered piece of jewelry, I used a polishing machine. Of course, there are other ways to polish your piece of jewelry, like by hand.

When you have put the machine on, you can start polishing. Try not to want to finish the complete thing at once, just focus on one piece at the time. Carefully bring your piece to the middle of the polishing piece and move it against the direction the machine is turning. I've also drawn a quick explanation of this, see the picture above.

Repeat this motion for every part of your piece of jewelry.

Step 4: Cleaning up

Picture of Cleaning up

After the polishing,you will see (and feel) that the piece of jewelry is quite greasy. To clean this, I used a bowl of white spirit (mineral spirit) and a cotton swab. When all the filth is removed, you can dry your piece and it's finished!

Step 5: The pieces I made

Picture of The pieces I made

I ended up making two pieces of jewelry, a ring and a necklace. These are the pictures taken directly after they were made, the intro picture is from now, 1,5 years later. As you can see, the ring is a lot shinier, but I actually love both looks, shining and not, so I just leave it the way it is :)

I hope you liked this instructable, if you did I would love to know!