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Navigating Soldering Product Selection: Reviews, Tips and Recommendations - Originally posted on the Orchid Forum 03/20/2008
SKU: CWX-CBTS10
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Originally posted on the Orchid Forum 03/20/2008

There are so many soldering products to choose from. Fortunately Cleverwerx is here to help you figure out the right ones to select.

Silver Solders

The Easy and Medium solders from Rio Grande are fine, but the Hard won't melt. It kind of blobs. Below is a chart of melting temperatures from various suppliers. Notice the differences from one supplier to another.

Solder Flow Points for Round Silver Solder Wire
  EASY MEDIUM HARD
Hoover & Strong 1260° F 1295° F 1490° F
Rio Grande 1325° F 1360° F 1450° F
Hauser & Miller 1325° F 1360° F 1450° F
DH Fell 1240° F 1275° F 1365° F

Hauser and Miller: I think they have the best all-around solders. Both the gold and silver flow well, although the color matches on their medium and easy aren't quite as close as Hoover and Strong’s are. More alloy, less silver. E, M, H, all do what they need to do. Hoover and Strong: They seem to have higher melting points, possibly due to the inclusion of more silver in their formulas. Trickier for beginners, but once you master the heat, they seem to have the best color match for silver. They make a medium and a half which is nice. I rate this as a minimum intermediate skill level solder.

Gold Solders

Honestly, I don't like any American-made gold solder. I find you need a spot welder to make them flow and they don't flow, they sort of goo in place. I use German solder from C Hafner. It flows, it moves, it makes working in gold a pleasure.

Flux

My favorite for silver is Superior Six paste flux, though I use it for gold, copper and brass, as well. It is a fluoride-free flux which coats the metal in a protective skin. Jeffrey Herman of the Society of American Silversmiths fame, http://www.silversmithing.com/, turned me on to this. For silver it creates a lovely bluish skin which allows me to solder and re-solder without having to pickle each time. It works great. Boric acid and alcohol is especially good for gold, as is Batterns. I haven't worked with white gold or platinum, so I won't comment there. Paste flux can be thinned with water. For maximum protection, the consistency should be thick like yogurt. If flux becomes watery, it will burn off too quickly. Keep a tight lid on your flux when not in use and always stir with a spoon or wooden stick. DO NOT USE YOUR FLUX BRUSH TO STIR.

Gas

One of the most hotly debated questions of all in soldering is: “Which gas is best?” Well it depends. What are you doing? I use propane/oxy and acetylene /air. For big stuff, larger pieces like the 6-8" size, I go with acetylene/air. For smaller pieces, I like propane/oxy. Honestly, use what works the best for you. I also have natural gas/oxy because I was lucky enough to get it plumbed in when the building was remodeled. However, I didn't find out in time that you need at least 5 psi of gas to work with the regulators. The G-Tech gas booster was a life saver.

Torches

We use the Smith torch tips for acetylene/air, the Little Torch and the Meco Midget.

Fire bricks

Which is best - Ceramic vs. Solderite vs. Firebrick vs. Charcoal? This does get confusing. Here are a few do's and don'ts. • Don't use paste flux on charcoal. It gums it up. Solderite boards don't like it either. Firebricks are fine. • Keep your soldering surfaces cleaned. If you have a dirty surface, you will take away heat trying to bring everything up to temperature. Start clean and end clean.

Tank Volume Regulators

While your canister sizes are very small, regulators provide more information than does the gas flow alone. They also indicate if the canisters are experiencing leaks. Are you able to use larger volume tanks in your studio? If not, you can obtain reusable tanks in the volume you are limited to. In both scenarios, I still think getting at least a tank volume regulator is a good idea. Just make sure that with propane your work area is well ventilated. Having your friendly fire Marshal takes a look-see at your setup is helpful. They want you to be safe and at those volumes you shouldn't have any problem. Don't forget your fire extinguisher either, which is rated as ABC. Last thing: The Little Torch tips for propane/oxy have a limit on the size you can use. They are rated for oxy/acet which has a smaller molecule for gas than propane. If a 1 – 3 has a ruby red tip, then you cannot use it for propane as it is too tiny. The 4 -7 is fine.

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