Friday, June 22, 2007

Size does matter

This afternoon I gathered up the pieces for several soldering tasks and headed off to the kitchen to assemble my small soldering station. Got out the ceramic board, the charcoal brick, the crappy flux (source of many of my soldering woes - better stuff is on order), assorted tweezers and picks, and set up the pickle pot (a tiny slow cooker). Oh yeah, and I got out my little butane "torch". It worked fine for soldering ends onto chain and soldering bezel wire closed and even sweat soldering a tiny peach onto some textured silver I brought home with me. Then I tried to remove a part I had soldered onto some copper incorrectly and, because I used hard solder originally, it took ages. Only slightly daunted, I tried to ball the ends of some heavy wire... and tried and tried. Total failure. The ends of the wire look a little mushy, that's it. Finally, I pulled over a stool, sat down, and decided to finish texturing a piece of silver I'd started reticulating at PV. I held the torch on that sucker for a good three minutes and only managed to get the thinnest corner red-hot, which isn't hot enough. Feh.

You know what this means, right? I have to buy a bigger torch. Normally, I would celebrate the opportunity to buy more tools, but a torch presents some problems. My studio is on the third floor, but I solder in the kitchen (first floor) because I like the fact that there are fire-proof surfaces to work on and a killer vent over the stove to deal with fumes. That's where I run the kiln for PMC and enameling, too. I don't really like the idea of having a tank of acetylene or propane on the third floor in what is essentially a spare bedroom. (No bed anymore, just acres of jewelry-making supplies.) Rick Marshall said it's actually illegal to have acetylene in the house. So what do I do? The garage is a shell with no electricity, so that's not an option. The basement is damp, moldy, and stinky, so that's definitely not an option. Time for some research. In the meanwhile, it's little tiny bits of easy solder for me. Feh.


knitsteel said...

Can you keep a little propane tank (bbq size) outside the kitchen and run a long hose for your torch in to the kitchen area that you like to solder in?

Nicole Solo said...

Microtorches can be a PITA ;) But for now, mine has worked for everything but one very heavy gauge piece.

Do you ever employ your kiln to do custom enamel work? I have an alchemy request that's gone unanswered so far! Contact me if interested :)

TrueMirage said...

I've been learning to enamel and have a few pieces in my etsy shop. Not sure I'm up to doing custom work though - but, thanks!

Terri said...

I recently tried soldering for the very first time--harder than it looked!

Athena's Armoury said...

I've been working with an acetylene torch in my metalsmithing class. It's a beautiful thing. One of the guys I work with (a hard core metalsmith) gave me a dual tank micro butane torch the other day. I have to get some more nitrous and butane for it. We'll see how that goes!