Arts and Crafts Tips – How to Solder

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You may be familiar with soldering from stained glass or electronics projects, but once you learn the steps, soldering is a relatively simple process for other crafts as well. Investing in the basic tools is essential for your success, however, so be sure you’re ready to make the commitment! You can find most of the tools through stained glass suppliers, although there are some craft stores that will carry the basics as well.

Supplies for Soldering:

Required:

  • Soldering Iron
  • Rheostat
  • Solder (non-lead)
  • Flux (paste or gel flux are easier to work with than liquid)
  • Small paint brush
  • Copper foil tape (tape sizes vary and will depend on the project)
  • Clothes pin (to hold hot project while soldering)
  • Heat proof surface (heat proof mat, or soldering board)
  • Damp sponge

Strongly Recommended:

  • Bone folder
  • Soldering Iron Base
  • Third Hand (to hold hot project while soldering – available at jewelry or electrical supply shops)
  • Apron
  • Safety Glasses
  • Mask (for fumes)

Basic Steps for Soldering

  1. Apply coil tape to surface to be soldered based on project needs. Keep in mind that the solder is going to end up covering the tape. If you’re joining two pieces, you’ll need tape on both pieces where the joint will be. Solder will only stick to the tape.
  2. Burnish tape with bone folder, spoon, or other hard, smooth object to remove bubbles and to adhere to surface.
  3. Brush flux onto tape. All of the tape must be covered with flux, but you don’t need to be heavy-handed. The more you apply, the more likely it is to seep under the edges of your tape. If you are working on a large project, you may want to apply flux on one area at a time as it can be messy. The solder will not flow unless there is flux on the surface.
  4. Heat soldering iron to about 80. The soldering iron is the correct temperature when it will melt the solder enough to pick up a small amount on the tip. If the solder drips off the tip, it’s either too hot, or the tip needs to be cleaned (see below). Keep in mind that the soldering iron is very hot – do not touch anything below the handle or you will receive serious burns. Also, make sure that your iron doesn’t come in contact with furniture, electrical cords, or other flammable surfaces.
  5. There are two basic ways of getting solder onto your craft project:
    1. Pick up a drop of solder on your tip and apply it with a smooth stroke onto your copper tape. Make sure you’re holding your project with the clothes pin as it will get hot.
    2. Clamp your project using a small vise or “Third Hand.” Hold the solder in one hand and the iron in the other. Touch the solder (not the iron) to your copper tape. Touch the iron to the solder (not the tape!) and move along the tape to apply solder. This method is recommended for those with some soldering experience and for larger surface areas because it tends to end up with a larger amount of solder applied.
  6. The solder should flow onto the surface where you have applied flux. If you hold your project level, you’ll get a flat solder. If you hold it at a slight angle, the solder will pool a bit. If you’re not getting the effect you desire, try changing the way you’re holding your project. Also, you may notice black spots in your solder. This is from the flux and normal. Most of it will wash away later.
  7. Solder one surface at a time. The solder will set fairly quickly, but will remain hot for a few minutes. You can move onto the next area when the solder has set, but do be careful as you rotate your project.
  8. You can go back to smooth out lumps of solder or rough patches using your iron, but keep in mind that there is a certain organic nature to soldering. Every time you touch up one area, another will be altered. Your technique should get better with practice and you’ll eventually get a sense for when “enough is enough.”
  9. When you’re finished soldering, clean your iron, turn it off, allow your project to cool.
  10. Clean and buff your project . Enjoy!

Photo courtesy of Nicolas Raymond, Stock.xchng

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