Equipment Needed for Soldering Jewelry

Learn about the different tools and materials needed to solder jewelry.

Authored by Lynette Andreasen

Last edited: 4/15/2019
Soldering at the bench

Basic Tools To Get Started with Jewelry Soldering

There are a few basic tools that you will need to get started soldering jewelry. The tools you decide to purchase will depend on your budget, the type of work you are making and your workspace. If the number of options for soldering tools and accessories seems daunting, Rio Grande offers several different soldering kits with everything you’ll need to get started. The following items are some of the tools you’ll need when beginning to solder jewelry.

Soldering Surface – There are a variety of options to choose from when considering a surface to solder on. The type of surface you choose will depend on the metal you are using, the type of soldering operation you are performing and your own personal preferences. These surfaces are made to withstand the heat of soldering and are made from a variety of different materials.
  • Solderite PadSolderite pads are a durable, highly heat-reflective, smooth soldering surface (asbestos-free) available in either soft or hard. They can be drilled or shaped for custom soldering operations and are ideal for laying out flat work. Pins can be pressed into soft Solderite pads to hold pieces in place while soldering. Solderite pads won’t disintegrate, will cool rapidly after soldering and can be sanded to restore the smooth surface. This surface can withstand temperatures up to 1,700°F.
  • Charcoal BlockCharcoal blocks are a natural soldering surface that amplifies heat and offers a reducing atmosphere, making soldering and melting faster and cleaner. Charcoal blocks are available in soft or hard. Soft blocks allow pins to be pressed into the charcoal to hold pieces in place while soldering. Charcoal blocks do need to be quenched after use or they will continue to smolder. It is also a good idea to wrap charcoal blocks with binding wire, or a sheet of copper or brass tied with binding wire, to retain the shape and prolong the life of the block.  
  • Ceramic BlocksCeramic Blocks and Boards come in either honeycomb or Silquar options. Ceramic soldering surfaces are heat-reflective and clean easily with water. Honeycomb bricks can be used with pins to hold pieces in place, and also quickly dissipate heat after soldering.  Silquar boards are a flat, solid ceramic surface. All ceramic options can take higher heat than Solderite pads. Ceramic retains heat and can slow soldering down, which can be an advantage with small parts that are easily melted. These surfaces can withstand temperatures up to 2,000°F.
  • Vermiculite Soldering BlockVermiculite is a natural, lightweight, highly insulating and heat reflective soldering surface. It does not create dust and is odorless when heated. It is also easily carved and shaped for custom soldering operations. Vermiculite can withstand temperatures up to 2,012°F. 
  • Annealing PanAnnealing Pans filled with either pumice or soldering grain can also be used as a soldering surface. The pans are made from metal and rotate on ball bearings, allowing for easy access to all sides of a workpiece. Pumice reflects heat and is helpful for positioning pieces without flat surfaces. Soldering grain is a fine, reflective, silicon carbide material that can be used wet (as a heat sink) or dry (to position pieces). It is meant to be used for small, delicate jobs, as the force of a larger torch flame will displace the grain.
  • Soldering  Tripod with Steel ScreenSoldering Tripod with Steel Screen  is a steel tripod that comes with both a heavy-duty screen and a light-duty, fine mesh screen. Work can be elevated, allowing even heating from all directions.
  • TorchTorch – Heat is required for solder to flow, making a torch one of the most essential tools for soldering. Typically the torch will be used in your non-dominant hand, saving the dominant hand for more precise tasks like holding tweezers. Securely position the torch in an area of your workspace where it is easily accessed with your non-dominant hand when soldering. Whether you are soldering tiny jump rings or doing production casting, Rio Grande offers a wide selection of jewelry making torches. Torches come in many sizes and burn gases such as acetylene, butane, hydrogen, or propane. Sometimes oxygen is mixed with the gas to produce a hotter flame. This video can help you understand how to choose the best torch for your needs.  Deciding which torch to purchase will depend on your budget, the size of your workspace and the size and type of jewelry you are making. Some popular torch choices are a small, butane kitchen style torch, a Smith Acetylene and Air Torch, or a Smith® Little Torch.
  • SolderSolder – Rio Grande carries solder for silver, gold, Argentium®, Platinum and even base metals. Solder is available in sheet, chip, wire and paste form. Depending on the metal you are soldering, you will choose a solder alloy appropriate for that metal type. The melting temperature of the solder you choose should always be lower than the melting temperature of the metal you are soldering. Silver solder is used for soldering silver, but is also commonly used on base metals like copper, brass, and bronze. If you are working with sheet or wire solder, make sure to keep your solder labeled. It is impossible to visually tell the difference between sterling silver wire and the different grades of silver wire solder. Keeping solder labelled will prevent costly mistakes and melting mishaps when soldering.    
  • FluxFlux – Whenever metal is heated, oxides are formed on the surface of the metal. Solder will not flow on dirty or oxidized metal. Flux is a chemical agent applied to metal that protects the metal from oxidation, allowing solder to flow. Flux comes in either liquid or paste form and there are several varieties to choose from. Popular liquid flux choices include My-T-Flux, Rio Ready Flux and Purple Flux. Popular paste flux options include Handy Flux and Grifflux. There are also fluxes called barrier fluxes that are specially formulated to help prevent fire-scale. Fire-scale is a layer of oxidation which forms on the surface of alloys containing copper when they are heated, usually appearing as a light purple haze, and can only be removed by sanding and polishing. Some fluxes contain harmful chemicals so it is important to read instructions carefully and take appropriate safety precautions. Always wash your hands after handling flux.
  • PicklePickle – After soldering, metal will be oxidized and coated with flux. Pickle is a weak acid that is used to remove oxides and flux from metal, making it clean. Rio Pickle for non-ferrous metals contains sodium bisulfate and is the standard pickling solution for most jewelers. A non-toxic alternative is PickleIt Surface Preparations, which is less harsh than other pickle solutions and made from food grade materials. Rio also carries Rio Kleen Pickle which is specially formulated for nickel, brass and bronze. Pickle is often sold in a granular form and mixed with water to make a solution. Pickle works best when warm (but is not safe to boil), so is often used in a pickle pot made for heating the solution. Hot pickle cleans metal much more quickly than a cold solution will. Always quench hot jewelry pieces in water after soldering and then place in the pickle; do not quench them directly in the pickle as this can spray hot acid and create harmful fumes.
  • Copper TongsCopper Tongs – When placing or retrieving jewelry pieces from the pickle pot, tweezers or copper tongs will be necessary as you do not want to place your hands into a hot acid solution. Steel tweezers should not be used with Rio Pickle or other sodium bisulfate solutions as they will contaminate the pickle and cause it to copper plate your jewelry pieces. Copper tongs are an ideal tool for removing jewelry pieces from the pickle pot.
  • Soldering Picks, Tweezers and Third-Hand BasePicks, Tweezers and Third Hands – When soldering, tweezers and picks can be used to handle hot metal and solder. Rio Grande carries solder picks made from titanium or tungsten. Soldering tweezers come in many sizes, shapes and styles. It is a good idea to have a few different tweezers close by when soldering as they can heat up or get coated in flux or solder when in use. Some tweezers have fiber or wood handles to protect your hands from heat. Cross-locking tweezers are often used in conjunction with a third hand to hold your pieces stationary while you solder, freeing up both of your hands to use with the torch and a pick. The third hand has a weighted base and a swiveling ball joint to allow for stability and easy maneuverability.  
  • Binding WireBinding Tools – Sometimes when soldering it is helpful to use binding wire or titanium strips to hold pieces in place to ensure accuracy. There are also products available like soldering clay that can be used to position pieces for soldering. 

Need Help Choosing Soldering Tools?
If you need help selecting soldering tools and supplies, our tech team boasts seven master jewelry technicians representing two centuries of practical hands-on knowledge and is on call to answer your questions regarding soldering or anything jewelry related. Take a look at our extensive collection of soldering equipment and supplies online or in our catalog!