The problem with having the "clever" disease is that when I see cute handcrafts, instead of purchasing them, I think to myself, "I could make that" and proceed to purchase supplies that cost 3 times as much as if I just went ahead and bought the finished product. Anyone else out there have this problem? So I have been drooling over these darling soldered charms by Sally Jean since last fall. Thus I asked for a soldering iron for Christmas and purchased some microscope slides and assorted other goodies and set on a quest to make soldered charms.
I had a book with instructions and followed them and was a pitiful failure. The solder wouldn't stick. A few weeks ago I noticed that Munro Crafts had a soldering class and it was $30 dollars to take a class to make a soldered charm bracelet and that included supplies. So I signed up for a Saturday class which was taught by Jennifer Vermeerch. Our class had 3 people and so we had plenty of personal attention and in 2 hours were able to complete our projects.
We began by learning to cut the glass from the microscope slides into pieces with this handy glass cutter tool. My pieces were a bit uneven - hopefully I'll improve with practice! Then you cut pieces of paper or fabric or whatever it is that you want to put inside the charm to match the size of the glass. I used some red and blue origami paper. (No pictures of this step, sorry.)
You wrap the edges with this nifty copper sticky tape. I learned the hard way that it is important to put it on evenly or else the edge of the solder is thin on one side and thick on the other.
When done, you carefully press the edges down like a little package. Then you take a wooden stick or something similar to burnish the edges down so they seal tightly.
I discovered right away that the instructions that I had been following totally omitted the need to use flux when you solder! You need to put flux and solder on the tip of the soldering iron the first time you use it.
You also coat the copper tape with flux. Then you lay the solder along one edge of the tape and put the hot soldering iron on it. The iron will heat up the tape and melt the solder. You slowly drag the soldering iron across the edge and the melted solder will gently slide across the top. In theory that is! I had an awful time to get it to melt smoothly. Yes, I was going for the rustic look, that's it!!
After you've put the solder along all 4 edges on both sides of the charm, you set it up straight and level on the table and run the soldering iron across the top to even the solder across the top. You don't need to add additional solder for this step.
Here are my finished charms. Don't look too closely - they are so uneven. I think I need a remedial soldering class!! (I tried to make another charm at home and the end result was even worse. My soldering iron is not the right type, I think. You have to hold a button to heat it up and it's very clumsy.)
Final step is to add a jump ring. I liked Jennifer's idea of using floral foam to hold the charms in place for this step.
I decided not to put them on the bracelet chain that was a part of the supplies. Instead I used a ball chain and a leather strap necklace and strung them with a couple metal charms. Here's the "hanging around" shot.
One of the nice things about taking the class was they gave you 2 coupons for 50% off for purchasing supplies when the class was done - one for that day and one for a future purchase. (Yes, they are like drug dealers, enticing you to get hooked, so you will buy more and more supplies! And we all know I have a bead addiction already!) I bought several tools, but I think I will need to get a different soldering iron to really be able to do this. Fortunately they aren't very expensive.
If I ever get the hang of this, you will be the first to see whatever I end up creating! I'm off in a bit to give it another try! And if I ever get it mastered, guess what everyone is getting for Christmas this year?
Note: Since I took the class I purchased Simple Soldered Jewelry & Accessories at Amazon. I found it very helpful for a beginner! The project ideas were excellent. More about the book posted here.
I bought a Helping Hand which I have found to be an easier method of holding the jump ring while I solder because I can move it into any position.
I also invested in a better soldering iron, the Weller WP35 35-Watt Professional Soldering Iron, and it truly has made all the difference in the world! I went through 3 inexpensive soldering irons and dozens of tips - they just didn't last! Since I updated to a heavy duty Weller soldering iron, I have had much better success with my soldering and have not had to replace a single tip! In the long run, well worth the investment! I dumped all the other irons that I had! Here is a link on Amazon to the iron I am using and a few other helpful items:
This looks like a really fun craft! I will have to check it out the next time they offer it.
I'm also of the crafting mindset where I avoid buying things because I could make it and then end up investing in a small fortune of craft supplies...I think it goes along with the crafter mentality :)
Thanks, Rebekah. I was quite sure I wasn't the only one!
I agree that I thought this would be an easy process and was so disappointed that it looked like a globbed up mess. Your instructions are very helpful. I didn't know to just lay the solder down and let it melt in place. Awesome... can't wait to try it.
Thanks for this little tutorial, Karan.
I think I might have caught something, though... Must.buy. Soldering.Iron.
Thanks for the tutorial. Just found you via internet looking for instructions. Nice to know someone else does not do thing perfect first time
Thank you for your post, very informative and helpful. The tip on using the floral foam is extremely valuable, no more burned fingers.
Next time you are soldering, instead of dragging the solder along with you, "grab" some off the end with the iron, and tap the solder onto the copper tape, in a gentle up-and-down motion, instead of side-to-side. The solder will bead up instead of going flat.
Thank you for a great tutorial!
Thank you for a great tutorial!
What about toxic fumes when the foam is heated? It is a petroleum product right??
Never thought of that, Tara, but the foam really doesn't get hot when you do it.
Great post sharing information related to soldering jewelry
I loved the floral foam idea so went and got some at Michael's. The package says FLAMMABLE! So I would be afraid to solder over it..I wonder if she uses a different, non flammable type?
Jane, I really don't know. I know a few others have expressed concerns on using the foam. It just seems like an easy and practical solution. Recently, I've used some clips to hold the charms upright while soldering and bought a jewelers arm to hold the ring and that works equally well.
Maravilloso! Ahora yo también estoy muy entusiasmada por practicar!
Amazing information. I loved it. as a beginning i'm very excited to learning how to use a soldering iron step by step
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