Sawing and Soldering: Make Your Own Sterling Silver Flower Ring

18 Nov 2010

Tammy Jones editor Jewelry Making Daily
 
Tammy Jones is the
editor of Jewelry Making  Daily.

  sterling silver soldered flower ring
Flowers have always been a source of joy for me. When I was growing up, one grandmother had a garden full of hydrangeas, pansies, irises, roses, and lilacs, and my other grandmother was always surrounded by flowers in her home décor and clothing. They both made quilts laden with flowers using floral fabrics, too, so it's no surprise that I've always associated flowers with comfort and happiness. Naturally, flowers are a favorite motif in my own creative projects, jewelry especially.

So when my friend and metalsmithing teacher Lexi Erickson told me to "cut out a shape, any shape," a flower was the obvious choice. After some sawing, filing, sanding, hammering, fluxing, soldering, polishing, and buffing, this pretty ring is the end result.

Materials:
20-gauge sterling silver sheet
8-gauge half-round sterling silver wire
small silver ball or bead for center
jeweler's saw and 4/0 saw blades
Burlife or Gemlube
flat-nose pliers and tweezers
medium tooth (#2) file
dapping block
texturing hammer(s)
torch and setup with firing brick
medium solder and pick
various sandpapers
flux and brush
pot of hot pickle and copper tongs
bowl of water

saw flower petal shapes out of sterling silver sheet

Steps:

1. Draw a small, medium, and large organic shape with a fine felt-tip marker on the sterling silver sheet. Using the jeweler's saw strung with a lubricated 4/0 saw blade, cut out your petal pieces using a smooth, fluid, up-and-down sawing motion.

2. Hammer the petals to add texture, as desired. I hammered the large and small pieces, leaving the medium piece plain for contrast.

hammer petal shapes to add texture and dome in a dapping block

3. File the raw edges and finish (sand, polish, buff) the surfaces of your cutouts.

4. Dome each petal in the dapping block. Punch or hammer a small dimple in the center of the smallest petal piece to help hold the ball in place later. Pickle all three pieces for a couple of minutes to clean them; rinse and dry, being careful not to touch the backs where you'll be soldering.

5. Using sandpaper or even a kitchen scrubber, sand off the end of your solder to ensure it's clean and snip off six small pieces, about 1mm each.

flux back of petals and apply three small pieces of silver solder

6. Place the small and medium pieces next to each other face-down on the firing brick and paint the backs with flux. Use tweezers to carefully place three pieces of solder together (touching) on the back of each piece.

7. Fire up your torch with a quiet (nonhissing) reducing flame. Keeping the flame moving and with the blue cone about 1/4" from the surface, heat the brick around the pieces and slowly move in on your petal pieces, heating them gradually. Expect your flux to bubble and turn white; that tells you you're at about 400°F.

8. Heat your pieces a little more directly now, still moving the flame but staying on the piece and keeping the blue cone about 1/4" away from the surface. Don't look away; things are about to happen quickly!

flux sterling silver flower ring pieces and add silver solder

9. Watch for the flux to turn clear and glassy. That's when you know you're at 1,100°F degrees and your solder is melting and will soon flow. You'll see a bright silver line appear when the solder flows. Remove the heat immediately when you spot it. You've presoldered!

10. Lifting with tweezers or tongs (watch your fingers!), slowly tiptoe each piece into water to quench it and then drop it in the pickle for a couple of minutes. Then rinse and dry.

11. Paint the top of each piece with flux and stack face-up in the appropriate order. Sand the solder end and snip off another small piece, placing it in the dimple you created in the smallest petal piece. Hold the center bead with tweezers while you coat it with flux and then place it directly on the solder in the dimple center. Now it's time to solder again.

torch fire sterling silver flower ring pieces on firing brick

12. This is a multilayer soldering process, so it will require a little extra time. You're soldering the ball to the smallest petal, but you're also soldering the medium petal between the other two. Fire up your torch again (to a quiet, reducing flame) and move it around the stack to warm gradually.

13. Watch for the flux to bubble and turn white. Hone in at that point, keeping the blue cone of your flame about 1/4" away from the surface. Sweep back and forth across the ball in the center and move around the entire piece in a circular motion. As the flux turns clear and glassy, focus on the center ball, watching for the silver line that indicates the flux is flowing. When you see it, aim your flame between the petals and focus on the solder you melted earlier. You can't see the silver line when that solder flows, so just allow a little extra time to be sure but keep the flame moving. Note the color of the metal; if it glows red, remove the flame immediately.

soldered sterling silver flower ring

14. Use tweezers to quench the piece slowly in water and then drop it in the pickle for a couple of minutes. Remove it with copper tongs, rinse and dry it, and test the joins. Hopefully, all the layers joined; if not, reflux and resolder until all the layers feel secure.

15. Use a slip of paper to measure your finger size and mark that length on the half-round wire. Cut off the amount you need using your jeweler's saw, not wire cutters, to achieve the appropriate shape on the cut ends. Use pliers to curl the wire into a partial ring shape and test fit it on your finger or ring mandrel.

sterling silver flower ring wire

16. Because the back of the ring is domed from the dapping, careful filing will be required to get angled ends that will fit the curved back of the flower pieces snugly. Place the flower piece face-down on the firing brick and test the ring until it can stand upright on its own on the back of the ring.

flux and torch solder sterling silver flower ring

17. When the ends are filed correctly, sand the end of your solder and snip off two more small 1mm pieces. Paint the back of the flower and the ring wire in flux.

18. Place a piece of solder on the flower where each end of the ring wire touches it and solder in place using the same gradual technique as for the previous pieces.

silver solder melt and flow on sterling silver flower ring 19. Warm the ring wire separately (until the flux melts) before using tweezers to move it onto the flower piece. Watch for the flux to bubble and turn white, then clear and glassy, and then for the shiny silver line when the solder flows. Quench slowly with tweezers, pickle, and voila!

You can see that my ring is a whitish matte silver. The prolonged heat required to complete the multilayer soldering burned off some of the metals alloyed in the sterling silver sheet, resulting in an exterior layer of fine (pure) silver. I liked the look of it, so I left it that way. You can, too, or you can polish yours to a high shine, give it some color with liver of sulfur, or apply any patina you prefer.

Sawing, hammering, soldering--it sounds like fun, doesn't it? It was, and I'm anxious to fire up my torch again.

Do you love soldering and silversmithing as much as I do? Tell me about it in the comments below and share photos of your work in our galleries!


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Comments

on 19 Nov 2010 6:50 PM

Being a metalsmithing teacher, I congratulate you on your presentation.  You gave all the necessary details for a beginning student to be able to judge if they were doing it correctly, from the observation process, even describing the appearance when it was approaching the correct temperature for melting the solder.  So often, an experienced teacher simplifies the instruction too much and the student is left wondering how to proceed. Whereas a good instructor thinks like a Beginner and doesn't leave ANYTHING out.  Very good!  I'm printing it out to show my current students an excellent lesson.

Janice Fingado

jfdesigns

TammyJones wrote
on 22 Nov 2010 11:11 AM

Thank you, Janice! My wonderful teacher, Lexi Erickson, made the whole process seem so easy and manageable by just taking it all one step at a time and making sure I knew what to look for along the way. I'm so glad you found this helpful and I hope your students do, too!

on 27 Nov 2010 6:16 AM

Thank you for sharing. I love your idea :D

I also new on metalsmithing so I think you give all the necessary details I need, so I know I can fix it.

Thanks again for a wonderful how - to!

Greattings from Sweden.

Fabiola

TammyJones wrote
on 28 Nov 2010 6:30 PM

Thanks Fabiola! Let me know if you have any questions and please share photos of your ring if you make one. I'd love to see!

on 31 Dec 2010 6:40 AM

Tammy,   I agree completely with Janice.

This is a comprehensive, readable, understandable "lesson" that is so very valuable to those of us who need to be able to do more than watch and be told, and need to be able to refer back to what had been said.

Thank you!

TammyJones wrote
on 11 Jan 2011 10:58 PM

Thank you, Pat! I had a great time creating this ring and I hope you do too!

on 23 Sep 2011 10:48 PM

I've been having enormous difficulty in soldering layers and I don't know what I am doing wrong. I pre-solder one of the layers, pickle it, clean and flux both layers and torch it, but it won't solder together. I've been working on this one piece for two days now and still no luck. I've cleaned, fluxed, soldered, quenched and pickled over and over again. I've used the stainless mesh, I've used just the soldering block. I've used two different toches and still no luck. Is there any resource anywhere for just this type of soldering? I'm very frustrated to tears.

TammyJones wrote
on 5 Oct 2011 9:21 AM

Hi GlitterGirl09,

First of all let me say I LOVE your name. LOVE!

Secondly, thanks for writing and I'm so sorry that you're having trouble with soldering these layers. I did too; Lexi says it's a fairly advanced task and especially so for a beginner (which I was when I made this ring), so you're not alone! She's been out of the country but I grabbed her and asked her to answer your question, and here's her response. If you still have trouble after this, let me know and we'll try again!

Lexi says: "Remember, you are soldering thru a number of layers of silver.  It sounds like you're not getting it hot enough. Do some "hit and run" techniques. If it looks like the piece is getting too hot and may melt, pull back for a few seconds and then go in again. Also, focus your torch straight down on the center of the piece, not the petals. Good luck. ---Lexi"

Hope that helps you! Thanks for trying this project; I hope it works out for you and I hope you'll share photos when you're done! And again, if you still have trouble, let me know.

Tammy

virgintt wrote
on 25 Jun 2012 10:38 AM

Thanks so much for giving us the actual tutorial on your ring! I have wanted to do something very like this for a while, this is just what I needed!

TammyJones wrote
on 25 Jun 2012 5:38 PM

You're welcome! Hope you'll share photos when you make one!

ladyofbeads wrote
on 21 Jul 2012 7:52 PM

I am trying to soulder a silver band out of 20 g sheet silver and i am doing it on a red clay brick and i cant get the soulder to melt am also using a micro torch can you help me with my problem

TammyJones wrote
on 23 Jul 2012 2:05 PM

Hi ladyofbeads, thanks for your question.

Do you always use a red clay brick for soldering? That's the first thing that comes to mind for me; you should use a kiln brick, a solderite board, a charcoal block for soldering, especially with a micro torch. Also, are you using easy solder? It flows at a lower temp, making it better for a micro torch.

Are you trying to solder the open ends of the band to the back of the ring, like I did, in photos 16-17 above? That could be a difficult task with a micro torch, since the surface area of the back of the ring is so large. You have a large area there to keep hot enough for the solder to flow on both ends of the band, and a micro torch just might not be powerful enough for such a large space. Maybe you can focus on soldering one end at a time, or make a closed band (solder it closed, like these rings: www.jewelrymakingdaily.com/.../soldering-made-simple-create-easy-textured-silver-stack-rings.aspx ), file off a flat side, and solder the flat side of the band to the back of the flower. That way you'd only have one point of contact that you're trying to keep hot enough for the solder to flow.

Another option is to try a larger torch. I checked with our guest blogger Kate Richbourg (she's the queen of micro torches), and she said you might want to try a larger torch (like the Max Flame she writes about here: www.jewelrymakingdaily.com/.../micro-torches-101-part-1-the-which-what-and-why-of-butane-torches-by-kate-richbourg.aspx ) and Kate also said to make sure you're using a proper soldering surface (like the ones I mentioned above, not a red brick) and easy solder.

I hope these suggestions help you!

on 26 Jul 2013 1:55 PM

Love the ring!  Gives me an idea how to solder the ring shank for future rings!