Micro Torches 101, Part 2: Torch in Action and Simple Soldering Setup

14 May 2012

Are you ready to jump even further into the world of micro torches? In part one, I shared the basics of how micro torches work. This time we are going to move beyond the basics and get those torches fired up.

First, let's discuss the setup that you need to use a micro torch. Here is the set up that I use at home.

micro torch soldering setup

These are my six essentials. My micro torch (in this case, the Max Flame), my kiln brick firing surface, a quench cup, soldering tweezers, safety glasses, and a jellyroll pan as my heat-proof protective surface.

I like this set up since I have limited workspace. It's simple and easy to tuck out of the way when not in use.

 
Continuing with my simple micro-torch set up brings me to solder. I use paste solder a lot when I fabricate jewelry (no flux needed and easy to apply). I store my tubes of paste solder together in a glass jar along with my titanium solder picks. Note that I have three picks and three tubes of solder. I use the blue for easy (think cool blue, lowest temperature solder), yellow for medium (like the middle yellow traffic light), and red for hard (red-hot high heat). This way I don't cross contaminate my solder and I always know which pick to grab.

Micro-Torch Soldering Safety
I also have a fire extinguisher next to my workbench. Better safe than sorry! I've never had to use it, knock on wood, but safety first is best.

When I fire up my torch, I always have my window open for good ventilation. Butane is a clean-burning fuel and the burn time for soldering is relatively short. The main source of potentially harmful fumes, in my opinion, is what you are heating. Melting solder and heating flux and metal do give off a small amount of fumes. Working in a well-ventilated area will keep the fumes at a minimum. You can always wear a respirator as well as a have a carbon monoxide monitor for added protection.

Micro-Torch in Action: Simple Soldering
Now that we have covered safety precautions, let's take a look at the torch in action. I use the torch most frequently for making balled headpins, annealing metal, and soldering ring bands.

To make headpins, I use 20- to 24-gauge fine silver wire. The fine silver wire heats quickly, does not get firescale, and makes a nicely rounded ball on the end. 

   
Note how I begin heating the bottom inch or so of the wire and then move the torch underneath the wire to heat from underneath. This helps form a nice ball.

Annealing sheet metal or wire makes it nice and soft and easy to manipulate. Below you can see a strip of wire that I have textured. The texturing makes the wire stiff and difficult to shape.

 
For expert annealing every time, simply mark the wire with a permanent marker. Evenly heat the piece until the mark disappears and you see the metal glow.

Then quench and voila, it's perfectly annealed! Clean any firescale off the metal, and now it's easy to shape into a ring band.

Soldering ring bands is quick and easy with the micro torch. Simply set the band on the kiln brick. 

   
Add easy paste solder using a solder pick (don't use too much!) and heat until the solder flows. Move the torch slowly and deliberately around the outside of the ring. As the solder flows, I focus the flame on the inside and outside of the ring . . . . . .  to pull the solder through the seam to make sure the join is nice and solid.

Remove the heat and turn off the torch. After quenching I give the band a quick polish with some fine-grit sandpaper and a Pro Polish pad.

Now you have a good overview of micro torches in action. It's a great tool to know how to use. I can't wait to hear what you make. Now get out there and play with fire! --Kate

Learn more about micro torches from Kate in her five-star-rated book, Simple Soldering: A Beginner's Guide to Jewelry Making (which comes with a free bonus DVD). Plus, you can learn even more about soldering with a micro torch with Kate in her on-demand web seminar, Simple Soldering: Adding the Perfect Touch to Your Metal Designs.

For ten great ways to put your new micro-torch knowledge to the test, try the projects in our newest eBook, 10 Easy Wire Projects Using a Micro Torch.


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Comments

arleengeller wrote
on 15 May 2012 12:16 PM

Great article, I have been a bit intimidated  by using this at home, and my husband has always feared the worse. Maybe now I can take the next step and purchase one of these butane torches. I know there is so much I could do with this while creating my one of a kind designs.

Thanks for all your great articles.

krichbourg wrote
on 15 May 2012 4:35 PM

Hi Arleen-

So glad that this article helped. My best advice to to use your best judgement and remember that YOU are the boss of your tools.

Using a butane micro torch is just like lighting a lighter... only a bit bigger and stronger. Start small and just practice turning the torch on and off. Then get a practice piece of metal (about the size of a quarter) and try soldering a piece of metal on top (about the size of the dime). Use inexpensive copper pieces and don't worry about the outcome, just practice and soon you'll be soldering like a pro! Good Luck!

beckysurfs wrote
on 20 Nov 2012 5:33 PM

Hi.  I am new to jewelry making & really appreciate informative articles such as yours.  I do have a question that I hope you can help me with.  I am trying to make silver bangles & have been having trouble with the soldering.  It seems that very often the ends of the silver wire come apart or do not align properly.  I file the ends & place them together, put them on the soldering block & hope for the best.  But, so far, only a few actually align up properly & I end up having to take it apart & try again.  Any advice would be most helpful.  

Much Aloha,

Becky

sabnazzy wrote
on 2 Feb 2013 4:04 AM

Hello,a real green horn here,wanting to give simple jewellery a go for a hobby,i have been on ebay and brought up the Blazer torch you recommend?,but they seem to be different in #,so not sure exactly which one you use,also the Japenese made one's seem to be better made,do you think that is correct? also,i am in New Zealand,are these plug in?and if so,can i use an adaptor? as i said,a real green horn,many thank's Andrea Taylor

Carjomaha wrote
on 25 Feb 2013 2:23 PM

HI sabnazzy, I am looking at getting this torch as well, where in NZ are you?

ptora wrote
on 30 May 2013 6:00 PM

Thanks so much for all this information.  I bought a torch to make creme brulee years ago and now that I am making jewelry with copper I realized that I can use this torch without having to buy one.  I have a small square stone that came with my toaster oven to make pizza.  Can this be used as a kiln/firing surface?  Or do I have to buy a brick like the one in your pictures?  Thanks again for all the wonderful videos and tutorials!  

Pastora

trissie wrote
on 30 Jul 2013 7:15 AM

Hi there,

great post! I want to solder onto brass will this torch be suitable?

Many thanks

trissie wrote
on 30 Jul 2013 7:15 AM

Hi there,

great post! I want to solder onto brass will this torch be suitable?

Many thanks