Jewelry basics: the first steps to learn how to solder metal | AnlisLuik | Skillshare

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Jewelry basics: the first steps to learn how to solder metal

teacher avatar AnlisLuik, Jewellery / art / design

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

9 Lessons (50m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Safety

    • 3. Set up and materials

    • 4. Why do we solder?

    • 5. Soldering demonstration

    • 6. Twilight

    • 7. Moon earrings

    • 8. Cycle ring

    • 9. Some finishes and thoughts

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About This Class


Are you starting in the jewelry world and want to take your work to the next level?

Soldering metal is one of the basic jewellery techniques to know. If you are or want to become a jewellery maker I recommend you take this Classe because being able to solder can let you create stunning and more complex pieces.

In this lesson, you’ll learn…

The basic techniques of soldering which include:

  • How the torch behaves.
  • How to use the fire to create a good environment to melt the solder.
  • The differences in joining two pieces of very different sizes.
  • Tools and materials you’ll need.
  • Safety.
  • How to make 3 different projects.
  • How to clean and finish your pieces.

Materials you need…

This is a very basic course for those who are starting into soldering metal. It compiles all the basic materials and tools necessary for it. Despite that, it implies investing in a few tools and materials in order to be able to develop the exercise.

I included a pdf with a list of what you need in the resources section.

Once you get them, these will have a long life so it will definitely will be worth it!

Some suggestions…

If you are wondering around and want to learn another basic technique I suggest you to take my class 'Jewelry Basics: Learn how to PIERCE metal'.

On the other hand, if you look to do some other very basic projects to do your own jewellery as a beginner I recommend my other classes:

Creative Jewelry Design: Create a 'Little Bird' bracelet

Creative Jewelry design: Hexagonal bracelet for beginners

Creative Jewelry Design: Create hanging medal earrings beginners

Creative Jewelry Design: Create a medal Ring beginners

Meet Your Teacher

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Jewellery / art / design


Hello! This is Sophie and I am very happy that you came all the way here!

I am formerly from Barcelona, Catalonia, where I graduated as a graphic designer as well as a maker but moved to the UK to course a Master of Arts in Contemporary Jewellery in order to find new boundaries in creativity and expand my knowledge.

Currently, I am working on my art to become an independent artist and show the world my work and share my skills so others can learn how infinite jewellery making can be.

To get to know more about my work, future classes, work-in-progress and some inspiration, just have a look at my Instagram account anlisluik or my Twitter account anlisluik to share your thoughts.

Please, don't hesitate to comment, suggest or ask me any... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hey, are you interested in learning the basics of jewelry making? With this class, you learn how to tame fire to make your own pieces. This is Sophie. I am an artist and a designer that fell in love with jewelry making and it's creativity. In this class, you will learn the technical aspects of soldiering two pieces of metal together. Having in mind things as the heat spreading, the position of the pieces as well as their size difference. Of course, I will give you a guidance about what to do and what to use in order to be safe while using fire. Your main projects for this class will be a base piece, a pair of earrings and a ring. Join this class to learn the tricks of this must know technique to start making your own Jewelry. Let's get started! 2. Safety: Hello and welcome to my class. First, thank you for joining me to learn how to solder metal. To start with, we will have a look at safety and security. I'll be explaining things regarding this topic through whole class. But here are a few quick things to know and to use before we start. One, wear long sleeves. These will protect your arms from burning if something hot pops up. Also, make sure to wear natural fabrics such as cotton since there’s a higher risk of burning with The synthetic ones. Two, tie your hair. that's for these with long hair. Sometimes hair can get on the way and especially while solderin, you might not realize it and set you hair on fire. And if you do realise it, you will have both of your hands busy. Three, wear Goggles. You never know if something will pop up and you need to protect your eyes from the heat. Four, wearing an apron. You also need to protect your body from warm objects that might be propelled towards you. Ideally, the apron should be made out of leather or jean fabric. Five, don’t burn yourself. While using the torch be careful to never point it towards you. Even if it isn't very powerful, it can reach very high temperatures. Therefore, it should always point in the opposite direction of you. Also, you should never point it down vertically. If you do so the hot air will go up straight to your hand and you’ll burn yourself. These are the five things we need to know before we start. But remember, I'll be telling you more during the class. 3. Set up and materials: Let's talk about tools and materials we'll need. First, we need something to protect the table where we will solder. And for that, we need a soldering board. This board is made from vermiculite, A fire-proofing material that allows to withstand up to 1100 centigrades. We could directly soldier on top of this board, but it will eventually degrade and we would burn the surface underneath. For that reason, we'll place a soldering block on top. This one is a magnesium block I cut in half and as you can see, is quite soft and poudary. It is very light and it absorbs the heat so our board doesn't. Next, we need a pot or a bowl of water? This is something you’ll need to cool down your pieces after heating them. A torch. The one I am going to use is a very simple one that is often used in cooking to glace sugar or meringue. It isn’t very powerful, but it is okay to solder small objects and to start soldering. We’ll use, Tweezers AA to pick up small pieces of solder and small objects. These got very pointy ends. So it makes it easy to place solder in the right place. You can see mine are a bit damaged because of use but still do their job. Also, we will need reverse action tweezers. Can be used to pick up objects as well, that these mainly are to hold the piece in place. So it doesn't move. The wooden part is because metal absorbs the heat and warms up, but wood, insulates your fingers from the warm metal. The best of these tweezers is that when you press them, they open and when you release they close. That way, you don't need to be constantly holding them. And I recommend you to purchase the curved tips one. To be able to join the metal we’ll need solder. Solder is divided in three types, easy, medium, and hard. The one I'm showing you is easy. The numbers that you see mean that per 1000 grams, 675 are fine silver, while the remaining 325 grams are a mix of copper and zinc. This one is mostly used to solder wire, since by using the other solders would probably melt the wire. Despite that, it is recommended to use easy or medium while hard is used for enamelling. The variance between them is the quantity of silver mixed with copper and zinc being hard, the one with more fine silver, per 1000 grams. I'll be using straight shears to cut small pieces of solder. Borax as well. This liquid is placed in the area you wish to solder on. One, keeps the metal clean and two helps it to reach a higher temperature to melt the solder. You'll find it in powder or liquid and with different colors. Let's not forget about the pickle. It is actually an acid powder that is mixed with water used to clean the metal after soldering. Remember to never touch it directly with your hands, instead use copper tweezers. when you first mix it, it is completely transparent, but what makes it blue are the copper particles that come off the metal. Once we take our pieces out of the acid, we will brush them under water, using the brass brush. So far, these are the tools and materials we'll use in this class. But just to make it simple, I uploaded a PDF with a list of all of them for you to download. Said that, let's see some action. 4. Why do we solder?: Let me explain how soldering affects the metal. We don't perceive it, but metal has an organized structure and every time we manipulate the material, we changed and compress its structure. That makes the metal become stiff and hard to bend. But when we warm the metal with a torch, we reverse that effect. Metal molecules, dilates, and expand going back to its original structure. So after soldering, our pieces tend to be quite easy to bend. Some people get a bit overwhelmed about using fire, but as long as you are careful and direct the torch towards the metal keeping it away from you it will be fine. But let me tell you a bit about the torch. You can see a small, long blue flame, don't you? If I place the titanium stick close to where the flame starts the tip glows A bit, meaning, it is very hot. If I place it right at the pointy end of the flame, the glowing Area gets bigger and if I place it farther away, it still warms up, but not nearly as much. Basically, when soldering, you want to be able to, to warm up the metal with enough temperature for the solder to melt. By bringing the torch to close, the metal will heat up, but not much. If you zoom out, it will be useful to equally warm both pieces of metal you want to join, but it want be warm enough. That's why you need to point the end of the flame to the area were you are soldering when everything is nicely warmed. We'll do some practice so you can understand better what I just explained. So don’t worry. But before we do that, let me tell you something else. I got the same stick, an I submerged it underwater. Nothing happens. But if I heat it and I do the same, the temperature difference makes shock, and now I can touch it without burning my fingers. The same applies to metal pieces. Just so you understand how the flame works, will heat up a piece of metal. First, we’ll warm up the whole piece by keeping the flame away. You'll see the color of the metal changes because it warms up and oxidizes. If I point the tip of the flame directly on the metal, you’ll see how it becomes warmer and therefore, it gets a glowing red and right where the flame is it gets a pale yellow color, meaning the temperature is even higher. Now the piece is very hot and we can’t touch it. We can either leave it a few minutes to cool down or drop it into water. Those black dots are the areas where the temperature has been higher. We don't want that. So we will put the piece with our acid. It has been deluded with water, but still it has damaged the lid. We'll drop the piece close to the water, so drops of water don't pop up. And we'll leave it for several minutes. Remember to use a glass conteiner. After few minutes, you'll see that metal has changed color and we can take it out of the acid using some copper tweezers or something made out of copper. Not with our hands or another metal. Put it under water to take the remaining acid. We didn't have it for very long so it still has some black marks, but we can see already a difference from before. The next step would be brushing it with the brass brush, and that would be it. Now you know how the torch behaves, we’ll start soldering. 5. Soldering demonstration: Before we start with our projects, I'll show you how to solder two pieces together. I will use one of the pieces as the base and the other will be placed horizontally on top. You will see the edge is pierced irregularly. We need to file it to make the piece rest completely flat on the other. That's because solder is not to fill up empty spaces, but the join the surfaces that are in contact. We will take a file. You can use a needle file as well, but it isn't that stable and we will file while we turn the piece We do that because inevitably we change the pressure we do with our hand And that way it stays balanced in both sides ending up with a nice straight line. Once that's done, we'll remove the filing remains of the metal on the edges. otherwise, all the solder will be dragged there. And the pieces won’t stick together. Checking everything is right. One of the sides is a bit off, but I'll leave it like that and we'll see what happens. Back to our soldering block. You'll see that if I place the piece on top, it just falls down. Even if we made it flat, I’ll use the reversed action tweezers for holding up the piece and keep it still. You can help yourself with things around like I do, such as using another brick. Next is to brush some borax in the area that we will solder together, being careful to keep the piece in place and if not we can put it back again. Get a coupled of pieces of solder ready and we can start. The first thing we want to do is make the Borax react with the heat, so it crystallizes and melts again. Instead of just warming up the area, we will keep the torch far while we move it in circles to warm up the whole piece and immediately, go liquid. Now is the time to place the solder using the AA tweezers. We’ll place it on the side and we’ll warm up the piece with the the torch again. This torch is quite small and the pieces of metal are quite big and thick, so it will take longer to heat it up to the right temperature but I’ll take advantage of it and I'll explain myself. This step is very important. We need to equally warm both parts. If not, the solder will go to the warmer piece and these won’t unify. To be able to do that, you need to have a couple of things in mind. Every object in contact with the metal will absorb some of the heat. In these demonstration that block and the tweezers are absorbing heat from the pieces. For that reason, the pieces will take longer to warm up, especially the one in the base since it is fully in contact against the block. The size of the piece will affect, in this occasion is quite clear that the base is bigger but also quite thick so it could take longer to warm up than the one on top. Having this in mind, what should I do? I should keep my torch a bit separate and doing circular movements to keep both pieces warm but insisting on the base. How can I know it is warm enough? Because the color of the metal will start to be red. That means you need to make the other piece get the same color, meaning both have the same temperature. When you accomplish that, you need to focus the tip of the flame on the piece of solder, but you also need to keep moving it around. So everything has the same and a high enough temperature. You’ll see sometimes I focus a bit more on the base and that's because I see how it starts to lose some red and I want to keep it. At some point, the solder will start melting, but only when the metal flows, it will start to run. When that happens, we need to show the solder the way through by pointing the path with the tip of the flame. Remember the solder will go where it is warm. You'll notice sometimes the solder doesn't completely flow and that can be because one of the metals isn’t warm enough, because the surface isn’t clean or because there isn't enough solder. In this case, I think there isn’t enough so I will add another piece of solder. The piece is still very hot but it won’t take as long as before to reach a good temperature because we have been warming it. So this is how it looks after. You can clearly see the area where for borax was, which is cleaner and not nearly as oxidized as the rest. Usually metal doesn't oxidize that much but just because we heated it up for so long, very fine layers of the metal came off, if we used a more powerful torch the effect wouldn't have been that aggressive. But don’t worry, our artwork isn’t ruined. We just need to put it in acid. But first into water because it's hot. After having it in acid and brushing it definitely looks well brushed, doesn’t it?. The black layers disappeared and now looks nice and shiny. On the other side where we placed the solder show bits that didn't fully melt. And one side where the soldier is, it spread around both surfaces. That bit of solder that didn't melt probably didn't because there was too much solder and didn't heat up long enough for it to completely melt. If you notice at the other end of the metal is not in contact. Remember that while filing it I said it was a bit off? this is what happens when it isn't properly filed. Solder doesn't fill up gaps, just joins two pieces in contact. That can still happen if you heat up one of the pieces more by mistake. So here's how you can remove it. If you take the half round needle file, you can use a side of the round side and carefully scratch the solder off. Just make sure the piece is completely dried. You can use some sandpaper as well. And voilà You can keep sanding down until it comes completed. Do you feel ready? The next step is you soldering. 6. Twilight: Now it's your turn to set some fire. *Just joking* we’ll do something similar to the previous demonstration, and we'll use a three or 3.5 cm base and on top, a moon shaped piece. You can do something different if you like but, if not, I left a working sheet with the shapes and sizes that I'm using. We’ll be doing the same as before. We set The moon on top of the base using the reverse action tweezers. Take you time to make sure these are completely in contact and get everything ready. In this occasion, we are re-creating something similar to what we previously did. The difference now is that the piece on top has a gap and a shape, therefore, each area is smaller and it will warm up quicker. But fear nothing. Everything works as before and I am here to guide you. We first brush some borax carefully and we start warming up, keeping a distance with our torch. Once the borax has crystallized, we place a bit of solder on one side. We warm up everything and we try to insist on the base. When everything starts to get that reddish color, we focus on the solder and the area where you want it to go using the tip of our flame. Look at how the solder runs leaving a fine silver line. I'm just making sure all the solder melts. and it's done. Can you see how it took less time to do the whole process and how we didn't get scales. That is because of the base on top. By being smaller, it absorbs the heat quicker and redirects it to the base. Before it stole too much heat not allowing the bigger piece to warm up quicker. This time it has a more even color and we can see the solder did go all the way through. We put it into the acid and we wait a few minutes. After cleaning it with the brass brush it looks nice and shiny again. If we compare with the one I did before, we can see how the solder struggled to drive through. And apart from the fact that on one side there was a gap, probably there wasn't enough heat. If the piece on top had been smaller or if my torch had been more powerful, that wouldn't have happened. Also. Can you see how the solder spread in both pieces? That's because there was no more room for the solder and it just melted away. That's it for this first practice. Keep this object because we'll use it in a future class. How did it go? Did you struggle solding the pieces together? I encourage you to start the project and Post pictures of what you did and tell me about your experience. I will help you solve your problems and any questions you have. Let's move to the next practice! 7. Moon earrings: Welcome back. In the second practice, we'll see the headaches of soldering two pieces together with very different sizes. Specifically we’ll be soldering a flat shaped and a wire together. This is something you would normally do when crafting some earrings or to add details to the pieces, I will be making to moon-shaped earrings that you can do as well or choose another shape. After piercing and filing your desired shape we’ll decide where we want to place the wire in order to know how we want our earrings to look like in your ear. I am first placing it with a dot to later use a round burr to make a mark on the metal. This is optional but useful to never miss the exact place. If you haven't got a driller, you could use an owl to make small mark. Now in order to solder it we place the piece facing up and we put some borax on top. This time, we won't be putting both pieces together. Instead, we will first heat up the borax and warm up the bigger piece.. After placing the solder, we will heat up the base until the solder melts. That will mean the metal is warm enough and we’ll proceed to warm both wire and the base. I will pick up the stick with the reverse action tweezers so I won’t need to keep pressing my fingers. At this point, we need to be careful if we warm the wire too much it will melt. I get them much closer. I focus on the base and when it gets red. I place the stick and I warm both, I moved in the fire away while I keep this position until the metal cools down. Did you see it? The stick got too warm and melted a bit creating a small drop at the end. Okay, there were a couple of mistakes done, while soldering this one. But before we talk about it, let's solder the other one and see if you can spot the mistakes from before. This time, I won't make any mark and I'll just place the stick by eye. We brush some borax and melt it with a torch to later melt the solder. I immediately bring the wire I had previously ready on top of the solder and warm both pieces and when both unify, I quickly put the fire away. Here are both earrings. The first one we soldered is the one on the left and the one on the right is obviously the one we just soldered. You can see how the wire has different lengths. The mistakes I did before I made the left stick shorter. Basically, I was and acted slow, consequently overheating the piece. I first warmed up the wire too much and it melted a bit. Then, when placing the stick I holded the fire for too long and it melted again. There are common mistakes when you are learning because you need to know well the material and see when the metal is warm enough. Also, it is normal to be slow with your movements. You'll probably do this but practice and patients make things work. Please let me know through your project if you had these problems and how did it go? I am looking forward to see your creations. We’ll see one more example of solderinng in the next video so see you in a bit. 8. Cycle ring: Hey, this will be our last exercise. In this occasion, we will solder two pieces of wire. I got two pieces ready, one longer than the other to join them as if it was the letter T, as turtle. Later, we will bend the long one to create a minimal ring. I cut myself a 4cm wire, but I recommend 4.5 for thin fingers and five or more, if yours are thicker. We’ll need to file the ends to make sure these are in contact, otherwise the solder won't join them. Since the wire will rest flat on the block, gravity will make us the job of keeping it in place. Get your borax and solder ready and let's start. We’ll just place it in a T-shape like before, and we'll brush some borax right where we want them to join. We warm the borax to melt it. Since it is a very small area to be joined, we will need a very tiny piece of solder. We’ll soak it with some borax and place it in place. Ideally, it should be placed underneath the join, but I personally prefer to put it on a site or on top because being underneath can move the whole structure and the piece might get soldered in the wrong way. The wire moved when I was placing the solder but that's normal just take your time to make it perfect. Remember wire tends to melt quite quickly. Luckily, this time, both sides are similar and easy to warm up, so it just will be fast. The shorter piece swims up quicker because its area is smaller. So we need to focus on the long one. Check the solder did go all the way through and then we can cool it down. Despite we used a very tiny piece of solder, it seems still was too much and it makes the wire look slightly thicker. We'll put it in the acid and then we can correct it. After a few minutes cleaning and a good brush. It looks so shiny you can't barely see the solder. At this point, you can file or sand down the remains of solder. I will skip that part and directly shape the ring. First, I am going to make the long wire become straight to better bend it later. To do that, I'll be using a long nose pliers, and a piece of leather. You could use flat nose pliers and you could replace the leather for a cloth. Another option could be using pliers with nylon jaws. By pulling the wire while we press it several times, it will become straight and we will create tension as well. We don’t want to create too much of this tension or we won't be able to bend the metal. Just remembered the do it from beginning to end. Once the wire is straight, we need our half round pliers to bend it. We’ll do it in a way that we trace a circle from beginning to end. So make sure the ends of the wire are bended as well. We try to make it perfectly round while we check it fits our finger. And it's done. On the next lesson, we'll see some finishes and some technical aspects. 9. Some finishes and thoughts: Hey, these are the pieces we did in this class. The first one will be used in a future class. Can you guess what it will be? Hint. It will be part of a lid. The moon earrings look pinkish and that's because my pickle had many copper particles that got attached to the silver stick. The only way to avoid that is using an acid with less copper or having them in a shorter bath. But we can remove it by sanding it down. I am going to give them a matte finish. And to do that, I'm going to use sand paper in different directions. That way, I can also sand down a piece of solder that got attached to the earrings surface. Once that's done, we'll make a mark towards the end of the stick as a stopper. We'll use a square needle file While we turn the piece. The ring is quite straight forward. You can choose to remove the solder using sand paper and a needle file like I showed you in the first piece. Well, that's it. Don't forget to post your processes, your doubts and what do you think so far? Your reviews and comments help me to create better content. I can't wait to see your work. See you in the next one!!