Mimi and her girls

Mimi and her girls
Mimi and her girls

Friday, January 27, 2012

My First Tutorial!! Make A Ring with Gold Fill Wire

Every month my Aspiring Metals Team does what they call, blog roll. I miss a lot because sometimes I just can't think of a darn thing to contribute that I think anyone will find interesting. Well this month, everyone is going to do a tutorial- how to do something- metal, photography for your shop, a technique that someone is good at. I volunteered to do one, then- Oh My, what to do? So, great buddies that they are- they suggested I do a How to Solder and work with gold filled wire. Gold fill is not something everyone likes or enjoys working with but it is pretty, looks like real gold and is a whole lot more affordable than the real McCoy! And no, gold fill does not flake off like gold plated, it does have a core of an alloyed material but there is so much gold pressure bonded, it really does look and act like gold.

How to Make a Ring with 14k Gold Fill Wire

First- start with good material from a reputable supplier. Make sure you are using 14/20 or 14k Gold fill, or at minimum 12/20. Nothing worse than heating something and finding out it's plated as the gold peels off.

Supplies you will need:
Cupronil, Battern's flux or Boric acid and denatured alcohol
Yellow GF solder- there are some better than others, my preference is the paste from Otto Frei or the sheet from Hoover & Strong.
Acid pickle- hot -and possibly super pickle (half pickle and half hydrogen peroxide)
Flex shaft or Dremel- for your wheels- If you don't own a rotary good wet/dry sand paper starting with 100 grit works just fine.
Silicone abrasive wheel- black (this one really cuts through metal so go easy with it)
abrasive wheels- 3M, 80 grit down through pumice
Ring files #2 and #4 cut, other files as needed
polishing compound- my preference is rouge then ZAM

1. Measure and cut your wire to size for your ring. For this ring I used 12 gauge 14/20 GF

2. Bend around mandrel and file ends so they are flush and tight- no light at all in the join area

3. Take your formed ring to your soldering area and coat well with flux on both sides- use a soldering pick or tweezers to flip the ring. If you touch the gold, coat it again. These flux materials protect from fire scale and also reduce the amount of copper alloy that will rise to the surface when GF is heated. The more copper you raise, the more work you have to do to clean and polish after soldering.

4. Heat your ring with a low flame all over to dry the flux, you should see a white coating covering the entire ring. If you have bare spots, more flux is needed. The one in the photo is just right- no shiny spots!
 5. For the example above I used Cupronil spray flux- Next I add paste solder and just put it on the seam inside the ring join because I want to pull it through. I heat the ring all over again just to warm it. With gold or gold fill, you only need to heat on either side of the join. Remember, the hotter you get GF the more copper you will raise and the more work you make for yourself for clean up- I am all about less work for cleaning up my own mess. So, heat on medium to hot flame, alternating back and forth on either side of the join so the metal  heats evenly. The solder paste will flow through the join and then stop heating immediately.
As you can see, I used a bit too much paste, but in my experience too much is a bit better than too little. If you use too little, sometimes you have to flip the piece over, add more solder and heat again. My preference, I'd rather file away excess solder than reheat and have my GF turn orange red from copper. As you can see, this ring is a bit pink, but the flux did it's job and I used just enough heat to flow the solder without getting the ring too hot. The solder is not the exact color of GF so you do have to file. I put this in a pickle bath- no need for super pickle since I was able to control the heat and didn't raise much copper.
 After pickle, I brass brush, then hit the files.
I used a #2 cut half round ring file for the inside, followed by a #4 cut half round file, then a black silicone wheel on my flex shaft to remove an scratches left by the file.

6. Now comes clean up. After filing away the solder, I start with a yellow 80 grit 3M wheel, then follow with white 120 grit, red 220 grit, the blue 400 grit
I keep a scrap piece of GF wire close by to compare color- this is after just the first sanding with the yellow wheel and almost all of the pink cast is gone.

The picture above is after 400 grit and you should see that the color match is almost perfect, the brassy yellow of the solder is gone and this ring is now ready for me to hammer and finish down through 1200, pumice and a final polish with rouge and ZAM.

There is never just one way to do anything with metal. This is just how I work with gold fill. I have used this method for rings, bangles and bezels and my results have been fairly consistent. This is just one way, I am sure there are others. Each person that works with metal has their own tips and tricks. I enjoy learning how everyone does things so I have options in my bag when the soldering Gods aren't with me or things just aren't going well in general.

I hope you will also enjoy some of the tutorials from my other teammates and learn a few of their tricks too!
I know I am looking forward to adding the list of blogs below as the other tutorials become ready for prime time. So please come back every few days and learn a trick or two!

Here are the rest of the participating bloggers each with something special they do and hope to share!
Sylvia Anderson 
Metals Addict
Lilian Ginebra
Amy Estelle
Mary Anne Karren
Shannon of Gifted Designs
Pennee- All Wired Up Jewelry Designs
Jessica @ Abella Blue
Elizabeth Brown - resurrectionsilver.blogspot.com