Soldering, Chasing, Charcoal Blocks, and More!

Tips & Tricks

To reconstitute dried-out paste solder, stir in one drop of mineral oil at a time until thoroughly combined. Do this in a glass container, as metal may contaminate the solder. The process will go quicker if the glass container is warmed. The oil may cause the solder to flare up when soldering. Do not throw out old solder, as it may contain cadmium, but it can be re-fined with other metal scrap items.

-Beth Katz of in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

Rub bits and scraps of charcoal blocks onto surfaces of white fire bricks to create a reducing atmosphere (like a charcoal block).

-Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

Things to remember when soldering:


  • Solder flows in the direction of the heat
  • Solder will not bridge gaps- it works by capillary action
  • Solder will ball up before it melts
  • When soldering a smaller piece of metal to a larger piece (like wire to sheet), keep the heat on the larger piece
  • Each time you reheat solder it will become harder to reheat it.
  • Solder expands to 3 times its original size when heated

-Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

The tip of a jack hammer makes a great square stake if you grind off the tips and sand it.

-Val Link

For chasing large pieces, make two frames from MDF board with regularly spaced holes for screws. Screw the metal down between the frames. Now you can easily work the metal from both sides and remove it for annealing. You can rest the frame on wood blocks to get more depth. A ball-peen hammer can be used as a chasing punch.

-Jan Harrell

Monofilament fishing line is great for cold connections. You can bead up the ends with a Bic lighter. With care, you can even bead up the line right next to a pearl.

-Marjorie Simon

Use separating disks to:


  • Make grooves and slots
  • Clean up the inside angle of a ‘T’ seam.
  • Cut a groove or slot in the middle of a sheet or tube.
  • Grind (like a lapidary flat lap)
  • Cut sprues from castings
  • Make a variety of surface textures by cross-hatching, etc.

-Andy Cooperman

To make a nail for riveting: bead wire, then put through a drawplate to hold the wire with the bead at the surface. Use a hammer or stamp to shape the head.

-Jan Harrell

Cylindrical pillar files (used for sharpening chain and available at hardware stores) are useful for a number of applications since they don’t taper. They come in a variety of sizes.

-Val Link

14K makes for better prongs than sterling because it’s stronger.

-Linda Darty

Don’t put soap on your enameling glass brush! You could contaminate the enamel.

-Linda Darty

When filing, keep your wrist stiff and don’t fall off the edge of the metal. Using a larger file is more efficient.

-Val Link

Use a solution of two parts white vinegar and one part hydrogen peroxide (from the drugstore) to clean brass. The brass will turn a buttery yellow as surface lead and tarnish is removed and some small bubbles should be visible on the metal. The brass should be removed before the solution turns slightly greenish or the brass darkens. This will go very quickly- anywhere from a few sec-onds to 5 minutes depending on the piece and the freshness of the hydro-gen peroxide, which degrades when exposed to air. If the brass gets dark, make a fresh solution and re-clean it for a shorter period of time. However, further passes may begin to etch the brass.

-Patty Scott

Both bronze and brass are yellow alloys of copper but bronze contains tin (typically 12%) and brass contains zinc (typically 10%). Bronze can be quenched while red hot, but brass will go hard and brittle if treated this way. Copper oxide rises to the surface of bronze during heating and should be removed from areas to be soldered.

-Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist


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