Graphite Soldering Mandrel

Q: I've got a soldering fixture made from graphite, in the shape of a ring mandrel. The problem is, it takes forever to get a silver ring hot enough for the solder to flow. Am I using it wrong?

Needle tips for Torches

Q: I've got a Hoke torch, but the finest tip it came with isn't really small enough for what I want to do. Do they make any smaller tips for it?

Inexpensive Torches

Q: I’m looking for a small torch for silver soldering. Will one of those inexpensive butane torches work okay? Or what about one of those propane torches that screw onto the top of a gas cylinder?

Lighting a Small Oxy-Acetylene Torch

Q: Is there a trick to lighting an oxygen-acetylene torch without getting that black soot all over the place? I’ve got a Little Torch and it either makes a big mess or won’t light at all, especially the smaller tips. And the valves seem really stiff and hard to turn—is my torch defective?

Laser Welders New and Used

Q: I’m thinking of getting a laser welder for silver, gold and platinum, but I was wondering—does it require the use of flux, which seems to be irritating my lungs? And do they exhaust their own fumes, or do I have to provide an extraction system as well?

Adjusting the Hoke Torch

Q: I have a new Hoke torch set up for oxy-propane. But the little knobs for adjusting the flame won’t stay at the setting I have chosen, but keep sliding back at least half a turn. Is there something I can do about this?

Gentec vs. Smith Torches

Q: I currently am using an air/acetylene Prestolite torch but would like to add a propane/oxygen torch to my toolbox. Can anyone offer insight into any differences between the Smith Little Torch and the Gentec Small Torch? Are the differences only the color and the cost or is there something more substantial that I am missing?

Electric Jewelry Soldering Machines

Q: I already have a Smith Little Torch, but I’m thinking that getting a ProCraft electric soldering machine will make my life easier, especially when soldering posts on earrings. Or am I deluding myself?

DIY Water Torch?

Q: I’m intrigued by the idea of those new “water torches” that break water down into fuel—can anybody tell me how to build my own?

Compressed Natural Gas

Q: It seems that if I use propane to run my torch indoors, I’ll be violating all sorts of regulations and voiding my insurance. What do people do if they want to solder indoors?

Containing Dust from a Charcoal Soldering Block

Q: Every time I use a charcoal block (even the compressed ones) I have dust everywhere. What do I need to do to keep my bench from being covered with black grit?

Can I Generate Oxygen for my Torch by Electrolysis?

Q: I’m trying to get my air-acetylene Little Torch to burn hotter, and I thought I’d try oxygen rather than compressed air. Would it make sense to generate my own oxygen by electrolysis of water?

The Smith Little Torch and Compressed Air

Q: I have a Smith Little Torch, and I wonder if I can run it on propane and compressed air, or even by blowing with my mouth. An old jeweler friend said it should be possible.

Butane vs. Propane: Which is Hotter?

Q: Looking on the charts, at “total heating value after oxidation,” propane is 19768 BTU/lb. and butane is 19494 BTU/lb., but in every other category butane looks hotter. Which is really going to heat my jewelry items faster?

Do I Need to Use Acetylene for Soldering?

Q: I’ve been told that acetylene was necessary for jewelry soldering, because natural gas and propane just don’t get hot enough. Is that true? Would I need oxygen to use anything else besides acetylene?

Jewelry Tools—110 volts to 220 conversion

Q: I’m moving to Europe from the USA, and wonder if I can make my electrical jewelry equipment work over there, since they use 220v 50hz power, while all my equipment was set up to run on 110v 60hz.

How Many Materials are there in a Glaze?

Q: How many materials are there in a glaze?

A: If one examines many glaze recipes, one soon realizes that most of them contain ten ingredients, or less. These, in turn, are used repeatedly in different recipes for a given firing range (low-fire, mid-fire, or high—fire).

Annealing Bronze

Q: I need to bend a thick piece of bronze, but it is too stiff. Any ideas?

Bust in Clay

Q: I want to make a life-sized bust in ceramic clay and fire it. Are there any special precautions I have to take?

Casting Sterling

Q: How hot should the oven get when burning out jewelry investments? How hot should the mold be when you cast sterling silver? Why have my castings been coming out black and pitted, with little pinholes?

Clays for Sculpture

Q: I want to try doing sculpture. What kind of clay should I use?

Foundry Practice

Q: I read that metal can be melted in a homemade charcoal-fired furnace, using an old cast-iron pot for a crucible. Is this a good idea? I want to pour about 20 lbs. of brass.

Gas, Electric, or Wood Kilns

Q: My new place in Washington State has a brick barbecue, which I plan to use for a wood-fired kiln. But the place also has heavy electricity and natural gas. Which is better for ceramics, a wood kiln, a gas kiln, or an electric kiln?

Raku Pottery

Q: What is Raku, and how do you do it?

Making Clay Pipes

Q: I want to make some clay pipes for smoking. What clays are best for resisting heat? How do you get that long tunnel to go down the stem? And how do you sculpt on them without mashing them up?

Faience—Egyptian Paste

Q: I’ve gotten curious about Faience, and I want to try it out. Do I need a special kiln? What is it best for, and what special treatment do I give it?

Manganese Bronze Problems

Q: I’m melting manganese bronze and it makes a lot of smoke when I pour it into my plaster investment molds. Then the castings seem to come out porous, black and pitted. What am I doing wrong?

Vitreous Enameling

Q: What do jewelers mean by “enameling”? Is it the same as regular paint, or does it have to be heated in an oven? Is it the same as embossing?

Controlling a Kiln

Q: What can I do to control the temperature of my kiln and make it more like an oven?


Q: Is there any way to prevent that ugly and hard to remove firescale from covering my gold and (especially) silver jewelry pieces when I heat them?

Silver Solder

Q: What is in silver solder? Is it all basically the same thing?

Best Type of Flux

Q: Which is best for soldering precious metals, the liquid self-pickling flux or the white paste kind?

Brazing for Platinum

Q: I’ve used an oxygen/natural gas torch to solder silver and gold and for brazing. I know that one needs the extra heat of oxygen/acytelene for welding steel—is it good for platinum as well?

Granulation with Silver

Q: I have been trying to do granulation with fine silver and cannot get all of the beads to stay on the base plate—what should I do?

Paste Solder

Q: Is paste solder as good as wire or sheet? It certainly seems like it would be easier to deal with.

Silver/Brass Warping Problems

Q: I’m trying to silver-solder a large sterling bezel to a brass base, but I’m having lots of trouble with warping, buckling, and non-adhesion—any hints?

Water Torch

Q: I’ve got a second-hand type A+ “water” torch. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work—what am I doing wrong?

The PVC FAQ—Using Hot Melt Vinyls

Evan Hughes, with a somewhat contrary view, explains how this material can be an economical substitute for expensive rubber compounds in some applications. This article covers the following topics: using hot-melt vinyl for making flexible molds, melting it, the electric pot, pouring, hazards, and limitations.