Monday, October 3, 2016

Sterling Silver Solder Filled Wire??

by Patti Vanderbloemen

While trolling the Rio Grande website one evening, I found a "new-to-me product" (no idea how long Rio has had this in stock, but I had never seen it):  Sterling Silver Solder Filled Wire (link here).  I tend to solder my jump rings when attaching a clasp, and I like to make my own chain...when I can. This name says it all - solder filled. So in theory, just make a jump ring, flux, fire...boom - closed jump ring.

Now I have tried fusing fine silver wire in the past for jump rings and chain, and for every 6 rings I would attempt to fuse, 3 would burn up in my way-too-hot flame, or I would not pull the flame away quick enough. Epic fail. I do know that practice makes perfect, but,I thought I would give this wire a try. Cost wise, the SS Solder Filled wire (as of this writing) is about $2.10 more per troy ounce than .925 Sterling Silver round wire.  I ended up purchasing 1 troy ounce of 18 gauge.

This is the description of the wire from Rio's website:

Solder-filled silver wire is a tri-metal wire: a solder core surrounded by a copper shell and a fine silver outer layer (solder core: 6%; copper and fine silver shell: 94%). The overall composition is sterling, but the fine silver outer layer provides a better finish and luster than sterling silver. The core eliminates the need for additional solder, simplifying production. This wire is ideal for making chains and jump rings. Simply flux and use. 

I not only wanted to test the ease of use, but also the strength. So, I chose an "ancient" chain link that really puts the links through the wringer. This is not really a tutorial for making the links, but rather I wanted to illustrate the steps I used to check the strength of this wire. The 18 gauge SS Solder Filled Wire is softer than .925 Sterling Silver wire, has a bright and shiny fine silver finish, and is very nice to work with.

This is the chain link I made and the design for this link is typically made from 20 gauge - but hey - I had 18 gauge!

I used one of my dapping punches that was approximately 1/2" wide to form a coil for my rings.

As everyone knows, anytime a join has to be soldered, it must be a PERFECT join. This is especially true for using this wire (and fusing fine silver jump rings, as well). After sawing out the rings, I set them up assembly-line style on my charcoal block, sprayed with Pripps flux, and proceeded to move the flame slowly around each ring. I will say - MUCH EASIER to get the solder to flow with this wire than to fuse fine silver wire.

Because the outer layer of the wire is fine silver, there was no fire scale (no pickle/clean up required) - and that is a huge PLUS.

Strength Test Number 1: To begin forming the links, place the jump ring near the bottom of round nose pliers and pull gently to make an oval shape.

In the picture above, the solder join is inside that little yellow circle. This area will receive the most stress from shaping the round link into an oval, thus a perfect test for the strength of this wire. 

Not every jump ring I made was perfect....which is why I chose this chain to test the strength of the wire.  Seriously - must have a perfect join before soldering!

Once you have formed the oval shape, grab the oval in the center and pinch with the round nose pliers to make a "bow tie" shape.

Turn the link around over the round nose pliers and bend it closed.'s not perfect in my picture...I tweaked the shape a bit after wards!

Once you have your links formed, feed one looped end of one link through both looped ends of another ring, and rotate the links until they are "nestled".

Strength Test 2: I looped a small piece of copper wire to one end of my chain to act as a pulley and proceeded to pull the chain through successive holes in my draw plate. 

I ended up pulling the chain through 5 holes in the draw plate - from larger hole to smaller hole - which not only tested the strength of the links, but it really fine tuned each link so that they were the same size.

I have made this chain several times over the past couple of years, using 20 Gauge Sterling Silver wire. But, I wanted to make a comparison to the Solder Filled wire, so I made a few similar links using 18 Gauge Sterling Silver wire.

After forming my jump rings around the same mandrel, I took a teeny tiny piece of hard solder (for color matching purposes, there is more silver content in hard solder so I typically grab that box first).

Now, I forgot to take a picture but trust me - each link required a soak in pickle and clean up - something I DID NOT have to do with the SS Solder Filled Wire. Also, there is a reason this chain should be made with 20 gauge wire if using Sterling. The sterling silver - even though dead soft and heated (annealed) becomes very hard very fast.  

The image below shows the chain made with 18 gauge SS Soldered filled wire on the top (notice that beautiful shine) and 18 gauge sterling silver on the bottom.  The chain made with the 18 gauge SS Solder Filled wire is much more fluid.

Top Chain - made with 18 Gauge SS Solder Filled Wire
Bottom Chain - made with 18 Gauge .925 Sterling Silver Wire 

I ended up making myself a little bracelet with the completed Solder Filled Chain. I oxidized the chain first, tumbled, then I simply wired a pretty Silver-Flanked Orange bead from Tibet as my focal. I also added a little extender chain, made from jump rings - soldered closed - so that this bracelet is adjustable. 

I may actually keep this bracelet for myself, as I really do like the links on this chain.

I will definitely use this solder filled wire again - especially when I need a secure closure, such as a soldered jump ring for clasps, etc.

So tell me - have you experimented with any new materials lately? If so - please share, as I am always on the lookout!

Thanks so much for joining me today - have a great week!


Karen McGovern said...

Excellent post! I'm always looking for shortcuts, and this stuff sounds like a real plus for making chain. I'm definitely going to give it a try. Does it come in thick gauges? Off to Google!

Karen McGovern said...

Excellent post! I'm always looking for shortcuts, and this stuff sounds like a real plus for making chain. I'm definitely going to give it a try. Does it come in thick gauges? Off to Google!

Sandi Volpe said...

Patti, beautiful. Thanks for sharing I have never heard of that either, may need to give it a try!

SueBeads said...

Great post Patti - I don't do any of this work but it's interesting to learn about the process.

Melissa Meman said...

Thanks for sharing, Patti! I have been thinking about making some of my own chain and this looks like it would save a lot of work!

stacilouise said...

good to know! I may have to check that out!

Carol Dekle said...

This is awesome! I prefer a soldered jump ring as well, and this wire makes that process so much easier! Thank you so much Patti. Your bracelet is beautiful!

Michelle said...

Great post Patti! Thanks for sharing this info. I've seen it on Rio but just didn't know how to use it. You really tested the heck out of it. :)


Carol B said...

Thanks for the info! I fuse 14 and 12 gauge fine silver, but I make a mess of thinner wires. I'm off to add this to my RG wishlist.

Polish and Charms said...

I just ordered (and received today) some solder filled jump rings from Rio. Not quite the same thing, but I hope they work well for me!

Patti Vanderbloemen said...

I will definetly look for solder filled jump rings next time I shop! Thank you!!

Ann Schroeder said...

That chain turned out beautiful as did the bracelet!

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