One thing I learnt that I already knew and two things I learnt that I didn’t.

Yep. Still here. Still a bit P O’d about you know what, but soldiering on… ūüėČ

The weekend before last I did the art fair. This is when I wished I didn’t live in Houston.

Because of the weather.

Had to change my clothes three times.

I’m so over it.

I didn’t do as well this time. I think it was my attitude. My booth mate couldn’t¬†make¬†it because we had a rain date due to the fact that the heavens¬†have decided to dump¬†every last drop of water it has on Houston¬†right now. I seriously wouldn’t mind sharing it with Alberta.

I can’t imagine what they are going through.

My booth was in-between two friends, but I just felt a little sad and wanted to go home about an hour after unpacking everything.

Was probably putting out some pretty negative vibes and everyone decided to give me a miss.

That’s o.k.

Dad would have blamed it on Kipper Season.

So back in the studio I’ve decided to concentrate on stepping it up again. It’s taken¬†me a little while¬†to be¬†bothered with it all, but here’s¬†one of my latest pieces.

It seems I still need to pursue the flower design even though I thought I was over it.


I do like this turquoise though.


Just a beautiful colour.


For my next piece I think this is where I’ll stop.

I like how simple and clean it is. My pieces are sometimes a little overworked.


¬†I don’t regret how involved my other pieces are as it has really helped me figure out the whole soldering thing which I have discovered¬†is much less tricky than it wants¬†to be¬†given credit for.

I wrote once about how everything has¬†to be¬†perfectly prepared before you even begin to think about soldering two pieces together, but now I don’t think that’s necessarily true.

Of course to a degree everything has¬†to be¬†fairly clean and flush but, and you’re welcome to disagree with me, I’ve found that it really is all about the flame.

Of course I forgot about all of this when I was soldering, or at least¬†trying¬†to solder, the piece below, but eventually I stopped struggling with it and got, Go on, give it a go Gertrude, out and sure enough, as I’d already learned quite some time ago now, the flame wins every time.

If, my friends, you can only remember one thing from now on let it be this – size¬†does¬†matter…

Here’s the piece waiting¬†to be¬†soldered.


Looking innocently like any other piece I have worked on.

Except it wouldn’t for the life of me solder even though I heated the hell out of it.

Even the silver wouldn’t melt whereas when I first learnt to solder I couldn’t even show it the flame from the next room without the¬†bezel collar turning into¬†a molten mess.

As I have come to find out over time the key to soldering is simply to heat everything up to the same level. If the nozzle on your torch isn’t capable of doing this,¬†nuttin’ ain’t ever gonna solder.


You don’t really notice this with smaller pieces, but when you start on the larger ones until you get the hang of it you can lose a lot of hair pulling it out with the frustration of it all.

Tip. Unless you really like bald don’t keep at it. You pretty much know when you’ve been slogging it out too long. If it isn’t going to solder it just isn’t going to solder so turn the torch off, walk away and go wash those golden locks while you still have them. Willing it with your bloody minded laser vision isn’t going to cut it.

Believe me.

I know.

So when I first started I had a 00 tip for my Smith acetylene torch head. This was great until I spent several agonizing hours (read days) trying to solder one of my first larger pieces. Dad and I had many, what the hell’s going on now! conversations before I realized that the 00 just couldn’t heat up the larger area of silver.

So I bought a 0.

This has done me very well and now I only get the 00 out if I want to repair a chain or something small like that, so I was a bit surprised when the 0 wouldn’t work for me. This piece really isn’t any larger than some other pieces I’ve made, except the back plate is a thicker gauge so it could have simply been that.

I don’t have a 1 which is why I had to get, Go on, give it a go Gertrude out.

She’s only a number 2, but man does she fire up.


I bought her a while back when I wanted to melt down my silver leftovers.

If you remember I started out on that terrifying adventure by purchasing a number 4.

Nearly took my head off.

Don’t chance it folks, the number 2 is more than happy to melt anything down for you. She¬†still takes you by surprise every time you light her up, but not to the heart attack level of the number 4.

Now with Gertrude’s super power on my side the problem was everything heating up too much so I had to be very careful, especially as I tend to only use easy solder instead of working down through from hard.


But by paying attention I even managed to get the prongs on without a meltdown.


The thing I did find, however, was that because I had spent so much time heating it all up before getting Gertrude out, the bezel collar had become very crumbly and just seemed to fall apart. I’d never come across that before, but as nothing else was affected I just took the collar out and made a new one.

With a little filing and fiddling I managed to get it back in there.


Now, here are the two things I did learn.

The first from an old guy that I met at the last art fair in October.

Flux the whole piece of silver and not just the area your soldering. O.K. so everyone in the whole world must know¬†this¬†except me, but¬†It really does protect the silver and keeps the whole thing cleaner and you don’t have so much mess to clean up.

The second is something that again everyone must have already known.

After liver of sulphuring, or Black Maxing as I prefer, you can put the darn thing in the tumbler and it does wonderful things…


Tell me why I’m the only one who doesn’t know these things….

I’ve always had a really hard time cleaning up the pieces I make and getting the finish I want¬†but, fingers crossed, this seems as though¬†it might¬†do it for me.

Of course I hadn’t used my tumbler for such a long time because I don’t like ‘shiny’ and didn’t realize that it could do other things that the belt had rotted and broke as soon as I started to get excited about the results.


I have a new belt now.


Here is the piece, and his friend, almost finished.


He hasn’t been¬†in the tumbler yet so I’m hoping he’ll¬†be super great after that.

If not¬†the tumbler’s going straight back in the cupboard…


17 thoughts on “One thing I learnt that I already knew and two things I learnt that I didn’t.

  1. wiredweirdly

    I just adore your style and am always at a loss as to how you can get so many things to solder at the same time… like, you must have the most precise hands to get it all set up without knocking other parts around and then you still have to put the solder in the right spots. Seriously, that’s amazing.
    Having not done much bezel work, I didn’t think you could tumble before setting the stone – won’t the bezel be too hardened? I love my tumbler and usually tumble before LOS and again after.

    • coldfeetstudioblog

      I bought that little hammer for my foredom and it just punches that bezel right down ūüôā I must say I didn’t have much luck with this piece and the tumbler. I’m still a work in progress…

  2. Anonymous

    I love this piece and I love your little leaves. I try to stamp leaves and saw them out and they just look ugly and flat. Ugh. Nice work@

    • coldfeetstudioblog

      ūüôā I snip out the leaves first, then I stamp them and bend them up a little with my pliers. It gives them a casual look ūüėČ For the little ones I use a leaf stamp that I have and then snip around the impression.

  3. Your tumbler will be honored to finish up those beauties! I, too, am amazed by your precision. All those numbers just scare me–but your soldering is a marvel. Can’t wait to see both with the stones.

    • coldfeetstudioblog

      The tumbler is going to have to buck up and make a move. Had a lot of trouble with it! So still not so sure about it.

  4. Marilyn

    Beautiful work! I just received a book on soldering in the mail today, and although I have done a tiny bit of it, I am looking to explore this more. Your work inspires me!

    • coldfeetstudioblog

      Thanks Marilyn ūüôā

  5. Deborah Uher

    The question is, “Simple compared to what?” It is beautiful.

    I don’t understand the technical part of your work but I am glad that as a weaver I do not have to light a piece on fire to finish it.

    I feel your pain. Lived in Houston for 5 years. The good news is, unless you move to New Orleans, no place else will ever feel humid again. (Oh wait. This only works after you move.)


    • coldfeetstudioblog


  6. I love that larger piece. But I love all your pieces. Sorry your show wasn’t as good as it normally is. It sounds like the weather might have done everyone. I hate it when it’s a rainy yucky day!

  7. Just reread. so you like the #2. I mostly use my #1. I have a #2. Have to rethink it. I’m surprised you get everything to stay down with easy solder. Do you try to mostly solder everything at once. Do you use yellow ochre to protect previously soldered parts?

    • coldfeetstudioblog

      No I don’t like the #2 except to melt down scrap silver. For that it’s brilliant. For the soldering I did above it was too much so I had to really pay attention not to melt everything. The #00 didn’t feel like working that day – just can’t get the help nowadays – so I had to use the #2. I’ve just ordered the #1 which I think will fill the gap.

      I don’t solder everything at once. Usually the bezel first, then any balls etc. Then the finer things at the end because I can flicker the flame in and out of the piece as it doesn’t take as much to solder them. I only use easy solder and don’t use anything else other than solder paste. Still working on if I like the tumbler or not…

  8. First thing I ever did with a torch was getting a piece of copper wire all crumbly… ūüėČ Wish I had your knowledge and choice of torches. But I’ve at least got to know my tumbler well! Love it, seriously. It can work harden things you don’t want to hammer on, take the edge off open jump rings, smooth things (especially tiny fiddly ones) down generally, take off most of your patina if you’re not careful… and if you don’t like the sheen, you could always buff it down with some steel wool or something. I always give my ear hooks a ride, for one thing. You can add patina before, or after, or both…
    And you can only flux the whole piece if you use paste flux — I used to use liquid flux a lot, and still do sometimes, and that just won’t stick around on the entire piece!

    • coldfeetstudioblog

      I haven’t quite decided on the tumbler yet. I’m giving it another go so that it gets a fair chance though…

      I don’t have that much knowledge about torches at all. I just wing it and figure things out in time ūüėČ

  9. I think you will like the #1. To only use easy solder is amazing. You must have mad skills. No wonder it takes me so long to do anything. I coat all previous joins with yellow ochre and let it dry. Then I put on the flux and the solder on and let it dry. Then I lightly heat and spray with prips solution and start to heat. Seems like a long process but since I started doing this, I seem to have less problems with everything jumping all over the place. And I do this for each step. ūüôĀ

    • coldfeetstudioblog

      Sue, I’d go nuts doing all that stuff! lol I am way too impatient. I haven’t got mad skills I’m just bloody minded and determined for it to behave the way I want it to ūüėČ I started out thinking there were all these rules I had to follow to be able to solder, but got over it pretty fast. I did struggle a lot with soldering when I first started, but I think I was just too timid. I’ve figured out since then that, as with a lot of things, I just didn’t push it enough to see the results because I was afraid of it melting, etc., etc..

      Flicker your flame in and out to stop the pallions jumping. That used to annoy the hell out of me also. You can see when they’re going to jump, just pull the flame away and then re introduce it. It’s the water in the flux evaporating that bounces it all around. Maybe it’s the flux I use. Wolverine Super Flux.

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