Last week I began soldering, and it didn't take me long to confirm that I love it as an art form.
Silver soldering comes in two basic varieties when making jewelry -- Hard Solder, which calls for a gas-powered torch that melts metal above 1000 degrees F, and Soft Solder, which calls for a solder iron (or small torch) to melt metal around 500 degrees F.
Hard Solder is used in the creation of jewelry that calls for metal-on-metal adherence. It's technical and I admire it immensely, but it was a little too intense to dive right into.
Soft Solder is used to add metal to other objects -- glass, crystals, stones, antler, etc. As long as the material in question can handle the heat exposure, soft soldering will affix a silver-based metal to it, which is fantastic for turning objects into focal points for wearable art.
I've dabbled in all sorts of metalsmithing before, but I've never had my own solder station set up, so I practiced on a few crystals that weren't sad to be offered up on the altar of Maybe A Whoops Happens.
The first session in any new endeavor is mostly getting accustomed to the new tools and physical set up. There's definitely a nuanced art to feeling the silver as it turns from solid to liquid, and then guiding the liquid metal onto the object in question. Metal has a life of its own and working with it to create something new benefits immensely from a partnership mindset.
Guiding the liquid metal onto the object is just the beginning. There's all sorts of add-on options -- jump rings, additional stones, and new layers of other metal types are all possible. And, as with nearly every art form, every person has their own technique and opinion when it comes to the "best" or "easiest" way to approach technique. So while resources like YouTube are invaluable for getting set up and rolling, after a certain point, I like to just experiment until I get a feel for what works naturally for me.
My final results at the end of my first session were, in my opinion, not too shabby! Of course these two pieces don't look the way I envisioned -- nothing ever does on the first attempt -- but they're both functional and their metalwork is solid! It was a fantastic first session and I learned so much about the finer points of the tactile art of soft solder work.
The best part was feeling like I wanted to keep working, even as I was cleaning up for the day... that excitement and desire to add onto what already worked is addictive. It's what keeps the artist coming back for more. Hooray soldering!