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Jill Ballam asked: I usually solder with 60/40 and use a 100Watt Weller iron. Recently, while working on a lamp, I changed to 50/50 solder. I tried repeatedly to re-work my lead lines, but couldn’t get them as smooth as I wanted. Is this a feature of the solder? Lorrie Gordon answered: Your experience is a feature of 50/50 solder. You 34
switched from a solder that was 60% tin to a solder that was 50% tin. Tin gives solder its “freeze point”, and the lower the tin, the slower the freeze. So your 50/50 solder remained molten longer, resulting in the seam reflecting any and all movement around it. However, you can make this work to your advantage by also realizing that the tin also impacts the “melt” point of solder, with the higher the number, the quicker the melt. So you probably noticed that your 50/50 took a little longer to heat up and melt. One tip I picked up is to solder the inside of the lamp with 50/50, then switch to 60/40 for the outside of the lamp. You will experience less melt-through because the 50/50 on the inside is heating slower than the 60/40 on the outside, and helping to “dam” the outside solder.
Derek Windram: The difference between melting points of solders, say 40/60 to 60/40 is only around five degrees. The biggest difference is the “elastic” properties. 40/60 goes from solid to liquid relatively slowly and passes through a pasty, crystaline stage. When it sets, the reverse occurs. 60/40 goes from solid to liquid very quickly and appears to bypass the pasty stage. If you consider this, you will realize why you get less “ridging” when you use 60/40.

Joan Bengtson: If you start to experience allergic reactions during a soldering session, I recommend using a water wash-off gel called Fluxomatic instead of your usual flux.
Dave Hammond: When I worked in a commercial glass studio, we experimented with different types of flux to try to find out why tiny holes were appearing in our lead lines. Our conclusion was that the water-based flux that we used boiled too much and was causing these holes to appear. We tried various brands of paste flux and found the the flux used by plumbers is just as reliable as any well-known brand at half the price. Plumber’s flux has a slightly thinner base which makes it easier to spread.

Chaz Smith: When tinning a shade, I use a wet sponge to clean off extra solder and flux while the solder is still hot. This gives a very thin, even tinning. Then I go back and flow a solder bead over the entire surface.
Paul Crist: Before you start tinning, be sure you will have time to complete the tinning of both the outside and inside of the shade within a day or two. The flux you are applying is corrosive to the copper foil in your lamp and will eventually produce a green encrustation that is difficult to solder through. Even though you are working on the outside of the lamp, some of the flux will get through to the inside.

Paul Crist: Use an iron between 100 and 175 watts, because you need control rather than heat to bead. You must be able to hold the lamp steady at all angles, so that you will always be soldering on a horizontal surface - if not, the molten solder will flow toward the downhill side, creating a bump or seam. First of all, re-flux all the lead lines to be beaded, even though there is a lot of flux left from the tinning operation. The trick to beading is using the right amount of solder with the right amount of heat for the right length of time. Too much solder will create a high bead that is hard to control. A good bead should be less than 180 degrees of curve - somewhere in the range of 120 to 140 degrees. You want to apply enough heat to melt the lead line from 1/8” to 1/4” on each side of the soldering tip, but not so much so that the solder sinks through the lead line to the other side. You also want to leave the iron on the bead long enough to get the solder hot so it won’t “peak” when you pick it up, but not so long as to cause the solder to sink through. Often, enough heat is provided by using only the corner of the tip on the edge of the bead. Work along the lead line, so the adjacent area is still hot and will blend with the area you are working on. This requires a good deal of patience at first, but, with practice, it will become easy.

Mary Ritter: To achieve thin solder lines involves beveling the back edge of each piece of glass by tilting it and taking a bit off that edge. It takes only a moment or two to do this with your grinder. Test the “why” of this method by holding up two adjacent pieces of glass and tipping them to the approximate curve of your mold. You’ll notice that when the back edges meet, there is a significant gap at the front side of the glass which would have to be filled with solder. This results in thick solder lines on the outside of your shade. However, when the individual pieces are beveled, the result is a thin outer surface solder line and a thicker inside solder line. This equalizes the width of the outside/inside solder lines, while minimizing the outside and maximizing the inside solder lines of a shade. When I cut out my pattern pieces, I only cut once, between the pieces. After I’ve traced the pattern piece onto the glass, I score the glass just inside the black line that I’ve drawn. This results in a nice, close fit. I finish off by beveling the inside edge of the piece.
Jennifer Buckner: I used to get very tense while soldering because I found it so difficult. Then my glass teacher taught me to put down a series of “dots” of solder along the foil line rather than trying to run a consistent line from a spool of solder. Once these dots are in place, I go back and melt them into a bead. Now , I enjoy the soldering phase of a project and do a much better job. I no longer have those ugly accumulations of solder at intersections and fewer “pits”, too. I use a very narrow tip on my soldering iron.
Lynn Perry: When I’m beading the inside of a shade - especially one that is very curved, I need a third hand to feed the solder, since I am positioning the shade with one hand and holding the soldering iron with the other. I solved the problem by cutting about 12-18 inches of solder off the roll and soldering one end of it to a seam inside the lampshade. The loose end is near where I am working so it’s easy to reach with the soldering iron. Another plus is that any solder drips fall inside the lamp and not on me!
Carol Conti: I bead the outside of my lamp with 60/40 solder before I release it from the mold. (It melts faster so I can get a smoother bead.) Because of the heat passing through the beading - which is done on the inside of the lamp, the outside solder always looks smoother. I use 50/50 solder on the inside. If sputtering occurs, it is possible that there is dirt or too much flux on the solder. Wipe it off and try again. You might have to use a bit of very fine steel wool to remove possible oxidation.

Marialyn Prange: Because I also do a little spinning and weaving, I have lots of fiber around the house. I found that wool is a great material to use when trying to keep solder from falling through to the other side whilst beading a lamp or smoothing hot solder around the rim of the lamp. Wool absorbs water and insulates much better than cotton. It does not ignite and burn nearly as easily as cotton. So, get yourself a piece of wool with the hide still attached - like an old bicycle cover or scrap of sheepskin from a car seat. Another way to smooth out solder is to use a brush that is wider than a flux brush; small natural hair paint brushes work well.

Mary Ritter: Ignore any flux left on a soldering project in progress. Whatever you do, don’t wash it off with water or other chemicals. If you feel more comfortable doing so, cover your shade with plastic to protect the foil from dirt, air and humidity between soldering sessions. Scrub your completed lamp well before applying patina. If any areas are blotchy, try dipping a bit of (very fine) bronze wool into the patina and gently scrubbing that area to which you are applying patina.

Joan Bengston: As for irons, I use a 100W iron with a 3/8" tip on a rheostat for general use. I have a variety of tip shapes but for beading on foil I prefer either a pyramid tip or a chisel tip rolled over on it's side edge. I can melt the solder on the vertical flat surface of the chisel and it flows nicely into the bead. It's frustrating having to stop periodically to wait for the iron to heat up again, so for heavy duty work like tinning the cast brass lamp rings and rims, etc. and also for soldering foiled flat panel windows I use a 250W with a 1/2" chisel tip. It's kind of heavy but it holds the heat steadier than a smaller iron. I can work a lot faster with it. I keep it on the rheostat, but I usually find myself setting it as hot as it will go.

Dan Rose: To clean the tip of your soldering iron, make a 1/2” indentation in a block of Sal Ammoniac and fill the indentation with solder. Run the hot iron across the block and through the solder until oxidation is gone.
Derek Windram: Diligent tip cleaning either with a Sal Ammoniac block or with the Multicore TipTinner is essential.
Chaz Smith: If a controller is used with a soldering iron, over-heating can cause the tip of the iron to burn out. A tip changes color as it heats from silver to yellow to purple. It should be regulated so as to never turn purple. Solder sticks to an iron and will transfer to your work when it is silver in color. Anything hotter than silver is oxidizing the tinning, and is really too hot. When you have finished soldering, clean your tip, melt as much solder as it will hold, and turn off the iron. The extra solder protects the tip from oxidation. Sal ammoniac can help to tin the tip of a soldering iron. Melt/burn a hole in the block of sal ammoniac and get a bead of solder in the hole. Keep working the tip in the bead of molten solder until it adheres. Your best bet though, is to keep a clean iron, make sure it is well-tinned and don’t overheat it.
Mike Barnes: The temperature control in the Weller 100 is via electromagnetic force. As the temperature changes, the magnetic field will change, moving a magnet inside the tip which allows more or less transfer of heat to the tip. You control the temperature by changing to a higher or lower rated tip. Using a rheostat with a Weller iron does nothing since the temperature is maintained by the tip.
Hexacon Electric Company: The tip is made of copper. The front part of the tip is iron plated and tinned with solder. The rest of the tip is nickel & chrome plated. If you do not keep a coating of solder on the tip, the solder will oxidize away and expose the iron plating which will also oxidize. The solder will not wet to the tip and will roll right off. It’s what we call a “dewetted” tip. When that happens you may be able to revive the tip. You have to clean the oxidized iron plating so it will tin. Do not file the tip! You will wear through the iron plating. You can use our TS-10 tip scrubber, Scotch Brite, or very very fine emery (taking care on the sharp edges of the tip). Once the tip is clean, plug the iron in and as soon as the iron will melt solder, add solder and flux to the tip. Don’t delay as the tip will oxidize again and you will have to start over. 37

Patina is made to react to the lead in solder, so if you use lead free solder be aware that it does not take patina well. Another problem with using this lead free product is that there is a danger of cracking the glass while you are soldering, since more heat is required to run a satisfactory bead.

Vic Seested wrote: “A month or so ago, I almost finished soldering a lamp, but lost interest in it with only a little left to do around the rim. I left it just as it was with the flux still on the lamp. Today, I got back to finishing the last of it, but the solder won’t take. I’ve tried cleaning, scouring and chemically treating the area without luck. I’m at wit’s end, so any suggestions?”
Jim Clark: Try a little 0000 steel wool.
Mike Barnes: Do what Jim recommended, but if you use steel wool from a hardware store be sure to clean the surface with isopropyl alcohol before fluxing and soldering since the wool has oil in it to keep it from rusting.
Mary Ritter: I recommend using bronze wool because it isn’t oil-treated. When I use bronze wool, I dip it in a little flux. It seems the flux acts as a cleaning agent as well as a bonding agent.
Nikki O’Neill: What worked for me in this situation is steel wool and elbow grease, then use a much stronger flux - like oleic acid.
Chaz Smith: This is where CJ’s comes in handy. If you clean what you’ve done with CJ’s, you can let it sit for months before resuming work. You may be able to wet the foil down with flux and use a bit of a gentle scrubbing motion with your iron to clean and get solder to stick.

Wesley Wong: I’ve finished the major soldering of my lamp. In the final phase of cleanup, I noticed two problem areas in my lamp. On one glass piece next to the rim, the foil has pushed up off the glass – leaving a small gap between foil and glass. On the second piece, the foil worked itself off the edge of the glass and now there is a gap big enough to see to the inside of the lamp.
Kevin Hendon: These gaps don’t have any structural bearing on the shade, so, for the gap at the rim, take the soldering iron and re-heat the area, while pushing down on the foil. If accumulated solder is an issue, try solder wick to remove the excess and try again. For any sort of gap, fill it with very fine threads of Bronzo. This is great stuff and can be sanded as well.
Mary Ritter: You might try a cosmetic fix on both those gaps by first giving the areas a very thorough cleaning so all the flux is removed. Then tape a piece of copper foil over the gap, extending it so it goes beyond the gap and lines up well with the exising foil edge. Burnish it down well, then tack it lightly on each end to make sure it stays in place. Solder over it, blending the new solder line in with the existing one. Now, as for brass wool (Bronzo); I’d heard that steel wool has an oil coating that prevents rusting, but oil could interfere with the patina. So, I initially used this product to scrub down solder lines. Since then, I’ve found it especially great for filling large gaps like under dragonfly wings. I’ve also substituted it for solder wick. Roll a small piece into a thin strip, soak it in flux and then poke it into the area of the solder that needs to be removed.
Ernie Downy: I buy solder wick at Radio Shack. It is called desoldering braid, but 38
it is exactly the same thing.

Hap Webb: These are pretty basic questions that have been discussed before, I'm sure, but I'm just wondering what is working for others and if there is anything new. How do you position your large lamps when you solder the inside? Do you put a bead on the inside as well as the outside? And, do you use 50/50 to tin and then 40/60 to bead or...? Which solder do you like best and which flux works for you?
Lynne Salcetti: I use a lamp positioner to solder my lamps. After doing my very first one in my lap - nestled in several beach towels, I knew there had to be a better way! I solder but do not bead the inside and I use 60\40 solder. I prefer paste flux - used very sparingly. I use a 100 watt iron and wear a respirator when I solder the inside of the lamp.
Irwin Terry: At our Studio, we use Canfield 50/50 solder. We prefer Nokorode paste flux. I have tried water soluble fluxes and they were a nightmare. The inside of the shade sputtered and bubbled when soldering and the flux corroded the foil instantly on the inside of the shade before it was off the form. As for the inside of the shades, we smoothly solder the interiors of our lamps but do not put a full bead inside. There are few things that look less professional than looking inside a lamp and seeing lots of holes in the solder from air/flux bubbles. I clean my shades with odorless mineral spirits in a utility sink area with a vent fan, and always wear protective gloves and a facemask to help minimize chemical exposure. Once the flux and wax are cleaned off the shade, we wash the shade with "original" Palmolive dish soap to clean it thoroughly. It works well for us.
Nancy Pimental: We bead solder the inside of the lamp as well as the outside. That enables us to bury our reinforcement wires inside, and it gives the lamp extra strength and a finished look. We like to use the Quik Set solder by Canfield for lamp soldering. It is a special 60/40 that sets up quickly, and with it, you can actually solder on "not so level" areas without it running.
Mike Barnes: I always use Classic 100 Jel Flux, and 60/40 solder without any sputtering or corrosion problems and it's easy to clean. I have occasionally used 50/50 to tin. I also finish my lamp on the inside just like the outside, as you would a good suit.