Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Art Of Stained Glass 101 - Soldering Part I

We have finally reached the point of no return. That beautiful moment when you get to solder all your hard work together to finally see what beauty you have created. When you’re soldering, just keep a few things in mind. First, be calm, pay attention to what you are doing, and think ahead. Those three things can save you not only your hard earned money, but your sanity too!

Now there are a few guidelines to remember before you jump right in. Apply bandaides to any cuts on your hands or fingers. Lead is poisonous and can gain access to your bloodstream this way. Turn on a fan and place it behind or to the side of you. You don’t want to be breathing the fumes of any of the items used for soldering, each is hazardous in it’s own right, so have the fan placed so that it will blow the fumes away from your face. Wear glasses or protective goggles. Solder, when heated can splatter, so protect your eyes!

Unless you are using a flux that states it is not harmful to your skin I recommend wearing a glove on your left hand if you are right handed, or on your right hand if you are left handed. You will be holding the soldering iron in your other hand and will not need a glove on that hand. The gloved hand is the one you will use to pick up your fluxed piece when you need to move it. (TIP: If you have problems with the glove sliding down or coming off while working try cutting an old pair of panty hose into rubber band like pieces. These pieces can be stretched out to give you added length, and are soft and comfortable against your wrist. I have a lot of these in my shop that I use just to hold my gloves on.) There are a lot of good fluxes on the market and there are some not so good ones too. Most of them contain zinc chloride which is something you do not want to get on your skin. Some of them have other ingredients that are just as bad, so take precautions and wear the glove.

Set your soldering station up with all your supplies within an arms reach. Pour your flux into a small marked jar that you can easily dip your brush into. This jar should have a lid so you can cap it off to use for your next soldering project. Never pour this flux back into your main bottle of flux, it will contaminate your main bottle and weaken it. You should have your solder, flux and iron as your main items on your soldering station.

Make sure you have plenty of paper towel and a spray bottle of alcohol close by. The alcohol is an excellent glass cleaner. Use this to clean the flux off your soldered piece once you have finished soldering it. If you are going to patina your piece I recommend you wash your piece with Ivory dish soap and rinse well after soldering. The Ivory soap is an excellent flux remover.

Now that your soldering station is set up in part II we will get down to soldering. Are your hands just itching to hold that soldering iron yet? Well hold on, we're almost there. Patience is a virtue my friend, and in this business you must have patience.

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