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Though silver solder is designed mainly for bonding its namesake, it’s useful for just about any metal. The stuff ships in thin sheets which are designed to be cut into small pieces (pallions, for the picky), so you can pre-place exactly as much as you need in precisely the right location. The process is similar to brazing, but is less likely to damage fine or thin metals. A careful user can fuse two 0.025 in. copper wires end-to-end. The end result is also much cleaner than lead- or tin-soldered joints, and with proper technique, stronger as well.

You’ll need an acetylene or butane torch to work with this stuff, and you’ll need one of four grades depending on the metal you’re fusing. Easy solder has a low 1145° F melting point, and the Hard stuff, 1365° F. In a nutshell, metals with low melting points (e.g. silver) are best served with Easy solder, high melting points (steel) by Hard, and the middle of the range (brass) gets Medium, but it should be noted that silver solder does not work with aluminum.

Art supply houses carry silver solder sheets for around $5 a piece, which is enough to last quite a while. You can also find it online from Contenti or other jewelry supply houses.

Silver Solder [Contenti]

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10 Responses to Silver Solder

  1. fred says:

    Jewelers in my area often use oxygen-natural gas torches. TM’s point about “a careful user” is well taken. We’ve been called in to repair the results of not-so-careful use. A local utility even has a bulletin:

    http://www.aegislink.com/portal/resources/publications_guides/loss_control/news/assets/62.do

  2. Slow Joe Crow says:

    One of Trek’s original claims to fame back in the 70’s was using silver solder instead bronze brazing rod to make their bike frames since silver’s lower melting point reduced the heat effects on the tubing for a stronger frame. Of course modern air hardening steels render this moot, and Trek’s only remaining steel road bike is TIG welded chrome-moly.

  3. Ted says:

    I have an old trumpet from my marching band days which needs a few repairs — would this be the stuff t use?

  4. Lex Dodson says:

    It’s probably the best option out there, Ted. Not sure how heavy your trumpet’s metal is, but be sure to use plenty of flux to keep the metal from shifting colors. Apply a torch to brass, and it’ll dance a spectrum through a wide temperature range, then stay discolored once it cools down.

    You’ll want to place the solder pallions in the joint, then heat it in such a way that the solder will be pulled through the gaps by the heat. Flux everywhere will keep the metal in good shape, and shouldn’t hurt the solder flow – it follows heat and gaps.

  5. KG2V says:

    Silver Solder is available in DOZENS of alloys, some cadmium bearing (melts easier) and in all sorts of melting points, from the low of “sil-phos” all the way up. You can pick it up in wire spools at almost any welding supply house.

  6. MeasureOnceCutTwice says:

    I dunno – I’d be tempted to use regular very sparingly for fixing a trumpet (I’m assuming a brass trumpet). Easier to keep the heat low, less likely to damage the sheet brass.

    One really useful application of the silver solders is when building up an assembly where parts must be added in stages. The first parts are silver soldered in place, then later parts can be soldered with lead solder – lower temperature, so less likely to melt the first joints.

  7. MeasureOnceCutTwice says:

    P.S. You can get away with a regular propane torch for some silver soldering work. I usually use MAPP gas with a regular propane torch – much hotter than propane, but cheaper than an oxy-acetylene setup.

  8. heywood j says:

    @ted:

    I would recommend googling what to use for soldering joints in a trumpet to avoid messing with the resonance of the brass; using something that resonated differently might make your trumpet sound like poo.

    not that I know anything about repairing trumpets but I’m sure you could call up some luthiers at the local instrument shop and check.

  9. Fritz Gorbach says:

    Thermotrap is a product made by nu calgon which we use in refrigeration work when we want to take something apart without hurting another joint or when we must protect something sensitive ie a valve or control. it basically forms a heatproof dam. Might be worth checking out for that trumpet.

    http://www.nucalgon.com/products/speciality_thermotrappaste.htm

    Also, an oxsyfuel torch is tour best bet for this. The fast local heating possible makes for good soldering with little collateral damage. A work we use regular rolls of silver solder, and im not familiar with this sheet product, but I would certainly not attempt tomake a good joint with a small propane or mapp torch.

  10. CoachTurner says:

    Late to the table but, we use silver solder for the hard braces on a trumpet and soft solder (60/40) for soft connections such as tubing and the braces flanges where the connect to the instrument tubing of the horn. Solder won’t do well filling a hole or a crack though – you’ll need to make a patch and solder that to the horn if you have that sort of leak.

    The reason we use the two different on a horn is, as someone said, so that we have layers of work soldering a brace – the brace to the flange needs to be able to withstand reheating while putting the flange on the horn.

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