Does anyone have experience silver soldering argentium sterling? I have never silver soldered, but I have a DVD, and I was wondering if anyone knows if the same steps are applied for the argentiumn. Thanks, Seth
Hi Seth, I have used Argentium before as 22 gauge sheet for spur work. I did nothing different for soldering than what I already do with "Silv-A-Brite" silver solder and same flux-works like a charm and never had any issues at all-good luck and holler back if need be.
When you order the argentium silver also order the argentium hard solder. If you use non argentium silver solder, the solder will tarnish. The process is the same. The problem with using low temp. solders, is that if you are soldering onto steel, you cannot oxidize the steel with significant heat and if the piece has to be repaired or altered with a torch you risk having the low temp. solder flowing again. Soft solder has its uses but generally it is used because it is easier and quicker.
I was not familiar with this material, so I looked it up on the web. Cool stuff. I wish this was around when I was doing a lot of silver jewelry. Firescale has always been a big problem for me. I just wonder what it's like to engrave?
From a jeweler's perspective Argentium Sliver is more ductile and softer than conventional Sterling Silver. It works more like Fine Silver. Argentium has a lower melting point than standard Sterling and very little hot strength. For that reason hard solder is not used. Medium, easy and extra easy is recommended.
Argentium has the unique property of precipitation hardening at relatively low temperatures, 590 degrees F for one hour. After hardening it is about twice as hard as conventional Sterling.
If you want more info on Argentium Silver here is a link to a comprehensive article by Cynthia Eid, a pioneer in its use.
Go to the Rio Grande site, click on the learning center, and look there. They have a tech sheet for argentum there, that will tell you most anything that you want to know about it. You do not have to log in.
My experience is that the solder doesn't "flow" nearly as well as regular sterling. The stuff is kinda like soldering on teflon. The solder can actually draw away from a filled seam. I find it necessary to use a solder pick to drag and push the solder into place. I have used the argentium hard solder solder without any problems. The metal can gravity sag under red heat if you use large pieces. It can also shatter or crack if you quench it too soon after soldering. The stuff has many fantastic qualities but the soldering is not one of them. And the gravity sag means some pieces can't be fabricated like regular sterling. Long clean seams are are almost impossible to do without extra fussing and some pits. There is no such thing as the slick capillary action seen with regular silver solder. The finished look of the metal though is cleaner and brighter than regular sterling. The castings are usually much cleaner and pit free than regular sterling. I like the stuff only for jobs that don't involve complex solder seams.
It is a bit unfortunate that your first soldering experience is with argentium. The lousy solder flow could lead to melt down accidents and discouragement. Argentium can make even someone like me with 35 years of soldering experience feel like a beginner again. One word of advice would be to order some yellow liquid Gesswein brand soldering flux from the Gesswein tool company (www.gesswein.com). These guys make the best, longest lasting flux I've ever used. It is beyond compare quality wise.
And sometimes, if you're unlucky, you can get both at the same time - it behaves almost as if it is red-short, so the sagging can crack it in two. Very, very aggravating when that happens.
Your comments on using "proper" Argentium solder tally with my experience - it flows about as well as Easy; for overlay applications (where the joint is nigh-on invisible), I'd consider sweat-soldering with normal hard silver solder.