Jewellery makers and sculptors often use silver soldering in their crafts to join two or more pieces of metal together. Soldering is similar to welding steel, on a smaller scale and at a lower temperature. It involves a chemical paste called flux, coiled rods of a silver/lead alloy called solder and an electric soldering iron. When the rods are melted with a flame, it's called brazing. Soldering takes skill to master, and certain safety precautions should be taken.
The biggest silver soldering hazard is the risk of burns. The soldering iron heats to a very high temperature that will cause a serious burn if the hot tip is touched. Always hold the soldering iron properly and place it on its base or stand when not in use. Wear thin, heatproof soldering gloves for protection. Never heat solder to extreme temperatures, as dangerous fumes can result; using a soldering iron properly will ensure that the solder doesn't get excessively hot.
Solder contains lead, which is toxic with too much exposure. Wear soldering gloves when handling solder, and always wash hands after using.
As you solder, a fine smoke is created, mostly from the heated flux. Always solder in an area with ventilation, and avoid breathing in the smoke or flux dust. Wear a dust mask for extensive soldering.
Do not get flux in your eyes, as it will cause irritation. Use an eye wash if eye irritation occurs, or rinse under running water for several minutes. Wear protective glasses.
Silver can become unstable if it comes in contact with acetylene, a gas commonly used in torch welding. Only use the recommended tool, such as a soldering iron, to melt the silver solder. Avoid contact with sulphur, acids, peroxides and bases. Silver pieces must be cleaned and dried thoroughly before soldering, with no materials other than flux and solder touching the surface during the process.
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