kiln brick - magnesia blockkiln brick - magnesia block

What Kinds of Soldering Surfaces are Used in Jewelry Making?

Soldering surfaces will hold your jewelry work pieces securely and protect your workbench. Learn the Pros and Cons of different heat-resistant materials.

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HomeLearning CenterJewelry and LapidaryJewelry Making ToolsWhat Kinds of Soldering Surfaces are Used in Jewelry Making?

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When using a torch for jewelry making, you'll need a large, heat-resistant surface to protect your workbench. This will prevent stray flaming pieces, as well as your soldering tools, from accidentally damaging your work space. On this large, heat-resistant surface, you'll also place a smaller soldering block. You'll do the actual soldering work on this. Let's take a look at the different soldering surfaces you can use.

Soldering Surfaces: An Overview

You'll find charcoal blocks for sale in different sizes. When used for soldering, they help create a reducing atmosphere that helps cut down on fire scale (heavy oxidation on jewelry metal). They're soft, so you can easily pin your work pieces to them. They're also expensive, messy, and need to be quenched in water after each use or they'll burn up. Also, they have a tendency to crack if not wrapped with wire.

Kiln brick is porous, soft, and inexpensive. You can easily cut it into different shapes to hold objects.

Ceramics are good but act as heat sinks. Some smell bad when first used, so cure them in a kiln before use.

You can also use the old standby: a round cake pan filled with pumice. A soldering frame and tripod will allow you to heat your piece from the top or from underneath.

Safety Tips

Kiln brick and charcoal blocks aren't very big. You'll need something heat-resistant to put under your soldering block, otherwise you''ll keep setting your workbench on fire. Ceramic tile or a couple of pieces of sheet metal should do the trick. Make sure they're big enough to provide a safety margin, in case your torch flame should stray from the soldering block.

Don''t forget to keep a fire extinguisher handy.

Please, don't solder on any asbestos product, under any circumstances.

Heat-Resistant Surfaces

Sheet Metal

A piece of steel sheet metal will make a great covering for your workbench or table. Make sure to purchase a grooved sheet, to keep your tools from rolling off. You can purchase these online or from your local hardware store.

sheet metal - soldering surfaces
These pieces of sheet metal can be joined together to cover a larger surface area.

Ceramic Floor Tiles

Another excellent option for protecting your workbench, ceramic floor tiles can also be purchased online or from any hardware store. Make sure to buy at least two to cover the top of your workbench.

ceramic floor tile - soldering surfaces
12″ x 12″ ceramic floor tile

Soldering Surfaces: Boards

Ceramic Soldering Boards

Although small, ceramic soldering boards can withstand intense torch work. Make sure the surface has a honeycomb texture, so you can stick U-pins and T-pins into it. U-pins and T-pins will keep your item from rolling while you're soldering.

ceramic soldering board - soldering surfaces

Magnesia Block

Very popular among jewelers, a magnesia block can withstand up to 2,000º F (1,093º C). It's soft and porous, so you can easily stick pins into it to keep items from moving.

kiln brick - magnesia block

Charcoal Block

A bit more fragile than ceramic and magnesia, a charcoal block must be bound around the perimeter with wire to keep it from cracking. You have to quench it after each torching. Many jewelers also find the possible cracking troublesome. However, charcoal acts as a great heat sink and cuts down on oxidation. It's soft and can accommodate pins as well.

charcoal block

Recommended Jewelry Soldering Surfaces

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Megan Coward, Graduate Jeweler Gemologist, GIA, Graduate Gemologist

Megan Coward is a graduate of the GIA with Graduate Jeweler Gemologist and Graduate Gemologist accreditations. She has 20+ years in the retail jewelry industry in various roles including as a diamond buyer and gemstone appraiser.

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