When using a torch, you need to protect the surface upon which you are working and also protect the area directly under the item you are soldering. You will need a large, heat resistance surface to cover your work area to guard against any stray, flaming pieces and to keep hot, soldering tools from burning through your work area. On this large, heat resistance surface, you will place a smaller, soldering block upon which you will do the actual soldering.
Charcoal blocks are sold in different sizes. When used for soldering they help create a reducing atmosphere which helps cut down on firescale. They are soft for pinning work to be soldered, expensive, messy, and need to be quenched in water after each use or they will burn up. Also they have a tendency to crack if not wrapped with wire.
Kiln brick is porous, soft and inexpensive. It is easy to cut into different shapes to hold objects for soldering. Ceramics are good but act as a heat sink and some smell bad when first used. They should be cured in a kiln before use.
The old standby is a round cake pan filled with pumice. A soldering frame and tripod allow you to heat the piece being soldered on the top or from underneath. Kiln brick and charcoal blocks are not very big and you will need something heat resistant to put your soldering block on, otherwise youll keep setting your work bench on fire. Ceramic tile or a couple of pieces of sheet metal, big enough to provide a safety margin in case your torch flame should stray from the soldering block. Dont forget a fire extinguisher. Please under no circumstances use any asbestos product to solder on.
Heat Resistant Surfaces
- Sheet metal made of steel is a great covering for your work bench or table. Make sure them are grooved to keep tools from rolling off. Amazon offers the following sheets that can be joined to cover a large area. The local hardware store has them too.
- Ceramic floor tiles are also an excellent option for covering your work bench and can be purchased from Amazon and from any hardware store. Be sure to buy at least two tiles to cover the top of your bench.
- Ceramic soldering boards are small and can withstand intense torch work. Be sure the surface has a honeycomb texture to stick U-pins and T-pins in it. U-pins and T-pins are used to keep your item from rolling while it’s being soldered. Amazon has them for sale on their website.
- Magnesia block can withstand up to 2000 degrees and is very popular among jewelers. It is soft and porous, so pins can easily be stuck in it to keep items from moving. Amazon has them for sale on their website.
- Charcoal block is a bit more fragile than ceramic and magnesia. It must be bound around the perimeter with wire to keep it from cracking and it must be quenched in water after each torching. However, it is a great heat sink and cuts down on oxidation. Many jewelers find the possible cracking is troublesome. It is soft and can accommodate pins as well. Amazon has them for sale on their website.