Solder Station Setup
Ideally we would have a separate well ventilated studio with big windows letting in natural light with little bunnies and fawns frolicking just outside in our personal forest, near enough to touch. However we live in reality where most of us carve out a little work space wherever we can. When my son was born 5 years ago, a need for him to have a bedroom took presidence over studio space. So my studio space was reduced to a corner of my living room, sandwiched between the storage unit, now housing most of my things, and the patio door. It’s not ideal, but I make it work, and I do have a little wildlife if you count the cats and the fish swimming in the background behind my desk.
Many people including myself are a little nervous soldering at home, but we cook on a stove, bbq and have fire places, all which require the use of safety practices, proper set up and common sense, and the same goes for soldering. Many jeweller’s studios are set up in private residences, homes, garages, apartments, and mixed commercial spaces without burning the place down, so you can do it too. I would however recommend checking your building’s by-laws (if you live in a strata) before moving forward.
When choosing to set up a soldering station there are a few things to consider, location, ventilation, fire proofing, safety and the tools required. (Please see the blog on torches for help in selecting the right torch for the job and your specific space.)
If you have a jeweller’s bench where you do all of your hand work, you can also fireproof a small area of this bench and solder there, but it’s best if you can set up a separate area close by specifically for soldering. All of your hand work can be accomplished almost anywhere, even a closed in closet space, but soldering requires good ventilation. Choose an area where you can attach a fume hood or at least open a window and blow the fumes outside with a small fan. For this reason I don’t often solder at home during the winter months because I detest being cold, and moving next to the stove for the use of the fume hood takes up a lot of valuable kitchen counter real estate. Too bad I require a stove to feed myself and the children, or I could be rid of the stove all together and set up shop there. I’ll keep this brilliant idea in mind for future reference….
For now this is my own little oasis for soldering at home. In the near future instead of using baking sheets, I will be covering the entire length of the table in metal sheet, and adding many more fire bricks to the surface and sides. Not seen in this photo is the open patio door and fan propped up on a chair to provide required ventilation. However this space is rarely used as I much prefer to solder at the Workingsilver studio which is free from hazardous flammables, and has concrete floors, great fume hoods, metal benchs, tiles under the silquar soldering bricks, and is free from roaming cats and children. We use old pennies to lift the brick up slightly from the tile to minimize the heat transfer into the tile.
Four soldering stations at Workingsilver teaching studio
see our Pinterest board here to see more images of soldering setups
Once you have found a well ventilated area, the next thing to consider is how to fireproof it. The best way to keep your area fire proofed is to simply keep your flame within the designated area. Only point the flame at what you are soldering, or towards fireproofed materials, and turn the torch off when not in use. Keep your soldering station free from any flammables, such as work notes and sketch books. Look all around, are there carpet or curtains, or anything else that can easily catch fire and spread? Be rid of them or cover with heat buffers such as ceramic tiles, sheet metal, concrete or hardiebacker cement board. The same goes for the desk that you will be using, proper jeweller’s benches are made out of wood, but we certainly protect that surface before soldering at the bench. And don’t forget to fireproof yourself as well! Make sure your body is clothed in snug fitting cotton, no long loose sleeves scarves or ties, and wear an apron of cotton or leather along with closed toe shoes, hot metal falling onto bare skin or toes, especially with a lit torch in hand will not make for a good day. Remember to always keep your hair tied back including bangs, there are much easier ways of acquiring a new hair style. Have a large glass of water handy more for putting out any smoldering rather than for your own hydration, which is important too, so, make it two glasses. Keeping a small fire extinguisher and fire blanket close by may be over kill, but it defiantly tames the nerves and helps your spouse or flatmates feel a whole lot better as well.
Once your space and surface are fireproofed , you will need something else to do the actual soldering on. The soldering brick used to place your pieces to be soldered upon, is a different medium than fire proofing materials. There are many different options each with its own pluses and minuses, and you many find yourself using a different medium for different jobs.
Ceramic silquar solder board
- Easy to clean surface
- Hard and long lasting
- Non-combustible Silquar™ ceramic surface reflects heat to the work; withstands temperatures up to 2,000°F (1,093°C).
- Lightweight yet durable, similar to kiln bricks
- Easy to press pins into or carve out as needed
- Withstands temperatures up to 2000 F
Hard, or compressed charcoal brick
- Retains and reflects heat, requiring less heat to solder a piece
- Reduces firescale because creates reducing atmosphere
- Able to place pins into it and carve it out as needed
- Soft charcoal bricks also have these qualities but burn and crack easily
- Reflects heat
- Holes can be used to place pins into, some even come with specialty fitting ceramic pins.
Workingsilver has all the solder products in this blog for sale in our store and on our website HERE. Thank you for shopping! (instore and online).