Soldering? It’s all about tweezers!

As the seasoned silversmiths amongst you will already know – your tweezers for jewellery making are one of the most important tools you will need whilst soldering. There are many different types available to use within this subject and all have a specific role in the studio. So here’s a look at each type and what they are for.

Tweezers for jewellery making

A selection of the most commonly used tweezers in the studio.

Precision jeweller’s tweezers

These are tweezers with a fine, pointed tip. They should meet well and be about four inches long – any shorter and you may find your hand feels too much of the heat from soldering, especially if using a large torch. The ends can be straight or bent, this makes no difference to the performance, this is just personal choice. Precision tweezers are perfect for picking up those pesky solder pallions. Infact, this is the most important tool required for pallion soldering and should be one of your first – even possibly the only tool purchase, you could make when you start out.

Insulated tweezers

These are the next in line as part of your ‘essentials’ kit. Insulated tweezers have a small heat resistant strip riveted on to them where they are held in your fingers. This means that they can be held in the heat for longer before they become too hot to hold. They are particularly good for holding strips of wire in the flame to ‘ball up’ the ends. They are also good for holding things for ‘hands free’ soldering. Meaning that items can be set up and held still for soldering by the tweezers – giving you both your hands free, one for holding the torch – one for placing the solder.
Insulated tweezers are ‘reverse action’ meaning that they are sprung closed when not in use and will open when squeezed. This is the opposite to normal tweezers so they are not easy to use for picking up pallions. The sprung jaws are also normally too strong for tiny pallions and can act as a catapult! So stick to your precision tweezers for handling these. The insulated pads are not indestructible and will catch fire if the flame is pointed directly at them. So bear this in mind!!

Locking tweezers

Similar to the insulated tweezers in their usage. These are again, good for holding things still ready for ‘hands free’ soldering. These tweezers will usually have a ring or sliding catch that closes the jaws and locks them in place. They are also good for holding lengths of solder for ‘stick’ soldering. Their locking action allows for the solder to be picked up when needed without the solder falling out.

Third Hand

This is a strange looking contraption – It is a base, normally with two arms and often a magnifying glass. It is handy for setting up very tricky soldering jobs. It may be an item that doesn’t get used very often but will fit the bill every now & then, to solve a situation when you really do feel like you need two pairs of hands. The arms have movable joints that tighten with a small ‘wing’ nut. Each arm has a small crocodile clip at the end for holding items. These do lose their spring after a few solders and quenches – spares are readily available and cheap to buy. However, the beauty of this tool is that the crocodile clips can be substituted with your own insulated or locking tweezers.

Plastic or brass pickle tongs

If you only attend a class at someone else’s workshop, then this won’t be a necessary purchase. However this pair of tweezers or tongs is essential for those of you who work at home and use your own pickle. These are used for removing silver items from the pickle bath. Either sort will have a relatively short life compared to your soldering tweezers. This is due to the corrosive nature of the pickle. Brass will obviously be more durable than plastic – the plastic tweezers eventually lose their spring or literally fall apart. Brass will last a lot longer – especially if you are very diligent at rinsing your work in water, held in the tweezers, after pickling. Wooden & copper tongs can also be used for this job but are not so easy to find.

Maintenance

Over time your tweezers will become your best friends. They may also be the most used & abused tool you own and look a bit worse for wear. It is often quite easy to repair tweezers that look like they are ready for the scrap-yard:

  • • Splayed ends: If the jaws don’t meet any more and flare away from each other at the ends they can be bent back in to shape. Do this with a pair of hefty pliers (not your smooth jawed jeweller’s pliers.) Open the jaws of the tweezers and bend each one gently back in to a linear shape. Try tapping them on the anvil, jaws together, with a steel flat faced hammer. Alternating between these two techniques should coax the jaws back together and straighten them out.
    • A broken point: If one of the end points is longer than the other, grind them gently on the grinder. Jaws closed. Take your time, it is easy to end up with very short tweezers if you press overly hard at this.
    • Solder: If you’ve got solder stuck to the ends it can be melted off on to a small bit of scrap copper. Flux the copper – flux the tweezers and heat the copper with a small pencil torch. When the flux turns glassy and looks like liquid again, hold the tweezers with the solder against the copper until it runs off. It may take a couple of goes because the tweezers may get too hot to hold.
    • Flux: If there’s excessive flux on the tweezers this can often be ‘cracked’ off by crushing it with your hefty pliers.
    • Out of shape: The ends of your tweezers can be filed if the shape has become a bit ropey. Keep a file just for use on tools like this – separate from your jewellery files. Filing will also remove flux.
    • Polish: Finally, your tweezers will look smarter after a spruce up with a bit of steel wool.

Our tweezers for jewellery making

Most of us become very attached to our tools. Having your own tweezers that you get used to will help with soldering, so it is well worth the investment. If you attend a class make sure to add some distinguishing (fire proof!) marks or your name to your tweezers for jewellery making, they are the tool most left behind in class. There is a large selection of tweezers available from the studio shop.

The humble tweezers – one of the smallest and cheapest tools we use in the jewellery making process. But, without them we would struggle to do anything at all.

 

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