What equipment do I need to learn soldering?

Ellie wants to know how to get started with soldering.

For soldering, does my bench need to be made out of a specific material? 

And do I need blocks to place the material on to solder?

— Ellie


Expert answers

Kirsten Hendrich's reply:

Hello!

Non-painted wood is probably the best choice as its durable. My bench is made from thick wood. It has scorch marks, cut marks and hammer markings after years of me learning to make jewellery, but it is still as solid as the day I brought it.

When starting out it is a struggle to find the funds for all the equipment. If you have a sturdy wooden table you are able to cut a ‘D shape’ out of then that will do very well. 

 

You can then buy an attachable benchpeg, which screws on. The more sturdy your bench the better so it can withstand the tougher jobs such as hammering. 

 

If you’re soldering on your table then yes, you will need to purchase soldering blocks. They come in all shapes and sizes. You can purchase them from suppliers such as Cookson’s and HS Walsh. 

 

They do protect your bench, and some of the blocks, such as the charcoal ones, can help you heat the metal properly so your solder runs more efficiently.

Soldering can be quite daunting at first, but to master it, jump right in. Making mistakes is something everyone does. Master your technique and practise, practise, practise using scrap metal or non precious metals. Again, you can find this from jewellery suppliers. Cookson’s even offer a starter’s soldering kit for you to get going.

Good luck and have fun learning,

Kirsten


Harriet Kelsall's reply:

​Hi Ellie,

Our benches are made of wood and it isn’t treated with anything specific.  However it is also important to have some heat proof sheets/blocks for the areas where you are actually soldering.  This is particularly important if you are using a large flame (eg propane only) but actually a good idea for any kind of torch.  You can get these heat proof mats from Cooksons or Walshes and they are something like 25cm square and this is big enough.  Then you might need further heat proof blocks to lift your work to a height at which you can work comfortably depending on your bench and comfort.  Then we use charcoal blocks on top of the heat proof mats (real charcoal ones are best rather than reconstituted charcoal) and then we put our work on the charcoal.  This helps to distribute the heat over the work efficiently and it is easier to solder with charcoal right underneath your work.

We use small paintbrushes dipped in flux (orflux is the best to place little bits of the solder onto our work and sometimes use reverse action tweezers as clamps to hold things when necessary.

It is best to learn how to solder from somebody who knows how - there are many evening classes available.

Good luck and have fun!

Harriet


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