Turquoise Cro asked me if soldering is easy. Well, here is my long answer:
When I first started I was delighted with the process, as it is a pretty fast learning curve. You can make soldered pendants the first time you try them that look pretty good. I couldn't believe how awesome it was to watch the solder melt! It truly felt like I was making something from nothing.
But now I have been doing pendants for 7 months I am struggling to get better at it. I assumed that I would improve, that my pendants would look like they do in Sally Jean Alexander's book 'Pretty Little Things', all shiny and smooth. But they don't. They don't really look much better than my first attempts. This is frustrating.
My pendants have grit or little black burnt bits and sometimes seams. (I made this tonight and am unhappy with it)
I have attempted to solve my problems by buying better/different tools & supplies:
1) I have tried 4 different solders. Jean recommends Canfield Silvergleam. I have not found it in the store, but I have Canfield Lead FreePewter, which of course won't be shiny, but still is not smooth. I have tried Mastercraft 60% Tin/40% Lead. I tried Oatey Safe Flo Laed Free Silver. I tried DGS Lead-Free solder. None of them have been any better than the other. I guess I will keep hunting for Canfield's Silvergleam.
2) I have used different gel fluxs, made no difference.
3) I have bought 4 soldering tools, 3 cheap ones, the last one was $70. Each tool was awesome the first 3 times I used them, but then the tips got dirty and put little black burnt bits on the solder that I can't remove. I don't know if it cause the glue from the copper tape is burning, or if my tip cleaning methods are poor.
4) I have tried using a sal ammonic block. I followed the directions, but all it does is leave a sandy grit on the tip that then gets left in the solder on my pendant.
5) I have tried wiping the tip on damp paper towels and on a specially designed sponge. Neither kept the tip clean after 3 uses.
Well, on the more expensive tool it looks really clean, but still there are burnt bits, grit and rough seams.
6) I have tried cleaning the tip frequently and infrequently, neither made any difference.
7) Temperature control - I thought that the cheap tools were getting too hot, so I got one with a temperature gauge. Doesn't help.
The only thing that helps is changing tips or getting a new tool, as I said the first few pendants I make with a new tip or new tool look great - shiny, smooth free from burnt bits and lumpy joins. After that they look rough. I can't keep buying more tips.
Should I try different copper tapes? using more solder? using more or less flux? give up? Relax and live with it? What would Sally Jean say?