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Thread: Soldering steel FYI

  1. #1
    Boolit Master

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    Soldering steel FYI

    On many occasions, it is necessary to reattach silver soldered parts that have broken loose, sweat on sights instead of drilling and tapping the barrel, mend broken parts etc etc.
    Silver solder is one way to do that and it works really well if used properly.
    Silver solder comes in many different forms, the main difference being how much heat it takes to melt the solder and how strong a joint is needed (and of course, cost which for the higher silver content solders can leave you limping)
    I have about 5 flavors of silver solder here at the shop and they each have their own use. The one I seem to end up using the most is Brownells Hi-force 44.
    http://www.brownells.com/.aspx/pid=7...4-trade-SOLDER
    Its a wonderful solder because it has some of the strength of Silver (about 20,000 PSI), but still melts at a temperature that is low enough that it will not damage the temper of springsteel, but it has a high enough melting temperature that it wont melt in blueing salts (Still, I make a note to be careful to keep the heat down on the tanks).
    I repair a lot of firearms, and it has become painfully obvious (to my clients at least) that many gunsmiths out there do not know how to do this. Just last week I had a Mosberg shotgun that had broken forend. The client told me that he had taken this gun to another smith 20 years ago and the smith had soldered the tube back into the block that the carrier arms attach to, it had rebroken 10 years ago and now he wanted it fixed. I took it apart and saw that the "gunsmith" had not even taken the magazine tube out of the action and had merely smeared on some flux and then dobbed on some silver solder. The silver solder had not made any sort of a good bond to the parts and the flux that he left all over the parts had rusted everything. It was just a matter of time before it failed.
    I have developed my own method of soldering steel. It may not be the best way but it is a way that might work for you.
    I will solder a piece of high carbon steel to a piece of steel scrap (disregaurd my feeble attempts at engraving) to show you how I do this.
    The thing is, just like sweating copper pipes together, it is imperative that you get the joint properly tinned before you actually joint the two. Just think of it like contact cement, you have to get both surfaces prepped first. With copper, you can just flux it, dob some solder on there, twist it till it squeaks, and walk away, but steel just aint that way!
    First, prep the joint with sand paper to get bare, fresh metal to work with:


    Next, apply enough heat to melt the solder and go ahead and dob on a little. It will bead up like a drop of mercury and it will roll right off if you are not careful.

    Next, (and here's my trick) take some steel wool and dip it into the flux, and then scrub that ball of solder into the surface of the steel. Just a few strokes and it will stick nicely and wet to the surface like oil.


    Its hard to see, but the end of that steel is completely tinned.

    Now the other part gets the same treatment (I didn't sweep it clean like I did the other part so you can see the solder.)

    Now apply some flux to the joint and clamp the two together (you can use needle nosed vice grips, but I made a special jig to help me hold pieces that I am soldering)

    Just apply heat and dob in a little extra solder. You want it to just "lay" in the corners of the joint real pretty like.

    Now, test the work to make sure you did it right.

    If you do it right, you can get an amazing bond and spring steel will still be spring steel.
    Tim Malcolm
    MBT custom rifles & gunsmithing
    www.goodsteelforum.com

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  2. #2
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    I use this trick (with the steel wool and solder) all the time to get stuff together quickly and it never fails me.
    Here is a banded front sight that I made using this exact procedure:
    The ramp and the band are two different pieces of steel.


    I hope this helps some of you fellers who are trying to do good quality mods to your guns. Just take the time to do it right, and you will never be disappointed with your own work!
    Tim Malcolm
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    "He who is enslaved by the compass has freedom of the seas"

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    You gentlemen have it exactly right. I didn't know about the steel wool trick tho, something else to add to my bag. GW
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    Do you use de-oiled steel wool? Might the oil in hardware store steel wool effect the bond?

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    Quote Originally Posted by gnoahhh View Post
    Do you use de-oiled steel wool? Might the oil in hardware store steel wool effect the bond?
    That is steel wool I bought at the local wal-mart.
    No, oil does not effect the bond. If anything, it acts like a flux itself. If you read my FYI on making springs, you will see that I recommend cleaning the oil off the spring so that the lead does not stick to it.
    This is not TIG welding, this is soldering.
    Tim Malcolm
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    When you SCRUB with SW and flux over the ball of solder, it the solder still hot and melted?

    you must do this before it cools?
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    Quote Originally Posted by nanuk View Post
    When you SCRUB with SW and flux over the ball of solder, it the solder still hot and melted?

    you must do this before it cools?
    Exactly! The solder also gets all in the steel wool, which in future jobs, helps the process (although the flux rusts it up pretty quickly).
    I first discovered this when I was beating my brains out trying to get the solder to stick to a piece of steel and it just wouldn't no matter how much I fluxed it. So finally in my frustration, I grabbed a bronze brush and started scrubbing the heck out of it while I kept the torch on it. Lo and behold it worked (although it melted the head of my bronze tooth brush). So I started experimenting with different "scrubbers". (Scotch brite doesn't work BTW)
    I ended up using steel wool, and it worked better than anything I have tried so I stuck with it. Its cheap and its almost as easy as painting.
    Tim Malcolm
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    Goodsteel what do you use for flux?? I have some Nokorode regular paste flux, would that work with the 95/5 solder on steel??
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    Quote Originally Posted by fecmech View Post
    Goodsteel what do you use for flux?? I have some Nokorode regular paste flux, would that work with the 95/5 solder on steel??
    Thats what I am using.
    I was at a local plumbers supply place asking about past flux. The helpful guy at the store picked up a big tub of the stuff and just got done telling me how good it works as a general purpose flux, when it slipped from his hand and hit the floor, breaking the lid. I told him that it was OK, that is the stuff I am after and I can always put it in another container so let me buy it anyway. He insisted on selling it to me at cost just the same.
    I wasn't really planning on buying a container that big, but now I've got flux to burn (literally)
    Tim Malcolm
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    Great write up. I have attatched sights with regular flux and 50-50 solder. Works well. have been meaning to get some solder from Brownell's. I did a test piece with a piece of sight base and an old shotgun barrel I had soldered together. I beat the sight base till it was peened on both ends and the sides and it held. Worked nice!
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    I'll have to try the steel wool. I usually use a piece of virgin wool to wipe for soldering. I have an old copper pan I had been trying to tin, and it hadn't been working out well. I have a notion the steel wool may work better.
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    I make a motion that Goodsteel's two current FYI posts be made into stickies. They are both excellent write-ups dealing with the practical application of technology relevant to the gunsmithing craft.
    I am now in full production of top punches for Lyman/RCBS and Saeco lubers ($8 each including shipping, two business day turnaround), and blank sizing dies for Lyman/RCBS, Saeco, Herters, and Star machines. Other products will be added as time and health permit. PM me for details.

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    Tim: another trick you should try is taking an acid brush with flux on it and brushing the edges of your solder joint before the solder cools. In fact you keep the torch on it so the solder stays molten until the filet is established.

    This makes a perfect filet in the junction between the two parts and is much easier than filing and buffing the joint after the fact.

    This is how Custom Knife Makers attach a guard or hilt to a blade so stuff doesn't get between the two during use. IE it is sealed.

    Also I'm sure you have noticed how crystalized flux for high temp silver solder is a PITA to remove after it cools. Use a spray bottle with water in it and spritz the area with mist and the flux popps right off. Sometimes you have to reheat and do it several times to get all of it, but it beats trying to buff it off.

    Randy
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    Just a few remarks to Tim's excellent write-up: Cleanliness is a must when it comes to soft soldering. No touching, once the surface has been sanded!

    Secondly, heat the parts slowly, concentrating on the biggest part first and allow the heat to spread evenly. Avoid direct heating of the area if at all possible, especially if you're using an acetylene torch. The temperature outside the visible flame is still plenty high to melt soft solder (the temp. in the blue tongue at the tip of the torch is 3200 C, and can vaporize steel) Most flux will only last a short time when heated to correct temperature before they starts to break down and excessive heat will speed up the process. Smaller parts can be placed on a flat piece of steel which is then heated from below.
    Cap'n Morgan

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    Tim: another trick you should try is taking an acid brush with flux on it and brushing the edges of your solder joint before the solder cools. In fact you keep the torch on it so the solder stays molten until the filet is established.
    Ah! Excellent notion!
    There are going to be more FYI threads coming in the future.
    My master plan is to have the best doggone gunsmithing section on the internet right here on cast boolits.
    I am going to post every tip and trick I can, with pictorial accompaniment and I hope it may inspire others to do the same. Here in a few years, this will be the go-to place for that type of information too, and cast boolits deserves it. We have the best team of experts here, and experts in training, and folks are starting to get the picture that this is the place to come for your answers on any subject!!!.
    I would like to get the gunsmithing section up to snuff with tips and tricks that can only be found here. I may be making a mistake by opening my kimono and showing my very best tricks that I discovered myself, but I can't see how this can come back to bite me. None of the smiths in this area care about cast boolits, and they certainly do not know the stuff I am teaching you here, otherwise I would not be cleaning up after them.
    Tim Malcolm
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    Not to bicker about your fine tutorial Sir, but:

    What you describe is tecnically still called "tin" solder no matter the silver content.
    "Siver /hard solder, brazing" has a copper content in the alloy and thus distinguish it from "tin"/normal solder.

    But silver will indeed aid in shear strength tough.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solder

  17. #17
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    To clean up the "bead" of solder when it starts to flow I use a Q tip to wick up the excess.
    You can miss fast & you can miss a lot, but only hits count.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chicken Thief View Post
    Not to bicker about your fine tutorial Sir, but:

    What you describe is tecnically still called "tin" solder no matter the silver content.
    "Siver /hard solder, brazing" has a copper content in the alloy and thus distinguish it from "tin"/normal solder.

    But silver will indeed aid in shear strength tough.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solder
    You are correct, I will change that, as I may do an FYI on silver soldering a Remington 700 bolt in place in the future.
    Tim Malcolm
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  19. #19
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    good post love the Hi force 44 from brownells its magic. the flux brownells sells for it works great also. was surprised to see and test how strong it really is.
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    Thanks for writing that up. That's a handy trick to have in my back pocket as an option.

    In the past, when I've braised similar joints, I had used sheets of braising material instead of rods. The system there was to cut a sheet the shape of the joint, clean the mating surfaces, flux the mating surfaces, assemble the joint with the filler sheet between the fluxed surfaces, clamp it all together & then heat. I braised a lot of carbide chips onto trepanning tools this way. My success rate was about 85%. The ones that failed would do so quickly. I expect that your method would be more reliable.
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