Soldering is a messy business, with flux, flame and having to pickle and clean. It is even more complicated when you want to do that next to thin chains that can melt, or stones that can crack. I had been looking for a clean and easy alternative to soldering for a long, long time! Laser welders run upwards of $50k each, although prices have come down in recent years. Then I happened upon the Orion Micro Welder, made by Sunstone Welding, at a trade show. I am in love with the machine despite some disadvantages, which write about further down in this article.
In this video, I am demonstrating how easy it is to weld a jump ring closed using the entry level mPulse model Orion Micro Welder. This method is convenient and far easier than the traditional flame solder and flux method, especially when we are attaching fine chains. Further along in the video, I demonstrate welding close to stones as I make a birthstones necklace, with multiple drops and different sizes of jump ring.
The steps to operate are very simple:
1. Flick on the switch at the back
2. Select the wattage (between 7.5w to 12.5w will do for thin gauge)
3. Press Play
4. Clip the ground (alligator clip that will allow electricity to pass through) somewhere onto the piece, but not too close to where you will weld, otherwise, it might get attached to the piece
5. Touch the electrode to the joint (the two ends you’re trying to attach must be touching)
Noteworthy: Orion Micro Welders are available different models ( prices at the time I purchased mine): mPulse $1,999, Orion 100c $3,900, Orion 150s $4,900, Orion 200i2 $7,900
The major differences being the availability of different features such as foot pedal, microscope, and screen monitor. I found mine to be sufficient, but a foot pedal would have given me better control.
There will be oxidization, not unlike fire scaling in soldering, left on the piece and you can remove it with a metal brush. You can also purchase argon gas (I paid $320 for the tank and gas, and $95 for a regulator.) There is a hook up in the back of the machine so that, simultaneously to welding, a puff of argon gas will blow around the electrode, removing the oxygen around it – reducing the fire scaling. However, the gas ran out fairly quickly and it did not completely eliminate the need for cleaning afterward.
Penetration for the weld is not as deep as flame soldering, without distorting the shape of your piece. I was able to weld giant washers to screws, so it is powerful, but this would melt your delicate prong settings and jump rings. It is recommended that you do small welds, dotted along the outside. However, I have found it most useful to weld pieces temporarily in place before soldering traditionally. It eliminates the need to use a third arm when I have to solder many pieces all in one go.
This machine and technique works for many different metals and I have fixed a plethora of stainless steel kitchen utensils as well as several pairs of eyeglass frames. In theory, it should work for any metal that conducts electricity, so copper and brass, as well as gold, silver and gold filled.
The precision and lack of flame allows you to weld pieces close to the skin, a novelty idea such as a permanently closed bracelet around the wrist.
I highly recommend this machine for many more reasons and definitely have fun using it.