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The Beauty of Pulse Arc Welding

 

As any silversmith knows, silver solder is the ideal material to use when joining sterling by the traditional method of brazing. Sometimes I will receive an object which has been lead-soldered in the area in need of repair (or re-repair). Sometimes the joined area is not visibly accessible, and I don't know if lead has been used.


Welding a split in a sterling coffeepot

In either case, I cannot use silver solder because the high temperature required will melt any lead in the joint and allow it to form its own alloy with the silver. The lead is acting like the Ebola virus and devouring the silver. Not pretty! And, using a low temperature tin/silver solder won't give me a sound joint or good silver color. For this reason, I use the German-made Lampert PUK04 pulse arc welder – the first silversmith in North America to own this latest model. Pulse arc welding allows me to use solid sterling wire for a prefect color match (silver solders contain less fine silver than sterling).

The pulse arc welding principle: Non-toxic argon gas is pumped through a handpiece and engulfs the welding area with a protective atmosphere to eliminate firestain. An electric arc (energy flow) is created from the point where the electrode touches the workpiece. As the electrode retracts, the arc is drawn up from the point of contact. Exactly here, melting occurs, and the result is a clean and stable weld.


Filling in engraving with sterling, not silver solder.

The high degree of precision is made possible by touching the workpiece with the tip of the electrode. The electrical arc necessary for welding is thus generated from exactly this point. By varying the angle at where the electrode tip touches, welds can be accurately steered in the desired direction and previously applied metal "distorted" or modeled. The heat is so localized that I can handle the object without getting burned, even at 1,640 degrees – the melting point of sterling!



Gorham Sterling Match Safe

Above is a  match safe that was repaired using pulse arc welding. See additional images and the entire process here.

Israeli Sterling Kiddush Cup

This Kiddush cup was made from very thin material. I reshaped the torn area which extended 3/4 of the way around the stem. I then brought together both sides of the split and welded them together. All voids were filled by welding with sterling wire for a perfect color match. I straightened the stem and leveled the bottom and top rims. I then removed the dried polish and performed a very light hand polishing.


Sterling knife handle

Sometimes engraving must be filled in if the material is too thin to eradicate. So was the case with this knife handle.

The monogram disappeared after being filled with the same alloy the object was made of.


Wallace Sterling Cut Glass Jar Cover

This 5½" Wallace sterling cut glass jar cover was stamped and spun out of extremly thin material. The image on the left shows light coming through three areas of a flower as well as other areas on the piece. These areas were worn through from over polishing. The edges of the open spaces were the approximate thickness of a piece of tin foil (.001"). The PUK worked beautifully, and I used .25mm sterling wire for a perfect color match.


10" Tiffany Sterling Plate

This plate came to me with chased lettering that the customer wanted removed and the overall look brought back to its original beauty. I couldn't planish out the lettering because the metal would dramatically deform and loose thickness. I couldn't fill it in with silver solder because of all the pin holes and color difference that would result. And electroforming wouldn't do. This job required the use of my PUK and was going to very complex. The lower parts of the lettering were very thin as it was chased on a steel form, and the slightly rounded corners would be more difficult to level with the overall disk. Additional images can be found here.


1730 Sterling Caster Bodies

Someone had the clever idea to engrave these 1730 caster bodies with "salt" and "pepper." (The tops were left off to show a larger area of the engraving.) Engraving the function of these pieces is certainly not something I would have done, but to each his own. Since the engraving was too thin to remove by filing, I used sterling wire and the PUK to fill it in. When I photographed the "after" image I had not yet polished the bottom sections of the casters (and the change in the tarnish color is due to the casters handling while welding). The total time it took to fill in the engraving, repatinate, and hand finish the casters was three hours. Larger images can be found here.


Georg Jensen Sterling Tankard

This rare Jensen piece shows chased lettering that I filled in with sterling (left). The image on the right shows the finished job. A few pin pricks were left to blend with the rest of the surface. If this hadn't been done, the filled surface would have looked too refined.


Sterling & Amber Ring

This ring's amber was glued onto the setting with decorative wires above, only 1/16" from the stone. As you can see in the image on the left, the wires had come apart. Since I couldn't remove the stone, I had to weld the wires back together with the stone in place. Here's the process I used: I pried open the wires and removed the silver solder. The wires were then sprung back together. I slid index card stock between the wires and the amber to prevent the stone from burning during welding. The wires were then welded together with sterling filler wire.

Meiji-Era Teapot

This Meiji-era teapot needed its handle secured and its dents removed from the single-walled body, double-walled cover, and removable tea strainer that sits under the cover. There had been a rod extending through both ivory insulators. One end was hard soldered to the handle and the other was peined over on the inside of the pot. Over time, this assembly loosened. I removed both rods then welded new ones to the body, covering the holes. I then drilled holes through the handle for the rods to extend and countersunk the holes. After I reinstalled the insulators over the rods, I attached the handle with the rods protruding through the holes. I then pulsed down over the rods, spreading the silver into the countersinks and securing all parts for an undetectable repair (below).

Discover the more trechnical side of pulse arc welding here.

Welding with pulse arc technology.
Click here for the Gorham match safe photo essay.

Welding with pulse arc technology.
Filling in a gouge on a Gorham sterling water kettle.


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