SOLDERED CHARMS: Happy First Mother’s Day, Stephenie!

It is my neice’s very first Mother’s day, my sister’s first Mother’s day as a grandmother and my mom’s first Mother’s day as a great grandmother, all thanks to a little miracle named Lillian Marie. So, naturally, I had to do something special for all of them.

My sister had e-mailed a few photos a couple of weeks ago of newborn Lillian and I thought soldered photo charms would be a sweet and personal gift.

When someone sees a charm I soldered, they ask how it’s done. And if you solder charms, you know that there’s no quick answer to that question. I am always surprised at how low priced some soldered charms are considering the amount of work that goes into one. I’m fairly new at making them and don’t have a designated work area, so to assemble all my tools and supplies and go through the many steps, I know that it takes a lot of time. I’ll usually make several at a time to be most efficient.

Here are a few photos and step examples that I do to make the charms. This is not a complete tutorial, you can find those in books and online, this is merely an example of the steps I use.
I found a video of an actual soldering process that helped me tremendously to see how to actually “paint” with the solder. HERE is one I recommend. Although it’s for stained glass, it helped me with technique. Please note that I use non-lead solder.
Beginning with the photo, I converted it to a sepia colored image in Photoshop, brought it into Illustrator, cropped and reduced to the size of the glass charm and trimmed to size. (Yes, there are much simpler ways to do all of that, this just works for me.) The glass was pre-cut pieces I ordered along with several other related items from an Etsy Seller.
After roughing the glass edges on a grinding stone, I sandwiched the images (A pink monogram “L” on the other side) between the glass and wrapped with adhesive copper tape. After burnishing well with a bone tool (called many things, but back in my early art days, they were actually made from bones,) I trimmed away excess copper tape. I then swabbed Gel Flux all over the areas to be soldered.

Holding a small charm while using an extremely high-heat soldering iron in one hand and a roll of solder wire in the other and trying to solder without burning yourself can be pretty tricky. I was using a “third hand” to hold the charm when I needed to but later came across this nifty contraption made by the husband of the owner of Fusion Stained Glass Studio in Springfield, MO when I was visiting recently. It’s a block of wood with a sliding piece that will wedge your charm and hold it in place as you solder. It’s much more friendly than the 3rd hand as the charm is less likely to break.

Once I’ve soldered all of the copper tape on the sides, front and back of the charm, I add the jump ring to the top. Here the 3d arm is perfect for holding the jump ring while I drop a blob of solder in place. (You can’t forget to add flux to the jump ring and again to the area it will be adhering to.)

Once the charm is cooled, I polish ’er up and add the chain. For Stephenie’s necklace, I added a little glass bead to the clasp (I think if your neckace is going to turn on you, you may as well have something pretty to show for it,) and also made her a matching pair of glass bead earrings.

I had to Priority mail 2 necklaces to Missouri and 1 to Arkansas and made them all promise not to open them until Mother’s day! How I wish I were there with each of them.

Happy Mother’s day all.

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