I found an old safety tip sheet from Canfield. It's full of good advice, but it amused me nonetheless.
We all have products we love using because of one reason or another. I'm going to start sharing my products and tools of the trade that I either can't or don't want to work without! I'm going to start with stained glass supplies and tools.
First is solder. I primarily work with 60/40 solder. For those of you who don't work with solder, this means the solder is 60% tin and 40% lead. There are manufacturers that use recycled metals and those who only use "virgin" metals. Both methods certainly have their merits, and I'll be the first one in line to buy recycled materials if they perform the way I need them to perfom. Sadly, I have not had that experience with solder. All of the recycled metal solders I have used in the past decade have been full of impurities which leads to "gunk" building up both on the solder lines and the soldering iron tip. This gunk, as I call it, can shorten the life of the iron tip and can permanently mark the solder line in the finished product either in color or texture. Only resoldering those areas will fix this.
On the other hand, I have consistently good results with the "virgin" metal solders, so I am happy to pay the extra expense for quality solder. I've been a huge fan of Canfield's 60/40 solder for many years and consistently get good, clean, shiny solder lines using their product. During my last visit, the good folks at Anything In Stained Glass recenty suggested another brand to me: Victory White Metal (or VWM on the label).
I used VWM on my most recent panel and was very pleased with its performance. It stays nice and shiny and doesn't appear to have any impurities at all. It melts quickly, and I was able to get my desired texture into the solder for the tree trunk with very little effort. I'm going to continue working with VWM for a while (until I run out of the two pounds I purchased) and go back to Canfield (because I have more of that in the studio) to see if I notice a difference. I suspect I won't notice any appreciable difference and once my existing stock of Canfield is used up, I'll likely be switching to VWM for good. Why? It's cheaper than Canfield brand but performs just as well. Depending on where you buy it, one pound of Canfield solder will cost between $19 and $24 while VWM solder costs between $12 and $17. When I started, a pound of solder was around $6 and we thought that was high! I may not like the higher costs today, but I understand it. In the past 15-20 years, the cost of fuel has gone up significantly - this directly impacts the cost of every good and service. The increased fuel costs impact both the delivery of the raw materials and finished product as well as the production of the finished product. The cost of the raw materials to produce solder have also increased, so naturally the price will go up. So for hobbyists and stained glass professionals alike, anything reasonable we can do to cut back on expenses is a good thing. Personally, I'm not willing to cut quality, so finding quality supplies at lower prices is a big deal!
If you work in stained glass too, what solders have you used and what is your favorite?
I'm a glass artist being touched by the beautiful world through the Internet and doing what I can to share that beauty right back.