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

  1. #1 - Lauren Alexander says:

    That is beautiful! Thanks for sharing how you did that!

  2. #2 - Lotta says:

    Beautiful work!

  3. #3 - Anonymous says:

    Cathe,

    I have worn my Lillian charm every day since Mother’s Day. I love it! I love looking at her little face and knowing that you created this lovely keepsake for me, Stephenie and Mom. Thank you!

    Love,
    Jen

    PS: Very interesting tutorial!

  4. #4 - The Chic Chauffeur says:

    I know this question comes a long time after your post, but I have been reading up on how to make these darling charms, and wonder if you would give me a tip? First, I keep seeing that I need to burnish the copper tape. What does that mean? Second, it is crucial to rough up the glass prior to applying the copper tape? Thank you for the hints!

  5. #5 - Cathe Holden says:

    Good questions The Chic Chauffer!

    To burnish means to rub down really hard. Use a hard plastic instrument to rub the tape hard into the glass, but not hard enough to chip or break the glass. This keeps bubbles out from between the adhesive of the tape and the glass when the heat come, or your soldered area might lift in places. By sanding the glass, it gives the adhesive something rough to grip. If it remains smooth, the tape adhesive might not stick so well. It’s a little like sanding something before you paint it so that the paint sticks and doesn’t peel.

    Good luck with your project! There is certainly a learning curve and blisters to be had first time around!

  6. #6 - The Chic Chauffeur says:

    Thank you for your help! I will definitely start small!!

  7. #7 - Fedden Family says:

    Do you mind telling me where you bought the glass and does it come in different shapes. Awesome work! I’ve just started doing this and it is so fun:)

  8. #8 - trish says:

    this is awesome! thank you for the tutorial, i've always wondered how it's done!

  9. #9 - amy coe says:

    can you tell me how you printed the image? laser, photographic print, ink jet? I am doing pretty well with my soldering, but my pix always end up looking schmootzy behind the glass. What am I doing wrong? (PS I am not flooding it with excess amounts of flux.)

  10. #10 - Cathe Holden says:

    Hi Amy. It was an inkjet printer print on uncoated plain, but high quality office paper. Using film paper created problems when soldering because the surface of the print would stick to the glass when the heat created steam.

    Hope that helps!

  11. #11 - Schedule says:

    You you should edit the post name title SOLDERED CHARMS: Happy First Mother’s Day, Stephenie! | Just Something I Made to more better for your webpage you make. I loved the the writing however.

  12. #12 - sabine hefner says:

    love your tutorial! i have made charms in the past and forgot what type of inkjet paper i have used. now i have tried various ones and they all show burn marks on the edge. they are all matte papers. any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    thanks,
    sabine

  13. #13 - Veline Ball says:

    Thank you for you DIY’s. I don’t live too far from you in RP, Calif. I love all the vintage places we have in our area! Thanks for a great website.

  14. #14 - Victoria Ciolek says:

    what a beautiful present. I think I’ll use the tape instead. maybe not. it is sure pretty and a forever keepsake!!

  15. #15 - Samantha Rogers says:

    I know this is six years later but … I am having SUCH a hard time with my solder. I can’t paint it on. It’s a chunky mess. The link you provided doesn’t work any longer. Do you have any other videos or tips and tricks? Thank you so much.

  16. #16 - tammy says:

    Just having had my first MD as a grand mother this touched my heart…going to do this for my daughter for christmas with his sono pic…thanks