How To: Adding Metal to a Prong
One of the most profitable uses for micro welding in jewelry is rebuilding or re-tipping a prong. Re-tipping saves a tremendous amount of time and effort. The stone doesn’t need to be removed from the piece, which is where you’ll save time. As a result, with re-tipping you can complete the repair in a matter of minutes rather than hours.
To begin, you want to ensure that you protect the stone from sparks or the small amount of heat generated during the weld. Gem Guard is a useful product that creates a barrier to the stone.
Once the stone is protected, use a 26 to 30 AWG wire of the same material as the piece you’re repairing. Straighten the wire to about a three-inch section so that it will stay extended.
Now, turn your attention to the welder. The weld settings should be started low and you’ll gradually add more power to get the desired melt. Where you set your power at the beginning depends on the type of material you’re working with. For gold and silver, start at 6 to 8 Ws of energy with no agitation.
Take time to clean and sharpen the electrode on the welder. A clean, sharp electrode will channel the energy more accurately and leave a better weld.
Begin by holding the ring in your non-dominate hand with the prong to be welded pointing upward. The wire should be in your dominant hand with the straightened section pointing toward the prong to be welded. The wire should point directly out of the prong, as if the prong is being extended.
With the wire touching the very end of the prong, touch the electrode to the prong, not the wire. The weld will initiate, melt the tip of the prong, and will pull the wire into the prong. A successful weld will result in the wire being melted into the tip of the prong.
The next step is to get the wire free from the prong, leaving the melted section attached. This can be accomplished by using the welder. Place a weld about an eighth of an inch away from the prong on the wire itself. This will cut the wire and shape the prong.
Further welds can be applied directly to the prong tip to give a nice rounded and shaped prong. A file or prong shaping tool can be used to get the desired prong shape. And, of course, you’ll want to buff and polish as needed.
To learn more about how to re-tip a prong, you’ll find a number of fine tutorials on YouTube. A quick search will generate a sizable list of applicable videos. Sunstone recorded a live demonstration of re-tipping that you can watch here.
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