Learn How To Tin A Vase Cap

I've seen many people get less than desirable results when they try to tin a vase cap. Most complaints are that it doesn't cover evenly and there are lumps and bumps of solder everywhere. I've had those problems too, but over the years I've acquired a technique that gives beautiful results.

You may wonder why it's necessary to tin a vase cap...they look so nice just the way they are. Well, there are several reasons why we tin them.

If it isn't tinned, soldering it to your lampshade will be difficult (and it will be a weak solder join) due to the protective film the manufacturer puts on the vase cap.

Secondly, if you are going to patina the finished lampshade, it looks much nicer to have the vase cap the same color as the rest of the solder on the shade. Make sure you tin the vase cap with the same kind of solder (50/50 or 60/40) you use on the rest of the lampshade. That way, the patina will come out the same color everywhere.

Okay, let's get started.

Double Click on any of the pictures to enlarge them.

You will need:
1. A vase cap
2. Fine steel wool or Bronzo (a bronze wool made for stained glass work)
3. Paste Flux (Nocorode works well)
4. 100 watt soldering iron. If you are going to make a lot of lampshades, invest in a 150 watt iron. It will make all the difference in the world. A propane torch works very well also.
5. Solder...50/50 or 60/40

cleaning vase cap with bronze

Step 1. Go over the vase cap with very fine steel wool or Bronze . This is a very important step as it will remove the protective coating on the brass. If it isn't totally removed it causes a barrier between the brass and the solder. If you try to tin a vase cap with this protective coating on, you will run into insurmountable problems.

coat with flux

Step 2. Coat the entire outside of the vase cap with paste flux.

heating the vase cap

Step 3. Put the soldering iron tip in the hole of the vase cap and leave it there for three or four minutes to get the cap good and hot.

tin the vase cap

Step 4. As soon as the flux begins to liquefy, grab the vase cap with needle nose pliers and start applying a very small amount of solder with the soldering iron. DO NOT USE TOO MUCH SOLDER...just a tiny dab (about the size of one of those little solder balls that rolls off your work every so often). If you don't normally use a fume extractor, this is a good time to start using one!

Slowly rub the soldering iron tip over the entire vase cap until it is smooth and shiny silver. It is best to start at the top of the cap and work your way down to the bottom edge.

If the solder stops flowing, that is an indication that you need more flux. It is easier to tin a vase cap with another person helping, (or grow another arm for times like this) because you must keep the soldering iron on the vase cap all the time. If you take it off, even just to apply more flux, it begins to lose heat and the solder won't flow well. You will end up with lumps and bumps on the vase cap that become difficult to smooth out.

finished vase cap

Let me remind you again to use a minimal amount of solder. If you were measuring it on the reel, you would use about 1/16" of solder for the entire vase cap.

I don't tin the inside of the cap unless it'd going to be a hanging lamp where the inside of the cap could be seen from underneath.

Once the vase cap is tinned, you can wash it with dish washing detergent and warm water. Now it's ready to attach to your lampshade.

If you have any questions or comments about this tutorial, please feel free to Contact Me.

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This page was last updated on October 11, 2012

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