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carlsson
January 26th, 2006, 04:13 AM
Biggest beginner mistake is applying solder to iron.
Yep, I also know to heat the post first, then carefully apply the solder. Maybe if I bought myself a new iron with fine tip.. is temperature control a luxury or a neccessity?

This topic originated in the Apple 8-bit subforum, but since the discussion moved on to soldering in general, I thought to move it to a proper area.

vic user
January 26th, 2006, 09:36 AM
i think the best advice is to keep practicing on stuff you don't care about and try out different things.

for example, i found that you can 'draw' solder along with the iron, if you move the iron at the right speed etc..

chris

carlsson
April 1st, 2006, 12:34 PM
If I file the tip clean, but as soon as I handle solder, it sticks and grows dirty, is that a sign the tip should be replaced, or the whole iron? As I wrote in the other thread, the one I use appears to cool down a bit from time to time, so solder won't melt properly and it gets difficult to use it. A new 15W iron doesn't cost more than 40 SEK (~5 USD), add 50 cent for a 30W. Maybe add a stand and some solder suction pump too...

80sFreak
April 1st, 2006, 04:46 PM
Do you have have a wet sponge nearby to clean the hot tip? You should use this while soldering and then when you are done to keep the tip shiny.

Cheers,

80sFreak

Terry Yager
April 1st, 2006, 05:16 PM
Real hackerz just wipe the tip off on the Levi's they're wearing at the time (ouch!).

--T

Micom 2000
April 1st, 2006, 10:37 PM
LoL !! Heh, heh.
That explains at least some of the blemishes we hands-0n people have on our Jeans. Don't wipe if the iron is red.

L.

carlsson
April 2nd, 2006, 10:10 AM
No, I didn't have a wet sponge. I will consider it the next time (which probably is far away).

vbriel
April 3rd, 2006, 01:47 AM
Real hackerz just wipe the tip off on the Levi's they're wearing at the time (ouch!).

--T

Yeah, I have a few "custom" pair of Levi's. A wet sponge is a good idea. Get it almost dripping. If you have a freshly filed down tip, heat it up, tin it with solder, wipe it clean with wet sponge.

Vince

alltare
April 3rd, 2006, 04:55 PM
No, not a dripping wet sponge- it will cool the tip too much. Get it wet, then squeeze it out. The only reason for the water is to keep the sponge from getting burnt. The reason you use a sponge at all is to clean the crud off the iron's tip, which would act like a thermal insulator and make soldering difficult. Don't use just any old sponge- you should use the kind made for soldering irons (some synthetic types will melt). In a pinch, wet (squeezed out) cotton cloth works well too (Levis are OK, but no synthetics). In the field, I often just use a wet paper towell.

"Wetting" the tip with a little solder (not water) will help conduct heat to the items being joined, and you'll be able to make the joint much more quickly than with an unwetted tip.

And one does not use a file on modern soldering iron tips- you would remove the cladding (usually steel but sometimes gold) and the tip would rapidly become corroded and useless. Just use a sponge. Soldering GUN tips can be filed because there's no cladding, but what the heck are you doing using a soldering gun on a computer?


... A wet sponge is a good idea. Get it almost dripping. If you have a freshly filed down tip, heat it up, tin it with solder, wipe it clean with wet sponge.

Vince

carlsson
April 4th, 2006, 12:00 PM
My iron is probably 15 years old or more. :) But I appreciate all the good advice. Still noone answered the question whether temperature control is a luxury only for professional users - those solder stations are radically more expensive than a simple iron.

DimensionDude
April 4th, 2006, 12:14 PM
At work I use a Weller temperature controlled (non-adjustable) solder station. You can leave it on all day long without worrying about burning up the tip.

At home I use an Ungar 33-watt pencil iron with a needle tip. I think it's just a bit overpowered, probably should have gotten a 15 or 20 watt.

For my purposes, I don't need a temp controlled iron at home.

Be aware, there is a (my opinion) poorly designed temp controlled iron that has a hollow tip that the temp sensor fits into. If you don't at least loosen the tip after every use, the sensor becomes stuck and will have to be replaced when you replace the tip as it won't come apart without destroying the sensor. The Weller solder station that I use has a spring-loaded sensor that presses against the backside of the tip. Even after much use and neglect the tip will come out without damage to the sensor.

Kent

alltare
April 4th, 2006, 04:59 PM
There are a couple of good reasons to have some kind of temperature control: If your iron is too hot, you can too easily cause the traces on PC boards to come unstuck from the substrate and lift up. You can also damage ICs and other components if you apply too much heat. Reducing the temperature will help avoid that. Also, if you only use the iron intermittently throughout the day, you can reduce the heat to a "standby" temperature when not using it. This will prolong the life of the tip and heating element, but will allow you to quickly bring it back up to full temp, a lot faster than if you had completely turned it off.

Always keep the tip coated with a blob of solder when it's idling- this helps prevent oxidation and corrosion. Then sponge it off when ready to solder another joint.

If your iron is like most simple "stand-alone" types, it has a resistive heating element that is driven directly from the AC wall outlet, with no transformers or electronics in the circuit. Essentially, your soldering iron is just a dim light bulb, and an easy way to adjust its temperature is, therefore, a common cheap light dimmer. I know of none that can't handle even the largest of soldering irons. You can pick one up at any home improvement store. You can use a Variac to throttle the voltage, too, but that can be expensive and bulky.

Of course, a real soldering station will probably have temperature sensors and feedback circuits that will maintain the desired tip temp no matter what load you put on it. A light dimmer won't do that, but it's still a useful attachment.

By the way, DimensionDude's Weller uses tips that have a metal slug in them that will attract a magnet. The slug attracts a magnetic switch within the barrel of the soldering iron, which causes current to flow and the tip to heat. When the slug reaches its "Curie point", it will no longer attract the magnetic switch, so the current is turned off and the tip cools. As it cools, it will again attract the magnet and the process repeats. Tips are marked for different temps, and each has an alloy slug whose Curie point is the specified temperature. You change the temperature of these soldering stations only by changing tips- there's no adjustment knob. An interesting experiment is to stick a Weller tip on a magnet and then heat the tip (not the magnet- heat can damage most magnets) with a flame. At the right temperature, the tip will fall away from the magnet.


... Still noone answered the question whether temperature control is a luxury only for professional users - those solder stations are radically more expensive than a simple iron.

DimensionDude
April 4th, 2006, 05:28 PM
Good point about the light dimmer for "idling down" the iron, thanks for reminding me. Before I got the current Weller solder station, I used a pencil iron and a variac. The replacement for that was an adustable Weller station that had the badly designed tip. I always loosened the tip retainer after use, but no one else did. Every time the tip was replaced, so was the temp sensor.

I don't worry about the fixed temp of the current Weller station, it's ready to solder within 15 seconds of being turned on.

However, for use on the production floor, I have a cordless (butane) iron. I think the name brand is Master Mechanic but it is obviously a Weller. Oddly enough it's Ungar Red. With the cordless I don't have to worry about finding a place to plug it in, people tripping over the cord, and since the production room temp is kept under 50 degrees F it gets hot enough to actually solder. Also, the "hot air" tip is unbeatable for heat shrink tubing.

Kent

Terry Yager
April 4th, 2006, 08:27 PM
I'm in agreement with DD here. Temp control at work (or other situation where it's left idling for long periods of time), and use the cheapo-type at home. If you're like me, you only use it at home for short-time, every once in awhile. I've recently 'upgraded' to a 25-watt Weller, after using the same two-dollar no-name iron for over fifteen years. I decided to reward myself with a 'better' iron, for all those years of sacrifice.

--T

alltare
April 4th, 2006, 09:11 PM
DimensionDude-
We must have very similar soldering irons for field work. I have a "Portasol" butane iron (I think Weller/Cooper Tools may own them now). It beats the heck out of the rechargable battery types (like the Wahl IsoTip), and with the large assortment of tips, I can go from soldering itty-bitty stuff all the way up to large items that might otherwise require a soldering gun. There are also a hot knife tip, blow torch tip, and a hot air tip. I don't know about yours, DD, but mine also has an adjustable valve to control the tip temperature. These things are great. I would be lost without mine. They're not for production line work, but they're sure nice for quick jobs.

alexkerhead
April 4th, 2006, 09:12 PM
Radio Shack 15watts irons, I have had great luck with them. They tend not to burn their tip up. I have several copper tips, but usually use a steel cladded tip.

carlsson
April 5th, 2006, 01:08 AM
Thanks for the good advice. As I normally do solder work maybe twice a year (recently it has been a lot more, but now all cables seem to be working), I don't have needs for a tool that can keep the heat all day. Almost never I work on a circuit board, mostly connectors, cables and some simple components like a few diodes or resistors.

DimensionDude
April 5th, 2006, 12:31 PM
alltare,

My cordless iron is a Master Appliance from Grainger. It has all the tips you mentioned, has a temp control (throttle) and has a self-ignitor. Indeed, very handy for those quick jobs in out of the way places. It was also about $40 cheaper than the equivalent Weller.

Kent

alltare
April 5th, 2006, 03:11 PM
DD- yes, we have pretty much the identical butane irons, except mine has the older flint spark igniter.

Carlsson- Here's a pretty good (and humorous) description of these devices:
http://www.dansdata.com/portasol.htm

carlsson
April 6th, 2006, 06:38 AM
Heh. Yes, I'd belong in that first category.


Soldering irons aren't just handy for meddling with things you don't understand, of course.

:-)

Unknown_K
April 6th, 2006, 08:48 AM
http://www.allelectronics.com/cgi-bin/item/IR-258/search/16-30W_VARI-TEMP_SOLDERING_IRON_.html

I use one of these, you can get different shaped tips for them too.

bbcmicro
April 8th, 2006, 12:57 PM
I'm thinking of getting a new soldering Iron,
It'd have to be pretty cheap though, and variable temp would be nice.
I need a new one because for the last god knows how long I've been borrowing my Dad's.
Eventually the tip wouldn't even get hot enought to solder!
Modding my sega megadrive was hell. I sort of had to hold the Iron sideways to use the parts that were actually hot enough.

Heres one I am thinking of investing in. Less that half price :xmas:

http://www.maplin.co.uk/Module.aspx?ModuleNo=35016&criteria=solder%20station&doy=8m4

What say you?

I know its cheap but I can hardly afford the Rolls Royce of Soldering Implements!

carlsson
April 8th, 2006, 03:19 PM
Compared to their budget priced simple irons (6 and upwards), it looks like a decent price, about as much as I would be willing to pay for a such iron here in Sweden. I found a similar station with manually adjustable temperature for approx 22 (Swedish mail order). The second cheapest station was 37, and I found an iron with variable temp but no holder for 29.

DimensionDude
April 8th, 2006, 06:06 PM
bbcmicro,

The secret to soldering success is to keep the tip clean and shiny at all times. Wipe it on a damp sponge frequently and then reapply a small amount of solder. Make sure the tip is tight, as well.

Kent

bbcmicro
April 9th, 2006, 04:12 AM
Yeh, We do a lot of soldering in school in Systems class. Its really annoying though cos half the school irons dont have sponges, or the tip is bent, or they just aren't hot enough.
My Dad's, I think he used ot for plumbing for something. It had a really big flathead tip so I bought a new one for a few quid.
One kid in my classs was banned from praticals for the rest of the term for making solder balls!

bbcmicro
April 9th, 2006, 10:50 AM
I bought it in the end. Its a nice little unit and will be good for electronics. Also I can switch it off without having to climb behind my desk and unplug it. :D

carlsson
April 9th, 2006, 12:51 PM
Good. I have some extention/expansion cords going from the wall wart to the underside of my desk, so I can easily plug in and out stuff. I currently have two spare outlets for i.e. soldering iron, temporary computers etc.

dpatten
April 13th, 2006, 11:20 AM
At home I have a Hakko variable temp soldering Iron. It's the shit. At work I use a Metcal RF iron. The metcal uses RF to heat the tip making for a very precise temperature control and excellent joints. A metcal iron is just what you need for those vintage computer repairs. Then again since a basic unit approaches $2,000 I suspect that thay will stay the province of hi-tech aerospace soldering.

http://www.okinternational.com/product_soldering/mxRework

DimensionDude
April 13th, 2006, 12:38 PM
That Metcal sounds like a nice setup. I had my employer ready to purchase a surface-mount device soldering/desoldering station so we could repair the inverters that were used on a lot of the machinery. In the end, we couldn't find replacement output transistors for the inverters so that plan was abandoned. At $600 a pop (with "pop" being the operative word) that station would have paid for itself in not time at all.

Kent

Terry Yager
April 13th, 2006, 01:37 PM
Hell, for 2K, you could probably build a robot to do all your soldering for you.

--T

phtan
July 7th, 2010, 10:52 PM
Yep, I also know to heat the post first, then carefully apply the solder. Maybe if I bought myself a new iron with fine tip.. is temperature control a luxury or a neccessity?

This topic originated in the Apple 8-bit subforum, but since the discussion moved on to soldering in general, I thought to move it to a proper area.

hi, you can actually add a dimmer to control the temperature of the soldering tip. you can visit this link for the story of the diy project on the soldering iron modification. http://www.bustatech.com/adjustable-soldering-iron/

glitch
July 8th, 2010, 03:59 AM
Wow, old thread! But since we're here anyway...

I like Hexacon's temperature-controlled low voltage irons. We use the Select-O-Temp and Select-O-Trak series at work, and both use the same bits (tips). They're 24V irons with grounded barrels and bits. The Select-O-Temp (three switch-selected temperatures) sells very cheaply on eBay anymore, my boss recently picked up a lot of 4 for $20.

If anyone gets one without tips and wants to buy some, let me know. We bought over 60 pounds of tips at a surplus auction, and will sell the ones we don't need at really low prices!

Micom 2000
July 9th, 2010, 12:20 AM
I have at least 6 soldering devices, none of which I'm happy with. Perhaps it's my soldering skills which are lacking. All of course were cheap, within the price-range I can justify. I'll have to see if I can acquire a Hexacon. At least I'd have a good source of bits. Thanks.

Lawrence

carlsson
July 9th, 2010, 01:52 AM
For what it is worth since I am the thread starter, I bought a cheap Velleman soldering station about three years ago. It serves most of my purposes, has a sponge to wet and some temperature control, but I may need to exchange the tip soon.

glitch
July 9th, 2010, 04:00 AM
Be aware that even high-price irons will need the tips exchanged now and then. The expensive ones degrade a lot slower than the cheap ones. This is because cheap tips have a copper core with a thin plating, while expensive ones have a copper core with either very heavy chrome plating, or iron and then chrome. Copper is easily leached out of cheap tips as soon as a scratch that penetrates the outer plating happens.

We use a Plato AB-3 Polishing Bar (http://www.platoproducts.com/page13b.htm) to remove oxides and such from our Hexacon tips at work. They're around $14 from most distributors (I think even Mouser carries them), but they'll extend the life of a tip many times past its otherwise useful life. You have to re-tin the tip after you polish it, which you can do with regular solder; however, the best way I've found is to coat the tip with solder paste like ChipQuick. This ensures the whole tip is covered and no air gaps allow for fresh oxides to form.

Chuck(G)
July 9th, 2010, 07:46 AM
Not quite accorate, glitch. Chromium or nickel-chromium is plated only on the non-working areas of the tips. This is mostly to keep the soldering area confined. If you've got an iron-plated tip, the most important thing is the temperature control. Too-hot temperature cycles lower the lifetime of the tip.

FWIW, both the Magnastat Weller and the Metcal irons have no direct temperature control. The Weller uses a magnetically operated switch in the handle and the Metcal uses RF absorption by the tip. Both are controlled by the Curie effect, so there are no temperature sensors to go wonky. I like the simplicity of the Weller, but many like the fact that the Metcal has no active contacts and temperature-cycles are a bit less pronounced.

Similarly, a 600F degree tip will last longer than a 700 degree one (60/40 solder melts at about 350F). I've never used anything but 600 grit emery paper to clean a tip (followed by tinning) and my tips last for years. Scotch-brite might also do the job; I haven't tried it. But the tip cleaners (mostly intended for stained-glass and jewelry workers) that use ammonium chloride will destroy a tip in no time at all.

Back in the bad old days of big irons and copper tips, we used to extend the life of a tip by applying hard solder (silver solder) to the tip using an acetylene torch. That would probably destroy a modern tip. I do have an old Ungar 777 iron to which I fitted a nickel-silver tip (no silver in it; just a copper-nickel alloy).

wrljet
July 10th, 2010, 06:41 PM
<snip>
Back in the bad old days of big irons and copper tips, we used to extend the life of a tip by applying hard solder (silver solder) to the tip using an acetylene torch. That would probably destroy a modern tip. I do have an old Ungar 777 iron to which I fitted a nickel-silver tip (no silver in it; just a copper-nickel alloy).

Chuck, would that silver solder "tip" work to extend the life of this DIP desoldering tip I made? I cut off and threaded the end of an original tip on the lathe, and the block is a hunk of copper bus bar.

3885

3886

I used this to remove 36 static column DRAMs from a board to fill up my Deskpro 386.

Chuck(G)
July 10th, 2010, 08:33 PM
I seem to remember that we used 56% silver solder, when silver was pretty cheap (the stuff flows at about 1000F; copper melts at about 1900F). The scheme worked well then, but might not be as cost-effective today.

If you don't have an acetylene torch, you could probably use an ordinary propane torch with a MAPP gas cylinder. I still do a fair amount of silver soldering, but it's with 10% silver now.

Another option may be plating iron over your copper tip. I understand that plating iron onto other metals is s little tricky, but tips are commonly plated with it, so it's not impossible.

sombunall
July 24th, 2010, 04:55 PM
Ok I admit I am no solder genius. I was using acid solder flux to clean everything up until I starting asking on this forum how to solder the XTIDE. In short I found out acid solder flux is nasty.

So I got a new tip for my weller 25W pencil and I have some nice Kester 60/40 that was recommended for XTIDE. Starting it up for the first time I know I have to put solder on a new tip to stop it from oxidizing. I don't think I have ever used solder with flux in it before! I noticed some places on the tip have this yellowy looking fluid on it after tinning. Am I to assume that this is the flux and not oxide? I thought the flux was supposed to evaporate and atomize?

Chuck(G)
July 24th, 2010, 05:29 PM
Do you have a damp sponge to wipe the tip on periodically? That helps keep it clean.

glitch
July 24th, 2010, 06:17 PM
Ok I admit I am no solder genius. I was using acid solder flux to clean everything up until I starting asking on this forum how to solder the XTIDE. In short I found out acid solder flux is nasty.

This is not entirely true -- the old acid fluxes are terrible for PCBs (or any electronics, they're not even recommended for point-to-point tube wiring), but there are many modern fluxes that are based on organic acids. If you really prefer using a liquid flux and solid solder, give Alpha 850 flux a try. We use it for all of our assembly at work, even though we use Kester 63/37 "organic core" solder. It's an organic flux that remains water soluble after use, so you /must/ wash the board afterwards, but it gives really great joints. All of the XTIDE boards I assembled for Hargle were given a brushing of Alpha 850 before soldering.

sombunall
July 25th, 2010, 09:28 AM
Do you have a damp sponge to wipe the tip on periodically? That helps keep it clean.

I am doing what is shown in this video of how to solder from the XTIDE build site:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_NU2ruzyc4

I have the solder stand with the yellow sponge under it and the brass sponge. I clean it first with the wet one, then poke it in the brass one a few times and then tin it with Kester "44" Rosin core 60/40 that I just bought a few weeks ago.

Picture:
4103

Maybe I should add that I used it to solder some wires to dragon clips with it so far but I tried to clean all surfaces (except the tip) with rubbing alcohol and q-tips. But before that there was no brown on it.

glitch
July 25th, 2010, 09:55 AM
The brown/yellow residue looks like melted rosin flux from the solder. It's normal to have it build up on the iron. You should wipe the iron while hot onto the wet sponge periodically to remove the flux buildup and any lead dross that forms on the iron tip.