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Author Topic: Soldering advice  (Read 2125 times)

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Offline Ricky B

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Soldering advice
« on: September 30, 2018, 04:11:11 PM »
I didn't intend my first post to be a cry for help! (Hello all- superb forum.) Just joined a short while back. But today, having organised a Sunday afternoon to myself to try, as a beginner, to cross the bridge (a bridge I've been sizing up for months!) that is soldering wires to Seep PM1 motors as part of wiring my electrofrog points and laying my track. As well as being a soldering novice it's the first time I've done any point motors and certainly first time I've tried to wire them with polarity switching..

I've have a few semi successful practice sessions but today, I cannot for any money, get past first base, to manage to tin the iron tip! The solder will not flow onto the tip at all, instead, it balls up and falls away. As Eric and Ernie used to say, "This didn't happen in rehearsals".

My iron was bought new from Gaugemaster (45W) and I've only used it for practicing. Have I not maintained the tip? The salesman at Arundel (Engine Shed) recommended non Flux soldering and sold me the correct solder. Can anyone advise and try to help rescue my Sunday? Much obliged guys.

Online Philipp

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Re: Soldering advice
« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2018, 04:58:36 PM »
The only time it happened to me was when the iron was too hot, I just turned the temp down and it was fine. No knowledge of the iron you have so don't know if you can contol the temperature, but that was my solution anyway.

Online Stevie DC

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Re: Soldering advice
« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2018, 05:00:31 PM »
It sounds like your tip isn't clean. I use a metal scourer to clean my soldering iron's tip, using a stabbing motion, but have also found that Loctite's Soldering Tinner/Cleaner is really good and use this when the tip won't become clean just using the scourer. The tip should be shiny when hot and if it is dull or is dark, it isn't clean and will form a barrier that will prevent the solder clinging to the tip.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2018, 05:02:20 PM by Atso »

Offline Ricky B

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Re: Soldering advice
« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2018, 05:14:34 PM »
The iron is temperature adjustable and maybe it's a temperature thing but I tried turning it down a bit without cracking it.
The chap who demonstrated it and sold it me at Arundel had the temp dial at about "2o'clock" so that's where I try to stick.
The tip maybe has becom oxidised but to my untrained eye, looks like a sharpened pencil nib with the pointy end similar to a pencil's lead.

I've checked the usual online help sources and many mention a dedicated "tip cleaner" substance.

Offline Newportnobby

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Re: Soldering advice
« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2018, 05:27:42 PM »
Welcome to the forum, Ricky :wave:
As someone who is crarubbish at soldering (mainly down to shaky hand syndrome) I got a mate to do all my PM1s for me but the symptoms you describe are the same as I suffered when trying to tin droppers. I turned the temperature on my Weller adjustable iron down and it did improve things.

Offline themadhippy

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Re: Soldering advice
« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2018, 05:36:23 PM »
get  yer iron to temp.scrape the tip over a damp sponge(or spit on yer jeans and wipe iron tip on wet bit of jeans) , bit of solder on the iron,wipe  over  the  damp sponge/jeans.go solder,wiping the tip after every joint

Offline Ricky B

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Re: Soldering advice
« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2018, 05:38:30 PM »
Cheers Nobby!

I'll try to clean the tip (though it doesn't look mucky) and try again on lower temp. Honestly I'm a modeller with more passion and enthusiasm than time so frustratingly, I'll retire from the task today and have to fight again another day.. but when I do 'cross that bridge' and get my track laid with working pointwork and locos crossing them at slow speed without stalling, I'll enjoy the more 'creative' side of layout building and look forward to sharing with the forum.

Offline Ricky B

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Re: Soldering advice
« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2018, 05:41:14 PM »
get  yer iron to temp.scrape the tip over a damp sponge(or spit on yer jeans and wipe iron tip on wet bit of jeans) , bit of solder on the iron,wipe  over  the  damp sponge/jeans.go solder,wiping the tip after every joint

Thanks Hippy but the iron has a sponge pad (which I wet) and have always wiped the tip during use. For some reason the warmed iron (perhaps too warm as some have opined) was just eliminating the solder which fell southwards in silver balls- none would stay to 'tin' the tip.

Offline jthjth

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Re: Soldering advice
« Reply #8 on: September 30, 2018, 06:16:07 PM »
You need some multi core solder, ie stuff designed for electronics assembly. Eg https://cpc.farnell.com/multicore-solder/3096122-m/solder-60-40-hi-act-1-2mm-250g/dp/SD00961?st=solder

Muticore means it has the flux embedded into the solder wire. The flux in this type of solder is non corrosive, so you donít need to do anything to remove it after soldering the joint.

Set the iron temperature control to something reasonably high. With the iron cold, plug it in and hold the solder wire on the bit. Once the bit gets to the melting point of the solder feed plenty of solder onto the bit as fast as it will take it. What this process does is to put an excess of flux onto your new bit. You should get a lot of smoke from the burning flux - try not to inhale!

Once youíve got an excess of solder on the bit wipe it on a damp sponge. With luck you will now have a tinned bit.

The solder Iíve referenced is tin/lead. Contrary to popular myth, leaded solder is still freely available. What you canít use it for is for products destined to the commercial market. It is still used in military and aerospace markets, and produces more reliable joints. Itís also much more forgiving for the amateur user. In terms of health and safety, unless you intend to eat it, by far the biggest risk is from the flux fumes rather than the lead content.

If you donít manage to tin the bit on the first attempt try again.

The solder going into balls as you describe is due to it not finding a clean surface to ďadhereĒ to. The flux reacts with oxide layers and burns them off, leaving a clean metallic surface for the solder to bind to.

As a novice, my first advice is to get hold of some stranded hook up wire. Strip an inch of insulation off and twist the strands together. Clamp the wire in something so you donít end up chasing it round the bench. Then with a hot iron hold the bit on the exposed twisted wire. After a few seconds feed in the solder at the interface between the bit and the wire. The solder should melt and flow onto the strands. A common mistake is to feed the solder onto the bit, rather than the interface. If you do that the flux will burn off before it gets to the wire. You need the flux to clean the wire not the bit. As the hook up wire is cheap, just keep practicing until you get the hang of it. At first you will probably melt the insulation further down the wire. Once you get better, you will be able to quickly tin the exposed end before the rest of the wire gets hot enough to melt the insulation.

For anything electrical you donít want to be using the non flux cored soldiers designed for assembling brass or etched kits.

Hope that helps

Julian Thornhill
« Last Edit: September 30, 2018, 06:55:33 PM by jthjth, Reason: Unfortunate speeling mishtake »

Offline DCCDave

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Re: Soldering advice
« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2018, 06:44:27 PM »
you donít want to be using the non flux cored soldiers designed for assembling bras

No, one slip with that can be quite painful!

Offline Ricky B

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Re: Soldering advice
« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2018, 07:05:49 PM »
Thanks very much Julian for the kind and detailed reply. Yes, I'll practice this more when I've a bit of time. I was under the impression I had multi-core solder i.e., the one with built-in flux. I'll try to get hold of some from the link you included.
To be clear, are you saying that the solder wouldn't adhere to my 'bit' (i.e. the iron's tip) because it was unclean/oxidised or, because I wasn't using multi core flux?
I'm quite sure I'll enjoy soldering when the various pennies drop.
Thanks so far.
Richard.

Offline jthjth

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Re: Soldering advice
« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2018, 07:13:10 PM »
I was unsure of the type of solder you were using. A brand new bit will be oxidised and does need tinning. Iíve always found the technique of doing it as the iron heats up to be the most successful. A properly tinned bit will look nice and silvery. As you use the iron you will get a build up of black deposits, ie burnt flux. Simply wipe this off on the damp sponge. Soldering is a bit like learning to ride a bike. It seems impossible to start with, and once you can do it you wonder what all the fuss is about.

Offline Mr Sprue

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Re: Soldering advice
« Reply #12 on: September 30, 2018, 09:26:22 PM »
The best way to tin a soldering iron tip is to first clean it up so its shiny with no dark pits before heating ( I use a wire wheel or use a stainless wire brush) next dip the tip in flux then peel off a strand of solder (low melt is the best to use) coil it around the tip covering about a third of the whole tip.

Next turn on the heat but don't have the heat setting too high 10 or so degrees above the melt point of the solder you are using to wrap round the tip should do. Watch over as the iron heats up and the solder begins to melt. When the solder melts on the tip just flick the iron (if your a novice its best directing the excess to fall onto somewhere like a garage concrete floor or somewhere safe (with experience you will be able to aim the stuff onto a 10 pence coin!)

Gently wipe the tip on a damp sponge then its tinned and ready to go.

For what its worth it doesn't matter if its flux cored solder or not, but the temperature of the melt point is the most important if the tip reaches a too high temperature too often then you will be re-tinning on a regular basis! 

Offline jthjth

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Re: Soldering advice
« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2018, 09:45:27 PM »
Depending on the iron manufacturer and the construction of the bit, cleaning up the bit with an abrasive can be a bad idea. At work my colleagues professionally hand solder some extremely intricate boards. Iron bits are never cleaned by anything other than a damp sponge. Badly tarnished pcb pads, or solder terminals can be helped by some additional liquid flux. However, Iíve never found the need at home with anything to do with model railways.

Offline Malc

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Re: Soldering advice
« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2018, 10:16:11 PM »
As jthjth says, never use abrasive on an iron bit. Copper can be filed. One other thing I never use is a needle point bit, always a small spade bit. There is room for the solder to sit on it. If you are unsure of the type of solder, pull a short length off the reel and burn about 1Ē from the end with a match. If you look at one of the burnt ends you can count the flux cores.
I'm not sure if life is passing me by, or trying to run me over.

 

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