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Soldering Help

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Joined
Oct 5, 2010
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135
Location
San Diego
#1
I am trying to solder together an antenna but first I am practicing soldering. Anyone here who solders, I have some questions. Before I ask, I want you to know this:

1. I have been professionally instructed by my electronics and electrical teacher on how to solder.

2. I've watched probably about 20 videos on YouTube about how to solder.

3. I've read a few articles.

But none of the above has cleared what I'm going to ask up...

A) How do I "clean up" the iron's tip? This phenomenon keeps happening where when the iron is off and cool, the tip is rough to the touch, "jaggedy" and dark. When I power up the iron and it gets hot, the tip and shaft turn darker the hotter it gets. Then, when I rub the iron tip onto a wet sponge, the tip immediately gets shiny and nice looking again... What does this mean? Is everything ok?

B) I just bought a new Weller 260Watt/200watt soldering gun for larger projects and I just tried it out... I pressed the trigger and as it began to heat up, I let go of the trigger for a second and the tip "bubbled up" right before my eyes... In other words, it went from smooth to looking like molten metal bubbles all over it. In fact, I saw it creeping up towards the handle as I held the trigger down thereafter. It scared me for a second! What on earth happened? I know they said that the tip is pre-tinned, is that what that was? Is it ok???

C) I seem to be having problems with heat transfer... I keep putting tin on the tip like they say... But in the videos I watched and when I saw my teacher solder, all they did is put the iron on for like 4 seconds and then the solder. If I do that, nothing happens. I have to leave it sitting on the conductor for like 3 minutes before the solder will melt. Why is this? Any pointer? Thank you!

PS: I have been using a 60watt iron. I have NOT been using the 260watt gun the whole time, I just got the gun today.
 
Joined
Dec 26, 2005
Messages
2,112
Location
Medford, NJ
#2
A: What type of iron is the 60 watt? Some tips on cheap irons are junk from the start. You shouldn't need that tip tinner if you have a good tip and the temperature is not too high. Most weller irons have quality tips but if you keep the tip temperature too high they will discolor to black and not take solder or tin well. A cold tip will also appear discolored but won't clean off good. Once up to proper temperature a quick wipe on a damp sponge should produce a nice shinny tip. The constant discoloration your seeing when the iron sits is oxidation on the tip. Just like a solder pot that sits and residue builds up on top, same thing on your tip.

B: The pre tinning was melting as you applied heat, it doesn't take long at 200 watts. Also being new they tend to smell a little and it will discolor. All normal.

C: Seems you may not have your tip hot enough. Does your iron have adjustable temperature? Perhaps you are dealing with lead free solder which can be very hard to work with. If working with lead free solder turn up the temperature to around 750F. Also you can try to flow some lead solder into the mix with the lead free solder and then things go easier.
 
Joined
Oct 29, 2011
Messages
333
Location
Fayetteville NC
#3
A) Yes, everything is okay. Just wipe it off when it gets hot, and keep wiping it as you use it. The only tip I ever used - in over 60 years of soldering - that didn't get black was a Weller gun with a well-tinned copper tip. (And the tips didn't last all that long.) The iron ("pre-tinned" - they aren't, you should tin it) tips get black.

C) You have to use a bit of solder as a conductor between the tip and the joint you're soldering (wire, connector, etc.) Melt a bit (just a bit - about 1/8") of solder on the tip, then apply that melted solder to the joint. You should be able to melt solder onto the opposite side of the joint within a second or two after that.

If you're soldering a large piece of metal (like the braid of the coax to the shell of a PL-259), it could take a while to heat the metal up enough. And for a PL-259 and RG8-U, 260 watts is just barely enough. You can probably make some sort of solder joint with a 60 watt iron after you're experienced, but it wouldn't be a really good joint.

For anything other that PC board work, the gun will be okay. (For small parts, get it hot enough to melt solder easily, then let go of the trigger. Maybe hit it once more before you finish the joint. It's a technique you'll learn with time.) For PC board work, you should have a constant temperature iron with a small tip. An iron that's not temperature controlled can destroy the board, and a 60 watt iron gets hot enough to do that easily. (A small tip only needs about 25 watts to get it to the right temperature, but a controlled iron will run more power, but on and off as needed - to keep the tip at the right temperature. Even something as cheap as this would work.
 
Joined
Nov 16, 2011
Messages
1
#4
You should clean the tip after each use. There are many cleaning products and the cheapest is the damp sponge. Just rub the tip of the soldering iron on it after each solder. Soldering can CleanerAnother trick is to use tip cleaner. This comes in a small pot, you push the tip into. This works well if your tip has not been cleaned for a while. It creates a lot of smoke, so it is best not to let the tip get so dirty that you need to use cleaner tip cleaner.

Metal foil stencil
 
Joined
Nov 19, 2011
Messages
6
#5
You should clean the tip after each use. There are many cleaning products and the cheapest is the damp sponge. Just rub the tip of the soldering iron on it after each solder. Soldering can CleanerAnother trick is to use tip cleaner. This comes in a small pot, you push the tip into. This works well if your tip has not been cleaned for a while. It creates a lot of smoke, so it is best not to let the tip get so dirty that you need to use cleaner tip cleaner.

Metal foil stencil
yes and you may need to buy a smaller iron for pc work. 60 watts is pretty hot. a 25 or 30 watt will suit smaller work and ALWAYS use rosin core solder. acid core will destroy anything you touch with it.
 
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