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Solder Iron 
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Joined: Tue Jan 17, 2017 10:01 am
Posts: 3
Post Solder Iron
Hello,

I am COMPLETELY new to soldering and I just recently got a soldering kit for christmas.

It is a Maplin kit: [LINK REMOVED BY ADMIN]

I think the soldering iron is 30W.

I've done a little project with it and I was able to make it - it wasn't perfect though! HA

Anyway, when I used the soldering Iron again I noticed that the solder wasn't going on as easily and was instead balling up. Nor was the solder melting quick enough even after holding the Iron to the part for quite a long time in soldering iron terms.

I did tin the soldering iron the first time I used it.

I have done a bit of reading and it seems like the tip of the iron has oxidised?

Why has this happened exactly?

For future reference - in between soldering bits on a project do I just leave the iron on and in its holder until I am ready to use it again. Some articles were saying that you should switch it off - but obviously in between soldering bits on a project you may only need to put it down for 30 secs or so?

Maybe I left it too long in between soldering bits on the project and thats why its oxidised? Do you always need to tin the tip in between using it?

Just need some clarification...

Also - is this soldering iron not the best and should I possibly look for another one? I am just a beginner though, not sure what I should do. Not sure if I have messed the iron I have already up!

Thanks

Christina


Thu Jan 19, 2017 4:33 pm
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Joined: Sun Aug 05, 2012 4:15 pm
Posts: 636
Post Re: Solder Iron
Quote:
I have done a bit of reading and it seems like the tip of the iron has oxidised?

Why has this happened exactly?


The most common cause is the soldering iron getting too hot for the solder but that said I wouldn't expect a 30W iron to be a problem. I don't see any temperature control on that iron but if it is adjustable you want the temperature to be around 350oC.

It is however normal to have to clean the tip from time to time. Especially before and after the iron is used as this is when the temperature of the iron is most likely to spike. A damp sponge is the most common way but there are other methods such as tip cleaners or abrasive cleaning pads.

Also, I cant tell if the solder supplied in the kit is lead free or not. I tend to find the lead free stuff is not as tolerant of high temperatures or re-heating. The solder should also have flux in it. Don't buy solder that doesn't contain flux, its normally used for plumbing and is no good for soldering components.


Quote:
For future reference - in between soldering bits on a project do I just leave the iron on and in its holder until I am ready to use it again. Some articles were saying that you should switch it off - but obviously in between soldering bits on a project you may only need to put it down for 30 secs or so?


For short intervals, especially when its only a few minutes, I would leave it on. You'd probably cause more wear and tear buy constantly switching it on and off.


Quote:
Do you always need to tin the tip in between using it?


I'd recommend doing it when you first turn the iron on.

Quote:
Also - is this soldering iron not the best and should I possibly look for another one? I am just a beginner though, not sure what I should do. Not sure if I have messed the iron I have already up!


If you plan to use it a lot it's worth getting a temperature controlled iron. If you're just doing the odd bit of soldering then a simple iron will be fine. I doubt very much that you have damaged the one you have (assuming the iron works well in the first place). You probably just need to clean the tip with something slightly abrasive. If you'd rather not have to buy one of the things mentioned above, and you don't care too mush about prematurely wearing out the tip, you can try GENTLY scraping off the oxidisation with the edge of a knife or some fine sandpaper.

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Mon Jan 23, 2017 10:45 am
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Joined: Wed Aug 21, 2013 7:38 am
Posts: 24
Post Re: Solder Iron
Way back in the 40s the US couldn't shoot an anti-aircraft proximity shell (English invention) containing then state-of-the-art vacuum tube (valve) amplifiers that survived the launch from a cannon. The high G-forces shattered the defective American solder joints. Churchill sent an Avro Lancaster full of Ersin Multicore 60/40 solder. The solder contains 5 cores of resin flux and Lead 60 / Tin 40 alloy. English solder and soldiers won the war. While we all now care about the environment, using a few milligrams of non-lead solder ie. lead-free is an absolute waste of time, effort and will produce guaranteed unreliable and ugly results. HC 60/40 solder is a good choice.

Any solder joint that doesn't look like a perfect conical Mt Fuji is visually defective, those solder balls are totally worthless. I have taught many technicians and I tell them that they are not frosting a cake. One guy reached for a can of plumbers flux and a 5 pound iron. Not good! A flux pen is great to lightly wipe on every pad and pin and component. 25 watts is typically the maximum for fine work. Temperature control is great if you can afford it, but cost is seldom related to results. All flux is corrosive (mildly now in a flux-pen for electronics) and only the best nickel-plated tips will prevent it eating the tip like tooth decay.

One has only three seconds to get in with a clean chisel-tip, avoid round tips (my preference), make good thermal contact with the parts, correct temperature, apply a tiny amount of solder (called 'tinning') to the tip, pre-heat the component lead first near the bottom and then the pad, feed just enough solder to the part and pad to produce Mt Fuji and pull back.

Definitely an art achieved with practice. Frosting a cake means going back with a molten blob and trying to fix it. Stick to cakes if you want to do something like that. Soldering as an art should be enjoyable, get in the mood looking at Mt Fuji, enjoy the tranquillity and expected results and of course make sure the circuit board is locked in a solid multi-vice so it won't move.

Attachment:
mtfuji.jpeg


Too much heat vaporizes the solder, burns the flux and sends up sputtering clouds of debris and risks de-laminating the printed circuit pads. Always use in well ventilated areas, but never with fans that cool the process. Even worse is the thermal stress placed on delicate components. Lead is toxic so wash your hands.

I encouraged a fellow technician to learn microcomputers and he proudly handed me his first working circuit board to inspect. The weight of it was so heavy it meant that he kept feeding solder from Mt Fuji well into the volcanic magma chambers below. Capillary action in good solder drew the molten solder into hanging blobs on the topside.

When I was young (you wouldn't know it to look at me now) I worked for a new company owner and he saw me soldering each pin of a connector. He showed me how to apply enough heat to one pin while sliding the leading edge of the tip to the next pin and pre-heating and soldering the entire job in one movement. Ersin solder, I recall, nothing but the best.


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Mon May 29, 2017 4:47 pm
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