Discussion in 'FAQs' started by msh, Aug 29, 2002.

  1. msh

    msh Member

    Okay - I need to know the steps involved with tinning a soldering iron and tinning wires. Who's going to step up and help out this soldering neophyte?
  2. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    Here's How I Do It

    OK here's how I tin a soldering iron. If your tip is old and corroded get a new one or clean it up real good with some fine emory paper. If its a new iron or tip so much the better.

    First get the iron hot give it 10 - 15 minutes to really get good and hot. While you are waiting for the iron to heat get out your spool of solder and find a rag and wet it with water and wring it out real good and fold it into a pad.

    Touch the tip of the iron to the solder. Notice that the solder does not flow onto the tip but stays there in sort of a little ball. Take the damp rag and wipe the tip with solder on it with a twisting motion and notice that the solder now coats the end of the tip. Some times you may have to repeat the process a couple of times to get the tip fully coated but "practice makes perfect" Your iron is now tinned. The process is the same for a soldering gun but it only takes a few seconds for it to get hot.

    Tinning a piece of wire is easy. Just heat the wire and flow a little solder on to it, spread it on the wire with the tip of the iron and then let it cool and then come back and make your joint using some more solder. I usually don't bother to tin small wires....just make a good mechanical joint and solder them together using a good resin flux such as Kester's. If the wire is silver colored its probably pre-tinned anyway.

    Never use Acid Core Solder or Acid Flux on anything electrical. It will eat away the electrical connection eventually. Always use resin core solder and resin flux.
  3. Partsman

    Partsman Member

    Thanks, Vic. I would have been asking that same question in the not too distant future.
  4. Ralph

    Ralph Remember...it's for fun!

    Aw geez!!! Thanks for the tip regarding rosin core solder, Vic. I inadvertently used acid core on some of my wiring and will be sure to avoid it in the future. At least when things start to fizz out I will have an understanding why! :mad:
  5. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    Hi Ralph...What can I say for you but....Ooooops!!!!:D

    Seriously, if you could possibly re-do those connections it would be to your advantage. The acid in that flux sorta "wicks" up the wire underneath the insulation and while the solder joint may still look ok the wire will be eaten away where you can't see it and find the problem. It doesn't take too long for say #22 copper wire to get eaten up:(
  6. Ralph

    Ralph Remember...it's for fun!

    I'll take your advice Vic and redo those deceptively good looking connections. Did I mention that wiring is my least favorite part of the hobby? :) Seriously, thanks for the information. Next time I'll take a closer look at what I buy too!
  7. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    Hey Ralph, I don't mind the wiring:) It's the crawling under the layout that gets to me:eek: :D :D Seems like the benchwork get lower every time I do it:eek: :D :D
  8. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    More On Soldering

    Just thought I'd throw in a few more tips about soldering.

    1. If you are condsidering the purchase of an iron for the first time get a good one as it will last you a long time. Some good brands are Weller, Unger and American Beauty.

    2. A 15-25 watt iron is more than adequate for model railroad use.

    3. Most irons come with a pointed tip. Get a "chisel" style tip too. It will be usefull for soldering track joints because it will transfer the heat over a larger aera.

    4. Also get a can of resin soldering paste and use it as directed on the can...just makes the work go faster and makes cleaner joints. I like Kester's brand.

    5. Always make sure that the tip is screwed into the iron tightly. If your iron doesn't seem to get hot its probably because the tip is not seated. As long as the tip of your tinned iron remains bright and shiney its ok. When it turns black and "cruddy looking" its time to clean it and re-tin it.

    6. NEVER lay a hot iron down on anything. Get a soldering iron stand to keep it in. Always unplug the iron when you are done soldering.

    7. Solder fumes are toxic...don't breath them in...they contain lead.

    8. 60/40 Resin core solder is the best for electrical work.

    9. If your solder joint looks grey colored after its cooled its no good. It should be a bright silver color. Probably didn't get it hot enough so reheat it until the solder flows and then let it cool again.

    10. Always make sure that both surfaces to be soldered are clean, oil free, and nice and shiney. Solder is not a substitute for a good mechanical joint so make sure everything is good and tight before applying the solder.

    11. Soldering is an "acquired art" so if you are new to it practice up a bit on some scraps of wire and rail.

    PS: Never pick up a hot iron by the wrong end....OUCH!!! HOT!! @#$%!!!!
  9. YakkoWarner

    YakkoWarner Member

    One thing to add. When soldering, heat your work, not your solder. Heating the solder will result in the dull, brittle connections refered to by Vic. Never touch the solder to your gun or iron tip unless you are tinning.
  10. billk

    billk Active Member

    And another thing - Those dealies (what are they called?) that have bendable arms ending in alligator clips and a weighted base are sometimes invaluable for holding the pieces in place - sometimes you need about 4-5 hands! I finally broke down and got one at Radio Shack and my language while soldering has lost a lot of color.
  11. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    Thanks Yakko...I knew there was one I left out but I could not think of it for the life of me!!!:D :D :D
  12. Edavillenut

    Edavillenut Member

    Billk the thing you are talking about is called The Helping Hands the work great i have two of them
  13. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Cold Joints

    Vic & msh:
    Point 9 -- is called a cold joint (I know you know). you left out the rule about "Don't wiggle the wire until the solder sets." This is the cause of most of my bad joints.
  14. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    I use a WELLER soldering gun and it's hot in 5 seconds also use resin core solder so no need to tin anything first. So long as the item is CLEAN, it will solder easy.

  15. TinGoat

    TinGoat Ignorant know it all

    Re: More On Soldering

    I agree with everything here except point #2. A 15-25 watt iron is fine for wiring, but if you want to solder your rail joints, or solder wire to your rails, you may want to have a higher watt iron.

    You want to be able to make solder joints on rails very quickly. That way you are not melting you ties.

    Another tip is to use heat sinks on your rails. Put those aligator clips from your "Helping Hands" on either side of the rail where you are soldering it.

    This will help dissipate the heat so that the ties don't melt.

    I used to use a low wattage soldering iron to join wires to the rails on some flextrack and the ties melted before the solder did. It made a real mess.

    Now I use a nasty 250 watt iron. Touch it to the top of the rail and it only takes a second to get a joint soldered. No more melted ties.
  16. Edavillenut

    Edavillenut Member

    for the track feeders i solder the wire to the rail joiner before i put it on the rail this way i cant melt the ties and you can hide the wire better. because i use 16 gauge speker wire going to the track and then 12 gauge bus wires running under the table to my DCC system well to where my DCC system will be. right now it is 4 life like power packs:D
  17. billk

    billk Active Member

    On the other hand, I never solder to rail joiners unless I have to. I'd rather rely on them to provide mechanical alignment only. I solder to the bottom of the rail instead. Melting ties hasn't been that big a problem. (But then again, my feeders are more like 20 Awg, not 16.)
  18. Edavillenut

    Edavillenut Member

    i use to use 22 gauge but the dcc book sause to use bigger so i did and it works
  19. Ralph

    Ralph Remember...it's for fun!

    This is an excellent thread! Thanks MSH for bringing up the topic!
  20. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    I use the Weller 250 gun as well. As already stated, the idea is heat quick and move along. Heat sinks only slow this down. Apply a clean hot tip to the rails, wait a second, touch solder to rail and be ready to pull away. OK maybe two seconds. Code 70 rail. OK maybe 4 seconds for code 100. Point is a clean tip will heat quickly, enough so you won't melt ties. If you are melting ties then clean the tip. You can also just remove a tie, solder, then push a tie beneath again. You would need to shave off the spike heads on the tie.


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