when to solder?

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by roch, Jan 19, 2008.

  1. roch

    roch Member

    I think I am ready to start soldering. I have not done this before and am not sure.
    When do you begin to solder your track?

  2. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    I have tried soldering the rail connections after they are in place and also before. If doing the latter, make sure you have your rail fitted and the rail ends and connectors secure. When doing the soldering with the rail in its final position, make sure to avoid melting the ties and use a soldering flux to clean the joint. It might be worth the extra effort to practice on a couple of short pieces of track before you start on the layout. I use a 25 watt soldering pencil, apply the flux with a toothpick, melt the flux with a quick application of the soldering iron and then apply the solder to the opposite side of the rail from the soldering iron. the solder will flow into the rail connector and joint between the rail ends. Hope this helps get you started. Practice will improve your technique and you will learn how much solder is enough and not too much. You don't need any large globs of solder on the exterior of the joint. Just enough to flow into the joint.
  3. roch

    roch Member

    Thanks Jim. I did not even think of practicing first. I do have spare track and My old base to practice with. I do have a brand new soldering iron and enough solder to last till I die. Plenty of flux also. I am just not sure if I should do it yet. The base has been painted an earth tone and the track is joined. I am just intimedated by not having done it before and think I need to see some pics first.
  4. roch

    roch Member

    I have decided to hold off on soldering till at least tommorow night. I have been awake for over 36 hours with very little to eat and need to play around with it some more and get to the hobby shop first. Plus I may change the design a little even though I am finally happy with the way it looks.

    By the way guys and gals, can it be unsoldered if I need to modify it?

  5. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    I got to ask, have you looked at this edition of the Gauge eMag? You might want to do that before you go soldering rails. The mag can be found here:Gauge Mag Jan 08

    There's an article there that just might help you.:mrgreen:
  6. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Roch: I second the idea of practice. If you've just built something with flextrack, you probably have a collection of bits a couple of inches long that will never be used as track.
    You can also use some of that old train-set track that you can't see using again.
    Make sure the flux is rosin. Acid flux -- usually in a little tin -- is not for wiring. And not for rails -- it's hard to get the layout under a tap to rinse it off.
    And even then: after 50 years experience, I did 2 wires last week and had a blob of solder on top of a rail that had to be filed off.
  7. roch

    roch Member

    Thank you EZ
  8. MCL_RDG

    MCL_RDG Member

    I say- go ahead and melt ties, burn a hole or 5- etc. It builds character. Experience is the next best thing to "I told you so"!

    Soldering "may" only be required. How big is this layout you're building? I think it was 40' X 20'?
  9. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    I just noticed that I neglected to mention the use of rosin core solder and non acid flux. I see that Pooh Bah added that info. This is one of the great things about The Gauge. You get enough input to cover all the bases.
  10. roch

    roch Member

    The layout is about 2' x 4' and I am using acid flux. Is there non-acid flux? I stopped soldering till I got better advice anyway. I did some practice with scraps and the solder don't stick without the flux. It is difficult to work with and I thought about not doing it, but I spent $ on it and do not want it to go to waste. Could use more input and may change my mind again.
  11. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Read the article. I warn about using acid flux in it and there are a lot of pointers on just how to solder tracks. It takes you through the basics to a finished job.
  12. SD90

    SD90 Active Member

    I use a Cold Heat soldering tool, I got it for a present one year, and thought it was cheap, but it works really good! I've never melted ties with it, it heats the rail up so quick and cools down almost insantly. The tips break farily easily, so you can't apply very much pressure, but you shouldn't have to anyway. It heats up the rail enough to melt the solder on the other side in about 3-5 seconds, and your done!
  13. roch

    roch Member

    My new iron is cheap and takes what seems forever to even melt the solder. It cost $12 @ Home Depot and runs on 3 AA batteries. I like it.
  14. KMInspector

    KMInspector New Member

    I too use the Cold Heat soldering iron and love it. It takes only seconds to heat the flux and not much longer to heat the solder into the rail connections. I read the article by EZDAYS in the Gauge and it really helped since I have not soldered until recently. I would certainly recommend a little practice before you start doing it on your layout. Also, find the smallest wire you can find, usually any wire noted for circuit board. I don't know if you have a Radio Shack near you but they usually have everything you will need for soldering.
  15. Bones

    Bones Member

    I didn't see it mentioned by anyone else...

    Make sure to leave some expansion gaps in your rails, in a few places on the layout. If you don't, the rails will literally 'pop' right out of the ties (with flex or sectional track). And if the rails don't come out, sometimes the track will lift out of the ballast.
    All you need is a 1-2mm gap that will stay aligned. I try to place mine in straight sections, and use a rail joiner to help ensure alignment.

    If you can't plan the locations of the gaps before hand; you can always go back and cut them with a dremel. (if you have one)

    Mid-day sun on the layout, or a cold winter night with no heat can be disastrous without allowance for exapansion/contraction.
  16. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    A 2' X 4' doesn't need expension joints.
    If you are using sectional track you can divide your layout in submodules ( 3 sections length ) , solder and paint those submodules at your desk then assemble and solder those submodules on the layout.
    Practice, practice and ... practice.
    I soldered all the rail joiners on my small layout.

  17. roch

    roch Member

    Thanks for all of the great advice. :thumb: The article by ezdays is very helpful.

    Now could someone please help me find the new wheels that popped of of my new trucks and flew somewhere.sign1

  18. roch

    roch Member

    I gave up on soldering.:eek: I am just going to nail and glue the track in place.
  19. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    I still think you should take some time to at least do some practice soldering. Just my opinion. You know what an opinion is worth.
  20. roch

    roch Member

    I value all opinions. I keep practicing with the same resuilts. I got the wrong solder and flux. It is to late to return them now. I am flat broke and will have to wait till I cash in some cans to get the right stuff.


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