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Soldering questions

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by Technoid, Apr 12, 2014.

  1. Technoid

    Technoid Member

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    I'm just starting soldering, I got a kit for Christmas.

    I just do it outside, but sometimes it blows in my face, and on the solder package it says to use a NIOSH approved mask if necessary. So the next time I did it I got a 3M mask that says NIOSH on it. That's all it says. Is that good enough?

    If I leave the iron on without using it for very long it becomes black, and if I put some solder on it and leave it for a bit and wipe it off with a sponge it's pretty clean again. Is that because I don't tin it right? I'm having trouble tinning it, as it becomes a big ball quick. From what I understand, it should just be a light coating right? Should it pretty much look like it's just more metal on the tip?

    I'm having trouble understanding when to tin it. Should I just do it before I put it up, before I start using it, both, or after every time I solder something, or after I solder a few things, or a little less frequent than that, or what?

    I have a point-tipped iron. Should I be using the very tip or the side close to the point?

    I saw a video of someone using a flat-tipped one and it seemed like it would be easier. Would that be good for any general soldering?
     
  2. Technoid

    Technoid Member

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    I'm just starting soldering, I got a kit for Christmas.

    I just do it outside, but sometimes it blows in my face, and on the solder package it says to use a NIOSH approved mask if necessary. So the next time I did it I got a 3M mask that says NIOSH on it. That's all it says. Is that good enough?

    If I leave the iron on without using it for very long it becomes black, and if I put some solder on it and leave it for a bit and wipe it off with a sponge it's pretty clean again. Is that because I don't tin it right? I'm having trouble tinning it, as it becomes a big ball quick. From what I understand, it should just be a light coating right? Should it pretty much look like it's just more metal on the tip?

    I'm having trouble understanding when to tin it. Should I just do it before I put it up, before I start using it, both, or after every time I solder something, or after I solder a few things, or a little less frequent than that, or what?

    I have a point-tipped iron. Should I be using the very tip or the side close to the point?

    I saw a video of someone using a flat-tipped one and it seemed like it would be easier. Would that be good for any general soldering?
     
  3. Technoid

    Technoid Member

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    Sorry double posted the thread, I didn't think it worked the first time
     
  4. dave

    Dave New Member

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  5. cowboybob

    cowboybob Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    Welcome to ETO, Technoid!

    Tip, side, whatever, it all depends on what your soldering. Small area to heat, tip; bigger area, side.

    Once tinned, the tip ought not need to be tinned again, although sometimes it is necessary.

    The important thing is to wipe the excess solder (and flux) off the tip every time you use it. It isn't so much the tin (lead or silver solder) as it is the flux that is turning the tip black and gunning it up. Hence the constant wiping of it on a damp sponge is the trick to avoiding bad or inadequate solder joints.

    The tip should be nice and shiny, with no excees solder globs, each time you go to use it.
     
  6. KeepItSimpleStupid

    KeepItSimpleStupid Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    Let's get a couple of things out of the way:

    What kind of solder are you using? It should be rosen core and not acid core.
    Is it lead free? or Lead based 63/37 or 60/40?

    Are you soldering surface mount or components with leads?

    Next, when you tin the tip, wipe it off first with a moist sponge sponge or rag. You should have a nice shiny surface.

    Typically the tip material should be iron clad.

    What wattage of an iron are you using? Is it temperature controlled?

    Sorry, for all of the questions.

    Now, the MOST IMPORTANT PART. Don't drip the solder on the joints.

    Assemble the kit with the lowest height components first. You generally can basically put all of the 1/4 watt resistors in the board first, but wire jumpers have a lower height.

    Now take your iron and push the lead up against the hole. Try to apply solder to the opposite side of the iron, e.g. the pad/lead mechanical connection that you made.

    Experience comes into play when trying to figure out how long to heat the components, A touch of the solder to the mehanical connection every once and a while until it''s hot enough to flow. Then flow the joint.

    Don't disturb it until it's cool.

    Some caveats: Lead based 60/40 solder was great for components with leads. It melts at a different temperature than it solidifies at.
    Lead based 63/37 melts at solidifies at the SAME temperature. So, you take the heat away and instant solidification. It's essential for hand soldering of surface mount components without using pastes and a solder mask.

    The EU created an initiative of ROHS or Reductions in Hazardous Substances. One of those substances is lead. The substitutions have reliability issues which are slowing being worked out, but soldering requires hotter temperatures and is more difficult.

    You also need to clean the flux off the board. Isopropyl alcohol or Acetone on a cotton swap usually works. Do this early in the process. e.g. Don't let it sit a week.

    I don't really want to comment on the respirator use. Fume extractors do exist.

    Here https://www.circuitspecialists.com/soldering-articles is some stuff that you might want to look at.
     
  7. Mosaic

    Mosaic Well-Known Member

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    I used to use pure copper Weller bits back in the day, they tinned quite easily, but they wore down fast. The iron tipped bits are a bit more temp sensitive, if your iron is too hot it will quickly (2 or 3 mins) tarnish the solder tinning. Try lowering the temp a bit if u can. Your tinning sponge should be damp, not wet. If your sponge can't clean the tip....your solder will ball up and drip. Use a bit of 220 emery paper or a sanding block to sand the tip clean, then re-tin. If your solder is too thin, you will have 'balling' probs as well , as the rosin core can't 'wet' the iron tip well. I use .8 mm to 1.2 mm dia solder wire for hand soldering mostly. Soldering with ROHS (lead free) solders require a hotter iron tip. I have stopped using lead free for manual work as it requires better preparation than leaded solders and gives worse burns, plus its hard to tell a good joint as they all look grey instead of shiny. When soldering a joint just breathe out slowly, breathe in when you're done, better than a hot mask.
     
  8. DerStrom8

    DerStrom8 Super Moderator Most Helpful Member

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    Didn't take the time to read all of the other responses, so hopefully I'm not repeating what someone's already said.

    When solder balls up on your iron it means your iron is too hot, and the solder does not properly tin the iron. What you need to do is (first) clean the tip with flux, or buy a new tip. Turn on the iron and as it is beginning to heat up you apply the solder. If you apply the solder just as the iron reaches the solder's melting point, you will get a thin, shiny layer on the tip of the iron. That is how you tin it.

    Also, you should NEVER leave the iron on for long periods of time if you know you won't be using it. That's a great way to destroy tips and cook your iron.

    You also need to make sure you are using the right wattage iron (not too high, not too low--I find 15W works fine for most electrical applications, with the exception of higher wattages for components with a large thermal area, such as heat sinks). You must also ensure you are using the right type of solder. Personally I prefer very fine (as fine as possible) 60/40 lead-tin rosin core solder. Usually I use 0.012" (I think that's the size, anyway).

    Three rules for using a soldering iron are as follows: Keep it hot, keep it clean, and keep it tinned. If you are going to leave it sitting for any period of time, you should clean it and unplug it/switch it off.

    Hope this helps you get things working!
    Regards,
    Matt
     
  9. skimask87

    skimask87 Member

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    One of the easier things to do...
    If you've got the iron heated up, and are building a kit, doing some repairs, whatever...when you get done doing a bit of soldering, if it's going to be sitting there heated up for more than a couple of minutes, put some solder on the tip and let it sit, then wipe it off as you've been doing. Same thing when you're done using the iron for the day....put some solder on the tip, pull the plug, let it sit.
    When you put solder on the tip, it's the solder that's on the tip is getting all the oxidation...NOT the tip itself. The black stuff is basically oxidized solder. Can't remember it's exact chemical makeup, but that's what it boils down to. Let the solder take the rust, not the tip. If the tip gets shiny when you wipe it down, it's tinned right.
    As far as the mask goes? Ya, not so much. Maybe if you're inside a smoke hood and 100% of those fumes run straight up your nose, and you inhale deeply and hold your breathe. Past that, as long as your in a fairly openish room, maybe if you're that worried about it, put a small fan a few feet away from you to blow those fumes away from you. I don't, and I'd doubt the bulk of the rest of the soldering world does either.
     
  10. misterT

    misterT Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    Technoid.. you are being way too paranoid. Just keep soldering... "It is extremely difficult to solder badly".
     
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  11. aljamri

    aljamri Member

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    Hi Technoid,

    Simply, use a wet sponge to clean the black, tin it with solder, then wipe it with the sponge and start soldring. I'm doing this for the last 20 years with out any problem with different kind of soldering iorons.
     
  12. rc3po

    rc3po Banned

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    Hi Technoid,
    Welcome to ETO.
    Do what I did - watch a bunch of u-tube videos. I've been learning Electronix for about 14 months now and I just watched a bunch of u-tube videos for soldering through-hole and SMD also. Then I got me a Hot Air Rework Station.
    There are many good videos on u-tube.
    Also, I got some devices in kit form so I could practice my soldering on things that matter. Electronickits.com has some good devices that are cheap, like Transistor/Diode Testers, Analog Multi-meter kits, and other stuff.
    I bought a Blue Ring Tester for testing transformers and coils in kit form also to practice my soldering skills. I'm not afraid of soldering anything now. And take the pointed tip and throw it as far away as you can - use screwdriver tips.
     
  13. tvtech

    tvtech Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    Hi Technoid and welcome to ETO

    Please ensure you are using the correct solder...for Electronic soldering it is a Rosin based solder and not an Acid based one.

    Acid based solder tends to give off obnoxious fumes and is used for soldering stuff like gutters and stuff non electronic related.
    Rosin based solder does not give off those horrible fumes.

    I have been soldering electronic boards for around 35 Years now and have never needed a mask.

    Regards,
    tvtech
     
  14. misterT

    misterT Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    How do you know you do not need one.. no cancer yet?
    Soldering without mask is easy.. using mask after you get cancer is useless.
     
  15. tvtech

    tvtech Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    Hi mister T

    You do know that the OP duplicated this thread by accident :eek:

    So there are two threads running parallel to each other right now.

    Anyway, back on topic on this thread....

    I have experienced the whole Acid core soldering thing when helping my brother-in-law fix a cracked gutter on his farm. Even though the work was done outside in the open air the fumes were horrible. Mask was needed then.

    But Rosin solder is different. Heck, I smoke 40 cigarettes a day. My nose only picks out really bad fumes...and Acid cored solder made me gag.

    So, funnily enough, I love the smell of Rosin cored solder when I walk into the Workshop in the Morning. Kind of a sweet smell that does not bug me.

    In fact, I thrive on it :woot:

    Regards,
    tvtech
     
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  16. DerStrom8

    DerStrom8 Super Moderator Most Helpful Member

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    I have merged the threads, so everything should be contained within one now.
     
  17. rc3po

    rc3po Banned

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    Since you put it like that, I suppose I better be more careful.
     
  18. Technoid

    Technoid Member

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    Thanks for merging the threads.

    I'm using lead free rosin core solder from the kit. The kit is Amerikit/Elenco AK-100.

    I just have a plug-in iron, I can't change the temp or anything.

    How long should I wait after plugging it in to tin it?

    I usually don't leave it for very long, I just get something ready to solder and solder it.

    I was having trouble cleaning it so there was still some black on it when I put it up. How should I clean it?

    I don't really think I'm going to be soldering very much besides for the kits, so I don't think it's necessary to buy anything in particular, though I am going to get some better sponges, I just have some rough-sided Lysol sponges. I figured that would work but I found it too easy to melt the sponge on the iron, and no I don't leave it there for a while.

    I figured if the smoke blows right in my face I might as well be in an enclosed room.. Like I said I don't really want to buy much, I don't have a fan, would the mask do?

    It says it's toxic and to wash your hands after using it. If it doesn't have lead in it it's just metal, what makes it toxic?
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2014
  19. DerStrom8

    DerStrom8 Super Moderator Most Helpful Member

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    I would guess the toxins would probably come from the flux. A mask may or may not do any good. I would suggest simply soldering near an open window if possible, or in a wide open room at the very least. Don't do any soldering in a closet :p

    When I heat up my iron I usually stand there and hold solder against it the whole time until the solder begins to melt. That's really the best way to do it. Some people wrap a coil of solder around the tip as it's heating up so that they don't have to hold it, but this is extremely wasteful and I do not recommend it.

    Once your soldering iron's tip is black, really the best thing to do is get a new tip for it. If it's not replaceable then it's not an iron worth having. $7 can get you a perfectly useable pencil-style iron from RadioShack (I have one of those). If you plan to do any real amount of soldering in the future, however, an actual station is a worthwhile investment. I have a 25-year-old Weller temperature-controlled iron that I bought for $20 and it is still going strong.
     
  20. KeepItSimpleStupid

    KeepItSimpleStupid Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    The sponge has to be wet.
    Try not to breathe the fumes and rinse your eyes with water afterwards.

    For wiping the tip a damp rag will do.

    Now, you could have destroyed the tip. Sanding should be a last resort thing. The sanding will remove the iron cladding.
    I've used a single-edge razor blade to clean the tip when it gets bad.

    Eventually, nothing you can do will restore the tip, but replacing it.
     
  21. Katie

    Katie New Member

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    Yes, you should wear a mask. I know its bad to breathe that stuff in. Otherwise they do make smoke absorbers like this one from Hakko, depending on how much money you want to spend.

    As far as the tip issue. It sounds to me like the tip is getting too hot and oxidizing, which is why it's having issues with keeping solder on it, and in turn eventually turning black. I use a temperature controlled station so that this doesn't happen. Not sure if you want to spend the money, but you do get what you pay for. Especially if you will be doing a lot of soldering in the future. I have a Hakko FX-888D and I love it. Its temperature controlled and has a quick heat up time. It also has preset modes and a sleep mode, which I've found really come in handy. When I did my research on soldering stations, I found there are a lot of older Hakko stations still out there being used, working just as well as new, so I figured it was a good reliable brand that would last. Plus the cost is very affordable. I tried to find where I got mine and couldn't but I did find this one online.

    You should really be cleaning and tinning your tip after every soldering project. I know most solder company's make tip cleaners, which is usually brass coils - that should remove the black oxidized layer that has formed on your tips. And you should be wiping the tip on damp sponge too while using it. The sponge should clean off any flux that is still on the tip, which can also lead to oxidation (the tip turning black). Here is an article on tip tinning and care I found very helpful.

    Hope that helps you out and good luck!
     
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