I'm just getting started laying some track outdoors. I bought a micro torch and am using some paste flux and lead free solder. The regular solder for electrical wiring doesn't work well.
I apply the past flux to the rail and try to get some inside the rail joiner. Then I slide it all together and apply heat to the rail. When it get hot I apply the solder but most of it seems to run down the outside of the rail joiner leaving a very poor joint.
I did try something new late this afternoon. I laid the two pieces to be joined on the garage floor and used the same method as described above. That seemed to work better than trying to solder the track while it's laying on the ground.
Any suggestions on what I can do differently? Any ideas, thoughts, or information will be greatly appreciated.
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Hi Tom, I used small lenths of wire to join my rails by easing the fish plate away from rail and sliding wire under it. It works well for me in England Hope this helps
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Your use of non-lead based solder may be contributing to the problem. This solder contains antimony in place of lead, which does not adhere well to brass. I've encountered problems using it to solder HO scale nickel-silver rail.
Try using regular 60/40 resin core electronics solder.
Another problem could be that the joiners are not 100% clean. I find that cleaning the part to be joined with a file, sandpaper or a wire brush allows the solder to 'take' properly and not run off the part to be joined. A more drastic solution is to an acid based cleaner. I use a product called Bakers. It comes in a black plastic bottle and is highly dangerous, but boy, it gets the job done!
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I always use an 80W iron (NOT a gun), I clean the spot I'm working on, apply flux and always use 60/40 solder. I've never tried to use lead free solder. It only takes a few seconds to make the joint.
Thanks for all the help, everyone. I tried again today using the paste flux and the 60/40 solder. It went much better. I think I'm on my way now. Will have to wait a few days for the ground to dry a little. We had almost an inch of rain yesterday so the ground is a little soggy to be digging trenches.
Thanks again for all your help.
I would greatly suggest to use "Split Jaw" rail clamps and not solder.
They are quick /easy and make great electrical contact.
You will really appreciate they when you do any changes.
If you decide to. Also invest in a "T" handle or straight handle BALL Allen wrench with a 6 inch shank. Slip heat shrink tubing or tape from the ball up..
Then just lightly spin the wrench between your thumb and finger. That will be tight enough.
If you are in a tight location. You can turn the Split Jaw and have the screws on the inside.
You can also remove the screw and place a solderless crimp or solder wire connector for the track feed onto the screw.
I clean the rail as much as possible until it is "shiny" I cut a small piece of thin brass into a strip as wide as the bottom of the rail. I then set up the pieces to be joined on top of an old bathroom tile. Heat with gas torch & add solder. After the solder runs, let it cool naturally, dont use water to cool qiuckly as it can alter the strength of the joint. When joint is back to room temperature I then wash the joint with cold water to clean up any residue.
The small piece of brass on the bottom gives great strength to the rail. I use 60/40 electrical solder. I was using Bakers soldering fluid but found it was eventually leaving a stain around the joint and any wiring would fail in that area.
I use this method to join up lengths of rail that is too short for a good run by themselves, but joined together can make a great straight siding. With the cost of rail, we tend to waste nothing! It can be a hastle slipping the ties onto the rails but a bit of manipulation will acheive results. Or make your hand made ties for a "bush" siding and hide ties under some covering (dirt or concrete). Remember that ties can perish with time but rails will be around as long as you.
Hope this can be a help to someone.
Regards from Andrew, Sandbar & Mudcrab Railway
I looked up Bakers soldering fluid... had to get to the MSDS sheet, this is an acid-based solder.
You never use acid based flux for electrical connections, they go bad, but you already found that.
All fluxes you use should be "rosin based" specifically for electrical circuits.
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