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Soldering Feeders to Bus Wires

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Soldering Feeders to Bus Wires
Posted by richhotrain on Monday, August 06, 2018 3:48 PM

On my last layout, I used stranded feeders and simply wrapped the ends around the bus wires without soldering them. Worked OK.

But on my new layout, I am taking a different approach and soldering solid feeders (20 gauge) to the bus wires (14 gauge). I am using a 100 watt gun for soldering feeders to the bus wires, but the diameter of the solder is only .03" which seems too small for the task. So, I am considering larger diameter solder, say .039".

Any suggestions or advice in this regard?

Rich

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Posted by gregc on Monday, August 06, 2018 4:30 PM

the solder size shouldn't matter.

but soldering upside down will be challenging, especially holding a soldering gun.   It will also be challenging to strip the insulation on the bus wire.

this is why suitcase connectors are often used in this situation

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by richhotrain on Monday, August 06, 2018 4:46 PM

gregc

the solder size shouldn't matter.

but soldering upside down will be challenging, especially holding a soldering gun.   It will also be challenging to strip the insulation on the bus wire.

this is why suitcase connectors are often used in this situation 

Thanks, greg. I have ordered a Klein Wire Stripper that does in-line stripping of insulation off the wire. So, that will make the task a lot easier.

https://www.amazon.com/Self-Adjusting-Stripper-Klein-Tools-11061/dp/B00CXKOEQ6/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1533591956&sr=8-4&keywords=klein+wire+stripping+tool

Rich

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Posted by gmpullman on Monday, August 06, 2018 5:07 PM

Hi, Rich

 

My favorite solder for general layout wiring is Kester "44" in .031" diameter. Light enough to melt quickly but stiff enough not to sag when you're trying to get it to "stand upright" while under the layout.

Nice thing about the smaller diameters is that you don't have to wait too long for it to melt. I've used a 35 watt Weller pencil iron for almost all my layout wiring with no problems.

Good Luck, Ed

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Posted by richhotrain on Monday, August 06, 2018 5:27 PM

gmpullman

Hi, Rich 

My favorite solder for general layout wiring is Kester "44" in .031" diameter. Light enough to melt quickly but stiff enough not to sag when you're trying to get it to "stand upright" while under the layout.

Nice thing about the smaller diameters is that you don't have to wait too long for it to melt. I've used a 35 watt Weller pencil iron for almost all my layout wiring with no problems.

Good Luck, Ed 

Thanks, Ed. 

When soldering feeders to rails, I use a pencil soldering iron and the .03" solder and that works well.

But for soldering feeders to the bus, I use a bigger, hotter, 100 watt soldering gun.

Rich

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Monday, August 06, 2018 5:30 PM

Protect the floor beneath the layout with some sort of mat.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by gregc on Monday, August 06, 2018 5:37 PM

MisterBeasley
Protect the floor beneath the layout with some sort of mat.

... and yourself with eye protection and long sleave shirt

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by rrinker on Monday, August 06, 2018 9:23 PM

 Stripping in the middle of the bus wire is incredibly easy with the Ideal Stripmaster or the identical Klein tool. Standard model has dies that work from #22 to #12, so one tool cna strip the ends off the feeder AND strip a spot in the middle of the bus (without cutting it).

 I use .015 solder for PCB assembly - this is WAY too small for heavy duty wire soldering. Sure, ti will work, but yoou have to feed a lot longer length is - that's the tricky part. The thicker type will make the job a lot easier. Soldering feeders to the bus doesn;t require extra hands, either. Just wrap the stripped feeder around the bare section of bus, then with soldering gun in one hand and solder in the other, have at it. And upside down? I used to do that, when I was younger, and I didn;t use legs on my layouts but rested them on sawhorses. Still never soldered directly over my face, more like over my belly, and never had an issue with dropping solder. With newer taller layouts, it's more like in front of my face, not over my body as I sit under the layout. a slight twist of your body and even your legs won't be under the jopint area - I think the "horror stories" of dropping molten solder on exposed body parts is greatly exaggerated. Not to mention a blob of solder falling 2-3 feet through the air will be mostly cooled by the time it hits you - warm, and noticeable, but not burn through your skin hot, in most cases.

 I built my last two layouts like this, using the Ideal Stripmaster and about the same size soldering gun - might get a larger one as the supposedly 100 watt one I had was your typical modern trash tool, oh, it was a Weller brand but compared to the (unfortunately damaged - with a broken case exposing some windings) old one from the late 50's/early 60's it was underpowered and the tip was just horrible. They don't make'm like they used to. And it annoys me to no end that they used the good Weller name on the junky one. Find one of my old posts about soldering iron quality to see why.

                                          --Randy

 


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Posted by richhotrain on Monday, August 06, 2018 10:33 PM

rrinker

I use .015 solder for PCB assembly - this is WAY too small for heavy duty wire soldering. Sure, it will work, but you have to feed a lot longer length - that's the tricky part. The thicker type will make the job a lot easier. 

I agree with that, Randy. After I started this thread, I found a roll of Radio Shack .05" solder in my tool box. That thicker diameter makes it a whole lot easier than the .03" solder that I started out with this morning.

Rich

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Posted by Doughless on Tuesday, August 07, 2018 9:39 AM

Run the bus close to the fascia.  Install the feeders to the rail joiners before installing them, then thread the wires through the roadbed and subroadbed.  Make the feeders long enough to reach the fascia so you don't have to crawl under the layout.

On my last layout, I just cut the bus to strip the wire and then pigtailed every joint and soldered together.  Then moved on to the next feeder.

- Douglas

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Posted by carl425 on Tuesday, August 07, 2018 10:54 AM

If you're using a stranded bus a little flux helps suck the solder down in between the strands.

I have the right to remain silent.  By posting here I have given up that right and accept that anything I say can and will be used as evidence to critique me.

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Posted by richg1998 on Tuesday, August 07, 2018 11:09 AM

Some years ago at the club I had to add a couple of feeders at a tough location and used silver solder paste like used in applying SMT components on PC boards. Worked very well.

Rich

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Posted by richhotrain on Tuesday, August 07, 2018 3:44 PM

carl425

If you're using a stranded bus a little flux helps suck the solder down in between the strands. 

Unfortunately, I am using 14 gauge solid wire for the buses.

Rich

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Posted by gregc on Tuesday, August 07, 2018 4:58 PM

why don't you want to use suitcase connectors?

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Posted by richhotrain on Tuesday, August 07, 2018 5:50 PM

gregc

why don't you want to use suitcase connectors? 

I understand the concept of suitcase connectors, but I have never used them and never really felt any need for them.

On my last layout, I used solid bus wires and stranded feeder wires. I never bothered to solder the connections, but simply stripped insulation off the bus wires and wrapped the stranded feeders around the bare bus wires. That seemed to work fine, although I erred in installing too few feeders.

On my new layout, I am using solid bus wires and solid feeder wires. I have decidied to solder the feeders to the bus wires, and I am installing a pair of feeder wires on every section of flex track.

Rich

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Posted by BigDaddy on Tuesday, August 07, 2018 6:29 PM

gregc
why don't you want to use suitcase connectors?

Some 3M versions specifically state for stranded wire

Henry

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Posted by gregc on Tuesday, August 07, 2018 6:48 PM

richhotrain
On my new layout, I am using solid bus wires and solid feeder wires.

suitcase connectors are well suited for solid wires. 

i used the uninsulated ground wire from house wiring for feeders.  No need to worry about stripping.   cut them to about 6" lengths.   bent and flattened the top which i soldered to the rails.

under the layout i bent the feeder about 1/2" and connected them to the bus wire with suitcase connectors.   probably used channel lock pliers.

And i've been able to remove suitcase connectors.

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Posted by BigDaddy on Tuesday, August 07, 2018 7:09 PM

gregc
suitcase connectors are well suited for solid wires.

I swear I saw a spec for stranded wire only, but I just looked at 3 pages of suitcase connectors on the 3M site and nary a one had that spec.  It must have been the Russians.Big Smile

Henry

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Posted by gregc on Tuesday, August 07, 2018 7:18 PM

they connect to the wire by forcing it into a slot in a piece of metal.   the problem with stranded wire is that it may cut some strands.    I used stranded bus wire and i regret it.   holding up though

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Posted by joe323 on Wednesday, August 08, 2018 6:42 AM

Seems to me that if I had to do it over which I might create my buss line on the workbench and only install it under the layout.  Track soldering is a topside task.

Joe Staten Island West 

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Posted by floridaflyer on Wednesday, August 08, 2018 8:42 AM

That's the way I did it. I have three main busses each about 25 feet long. I ran the buss wire, marked where the feeders were to be located, pulled the wire out, soldered the feeders at the workbench and reinstalled the busses. worked fine.  

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Posted by woodone on Wednesday, August 08, 2018 10:53 AM

When soldering, and you get drops of solder dripping, you are using too much solder and more than likey too hot of a tip. Wire should be wraped around buss, then soldered. Heat the wraped joint, then apply solder with flux-done, no drips or mess. Move to the next joint. 

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Posted by kasskaboose on Wednesday, August 08, 2018 4:03 PM

What a timely post!  I too am working on what Rich is describing.  What someone told me is to put the feeders parallel to the buss wires, wrap them around each other, and then solder. 

To strip the buss wires in the middkle, I use a wire stripper to crimp the wires and a hobby knife to cut off the insulation.  This works.  What I learned is wiring requires a bit of patience.

You def ought to protect yourself and the floor from anything that can drip down. 

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Posted by rrinker on Wednesday, August 08, 2018 4:55 PM

 Do invest in one of these

https://www.tequipment.net/Ideal45-092.asp?Source=googleshopping&/?utm_content=ideal%20stripmaster&utm_term=&utm_campaign=Shopping%20Campaign(BSC)&utm_source=Bing_Yahoo&utm_medium=cpc

You can find them in the bog box stores, or on Amazon. They easily strip wire in the middle of a run, no fiddling with an ordinary stripper plus a knife. Makes things a LOT easier and quicker.

                                       --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, August 10, 2018 12:32 AM

woodone

When soldering, and you get drops of solder dripping, you are using too much solder and more than likey too hot of a tip.  

Great point. I was having problems with drops of solder on the basement floor when using a 100 watt soldering iron. Switched to a 25 watt soldering iron and the soldering process was quicker and cleaner.

Rich

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Posted by rrinker on Friday, August 10, 2018 7:03 AM

 I dunno, for that #14-#12 bus wire, the heavier gun coomes in handy. Takes too long to heat up with a 25 watt or smaller iron. If you are getting solder blobs it's because you are likely touching the solder to the tip of the gun - that's not how it's done, and I cringe when I see it on MR videos and others when people solder like that. You heat the joint and apply solder from the opposite side, not melt a blob of solder on the tip and then apply it to the joint.  I see this on MRVP all the time - they twist the two wires together like a pigtail, then wiper the iron over the joint with the solder melting against the tip. About all that accomplishes is tinning the outside of the joint. With stranded wire, the solder should wick in between the strands. Dirty tip, and you end up having to hold the heat on so long that not only does the solder wick in around the joint, it flows back up into the strands and either melts the insulation or makes the whole end of the wire stiff, because the previously flexible strands now are impregnated with solder. 

 It's like most any other task, there is a bit of a learning curve that you can only get over by actually doing it a few times, but it becomes second nature over time, to the point where you will know without even careful inspection when you mess up. On finer stuff, like PCB assembly, even though things like ICs get sockets, I stagger the joints instead of working in a line - and I'll know as soon as I pull away from one pin that I didn;t quite get it on that one and need to come back and touch it up. The nice thing is, everyone always ends up with cut off scraps of wire - plenty of practice material. My previous layout ran for months with the feeders just tightly wrapped around the bus before I got them all done and went back to solder them all, plus this gave time to test before making anything permanent. If you've gotten a feeder crossed, now is the time to find it before the joint is soldered. While it's not such a big deal with a quick heating gun, I'd rather solder a bunch of wires at a time and just work my way along as opposed to hooking up one wire, grabbing the soldering gun, soldering it, then moving on to the next. Seems more efficient, plus like I said, it gives you a chance to test.

                                    --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

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Posted by Doughless on Friday, August 10, 2018 11:04 AM

rrinker

 I dunno, for that #14-#12 bus wire, the heavier gun coomes in handy. Takes too long to heat up with a 25 watt or smaller iron. If you are getting solder blobs it's because you are likely touching the solder to the tip of the gun - that's not how it's done, and I cringe when I see it on MR videos and others when people solder like that. You heat the joint and apply solder from the opposite side, not melt a blob of solder on the tip and then apply it to the joint.  I see this on MRVP all the time - they twist the two wires together like a pigtail, then wiper the iron over the joint with the solder melting against the tip. About all that accomplishes is tinning the outside of the joint. With stranded wire, the solder should wick in between the strands. Dirty tip, and you end up having to hold the heat on so long that not only does the solder wick in around the joint, it flows back up into the strands and either melts the insulation or makes the whole end of the wire stiff, because the previously flexible strands now are impregnated with solder. 

 

Its tough to heat up the wire to melt solder from the backside without melting some insulation too.  My father was in the electronics trade and taught me the basics a long time ago.  I use plenty of flux, and that gets into the strands which helps the flow ofthe solder.

I just cut the bus and pigtail the bus and the feeders together, then move on to the next section.  Do you think that's a problem?  I don't see how it would impede the flow of current through the bus. 

I don't understand the advantage of stripping the insulation off the bus to leave the wire uncut, or suitcase connectors.  It seems to be the preferred way, however.

- Douglas

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Posted by rrinker on Friday, August 10, 2018 12:30 PM

 I would expect that cutting the bus at every feed would increase the overall resistance of the bus - even a properly soldered joint is goign to introduce some additional resistance compared to a solid piece of wire. Is it enough to make a difference? Probably not for most layouts. Depends on how many feeders you have - if your bus ends up as 40 sectiosn each 1 foot long instead of a single 40 foot piece of wire, I'd think  that wouldn't be optimal.

 The mid-wire strip keeps the bus intact, and is really no effort with the Ideal stripper. With solid feeders, it's then easy to wrap the stripped feeder end around the bare spot on the bus and get a tight connection. As I mentioned, this was plenty reliable for months before I then soldered all the joints.

                                      --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, August 10, 2018 3:19 PM

rrinker

 I dunno, for that #14-#12 bus wire, the heavier gun coomes in handy. Takes too long to heat up with a 25 watt or smaller iron. If you are getting solder blobs it's because you are likely touching the solder to the tip of the gun - that's not how it's done, and I cringe when I see it on MR videos and others when people solder like that. You heat the joint and apply solder from the opposite side, not melt a blob of solder on the tip and then apply it to the joint.  I see this on MRVP all the time - they twist the two wires together like a pigtail, then wiper the iron over the joint with the solder melting against the tip. About all that accomplishes is tinning the outside of the joint. With stranded wire, the solder should wick in between the strands. Dirty tip, and you end up having to hold the heat on so long that not only does the solder wick in around the joint, it flows back up into the strands and either melts the insulation or makes the whole end of the wire stiff, because the previously flexible strands now are impregnated with solder. 

I have a variety of soldering irons to accomplish different tasks. My favorite is a pencil-type soldering iron with a small point for soldering wires to decoder tabs. I am using that pencil to solder the 20 gauge feeder wires to the outside of the rail, and it does a fantastic job.

My problem is soldering the feeders to the 14 gauge solid bus wires. My soldering gun is 100 watts, and it heats up the bus wire quick. I use the Klein in-line wire stripper to separate the insulation on the bus wire. The problem is trying to work from an awkward position, and the separation of the insulation is not wide enough to get the tip of the gun in there without melting insulation. So, I started using the pencil there as well, and with good success.

Rich

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Posted by hardcoalcase on Sunday, August 12, 2018 1:47 PM

BigDaddy

 gregc

suitcase connectors are well suited for solid wires.

The spec panel on the Scotchlok 567 box (for 12-14 AWG run, 18-14 AWG tap) states solid or stranded wire.

I use these for my bus-feeder connections, very easy and quick to install.  Large pliers work, but if you're going to use a lot of 'em, I found that the (expensive @ $70) crimping tool is a worthy investment.  I buy the connectors on eBay for about $.25 each in lots of 100.  

Jim

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