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Temperature for Soldering?

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  • Member since
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  • From: 4610 Metre's North of the Fortyninth on the left coast of Canada
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Posted by BATMAN on Sunday, January 17, 2021 1:53 PM

The best thing I did was to buy a soldering station. The next best thing was to buy a bundle of used track at a train show for a dollar to practise soldering on. It is amazing how you get a feel for doing it fast and neat with a little practice. Even today, if I am going to solder track I grab some crap track to warm up on if it has been awhile.Cowboy

Hot therefore fast gives me the best results.

Brent

It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

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Posted by rrinker on Sunday, January 17, 2021 1:51 PM

 Maybe worthwhile if you have an antique and have a use for it - like soldering frames for stained glass. But with the price of tips for a modern iron - and a good reason to avoid complete no-name ones which may not have any spare parts available - seems better to just treat it properly, and when it finally has reached end of life, just repalce it. My original is more than 13 years old and still fine, cleans up to a nicy shiny surface. Another advantage of a temperature controlled station - it reduces the oxidation rate and the tips last longer.

                                            --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 Overmod on Sunday, January 17, 2021 1:27 PM

rrinker
Just NEVER EVER use an abrasive on a soldering iron tip in an attempt to make it shiny. The shiny comes from metal plating. Tips are usually solid copper plated over - copper oxidizes FAST.  Using sandpaper or a file just strips the plating off and that tip is effectively now useless. Back in the bad old days of those giant soldering irons, or even the type that you heated in a gas flame, they weren't plated, so people were constantly filing the tip to get a clean spot. I even recall one of those old MR Kinks column ideas that showed filing the soldering iron tip to a specific shape for special jobs.

In the interests of complete fairness -- and running the risk of hearing cursing 'thru the ether about another long and complicated arcane post about soldering -- you can file, machine, or polish the tips all you want, as long as you treat them right during and after the operation.

In the 'bad old days' of copper and copper-alloy tips, the tacit understanding was that as soon as you got done tinkering or filing or reshaping, you would immediately clean and then flux and tin the tip.  And I mean 'immediately', not a few seconds or minutes later.  Oxidation does form quickly on a clean copper surface (even faster on one with a certain range of surface-finish roughness) but the layer of 'tinning' probably helps dissolve some of the oxide away from insulating the transition between copper and solder alloy, and very little oxygen will subsequently reach the tip copper itself.  It is also relatively easier to 'rework' the copper tip (by removing the solder, machining as desired, and retinning) than to mess with plated or partially-plated tips.

Of course you have to pay careful attention each time you make a joint to clean the tip and then retin it to full brightness ... each and every time ... which is less critical with a plated tip.  But read on...) 

The 'ultimate' requires only a little additional equipment and chemistry: plate your tips when done 'working' on them.  Polish them down with lapping film to your choice of surface finish, then grip them in a conductive holder (design differs depending on if you want threads plated or not) and put them in an appropriate plating tank.  You 'reverse-plate' this a certain amount of time to remove any remaining abrasive or oxidation deposits (you can tell by the beautiful strawberry-blonde color!) and then use appropriate materials, in combination or 'layers' if desired, for the length of time you choose to get a proper plating depth.  These should tin, and last, the same as commercially-plated ones -- and I suspect in many cases, better.  (Incidentally you can use this technique happily on old giant irons or physically-externally-heated ones as long as you can get conduction down a wire to the tip to be plated...and there is probably no better way to 'finish-clean' a copper tip on a modern iron better than to hook up and reverse-electroplate for a few seconds (with the iron unplugged and relatively cool, of course, and not immersed in the electrolyte!) before reheating the iron to flux and tin, and you can do that with just a couple of wires and a cheap current source in a glass of compatible electrolyte solution...)

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Posted by rrinker on Sunday, January 17, 2021 12:20 PM

 My advice is to practice, practice, practice. If you do it a fewe times, you will get a feel for it and not melt ties, even without removing them or subbing out PCB ties. The installing PCB ties adds some interesting other ways to attach the feeder wire - but you do have to solder the rail to the PCB tie and at some point there will be a PCB tie next to a palstic one - unless you handlay all you track on PCB ties (my attempts to hand lay turnouts failed from not getting good frogs and point blades - so hand laying sone straight/curved track is something I may do just for a small part of my layout - seeing as I have a huge bag of ties and all the necessary tools).

 What Overmod suggest is what drives me nuts in many MR videos - because usually what they show is 60/40 solder being used in that manner, which is NOT eutectic. Using a eutectic solder like 63/37 or some other alloy greatly lessens the chances of getting a cold joint when you aren't first forming a solid mechanical connection and happen to be a bit shakey like David Popp. I'm all for giving yourself a challanege in order to improve skills, but at some point it becomes a case of use the right tool for the right job.

 ANd those who are just working up to soldering skills - notice a recurring theme in every post frome those of use who have been doing this a long time? CLEAN TIP. My soldering station came with the bronze wool cleaner, and like the station itself, I can't believe I didn't get one years before I did (though they used to be a lot more expensive - so as a kid I made do with the 60 watt fixed heat iron we had, when the 250 watt gun was too big. That iron had a relatively massive tip, too - but I built a computer kit without melting anything or ruining the PCB, and 40+ years later I still have ot and it still works.

 But the key is and always has been cleanliness. A bright shiny ti transfers heat quickly. A dull oxidized one (I've seen people trying to solder with nearly black tips) means you have to hold the tip on the place you are trying to solder for a long time before it reaches solder melting temperature. In the meantime, that heat is conducting through the metal you are trying to solder and heating up the whole thing. If it's a piece of rail - you will hit plastic tie melting heat before you hit solder melting heat. With a clean tip, the point of contact heats up very quickly, before the heat can conduct over to those plastic ties and melt them.

 Just NEVER EVER use an abrasive on a soldering iton tip in an attempt to make it shiny. The shiny comes from metal plating. Tips are usually solid copper plated over - copper ozidized FAST. Using sandpaper or a file just strips the palting off and that tip is effectively now useless. Back in the bad old days of those giant soldering irons, or even the type that you heated in a gas flame, they weren't palted, so people were constantly filing the tip to get a clean spot. I even recall one of those old MR Kinks column ideas that showed filing the soldering iron tip to a specific shape for special jobs.

 The bronze wool works great for cleaning between joints. Once ina  while, the use of a tip tinner (sal ammoniac) cleans things off completely, but eventually it does wear the tip, so this isn;t something you should need to do every time you use the soldering iron. Lastly, when finished for the day, melt a blob of solder on the tip so when the iron cools, the tip is protected by a blob of solder. Next time you turn it on, when that melts, a fews pokes in teh bronze wool and you will have a nice shiny tip ready to solder. ANd when installing a new tip - first thing to do when heating it up is to melt solder on it - like putting sold on a bare wire, this is also called 'tinning'.

 It seems like there is a lot to read, but I've been very repetitive. Clean, clean, clean. That's the overall watchword. And practice. You will quickly get the hang of this.

                                    --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 Overmod on Sunday, January 17, 2021 5:11 AM

peahrens
One challenge is to not melt ties.

Some conventional wisdom previously mentioned here by others:

Remove the ties (2 would be sufficient) from the attachment area, as for joint soldering, then gently shave the tops and reinsert them laterally.

Or make ties out of relatively refractory material like PCB for the locations needing soldering.

Use of proper heat-sinking (the various wet-towel sort as well as alligator clips, pieces of motor-cooling block, etc.) is always a plus, the issue here being that you're heat-sinking something directly below the Area of Work, which could be handled by something like a metal typewriter shield with a slot cut for the feeder wire.

In my opinion if you go for the idea of pre-tinning the wire and rail, use eutectic solder exclusively.  The careful part then changes to how you accomplish the 'tinning' to the rail -- you can with eutectic carry the solder to the joint on the wire, either as a chip or heavy 'tinning', and a good joint will be achieved just by bringing the solders to mutual liquidus...

Note the point about the clean and well-tinned tip.  In my opinion, if you do not have something like a bronze-wool tip 'cleaner', invest a couple of bucks in one.  And then use it religiously.  All the temperature-controlled heat in the world does little good if you can't transfer it cleanly to make the joint.

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Saturday, January 16, 2021 8:49 PM

starman
My station has a dial that you can set between 350 and 800. 

For soldering to track I set mine to 750. I go in hot and fast, get it done quick, and get out.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by rrinker on Saturday, January 16, 2021 8:46 PM

 They key is an iron with enough heat capacity, and a CLEAN tip to transfer heat to the poitn of contact quickly, without having to hold the heat on so long that it can spread through the rails and melt the ties. If you have to hold the iron against the rail for a minute to get solder to melt, you're doing it wrong.

                                            --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 starman on Saturday, January 16, 2021 8:43 PM
Thanks for all your answers!!  I will keep this information in mind as I start soldering the feeder wires next week.
Jack
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Posted by peahrens on Saturday, January 16, 2021 8:05 PM

One challenge is to not melt ties.  I used HO code 83 nickle silver track and solid 22 AWG feeder wire. 

I was using a Weller gun (overkilll re: heat supply) before I had a soldering station so put my ties at risk.  I used an alligator clip attached close to the feeder wire on each side to moderate the rail temp near the connection point.  There are likely better ways.  It helps to tin the wire and the rail contact point first, so the actual connection is quick.

Paul

Modeling HO with a transition era UP bent

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Posted by richg1998 on Saturday, January 16, 2021 4:23 PM

I have used a roll of quad eutectic silver solder I bought from Amazon some years ago. Seems to be the best type of solder I have used over the years but pricey.

I started soldering around 1956.

Rich

If you ever fall over in public, pick yourself up and say “sorry it’s been a while since I inhabited a body.” And just walk away.

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, January 16, 2021 3:56 PM

starman
My station has a dial that you can set between 350 and 800.

Does it have a readout that indicates the actual tip temperature when set?

The selected tip temperature will vary with the type of solder, and you will want at some point to research the different types of solder including very-low-melting types (which I think have validity for the kind of work you're contemplating).  Often the places that specialize in different solders and equipment will list the suggested settings.

The selected tip temperature will also vary depending on the heat-transfer characteristics of what you're soldering.  Remember that the melting point of the solder is not the tip temperature you dial in.  Solder joints have to be heated by the joint substrate -- the iron is just a convenient heat source you can apply to get that done.  In some cases the tip temperature has to be set many degrees 'hotter' than the temperature of the actual point where the solder is to be applied to melt, and in any case you need extra heat in the joint to ensure all the solder goes to liquidus as it will absorb some of the heat in melting fully, so anywhere from 10 to 40 degrees F above the nominal 'full liquidus point' given for the solder before the solder is applied might be a starting place.  (On occasion I 'cheat' and use one of those point IR thermometers to see just how hot the 'target area' is getting, but it can be hard to work the thermometer, the iron, the solder, and any ends all at the same time... note that this kind of thermometer offers a pretty good way to 'calibrate' tip temperature to dial position if you want to mark a few positions on the dial for 'quick access' using different kinds of solder or different classes of work...)

Something you may not know involves the use of 'eutectic' solder.  If you're concerned with quick setup time, this type of mixture 'freezes' from liquid to full solid in a very narrow range of temperature, making it easier to recognize when a joint is set rather than still 'sludgy'.  Some of these are additionally optimized not to weaken very fine wire -- the Cardas "quad eutectic" containing silver and copper to assist this with fine copper wire, as with decoders, or silver Litz wire in audiophile work -- while still having a sharp transition when working.

And, as with Carthago delenda est -- always flux carefully, flux right, and flux well.

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Posted by richg1998 on Saturday, January 16, 2021 2:00 PM

My WLC100, 40 watt soldering station has 0 to 5 numbers. I set it at 4 and use a plated wedge tip.

If you have not done this yet, practice on scrap track first. You should see a smouth flow of solder.

I used a burnish tool from Micro Mark on the spot on the spot on the track, first.

Rich

If you ever fall over in public, pick yourself up and say “sorry it’s been a while since I inhabited a body.” And just walk away.

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Posted by starman on Saturday, January 16, 2021 1:14 PM
Thanks, Randy for your reply.  My station has a dial that you can set between 350 and 800.  I want to use enough heat so I don’t stay in contact with the track too long, but not enough to mess things up. I guess I will just experiment and see what happens. Big Smile

Jack

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Posted by rrinker on Saturday, January 16, 2021 12:28 PM

 Mine is an older model that doesn't have an LED readout, it just has a knob, marked with a range from 28 to 44 which is supposed to correspond to 280C to 440C. The range 31-41 is marked in green. For most soldering I have it around 38, when soldering track I turned it up a bit to 41. 

 Some recommendations say those are too high, especially for leaded solder (I don't use that lead-free rubbish - just don't stick it in your mouth and wash your hands when done), but I have yet to damage a PCB or component, not did I melt any ties when soldering track together. And the original tip that came with my system is still usable, some 13 years later. I DO turn the knob all the way down if it will be some time before I am ready to solder the next joint - for example, if I just got done soldering two pieces of flex track together (I do this at the bench before I lay the track), I'll put the handpiece in the holder and turn the knob to minimum while I get the next two pieces of flex, some joiners, put flux in them, and connect the pieces. Then I turn it back up, wait for the light to go out (a couple of seconds at most) and go to work on the next piece. Or on a PCB, say I've installed all the resistors and soldered them, now I am going to install say all the capacitors. Turn down the soldering station, then populat the board, and when ready to start soldering them all in, turn it back up.

 There are fancier (3-4x the cost) stations that have sensors in the stand and dial it back automatically. That's OK. My way works fine, and has for the over 13 years I've had this one.

                                     --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

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

  • Member since
    July 2013
  • 221 posts
Temperature for Soldering?
Posted by starman on Saturday, January 16, 2021 10:41 AM
I have a bunch of feeder wires to solder to my track.  I have a temperature controlled soldering station.  What is a good temperature to use?  Thanks.

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