Soldering Iron - Care & Maintenance

PapaG Jun 6, 2020

  1. PapaG

    PapaG TrainBoard Member

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    Can anyone tell me what’s happened to my soldering iron?

    What am I not doing to care for this that I should, or doing that I should stop?
     

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  2. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Looks like a worn out tip to me, nothing you've done wrong at all. Even with proper tinning and cleaning, this will eventually happen.
     
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  3. PapaG

    PapaG TrainBoard Member

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    But it’s relatively new. Maybe only a couple of months old, and I don't do an extensive amount of soldering.

    Is this an inferior iron?
     

    Attached Files:

  4. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Your iron looks to be of the same caliber as mine and my tips don't last very long. Maybe they don't make them like they used to? I read somewhere that today's lead-free solder shortens tip life. I don't know about that, but I do find that the old skool 60/40 solder (60% Tin/40% Lead) is much easier for me to work with.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2020
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  5. Jimbo20

    Jimbo20 TrainBoard Member

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    Also make sure it is turned off - unless you are actually using it. The tip deteriates just by having the iron switched on, and unless it it is a temperature controlled model, if left on it will eventually get too hot causing even faster aging of the tip.
     
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  6. tjdreams

    tjdreams TrainBoard Member

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    If it was left on while not being used for extended periods of time it could have overheated which can shorten the tip life. Just get yourself a new Tip or 2. It's happened to most of us at one time or another. I keep a couple spares on hand myself.
     
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  7. PapaG

    PapaG TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks all!
    I appreciate the ‘tips’, pun intended.

    I’m glad knowing that it’s not a result of something I’m doing or not doing.
     
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  8. Atani

    Atani TrainBoard Member

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    I've had tips get "eaten" by flux if I did not clean the tip using a damp sponge every so often while working on larger projects (PCB assembly using rosin core solder and a liquid flux for SMD components, no it was not acid based flux).

    But the tip wearing out is normal over time and some actions (or inactions) may expedite that. I've now switched to ordering extra tips on Amazon since I have a lot of PCB assembly to complete still as well as the layout work.
     
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  9. french_guy

    french_guy TrainBoard Member

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  10. Keith Ledbetter

    Keith Ledbetter TrainBoard Member

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  11. wvgca

    wvgca TrainBoard Member

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    if your tips are going to sit for a while, give them a bit of melted solder on the end [just enough to coat them], the solder helps protect the iron layer which is put on the end of the tip .. solder is easily replaceable, but once the iron is damaged, the tip becomes much more erratic ..
     
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  12. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

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    Here is my take on all of this. I have found that leaving solder on the tip is the cause of the erosion/corrosion. Whenever I finish a solder move I wipe my tip off with a damp sponge. If the iron is left on while I make the preparations for the next job it will oxidize a bit and again I wipe it off on the sponge before tinning the tip with some new solder. I have used the same tip on my solder station for over 4 years now and it still looks like new. Also if you are going to be more than just a few minutes between solder jobs, turn it off/unplug it as to help prevent the tip from being damaged by the excess heat.

    Other soldering iron/station/gun care tips.

    1. Always make sure the tip is in good and tight. This will allow the heat to transfer into the tip efficiently and will not overload the device.
    2. Do not put too much pressure on the tip. Doing so will only make the socket that the tip fits into break. A loose tip will not transfer heat into it very well and then you will "need" to add extra pressure to get the solder to melt. This extra pressure causes a "good" connection to the element which allows the tip to reach proper temp to do the job. If it seems you need to use "extra" pressure to achieve your goals then maybe go and check #1 again.
    3. Always tin the tip before attempting to solder or desolder something. This will clean the oxidization off the tip (even if you just used a sponge) and help the heat transfer. The faster you can get in and out the happier the components you are soldering will be.
    4. Flux is your friend. Don't dip the tip of the iron in the flux though. The flux or rosin that comes in the solder is enough for the tip, but when tinning wires or soldering a component to a PCB a small bit of flux will make the job much easier and quicker. After twisting the wire strands together dip the wires into the paste/liquid or drip a drop if from a dispenser onto the wires, tin the tip of the iron then apply the iron to the wires. If they are thicker wires you may need to also feed some fresh solder as the tinning solder on the tip may not be enough. PCB components benefit from this as well. A little here goes a long way.
     
  13. RCMan

    RCMan TrainBoard Member

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    I agree, this was what I was taught also.
     
  14. PapaG

    PapaG TrainBoard Member

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    Interesting... I was taught to tin the tip before unplugging the iron when I'm done... but maybe there's something to what you're saying. Four years on the same tip is an endorsement that's hard to argue with.

    But here's something that maybe you can help me understand.

    When I wipe my tip on the sponge, the solder will ball up on the end of the tip, necessitating a more aggressive attempt at removal of the excess solder. And when I say aggressive, I don't mean leaning on it or using any kind of abrasive to clean it, just a more vigorous scrubbing with the sponge... it just doesn't seem to want to clean up very readily. Is that typical?

    I'm guilty of not turning the iron off between the completion of a solder move and the preparation for the next, but I'm going to be implementing that bit of preventive maintenance from now on, or simply do more in prep-work before I heat the iron so I can move quickly from one prepared job to the next. I suppose that could be an element of the short life span my tip has experienced.

    G.
     
  15. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

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    I get the little ball too, but a light tap on my holder will easily dislodge it. Doing that has become such second nature to me now I dont even realize it most of the time. There are a bunch of little solder balls inside my holder from this.

    I try to prep everything I'm going to solder before turning the iron on. I get all wires stripped and twisted, then dipped into the flux. If I have to flux the board or whatever then I do that as well with a hobby knife or small screwdriver. Then I tin everything first then the actual job is quick and easy. I have been soldering for over 30 years now and some of this stuff is just second nature to me. It was really hard staying awake in the Navy soldering classes I had to take for my job as an AT, by the time I joined the Navy I was already well versed in soldering small surface mount stuff as well as through the hole components. During one lab on tinning wires I got in trouble for dipping my wire into the flux. My instructor said that was the wrong way to do it. I asked him why and he said it does not help and it contaminates the wire. Well I tinned my iron tip and touched it to the wire end and poof the wire was perfectly tinned, and the flux went up in smoke. His method of holding the wire onto the tip with the solder on the other end only got the wire really hot until the flux in the solder melted and then allowed the solder to melt onto the wire, damaged the insulation and took way too long. He had me show the class my method for tinning wire and it was strange how all of us were able to produce nearly perfect tin jobs after that. Sorry for the sea story... I really did like my time in the Navy!!
     
  16. Atani

    Atani TrainBoard Member

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    same here! I cleaned my workdesk off yesterday and dumped a ton of those out of the copper ball thingy

    The only problem with this is using a liquid flux pen is that it will dry before you can solder usually. So I opt for waiting with the pen until just before starting.
     
  17. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

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    I use paste flux personally, but in the few times I had liquid flux I never had it evaporate on me.
     
  18. Atani

    Atani TrainBoard Member

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    Yeah, I normally use paste as well but have a couple of the pen style and it evaporates rather quickly. I wouldn't get them again but instead go for the sticky type.

    Sent from my ONEPLUS A5010 using Tapatalk
     
  19. PapaG

    PapaG TrainBoard Member

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    Don't apologize for referencing your service brother... I was a Navy man too. VA-146 Blue Diamonds, NAS Lemoore California, attached to CV-64 USS Constellation.

    I was a terrible sailor... but I loved being in the Navy, loved being at sea. Wish I had it all to do over again!
     

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