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Old Feb 13, 2015, 10:12 PM
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Tucson, AZ, USA
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Help!
Soldering iron

I am soldering small wires into a 9 pin small connector using a small 120V 1/8 dia pointed tip. I'm having trouble with the tip burning over and not being able to maintain the solder coating. I can sand or file to get clean copper, flux, and tin, make 1 or 2 joints and then have the tip crust over again (loose it's solder coat).

Any ideas of how to correct this?

I don't mind redoing the tip all the time, but there must be a better way.
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Old Feb 13, 2015, 10:50 PM
Yes, that is Jamie
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SF Bay Area, CA
Joined Jul 2002
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Hmm, your tip is oxidizing very fast due to heat and flux residue preventing the solder from sticking to it and slowing heat transfer to whatever it is you're trying to solder. The root cause is because you've removed the protective metal coating on the tip exposing the copper. Never use sandpaper or a file to clean a soldering iron tip meant for electrical work. You'll end up exposing the copper underneath the protective metal coating. Filing soldering iron tips to expose fresh copper is ok when doing something like sheet metal work where you're using an acid based flux. This type of flux etches the copper keeping it clean. Flux meant for electrical work does not.
One way to keep the tip clean is to use a water damp sponge, but not soaking wet. Too wet and the continuous thermo shock to the tip will shorten it's life. Another is to use a sponge that has a special cleaning solution in it. What I use is a sort of metal wool known as a "dry" cleaner like in the picture. This does not thermo shock the tip and work pretty well. Radio Shack used to sell these, but not sure if they still do. Generally not too hard to find though.

As a side note, if you're going to be doing a lot of soldering and/or doing fine work, invest in a good temperature controlled solder station. The cheap $10 irons just power up and keep heating the tip until it gets red hot, not conducive to good solder joints. Also, when you're trying to solder something with a lot of thermo mass, the tip will cool down too much and by the time it gets back up to temperature, what ever it is you're trying to solder will more than likely be a smoldering mess. I have both Hakko and Weller soldering stations and all have served me well. One of my Weller's and the Hakko have adjustable temperature adjustment so that I can dial it down if I'm doing small, fine work or crank it up for the heavier stuff. Both are rated around 50 watts. The Hakko is at least 30 years old and it's just on it's forth tip. And yes, I do a lot of soldering.
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Old Feb 13, 2015, 11:30 PM
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Yeah, temperature regulated soldering irons

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Reynolds View Post
I am soldering small wires into a 9 pin small connector using a small 120V 1/8 dia pointed tip. I'm having trouble with the tip burning over and not being able to maintain the solder coating. I can sand or file to get clean copper, flux, and tin, make 1 or 2 joints and then have the tip crust over again (loose it's solder coat).

Any ideas of how to correct this?

I don't mind redoing the tip all the time, but there must be a better way.
Add me to the list of guys recommending using a temperature regulated soldering iron. I've measured the temperature of some of those soldering irons, at over 1000 degrees F after sitting on the bench, heating up for 20 minutes.

That's way to hot to solder. It also burns the tip, making it near impossible to solder with it. In fact, before retiring at work, those simple soldering irons without temperature regulation were not allowed on the floor.

A good, quality temperature regulated soldering iron is not cheap. They have iron plated tips that will last a long time Plus, you won't be burning up tips.

Be sure to buy a soldering iron that has a variety of tips available. That way, you can select the proper tip for the job at hand. Also avoid the simple soldering irons with a little dial on them. They are not temperature regulated.

Here is a decent unit for a bunch of $$$$ The specs indicate it holds temperature to plus/minus 10 degrees F.
http://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/...OpCtUZ018vs%3d
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Old Feb 14, 2015, 01:06 AM
Yes, that is Jamie
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SF Bay Area, CA
Joined Jul 2002
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Thanks for your input vollrathd. I have a less expensive solution for Bob:

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Available from Tower Hobbies for $80 and is a pretty good bargain because it is basically this:
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A Hakko 936, which normally sells for around $100 - $130.

Because the TrakPower TK-950 is just a re-labelled Hakko, replacement parts including tips are easy to get. I just remembered, I had to replace the heating element in my Hakko about 15 years ago. Not bad considering it originally came from an environment where it was left on 24/7.
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Old Feb 14, 2015, 05:58 AM
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United States, ID
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Quote:
Originally Posted by babblefish View Post
The root cause is because you've removed the protective metal coating on the tip exposing the copper.
No! Plenty of people use plain copper tips. They work just fine. Copper is fairly soluble in solder though, so the solder slowly dissolves your tips. Thus you have to file them to the right shape fairly often.

One guy I know uses the right gauge copper wire and threads the end with a die to make his tips. They cost about 1 cent each that way.

Good tips on the brass scrubber. You can also use a brass wire brush, but don't use steel ones!

It's worth it to buy a real rework station...
http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_ssn=&_sop=12&_nkw=852d

They're way cheaper than the overpriced brand name stuff. Complete rework station for around $70.

I have this model or one that looks exactly the same. Works great! You will want the hot air for SMT work. Order some solder paste and a syringe while your at it too.
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Old Feb 14, 2015, 05:59 AM
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Tel Aviv, Israel
Joined Jul 2004
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bare copper tips work just fine but do get eaten up quickly and need to be reshaped quite often. pointed or conical tips are wrong for just about every type of job, chisel tips are far better....so if you've already filed the iron coating off you may as well reshape it into a proper chisel tip.

the burnt crust problem is too much heat, you are burning the flux. either get something temp controlled or if you want to really cheap out you can use a light dimmer with the regular iron....in fact, a lot of the really cheap soldering stations pretty much work just like that.
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Old Feb 14, 2015, 06:07 AM
supreme being of leisure
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Tel Aviv, Israel
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jakestew View Post

Good tips on the brass scrubber. You can also use a brass wire brush, but don't use steel ones!
i've seen quite a few places that have banned the brass wool and only allow stainless steel even though it might mean shorter tip life. and that's only for higher temp ROHS work where thermal shock *might* be an issue, for leaded stuff the sponge is still king.
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Old Feb 14, 2015, 06:22 AM
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United States, ID
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I wasn't aware of that. What's the deal?

Is the infinitesimal amount of brass contamination that you might get a problem for lead free?

Using a softer metal to clean something without scratching it is common sense IME. A copper tip works just fine, but a weird mess of scratched up iron/nickel/copper doesn't work for shite for whatever reason.
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Old Feb 14, 2015, 06:55 AM
supreme being of leisure
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Tel Aviv, Israel
Joined Jul 2004
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yes, it's fine brass particles contaminating the tip and then getting dissolved into the solder joint. i'm talking about places that do high end industrial and mil-spec work though...mountains out of mole hills type of anal retentiveness. the types of places that use kimwipes for toilet paper....

for what i do i normally just wet the tip with fresh solder and then fling it off onto the floor. a wipe with IPA when the iron is cool will take care of the flux crusties higher up on the tip. and i do have a sponge handy when i need the tip to have as thin a wetting as possible, works better for me than the wool which seems to smear the solder around... everything i do is leaded so no thermal shock worries.
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Old Feb 14, 2015, 07:25 AM
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United States, ID
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZAGNUT View Post
i'm talking about places that do high end industrial and mil-spec work though...mountains out of mole hills type of anal retentiveness. the types of places that use kimwipes for toilet paper....
Yep, I worked IPC class 3 before.

Quote:
for what i do i normally just wet the tip with fresh solder and then fling it off onto the floor.
An excellent method I also use!

Quote:
works better for me than the wool which seems to smear the solder around...
I find the the brass scrubber works best to take off the crusties. You get that clean tinned tip after each swipe. For serious crusties that have melded with the tip I find that a brass brush works well since I can really go at the tip fairly hard when needed. I don't use it on my good tips though.

Also beware... some brass/golden colored wire brushes are NOT brass, but some sort of steel or other hard wire. You can easily tell the difference by feeling it though.
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Old Feb 14, 2015, 08:48 AM
Yes, that is Jamie
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SF Bay Area, CA
Joined Jul 2002
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I see some people disagree with the "no file" tip cleaning. That's ok because my experience has been different. I've filed the tip on my Weller and Hakko before and ruined them because I removed the iron plating that is suppose to prevent erosion and oxidation of the underlying copper. After filing them, they couldn't be tinned again, or the tinning would only last a few minutes. Since following my own tips on tips (lol), I don't have to replace my tips very often. But I won't argue. I'm just sharing my experience and will continue to do what I've been doing for almost 50 years (much of it as a living). YMMV

Just for the fun of it, here are Weller's tips on tips:

109A Soldering Tip Care a...

And here for Hakko's opinions on tip life:

http://www.hakko.com/english/mainten...tips_life.html

And just for a bit more information overload (pay particular attention to item #5):

http://www.inlandcraft.com/uguides/tipcare.htm
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Old Feb 14, 2015, 11:01 AM
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Tucson, AZ, USA
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Thanks everybody. I think that there is enough information here that needs to be explored to come up with a viable answer.
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Old Feb 14, 2015, 11:21 AM
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Nice Unit

Quote:
Originally Posted by babblefish View Post
Thanks for your input vollrathd. I have a less expensive solution for Bob:

Attachment 7570012
Available from Tower Hobbies for $80 and is a pretty good bargain because it is basically this:
Attachment 7570013
A Hakko 936, which normally sells for around $100 - $130.

Because the TrakPower TK-950 is just a re-labelled Hakko, replacement parts including tips are easy to get. I just remembered, I had to replace the heating element in my Hakko about 15 years ago. Not bad considering it originally came from an environment where it was left on 24/7.
That looks to be a very nice unit. I bought my soldering iron from www.mpja.com along with a pile of extra soldering iron tips.

Good thing, mpja no longer has it in stock. That is something to consider, when you buy a product that might last 10 years or so.
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Old Feb 14, 2015, 11:28 AM
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Soldering long ago

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Reynolds View Post
I am soldering small wires into a 9 pin small connector using a small 120V 1/8 dia pointed tip. I'm having trouble with the tip burning over and not being able to maintain the solder coating. I can sand or file to get clean copper, flux, and tin, make 1 or 2 joints and then have the tip crust over again (loose it's solder coat).

Any ideas of how to correct this?

I don't mind redoing the tip all the time, but there must be a better way.
My first job was in the Engineering department of a company I wound up working for for over 45 years.

They provided a soldering iron that was not temperature regulated. And, the thing to use to clean the tip was a simple paper towel. After a bit of soldering up some sample boards, cleaning the tip, and tossing the paper towel into the trash, all hell let loose.

That iron was so hot, it had reached the ignition point of the paper towel, and I set fire to the trash can with it. Lucky the trash can was mostly empty.

My boss never did find out what had happened.
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Last edited by vollrathd; Feb 14, 2015 at 06:32 PM.
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Old Feb 14, 2015, 12:34 PM
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Tucson, AZ, USA
Joined Nov 2000
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Remembering that 2 years ago I was left with a strange soldering station along with a whole house converter from Korean voltage to 110, I went looking.

Found that I have a Hako FX 951 with the 599B wire mesh pad. Found a computer cord and plugged it in. Screen showed 8.8.8., played a little with it but got no heat on the very fine soldering iron tip.

Did find the station via Google and will download the instruction manual and get it working.
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