Author Topic: The Importance Of Good Solder  (Read 5056 times)

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Offline SewingYard

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The Importance Of Good Solder
« on: April 21, 2016, 10:14:47 pm »
Just a quick one, I just had a delivery from Mouser with all my new components for Learning The Art Of Electronics - total of £220 for almost everything on the list the book specifies, couple of items they didn't stock but nothing that will cost the earth hopefully. (Ordered Monday, got it Thursday Morning USA to UK, Amazing speed!)

One of the things I got that wasn't on the list was solder, I've been watching Dave's videos and he mentions the importance of getting thin solder, so I went for the .015 Leaded Solder made by AIM.

It's probably the most I've ever spent on solder but WOW, its amazing, the tip of my iron is always looking pristine and everything solders so easily. I thought it was me doing it all wrong but now I realise the importance of decent quality solder.

Anyway, there we go, just one beginners insight into how important a simple roll of solder can be to your enjoyment of electronics!
 

Offline IanB

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Re: The Importance Of Good Solder
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2016, 10:29:42 pm »
It's probably the most I've ever spent on solder but WOW, its amazing, the tip of my iron is always looking pristine and everything solders so easily. I thought it was me doing it all wrong but now I realise the importance of decent quality solder.

Definitely. Apart from the quality of the alloy, there are many kinds of flux to choose from. The type and quality of the flux core can make a huge difference too.
I'm not an EE--what am I doing here?
 

Offline RobertHolcombe

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Re: The Importance Of Good Solder
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2016, 10:38:16 pm »
Absolutely right. Quality consumables in, quality work out.

My bad experiences with cheap solder have always been with the flux core being inconsistent through the length of the solder - too much or too little in certain spots which either creates a mess or retards wetting, and worst case having it boil and explode micro balls of solder and flux residue over the work area.

Having an appropriate diameter solder helps significantly in being able to reliably apply the correct amount to a joint - I keep three different sizes on my bench for various use cases.
 

Offline macboy

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Re: The Importance Of Good Solder
« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2016, 02:49:26 pm »
There is no doubt about it, if you want good solder joints, you need good solder.
AIM is a good brand, I am not surprised that you are happy with it.
Multicore is another good one.
Kester is my preference.

For a general purpose solder, I use Kester 44 with 60/40 SnPb alloy, and "66" core, which means that the flux core is 66% of the width of the solder wire, which amounts to about 3.3% by weight. Other core sizes are 33 (~1.1%) and 50 (~2.2%). That 66 gives a lot of flux, and it is activated rosin which rather aggressively cleans the surface. The result is that you can easily solder even oxidized surfaces, and you almost never need extra flux added. This solder wets beautifully, all your joints shall be shiny and smooth.  It also tins tips like nothing else. The solder just instantly flows all over the working surface of the tip and forms a jiggly little molten ball under the tip. "Lesser" solder doesn't wet like that, it tends to stay where you applied it, but doesn't flow. One downside of all that flux is that you get a lot of crusty orange residue on your board. Fortunately, isopropanol takes care of it very easily (unlike many no-clean fluxes which are a genuine PITA to remove), or it is safe to leave it in place.  One plus is the rosin fumes smell OK, especially compared to man-made flux. I used to kind of enjoy the smell of the rosin fumes but no longer. I now use on-iron fume extraction, and I won't go back.
 

Offline KL27x

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Re: The Importance Of Good Solder
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2016, 06:09:28 pm »
Mouser is selling AIM at half the price of Kester, lately. I can't tell the diff.

I can't say I have a brand loyalty. I've never found a bad solder, not that I've gone out of my way looking.
 

Offline nanofrog

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Re: The Importance Of Good Solder
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2016, 06:55:03 pm »
Quality consumables in, quality work out.
Probably the simplest way to put it.  :-+ And as an additional bonus, it significantly reduces the amount of aggravation and damage crappy consumables tends to cause.  ;)

Having an appropriate diameter solder helps significantly in being able to reliably apply the correct amount to a joint - I keep three different sizes on my bench for various use cases.
This is certainly nice (I've multiple spools consisting of different alloys, diameters, and fluxes), but it's not exactly inexpensive.

Starting out however, it can actually be more cost effective to get a smaller diameter IMHO, say 0.020", 0.025", or 0.032". That way, one can wind a piece around one's fingers and twist it up as needed for joints that would be better suited to larger diameter, such as tinning larger gauge wire or large pads beneath DFN/QFN parts for example.

Sadly, availability isn't even across the globe either, as Multicore/Loctite and Stannol are easier to get in the EU/UK market, while Kester, AIM, and Indium are easier to get in NA. NA can also get 63/37 easier than the EU market it seems without having to pay handsomely to import it from the US since Multicore cut back on their lead based alloys (not many from Stannol either from what I've seen). :'(
 

Offline SewingYard

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Re: The Importance Of Good Solder
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2016, 08:27:27 pm »
I've never found a bad solder, not that I've gone out of my way looking.

Send me your postal address and Ill send you a prime example of bad solder.

1mm Lead Free Solder from Maplin UK
Sn 99.3%, Cu 0.7%

It certainly is the "pièce de résistance" of crappy solder, I would struggle to actually find worse.

In fact I was thinking of making the AM Radio in Learning The Art Of Electronics and considered wasting it as the antenna, Or Perhaps melting the whole roll into a cube and using it as a door stop, it would be more useful than it is in it's current form :)
 

Offline sosuke

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Re: The Importance Of Good Solder
« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2016, 11:48:52 pm »
Thanks for the heads up on the AIM solder. Going to give this a test. Have a couple spools of Kester but I've been considering getting a few other sizes and this looks right up my alley price wise.
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Offline blueskull

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Re: The Importance Of Good Solder
« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2016, 12:03:23 am »
I don't think you will have any troubles with a big brand name, be it AIM, Kester, Senju, Indium, Chip-quik or Nordic EFD.
I have used Senju and EFD solders, and they both work fine for me.
The EFD one is more viscous so stencil printing may not be a good idea. It is designed to be applied with a dispensing machine.

If you are a beginner, try SnPb first. SAC still has some reliability issues and due to the higher temperature, is more prone to cause heat damage to parts.
I use SnPb solder paste and SAC solder wires.
 

Offline jitter

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Re: The Importance Of Good Solder
« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2016, 05:53:07 am »
One of the things I got that wasn't on the list was solder, I've been watching Dave's videos and he mentions the importance of getting thin solder, so I went for the .015 Leaded Solder made by AIM.

Here's one thing I do not completely agree on with Dave.
Do not get just one thin size and use it for all joints. Get several sizes, because like getting an appropriate sized tip, you need to get appropriate sized solder for the job at hand as well.
Yes, in a pinch, you could solder a big joint using thin wire, but you will find that you can't feed in the wire fast enough to keep solder time at a minimum. In that situation, I found myself folding up and twisting the wire a couple of times to make it resemble the thicker wire...

For PCBs, two sizes are sufficient for almost all of the time. I don't know them off the top of my head, so I will come back to that later...
Edit: 0.25 and 0.5 mm (0.01 and 0.02 in).

I think I would agree largely with what Mr. Carlson has to tell about solder:


« Last Edit: April 26, 2016, 11:12:53 am by jitter »
 

Offline GreyWoolfe

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Re: The Importance Of Good Solder
« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2016, 11:55:25 am »
My main solder is Kester 44 63/37 with a 66 core, I believe it's .032".  I also have a larger diameter Alpha Metals Reliacore 60/40 that I have had for 18 years and haven't quite finished the spool.  I have come to prefer the 63/37 solder as it is eutectic.  I still use the 60/40 for soldering wires clamped in helping hands so they stay in one position during the solder's liquid stage before it hardens.
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Offline Kjelt

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Re: The Importance Of Good Solder
« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2016, 01:45:53 pm »
For PCBs, two sizes are sufficient for almost all of the time. I don't know them off the top of my head, so I will come back to that later...
Edit: 0.25 and 0.5 mm (0.01 and 0.02 in).
Me too but I tend to size up one bit:

0,7mm all the larger (thermal capacity) TH stuff (big elco's, voltage regulators etc.)
0,5mm al the small and normal TH stuff (ic sockets, resistors), this one I use the most probably.
0,25mm for SMT but I hardly use it because it is too dry (little flux), for SMT I prefer to just put a bit of solder paste and heat that with a smd iron, it is more moist (more flux).

Actually you notice soon if you have the right solder thickness, you just don't want to need to feed the wire longer than 0,5 a second, so if you put in the wire 0,5 second against the iron and you still don't have enough solder on your pad/component, size up. If it is too much: size down. At least that is how I like to solder, just a 0,5 second contact, 0,5 second solder adding, 0,5 second afterheating and done.

Oh yeah, i also have 0,9mm spool laying around, I got that one for free and only use this if I need to desolder something old, crusty or large (groundplane tincan stuff) and flux alone won't cut it. So actually since I got it for free I just spent it on these kinds of jobs
 

Offline KL27x

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Re: The Importance Of Good Solder
« Reply #12 on: April 28, 2016, 10:31:27 pm »
Quote
1mm Lead Free Solder from Maplin UK
Sn 99.3%, Cu 0.7%
If you buy Kester 99.3/0.7 lead-free with the same type (or lack) of flux core, I bet you will have the same success.

I pay attention to the ingredient list, not the name brand. Unless you are buying solder for pennies on the dollar from Mexi-China, I think you might be hard pressed to notice a difference??
Quote
Here's one thing I do not completely agree on with Dave.
I notice Dave's video takes 2 seconds to dismiss an alternative soldering technique. That other technique is what I use for all SMD work. All I ever need is 0.05" solder. And chisel tip? Still have never come across any job where chisel tip is the best for me. And no, the chisel tip is not good for general purpose either, the way I solder. My chisel tips are the first tips I will abuse or throw out when there's no room left in my solder tip holder, lol.

  :-// Different strokes.
« Last Edit: April 28, 2016, 10:34:18 pm by KL27x »
 

Offline Dave

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Re: The Importance Of Good Solder
« Reply #13 on: April 29, 2016, 02:34:43 am »
I recently ordered some AIM rosin-cored eutectic from Mouser. No complaint so far. :-+

The real magic, however, is brought by homemade liquid rosin flux. Dirt cheap and absolutely fantastic to work with.
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Offline KL27x

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Re: The Importance Of Good Solder
« Reply #14 on: April 30, 2016, 10:38:52 pm »
Check the datasheet. I don't think Mouser stocks any solder fitting that description? At least not at a low enough price to where it enters my vision.

What I found, some months back, anyway, was AIM 60/40 RA, or AIM 63/37 Glow Core. The Glowcore is listed under rosin-core rather than no-clean in Mouser's website, but the datasheet shows it to be a synthetic flux. This is the kind I am currently using. The residue behaves just like RA, though. It's indistinguishable to me. Completely compatible with RA flux, and it cleans with the same solvents. So maybe it is more technically a resin-core solder.

Ironically, considering my last post, my rolls say "made in Mexico."  :-DD
« Last Edit: April 30, 2016, 10:46:58 pm by KL27x »
 

Offline ECEdesign

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Re: The Importance Of Good Solder
« Reply #15 on: May 01, 2016, 10:53:51 pm »
I use some very old Kester solder from when my Dad was in college.  Does solder go bad?  I still have most of a spool it seems to work well?

Pretty good price at Mouser for Sn62/Pb36/Ag2 solder.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2016, 10:58:04 pm by ECEdesign »
 

Offline nanofrog

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Re: The Importance Of Good Solder
« Reply #16 on: May 01, 2016, 11:11:55 pm »
I use some very old Kester solder from when my Dad was in college.  Does solder go bad?  I still have most of a spool it seems to work well?

Pretty good price at Mouser for Sn62/Pb36/Ag2 solder.
If it's stored properly (cool dry place), then NO.  :)

It may not perform quite as well as when it was new due to oxidation of the metal and flux inside, but it's still usable. One trick to do on old solder, is cut a foot or so back to expose fresh, non-exposed flux. Heat could notably reduce the efficacy or even destroy the flux content and promote further oxidation, but you can pre-clean the solder wire with a Kim Wipe saturated with isopropyl alcohol and use additional fresh flux to mitigate this (flux would need to be compatible; do not use acid flux meant for plumbing or roofing).

So it's not uncommon for a roll to last for decades with little degradation, if any once you've hit fresh flux in the core.  ;)
 

Offline uncle_bob

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Re: The Importance Of Good Solder
« Reply #17 on: May 02, 2016, 12:09:55 am »
Hi

I still have a roll of solder I bought in 1971. It still works fine. It's a bit small in diameter for most stuff so I still have 90% of the roll. At the time it was on a "blowout sale". It had been ordered in and the customer looked at it and decided they could not use it. For something like a D connector, you will use a couple feet of the stuff.

Get a couple of different sizes. Trying to do everything with one size is crazy...

Bob
 

Offline ECEdesign

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Re: The Importance Of Good Solder
« Reply #18 on: May 02, 2016, 12:13:15 am »
Yeah having good sizes is a good idea, the small diameter is good for general PCB work but when I was working on RG-8 for my HAM antenna it was a lot of heating and feeding to cover the coax braid.
 


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