Author Topic: Soldering Iron Tip Help  (Read 7588 times)

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Offline mike183

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Soldering Iron Tip Help
« on: January 02, 2014, 08:03:39 pm »
Hi,

I recently purchased a soldering iron to learn some basic soldering skills, this is the soldering iron I bought and this is the solder that I'm using.

The soldering iron was working fine for the first couple of days, I probably used it for about 3-4 hours in total over the 2 days but now it seems to be struggling to melt the solder and even when it does manage to, the solder doesn't stick to the iron, it just ends up balling up on the end of the piece of solder.

The problem I think, was that I didn't realise that I needed to keep the tip tinned while the iron was sitting in the stand so I'm not sure if the tip has become oxidised as a result of me not keeping it tinned properly but would the tip become oxidised so quickly?

I have attached an image, as you can see, the tip looks quite dull so this is what leads me to think that is has become oxidised. Is there anyway to clean this or will I just have to buy a new tip?

Thanks,

Mike.
« Last Edit: January 02, 2014, 08:11:57 pm by mike183 »
 

Offline Simon

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Re: Soldering Iron Tip Help
« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2014, 08:05:07 pm »
looks ok, have you tried cleaning it off when it is hot on a damp spunge ?
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Offline mike183

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Re: Soldering Iron Tip Help
« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2014, 08:11:12 pm »
Thanks for your response.

I've tried waiting for it to get hot then wiping it on the damp sponge in my soldering iron stand but it doesn't seem to make much difference.

It manages to melt the solder if you press the solder against the iron with a bit more force than normal. For example if you put a piece of solder down on the bench and press down on it with the iron a bit but it's not melting nearly as easily as it was when I first starting using it.

Also, just realised that the links in my post are broken, I've added them below but will update my original post now.

This is my soldering iron

This is my solder
 

Offline Kappes Buur

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Re: Soldering Iron Tip Help
« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2014, 08:12:14 pm »
Yup, that's what happens.

What you need is something to keep the tip clean. Either a sponge or brass mesh.



For example:

« Last Edit: January 02, 2014, 08:18:48 pm by Kappes Buur »
 

Lurch

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Re: Soldering Iron Tip Help
« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2014, 08:17:00 pm »
It manages to melt the solder if you press the solder against the iron with a bit more force than normal. For example if you put a piece of solder down on the bench and press down on it with the iron a bit but it's not melting nearly as easily as it was when I first starting using it.

Tip looks fine, even it was badly oxidised it would still get hot and melt solder, that tip looks brand new, which it is.

It sounds like the iron is knackered tbh, you shouldn't have to be using any force, on a tip that small it won't last long.
 

Offline mike183

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Re: Soldering Iron Tip Help
« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2014, 08:22:19 pm »
It manages to melt the solder if you press the solder against the iron with a bit more force than normal. For example if you put a piece of solder down on the bench and press down on it with the iron a bit but it's not melting nearly as easily as it was when I first starting using it.

Tip looks fine, even it was badly oxidised it would still get hot and melt solder, that tip looks brand new, which it is.

It sounds like the iron is knackered tbh, you shouldn't have to be using any force, on a tip that small it won't last long.

Is there anyway to determine if the iron is broken or not?

It has only been used for about 4 hours in total so surely it would be replaced under warranty wouldn't it if it was broken?
 

Offline Simon

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Re: Soldering Iron Tip Help
« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2014, 08:23:24 pm »
sounds like the iron broke, i have a 12W antex that always worked fine, got work to buy me a 15W and I've known it to be dippy, I's consider returning it.
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Offline mike183

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Re: Soldering Iron Tip Help
« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2014, 08:28:45 pm »
Is there anyway to find out if it is the iron that is broken?
 

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Re: Soldering Iron Tip Help
« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2014, 08:30:56 pm »
well if it's not heating up, have you got a thermometer ? or it could be the solder - lead free, I've never used it but most will tell you it's hard to melt and use, but if you find the irons performance has changed then I'd say the iron is duff, on my 15W one i never worked out if it was an overheat cutout or a faulty wire, one day I'll open it up.
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Offline mike183

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Re: Soldering Iron Tip Help
« Reply #9 on: January 02, 2014, 08:37:29 pm »
The iron does heat up, if you hold your hand near it you can feel the heat.

It just doesn't seem to be melting solder as easily as it used to. Also when the solder does melt, it doesn't stick to the tip making it impossible to tin. This was what made me think it was the tip that was broken.

Someone else I've spoken to also said it could be the solder. There are so many things that could be an issue I'm not sure where to go with this...may ask a friend for a bit of lead based solder first to see if the solder is the issue.
 

Offline Simon

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Re: Soldering Iron Tip Help
« Reply #10 on: January 02, 2014, 08:39:00 pm »
yes I'd try some lead solder first, also has your solder got flux in it ?
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Offline mike183

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Re: Soldering Iron Tip Help
« Reply #11 on: January 02, 2014, 08:42:12 pm »
yes I'd try some lead solder first, also has your solder got flux in it ?

According to the description on the site it does: http://www.rapidonline.com/Tools-Equipment/Antex-Leadfree-Solder-4m-Dispenser-85-1182

The actual dispenser you get when you buy it doesn't really have much information on it, it only says that it's 0.8mm lead free solder. It also says Sn99.25 and Cu0.75 but I'm not quite sure what that means.
 

Offline Simon

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Re: Soldering Iron Tip Help
« Reply #12 on: January 02, 2014, 08:44:07 pm »
Sn is the tin content, Cu is the copper (chemical symbols) old solder was 60% lead (Pb) and 40% tin (Sn), then 40%Pb, 60%Sn came out
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Offline mike183

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Re: Soldering Iron Tip Help
« Reply #13 on: January 02, 2014, 08:52:18 pm »
Sn is the tin content, Cu is the copper (chemical symbols) old solder was 60% lead (Pb) and 40% tin (Sn), then 40%Pb, 60%Sn came out

Ah, makes sense.

Thanks for your help. I've asked a friend for some lead based solder so I can give that a go, if that doesn't work then I'll try a new tip (always good to have some spares even if it doesn't fix the issue) and if that doesn't work I suppose I'll need to get in touch with rapid to see if I can get the iron replaced.

PS. With lead based solder, someone once told me that it's a good idea to wear a mask when using it. Is that necessary?
 

Offline GreyWoolfe

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Re: Soldering Iron Tip Help
« Reply #14 on: January 02, 2014, 09:04:37 pm »
I don't know that a mask is necessary.  If possible have a window open and use a fan to blow the fumes out.  It's the flux that produces most of the fumes, if I remember correctly.  I use a Weller fume extractor that I bought on eBay when I solder.  It has charcoal filters that absorb the fumes as it pulls the fumes into it.  I would look into some sort of fume mitigation whether using lead or lead free because of the flux.
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Offline nanofrog

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Re: Soldering Iron Tip Help
« Reply #15 on: January 02, 2014, 09:07:50 pm »
PS. With lead based solder, someone once told me that it's a good idea to wear a mask when using it. Is that necessary?
No.

No need to worry about lead gas, as the metals aren't hot enough to boil off into vapor. Flux fumes aren't good for you however, and where the issue is.

But you don't need to go nutz to take care of that either. Just get a fan, open a window (or both). They make fume extractors, but those that are more than just a fan with a carbon filter, get expensive in hurry (replacement filters aren't cheap either).
 

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Re: Soldering Iron Tip Help
« Reply #16 on: January 02, 2014, 09:08:44 pm »
yea the lead thing is exagerated and the fumes are all flux, where i work we have people using blow torches to solder up radiators with 60%Pb and 40%Sn solder, they have extractors over each bay and many don't keep them too close, all still alive and well, they have annual checkup's to be sure.
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Offline mike183

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Re: Soldering Iron Tip Help
« Reply #17 on: January 02, 2014, 09:22:27 pm »
Thanks for the help everyone!

I'll report back when I've managed to try some leaded solder.

Thanks again,

Mike.
 

Offline peter.mitchell

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Re: Soldering Iron Tip Help
« Reply #18 on: January 02, 2014, 10:22:29 pm »
The tip is badly oxidised, it requires force to melt the solder as the oxide provides a pretty large level of insulation, the force increases contact area, and the chance of penetrating the oxide layer, even if ever so slightly.
If you're super careful, you may be able to get away with gently rubbing it with standard copy paper until it removes some of the oxide (start at the furthest point from the tip, so if you stuff it, you ruin the part you never use), then, when you are through, your flux and solder should do the job to get rid of the rest.
 

Offline mike183

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Re: Soldering Iron Tip Help
« Reply #19 on: January 05, 2014, 02:58:47 pm »
The tip is badly oxidised, it requires force to melt the solder as the oxide provides a pretty large level of insulation, the force increases contact area, and the chance of penetrating the oxide layer, even if ever so slightly.
If you're super careful, you may be able to get away with gently rubbing it with standard copy paper until it removes some of the oxide (start at the furthest point from the tip, so if you stuff it, you ruin the part you never use), then, when you are through, your flux and solder should do the job to get rid of the rest.

Thanks for this.

I tried my friends leaded solder yesterday and it was just the same so I've ordered some new tips from Rapid. Before I fit one of them I'll try sanding the current one down slightly, if I break it then I've got a new one to replace it with, if I don't then I've got a couple of spare tips.

Thanks for the help everyone, maybe I'll keep the tip tinned correctly this time...

Mike.
 

Offline Kohanbash

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Re: Soldering Iron Tip Help
« Reply #20 on: January 05, 2014, 03:13:08 pm »
This might be simple but did you confirm that the tip is tight and connected to the iron.

I have had several times where my tip was not getting hot and it was because the tip was loose and not having a good thermal contact with the iron.

Also while very bad for the life of the tip and many might yell at me for saying this. But plumbers flux is pretty good for cleaning a bad tip.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2014, 03:15:25 pm by sdk32285 »
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Offline mariush

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Re: Soldering Iron Tip Help
« Reply #21 on: January 05, 2014, 03:42:37 pm »
That solder iron is also relatively weak at 18 watts, so it will need some time to heat up (minutes) and then as soon as you put it down on a metal surface including solder, it will cool down and need a few seconds to get back to temperature.  There's very little "energy reservoir" on such pens.

As it doesn't have temperature control, the tip will probably stay at around 250-400c as it's powered so it's normal it would oxidize fast.  If it's on the lower side, when you use lead free solder then remember that type of solder melts at around 217c so I hope you can see how the moment you'd touch the tip to some metal, the temperature could drop below the solder's melting point.
With leaded solder, the melting temperature is around 180-183c, so it should liquify and flow easier, allowing you to solder things easier.

If you don't have that yellow stuff or those steel wool spring things, t you could try to clean the oxides with a plain paper towel/handkerchief, gently rub the tip on the paper as it's warm. Normally you'd use chemwhipes (like these for example http://www.chemwipes.co.uk/ipa-wipes-all-types-p140 ) but those are basically towels made out of some plastic fibers (I think) impregnated with isopropyl alcohol which you can buy separately.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2014, 03:47:03 pm by mariush »
 

Lurch

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Re: Soldering Iron Tip Help
« Reply #22 on: January 05, 2014, 04:12:25 pm »
I think the thing for the OP to remember is most people here will be comparing your iron to their expensive Metcals etc... I have a couple of Pace irons and going back to my cheap ones you forget that you have to wait for things to heat up etc...

I also have an old Antex 18W (if that) that is 25 Years old and has the original tip on it. The tip has been properly abused over the years, it has been used as a hot knife, it is bent, badly oxidised and generally knackered. I can still go and plug it in though and solder with it reasonably well, in that I don't have the problems the OP is having with it not even melting solder.
 

Offline Robgo

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Re: Soldering Iron Tip Help
« Reply #23 on: January 16, 2014, 06:53:39 am »
A mask is not necessary for soldering with lead or lead free solder, just avoid to inhale the fumes directly, make sure to solder under good ventilation and may use a fume extractor at the same time.


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