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  1. #1
    adama is offline Diamond
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    Default Custom Soldering Iron Tip

    Basicaly i need to make a soldering iron tip, possibly a few. All custom pofiles to solder on a profiled pre tinned wire. Im more than happy with how to attach it to the electric iron i plan to power it with. But what matirial are they - should they be made from?

    Experiance with old flame heated irons has taught me copper just gets dissolved in the solder quickly at that. I realy don't want to be reprofileing them all the time. i need the tip to be groved to guide the wire - iron whilst soldering to a pretinned part.

    From what i have read online it sounds like there iron platted rather than copper. Does anyone have any idea of what though? Ie grade of matirial.

    Thanks

  2. #2
    GeneK is offline Plastic
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    I always just tinned my tips with high temp silver solder, the copper dosen't disolve then.

    GeneK

  3. #3
    adama is offline Diamond
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    GeneK I like that idea. Now if only my silver solder was here not at dads :-(

  4. #4
    Bruce Griffing is online now Stainless
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    I believe that commercial tips are plated with iron and tinned.

  5. #5
    adama is offline Diamond
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    Ok well i can't easly plate iron but what about a steel tip? Heck would be dirt cheep to try. I know the thermal conductivity would be down, but for what i need that wouldn't nesaceraly be a dissadvatage. The irons already a bit too hot if anything, dont want to get a tempreture controled one for this if i can avoid it. So losing a few degrees wouldn't matter. Eqauly i dont need the length the current tip has so again i can improve things there.

    I have both copper and steel on hand so might try one of each. The silver solder coated still seams a nice approach, can easly touch it up witout a full reprofile if needed.

  6. #6
    Bruce Griffing is online now Stainless
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    If you really want the homemade steel type to work, I would bore out the center and put a copper stud inside for thermal conductivity. Bigger (larger fraction of diameter) is better.

  7. #7
    adama is offline Diamond
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    Its for a antex iron so basicaly i can get the end of the element probaly within - possibly under 1/4" of the actual tip. But yes if needed for reach reasons going to a copper core might be a good approach.

    I will be using good old 60/40 too never been a lead free fan myself. No clean flux. Bassed on the proper ones being iron coated and tinned im going to give a steel one first shot. Got till after the weekend to get the tip done - working. In all im looking to solder about 10 meters of the wire down next week. After that assuming the project gets go ahead total length is going to be in the hundreds of meters range.

  8. #8
    jim rozen is offline Diamond
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    The steel tip will perform poorly. Go ahead and try if you want.

    1) manufacturers make all *kinds* of custom tips. Have you looked?

    2) a plain copper tip, not iron plated, will last weeks of constant use.
    If you really need a custom item, do it that way. Make two or three.

    3) regular rosin flux works fine for lead-free solder, of the tin/silver type.
    In fact you can purchase rosin cored 95/5 solder.

  9. #9
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    Exclamation use eutectic solder

    Quote Originally Posted by adama View Post
    i need the tip to be gro[o]ved to guide the wire - iron whilst soldering to a pretinned part.
    This worries me.

    If you move the wire while the solder is cooling you're guaranteed to get a cold solder joint, unless you use eutectic solder (63/37 alloy).

    All non-eutectic alloys pass through a plastic phase while cooling from liquid to solid. Any movement while in the plastic phase causes the solder to granularize(?).

    Check the website of any of the solder manufacturers (kester, Alpha, Ersin, etc) for an explanation.

    - Leigh

  10. #10
    Bruce Johnson is offline Stainless
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    So you understand what's going on, the big reason why a steel tip won't work well is because of the corrosion that happens at the interface. For example, you'd have steel threads of the tip tightened up against the (I assume) copper threads on the heating element. The first time or two it may be fine. But after a few heat cycles, you start to get a layer of corrosion on the steel, right against the copper. This corrosion insulates, which heats the corrosion, which accelerates the corrosion, etc. Soon you have a nice layer of thermal insulation and a cold tip that won't solder. That's why the tip really should be made of copper. Iron coating on the tip, and good tinning, will help reduce the erosion on the tip. But it still comes down to regular cleaning of the tip during use and when shutting down for the night. That's what will make the tips last.

  11. #11
    adama is offline Diamond
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    The real Leigh. Firstly im aware of that risk, but it has yet to apear as a problem. Generaly at the speed this has been going so far it seams to only set as it were about 1/4" behind the iron. Its far more of a case of just simply guideing the iron as much as locating the item being soldered. The wire being attached as it were is already preformed and will more or less happly sit there by itsself. The groved tip is to try and help reduce the likely hood of any slips off the wire with the iron and damageing the items below.

    Bruce the antex irons are crude - very crude but there cheep and plentifull. Element is about a 3/16" stainless probe. The bit is hollow and slides onto it. The bits also slit to colapse - make good contact. Now its never occured to my little brain why before, but every time i pull the bit on one its always rust like stuck. Equaly theres a good amount of rust - corrosion there so it needs a wire wool scrub.

    Going to see if the current factory tips are magnetic.

  12. #12
    EPAIII is offline Stainless
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    A plain copper tip does not disolve instantly, you can get a good amount of service from one. Soldering guns use copper wire for tips and they last quite well. Of course, they do come apart sooner or later.

    I agree that steel would not work well. Or even steel plated. I don't know the Wattage of your iron, but you can easily loose all the heat with a small tip if it is not properly tinned and you will have trouble keeping a steel tip tinned. Electric/electronic soldering with low Wattage irons relies on a small drop of solder on the tip to transfer the heat efficiently and quickly. Without it, it may take forever to heat the joint up. So you need a well tinned iron.

  13. #13
    John Madarasz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by adama View Post
    Basicaly i need to make a soldering iron tip, possibly a few. All custom pofiles to solder on a profiled pre tinned wire. Im more than happy with how to attach it to the electric iron i plan to power it with. But what matirial are they - should they be made from?

    Experiance with old flame heated irons has taught me copper just gets dissolved in the solder quickly at that. I realy don't want to be reprofileing them all the time. i need the tip to be groved to guide the wire - iron whilst soldering to a pretinned part.

    From what i have read online it sounds like there iron platted rather than copper. Does anyone have any idea of what though? Ie grade of matirial.

    Thanks
    A quality soldering iron is made from copper #110 bar, rod or wire stock. The only reason it would be plated steel is because it's cheaper to make. Neither iron, or steel, holds or transfers heat better than copper, so just use copper.

    Properly using a soldering iron means properly maintaining the tip. You will need to regularly wire brush and file your tip to maintain the profile you want...it's not a big deal, just part of the process.

    You can forge, reforge, file or grind your tips of any size, to any configuration, in minutes...again, it's not a big deal and just part of the process.In fact I regularly reforge my tips to suit the solder job at hand...both electric and old style. I use flame heated irons of every size and shape, from under 1 lb in size up to 10 lbs per iron... flame heated. I also use regular electric irons and electric heavy dutys up to 4-600 watts. All are solid copper tips with the exception of the cheap little Weller electrics for stained glass work.

    Copper #110 melts at 1981 F and does not "dissolve" into the solder at any soft solder temp.

    Use solid copper, cut it, file it, forge it and machine it to any shape you want... no big deal.

  14. #14
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    SAG 180 is offline Titanium
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    There used to be a tin lead solder with 2% copper called "Savbit". This lets you use untinned copper without too much erosion. Ok it looks like Henkel make it these days: http://tds.loctite.com/tds5/docs/M-POFA-EN.PDF

  15. #15
    jim rozen is offline Diamond
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    The reason copper tips are iron plated is not to reduce cost.

    That step actually *increases* the cost of the tip.

    The reason is that copper goes into solution into molten lead.
    Slowly, but it does. Hence the reason the savabit solder works.
    The copper hunger of the molten lead is already satisified.

    To treat a good iron tip properly, do NOT file it. Do NOT scrape
    it. Do NOT clean the old solder off when you put the iron up
    temporarily, do NOT clean all the solder off when shutting down
    for the night.

    Clean the iron immediately before use, with a moist natural sea
    sponge. Cellulose sponges, although sold for the purpose, do
    degrade tips over time.

    Tin the tip with a lot of solder before shutting down overnight.

  16. #16
    John Madarasz's Avatar
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    fwiw I was incorrectly referring to a copper plated steel iron, and I stand corrected on the very minimal dissolution of copper into molten lead...apologies for the misinformation

    dissolution is still not a big issue imo for anyone who is doing work with solid copper unplated tips that regularly need custom profiles

    I also agree with Jim and others regarding the best practices of not filing or abrading a steel/alloy coated copper tip

    I still believe that a simple solid copper tip would be the easiest to fabricate, and should easily perform for the task of soldering several hundred meters of wire. Filing and profiling a solid copper tip is no problem and requires such a little effort as to be a non issue.

    May be time to break down and get a quality Made in the USA tool for this job with plug type tips ... fwiw I use the screw tip Hexacon 500 watt for HD work, it's been a great tool for many years, but a smaller plug type tool might be just the ticket for a job like this, and a great addition in the tool chest.

    Hexacon Applications Main

  17. #17
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    I have used gold plated tips from Ungar that have lasted quit a while.
    Don't know if they still make them.

  18. #18
    jim rozen is offline Diamond
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    Agree totally on the 'just make it out of copper' approach to life, if the OP cannot
    find what he wants off the shelf.

    My personal favorite are the weller magnastat irons. I solder for a living and I've
    tried em' all, the hexacon (not bad) and the RF powered one, with the tall power supply,
    and the various weller controlled output irons.

    The weller controlled output stations just don't last. The fine wires to the
    thermistor in the handpiece just give up after about two years. I've been
    using the same weller magnastat for about 20 years now. I think I swapped
    handpieces at one point because the rubber grip was getting too snotty.

    Btw I doubt the gold-plated tips mentioned are really gold plated.
    Gold forms an extremely low melting point eutectic alloy with lead.
    If you are ever in the mood for frustration, try to solder a bit of gold wire
    to something, using ordinary lead/tin solder.

    The gold simply goes right into solution in the solder. The wire just 'sucks up'
    into the solder! Don't ask me how I found out about this.

  19. #19
    9100's Avatar
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    I checked American Beauty and Wall tips. Both have copper cores with iron plating that is tinned. All are magnetic. The back ends of the American Beauty tips show the copper. When I worked with electronics all day, I kept an American Beauty iron hot for 8 hours, at least 5 days a week. Copper tips oxidize continuously and need to be cleaned and retinned regularly. Iron plating passivates and holds up much better. As Jim says, don't file them.

    I have never iron plated, but I'm sure I could. I have nickel, silver and chrome if you want to try them. I have gold, too, but again as Jim says, it disappears into the solder. Components with gold plated leads make good contact with sockets because gold doesn't oxidize, but when you solder them, all the gold does is protect the surface under the plating so the solder forms a good bond with the base metal. Back in the day, I used a lot of Savbit solder.

    I have tried most of the soldering stations and still use an American Beauty 60 watt iron with a thermostated stand. I keep the stand set at a little below the preferred soldering temperature and lift the iron off the thermostat pad a minute or two before I start soldering, causing it to get a bit hotter. I haven't counted them, but I own at least 20 soldering irons and all but the American Beauty irons, the 60 and a 250 watt, also with a thermostat stand, are just taking up space.

    I do also have a large Hexacon. Nothing wrong with them, either, I just don't need anything that big very often.

    Bill

  20. #20
    adama is offline Diamond
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    Ok well i made a copper one, nothing fancy. Just drilled it to fit the heater of the iron. Slit with a hacksaw, and made sure it was a good tight fit. The tip i tappered similar to the original.

    1st, heating time from cold now needs a stopwatch not a calender. I did not time it but normally it was a fair wait, now sub 1 minute :-) that alones worth the odd refile - clean.

    2nd, despite being a smaller than std tip the heat transfers noticably better, the jobs going to go a fair bit quicker.

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