soldering iron

Weller Soldering Station While tip tinning and tip cleaning are both very important to keeping your soldering tips in their best shape, there are a few general “best practices” that can help contribute to the life of your tips and of your iron.

Use the Lowest Possible Temperature Setting when Soldering

This tip is especially relevant if you have a soldering iron with temperature control. When you can, it is best to use the lowest needed temperature as it slows down the rate of oxidation, reduces the thermal shock when wiping the tip on a damp sponge, and can help prevent heat damage to the components you are soldering.

Using low temperature settings on your soldering iron can also preserve the iron itself. Near the tip of most soldering irons is a heating element and as it heats up and cools down it will expand and contract. If it changes size drastically many times there is a possibility that the sleeve around the heating element could become stuck and either be too large or too small for its tips.

Use Distilled Water on Cleaning Sponges

While not entirely necessary, if you have the choice you should use distilled water on cleaning sponges. Whenever you touch a hot iron to a wet sponge some of the water will evaporate. If you are using non-distilled water then all of the minerals and contaminants in the water will be left behind, making your sponge dirty. Dirty sponges must be replaced more often as the contaminants could hurt your soldering tip.

Use the Correct Solder for your Job

Whenever you are starting a new project double check your components and solder wire and make sure they are compatible. If you use incompatible solder then you may need to overheat your iron and parts to get the job done, which can damage both. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer of the parts and solder to find out if they will work well together.

That is all for our series on maintaining your soldering irons. Have any more questions? Leave a comment below!

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Last week we looked into why tinning your soldering tips is important to improve their life span, but that is not the only thing to keep in mind when maintaining your soldering iron. To ensure your tips are free of any oxides, you should clean them regularly. By cleaning your tips, you remove any dirt or dust that has accumulated as well as built up oxides. While you should clean your tips every time you are done using them, you should also pay particular attention to blackened tips. If your tip is turning black then that is a sign of oxidation, and you should clean your tip right away to prevent corrosion. Always make sure to re-tin your tip directly after cleaning it to help prevent oxidation.

Tip Cleaning SpongeTip cleaning sponges are one of the most common cleaning methods. While you are soldering, you can wipe the tip across a sponge to wipe off any excess solder, dirt, or oxides. However, you must be careful to always use a clean sponge. If there is dust or contaminants on the sponge, you will hurt your tip more than you will help.

When cleaning your soldering tip with a sponge, there is the concern of shocking the tip. Because the sponge is much cooler than the soldering tip, it can cause the temperature of the tip to change rapidly when they touch. This can cause the tip to contract, and can quickly wear out the tip if done too often. To minimize this shock, try wire cleaning pads, which are sturdy enough to wipe off contaminants but soft enough that they will not scratch the surface of the tip.

Another way to clean your soldering tips is to use a combination tip cleaner and tinner. Tip cleaners/tinners are chemical pastes that typically come in metal tins. When you use these items, you heat up your iron and then wipe your tip in the paste. This helps to remove oxides from the tip because cleaning the tip thoroughly when normal cleaning will not help. These tip cleaners and tinners can also be used with tip polishers to maximize their cleaning.

Lead Free Tip Tinner Do you have any more questions about cleaning your soldering tips? Leave a comment below! Also, come back next week for another article on maintaining your soldering irons.

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Maintaining your Soldering Iron: Tip Tinning

by Andy on February 27, 2012

While proper soldering techniques are important to form working joints, it is also necessary to maintain your iron to keep it at its peak performance. By regularly cleaning and inspecting your soldering iron, you can lengthen its lifespan as well as ensure your solder joints are free of contaminants. Today, in the first part of our solder iron maintenance series, I’ll be going over how to keep your solder tips tinned to extend their life.

Tinning your soldering tips involves coating them with a thin layer of solder. When you get a new solder tip, it is very important to tin it the first time you heat it up and always maintain that layer of solder across the tip. By tinning the tip, you prevent the iron coating from oxidizing, which is a real problem when you have hot iron tips. Oxidation can corrode your tips forcing you to replace them more often, and the hotter your iron the faster they will oxidize. Tip tinning creates a layer of solder between the air and the iron, keeping oxygen at bay.

Tip tinning also makes soldering easier. By having a tinned tip, solder wire will melt and flow better over the components that you are joining.

Even when you are not using your soldering iron, you should keep a layer of solder on the tip. Before putting your iron in storage, apply a fresh layer of solder to the tip to prevent it from corroding.

Weller Solder Tip Cleaner When you tin your soldering iron tips, you should first heat your iron. Once it gets to the proper temperature for your particular job, wipe off old solder using either a sponge or a brass wire cleaning pad. Finally, apply solder to all sides of the tip. The tip should look smooth and shiny when you are finished.

Have any questions about tip tinning? Leave a comment below and we will answer any questions you have. Also, come back next week for more soldering iron maintenance tips!

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Green Soldering Irons from Weller

by Andy on October 14, 2011

While we are running our contest to find the oldest working Weller soldering tool you may find yourself in need of a more modern replacement. Weller is currently producing a line of soldering stations that are not only top of the line products, but also can help save money on energy costs.

The Weller WX series soldering station monitors and controls the use of the equipment attached to constantly change the energy output as needed. This allows the unit to automatically put items on stand-by or turn them off when not in use, saving energy and money for the operator. By constantly monitoring the power output this station can also increase the life of the attached products, giving you even more use with the already long lasting Weller products.

Weller Soldering Station Weller WX soldering stations can be used with the WXP series soldering irons, WFE series fume extraction units, and WHP series preheating plates.

Have you used these or any other green soldering systems? Let us know your thoughts and experience with them in the comments!

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While many are familiar with traditional soldering irons, there may be less familiarity with more specific types such as butane or resistance irons. These allow the user to get around some of the limitations of traditional irons, while having some added benefits as well. This blog features some of the pros and cons of each iron type, so your next project will allow you to choose the one that suits your needs best.

Traditional Soldering Iron Traditional soldering irons are typically heated through ceramic elements when plugged into a standard electrical outlet. Normally it takes a few minutes for the tip to heat up, but once it reaches its temperature range it will stabilize. This creates a uniform experience, allowing for speedy and consistent joints.

A benefit of using a traditional soldering iron is they come with varying wattages for different projects. Soldering irons with high wattages are not hotter in general, but are more resistant to heat loss. Having a high watt iron will allow you to work on more difficult projects, such as ones that have large heat sinks or ground plates. Some traditional soldering irons come with stations that allow you to change the temperature of the iron. By changing the temperature of your iron you can use it for both large and small projects.

Portability is an issue with traditional soldering irons, given most requires you to be close to a wall outlet. Wherever you use these soldering irons you need access to electricity, which could be a problem if you are working on a vehicle or another large project. While extension cords are always an option, some may wish to find a different type of soldering iron to become free of restricting cords.

Butane soldering irons can solve the problem of portability. These soldering irons typically Butane Soldering Iron ignite butane to begin heating the tip, and then extinguish the flame and circulate unburned butane to keep the tip hot. Because the heat comes from the reservoir of gas it is much more portable than the traditional soldering iron. It allows for easy soldering even in tight places or on projects far away from any building.

Resistance Soldering Iron If portability is not an issue then resistance soldering irons provide a way to solder without having to wait for the tip to heat up. Resistance soldering irons melt solder by passing a low voltage but high amperage current across the joint. That allows the iron to melt solder quickly without any need to heat it ahead of time. Also, the iron cools down much faster after use than traditional or butane irons. You do have to be careful when using resistance soldering irons on projects that are sensitive to static discharge. Because these irons work by passing a voltage across the solder to melt it, they can cause damage to electronically sensitive parts.

While traditional irons are the most flexible in terms of wattage and temperature, butane and resistance irons have their benefits as well. Whether you need a specific temperature, increased portability, or fast temperature change there are soldering irons fit for any job.

……What is your favorite soldering iron? Let us know!

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