I Think I Need a Better Iron and/or Solder!

yazooligan

Active member
Here are the iron and solder I've been using lately. Maybe I'm just out of practice, but I feel like almost all my solder joints look cold, and they really shouldn't by now. My iron has been pretty good for the most part, but I feel like upgrading to a Weller or Hakko might be the smart move at this point.

It's also entirely possible I'm using a shitty solder...YOU TELL ME.

Thanks in advance!

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peccary

Well-known member
I started using Kester 44 based on lots of other people's recommendations and I really like it. I have used a few other types and find this easy to work with and pretty clean as far as solder goes: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001W2XZOS/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

As far as soldering irons/stations go: I don't think it's necessarry to have a $100+ station to do a good job, but it will be helpful. I used a little 35w Weller for a long time (and on my first 3-4 pedals) and got pretty good results. Having a nice station will make things easier and go faster, but you can certainly get by with less. Do you have a budget?

I use the Weller station and really like it. I think that @Barry uses it as well. We're the odd-balls, though, because Hakko seems to be the most popular brand. If you have a budget I'm sure you will get some good suggestions.
 

Barry

Well-known member
I started using Kester 44 based on lots of other people's recommendations and I really like it. I have used a few other types and find this easy to work with and pretty clean as far as solder goes: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001W2XZOS/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

As far as soldering irons/stations go: I don't think it's necessarry to have a $100+ station to do a good job, but it will be helpful. I used a little 35w Weller for a long time (and on my first 3-4 pedals) and got pretty good results. Having a nice station will make things easier and go faster, but you can certainly get by with less. Do you have a budget?

I use the Weller station and really like it. I think that @Barry uses it as well. We're the odd-balls, though, because Hakko seems to be the most popular brand. If you have a budget I'm sure you will get some good suggestions.
Yes I have the Weller station and I used a 25w weller pen for years before I sprung for the station last year

Edit: and the pen was still doing the job, but the station is faster
 
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Paradox916

Well-known member
what ever brand you pick....(I got a Weller station because that’s what the avionics techs swore by at my old job and it was what I was comfortable with) once you start using a good station you won’t regret the purchase and never look back.
 

manfesto

Well-known member
Here are the iron and solder I've been using lately. Maybe I'm just out of practice, but I feel like almost all my solder joints look cold, and they really shouldn't by now. My iron has been pretty good for the most part, but I feel like upgrading to a Weller or Hakko might be the smart move at this point.

It's also entirely possible I'm using a shitty solder...YOU TELL ME.

Thanks in advance!

View attachment 13490View attachment 13489
Do you normally use that bevel tip?
 

cooder

Well-known member
I had some cheap ebay china solder that was total crap and like floor sweepings from the recycling factory. Waste of time.
Good Kester 63/37 or so is a total different ball game.
 

Stickman393

Well-known member
I mean, it all depends. Sometimes it's setup, sometimes it's maintenance, sometimes it's supplies, sometimes it's technique, sometimes it's equipment.

The good news is that you're using an eutectic solder...it has a single temperature at which it goes through a state change (liquid to solid). That stuff melts at about 361.4 degrees Fahrenheit, you'll probably want the iron to be up around 600-700 though. Sometimes, especially when soldering a pad on a ground plane, it can seem to take forever to get a pad up to temp. In this case, a heat gun used *gently* to pre-heat the board may be helpful.

Dunno that brand though. Personally, I'm a non-leaded solder guy myself. I like AIM SN100C: also an eutectic alloy, though I keep a couple of partial rolls of the leaded stuff around...I find that adding a little bit to a joint before using my desoldering pump helps to clear the hole.

How's your tip look? If it's getting kinda black And burnt looking, and having trouble wetting the whole tip, it could be time for a new one. Oxides will form on the tip over time and create an insulating barrier, making it impossible to tin the tip, which can make it seem impossible to get good heat transfer. I keep a little tin of tip tinner next to my stand so I can re-tin after each time I clean my iron.

As for the tip, you generally want to use as large of a tip as is both wise and feasible. Too big and you'll overheat easily and solder will go everywhere. Too small and you will not have efficient heat transfer.

In soldering we're using conduction to transfer heat, and with a clean iron there are only two variables that will impact the rate of heat transfer: the difference in temperature between the board/lead and the tip of the soldering iron, as well as the *total* surface area in direct contact between those two parts. Having a *little* solder tinned on the tip helps this immensely, simply because it is able to conform to the shape of the pad/leads, increasing the surface area available for heat transfer.

Sometimes, it's just matter of getting a better angle on a joint. I like to turn my board around on a silicone mat on my workbench so I can wedge my iron tips into as much surface area as possible before I start adding solder. 2-3 seconds and it's all good.

Sometimes...yeah, the iron is just a piece of crap. My last iron made terrible contact with the heating element...it was always a struggle to use that thing.

So I went out and bought a Hakko FX-100. You know that idiom, buy quality and cry once, buy cheap and cry every time you use it?

Well, I don't necessarily subscribe to that. I'm more of a buy-super-awesome-and-cry-everytime-you-use-it-cause-you're-just-so-happy kinda bloke. Seriously.

I like tools. It's a thing.
 

Dali

Well-known member
<newbie-advice>
For me, the wire solder made a bigger difference than the soldering iron. I use AIM SN63/PB37. Once I used that one, I felt I got new super power!
</newbie-advice>
 

Feral Feline

Well-known member
I've read solder expires, how old is it?


Mine is OLD, and I've been having problems lately with it flowing, so I turned up the temp on my iron... Been looking for a local supplier with fresh 63/37 .3 ... but all the stuff around here is cheap and thick, like .5 to .8 ...
 

peccary

Well-known member
I've read solder expires, how old is it?


Mine is OLD, and I've been having problems lately with it flowing, so I turned up the temp on my iron... Been looking for a local supplier with fresh 63/37 .3 ... but all the stuff around here is cheap and thick, like .5 to .8 ...

I assumed that much of this stuff is manufactured in your neck of the woods and wouldn't be too difficult to get, but after hearing you talk a few times about how tough it can be to get things sometimes I'm obviously wrong about that. Is it because you're in HK and not China (proper? I'm sorry, I am totally ignorant on how that is all working now so I'm not sure how to phrase it exactly).

When are you heading back to Canada?
 

Stickman393

Well-known member
Solder itself can't expire, but the flux core...maybe?

Honestly, that's probably going to be the most significant difference between solder no-name and name brand solders. The no name stuff often won't even call out the type of flux core... There are a TON of different fluxes out there...water soluble, rosin based...some other stuff...

Now...the purpose of flux is to clean the surfaces that solder is being applied to; with that being the case, I imagine there *could* be some amount of molecular transformation that occurs over time that could cause the flux core in a spool of solder to become a *less* effective cleaning agent.

This would primarily show itself as a solder that resisted wetting to a surface...although that symptom could pop up for a MULTITUDE of reasons. I imagine that a reasonable way to determine the effectiveness of the rosin core would be to use a flux pen on one joint and none on another, soldering both, and comparing the results.

I'm sure the elemental proportions could be a little bit fudged on some of the off brand stuff, but both lead and tin are relatively cheap; I doubt an off brand would fudge those numbers on purpose unless they were making an alloy with pricier raw materials, EG; AU, AG, CU. Perhaps an off brand would be more likely to include larger proportions of impurities, IDK.

Though TBH I don't much care for silver solders on circuit boards. Guitars, offboard stuff, sure. Copper Piping: HELL to the YEAH (I wouldn't use anything else, but at that point I'm specifically looking for a non-eutectic solder)

...sometimes I just type stuff out and forget my point. Solder expiring: maybe? Probably would have done well enough.
 
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Feral Feline

Well-known member
I assumed that much of this stuff is manufactured in your neck of the woods and wouldn't be too difficult to get, but after hearing you talk a few times about how tough it can be to get things sometimes I'm obviously wrong about that. Is it because you're in HK and not China (proper? I'm sorry, I am totally ignorant on how that is all working now so I'm not sure how to phrase it exactly).

When are you heading back to Canada?
The return date keeps getting pushed back. 🙄 End of Summer...

Lots of stuff is made in China, but the good stuff gets shipped out to other parts of the world where Quality Control is a thing. Sometimes it's just not knowing where to get stuff. Took me years nee decades to find decent electrical tape — go to the local corner shop and they've got crappy vinyl scrap with goop on it that is extremely messy and sticky but doesn't keep the tape stuck where it's supposed to in the heat and humidity here. Finally found some shops that have Scotch brand. Drill bits that I'd be better off making my own out of frozen butter; then found some decent bits from Japan, Germany and just got an assortment of DeWalt for drilling enclosures.

Solder itself can't expire, but the flux core...maybe?

Honestly, that's probably going to be the most significant difference between solder no-name and name brand solders. The no name stuff often won't even call out the type of flux core... There are a TON of different fluxes out there...water soluble, rosin based...some other stuff...

Now...the purpose of flux is to clean the surfaces that solder is being applied to; with that being the case, I imagine there *could* be some amount of molecular transformation that occurs over time that could cause the flux core in a spool of solder to become a *less* effective cleaning agent.

This would primarily show itself as a solder that resisted wetting to a surface...although that symptom could pop up for a MULTITUDE of reasons. I imagine that a reasonable way to determine the effectiveness of the rosin core would be to use a flux pen on one joint and none on another, soldering both, and comparing the results.

I'm sure the elemental proportions could be a little bit fudged on some of the off brand stuff, but both lead and tin are relatively cheap; I doubt an off brand would fudge those numbers on purpose unless they were making an alloy with pricier raw materials, EG; AU, AG, CU. Perhaps an off brand would be more likely to include larger proportions of impurities, IDK.

Though TBH I don't much care for silver solders on circuit boards. Guitars, offboard stuff, sure. Copper Piping: HELL to the YEAH (I wouldn't use anything else, but at that point I'm specifically looking for a non-eutectic solder)

...sometimes I just type stuff out and forget my point. Solder expiring: maybe? Probably would have done well enough.
If it's rosin-core it could expire. Certainly the rosin for my bow has expired, then the bass just screeches — which can be fun. My bowing sucks anyway, and most genres I'm capable of playing (barely) only require pizzicato.

Solder Expiring was just something I read about on an electronics forum; for my purposes I'll finish the roll and not worry about it. It's not like I'm soldering stuff for the International Space Station, lives aren't on the line.

If I can find the reference again, I'll post it back here.
 

boji

Active member
I upgraded from the cheapest soldering iron you could find to a Vellemann Station (VTSSC50N) and couldn't be happier. It's 48 W. It can do 450 C but I set it once at 350 C and never touched the temperature knob again.

It cost me around 60€
 

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