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I need some soldering iron tips.

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Benjamin Strange, Feb 19, 2004.


  1. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    I've got a 35 watt Craftsman soldering iron, and the tip is already dead! I just bought it 2 weeks ago. I am getting cold solder joints left and right, and it's ticking me off. Can the tip be rescued, or should just get another? How can I extend the life of this thing? Is 35 watts too little for guitar repair work?
     
  2. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    35 watts can usually get the job done. Did you tin the tip?
     
  3. Skips

    Skips

    Feb 19, 2003
    Make sure you tin the tip before you use it.
    replacement tips are only one or two dollars, and the tin of tin is about 5 or 6 at Radioshack.

    Wipe it off with a wet towel or sponge when you are done soldering, when the tip is still hot.

    Tin it before you use it again.
     
  4. My soldering technique comes from my father - a retired FAA radar and communications technician. Our approach has always been to use the large Weller guns - 100 watts - to get the heat in quick and get off the work quick. These guns NEVER go cold and you'll be surprised what small work they can accomplish with a little learned technique. I've never had a cold solder joint with this tool.
     
  5. Skips

    Skips

    Feb 19, 2003
    Do you have a small pencil tip on the as well?
    That, and danger of damaging transistors with the heat, are what keep me at 25.
     
  6. Your fears are unfounded. The amount of heat imparted to is directly proportionate to the length of time your iron is in contact with the work. I've never ruined a transistor or IC in the 30+ years of doing it this way. With high wattage it takes me literally a half second to make perfect solder joints. As soon as I touch it to the work, it's melting solder. Try that with a 25 watter.

    Think about it, we are putting the same amount of heat into the work - enough to melt solder - only I do it much quicker with much more predictable results. And I can solder wires to the back of pots with ease. You'll burn up a pot with a low watt iron before enough heat is applied to the can to attach a 16 gauge wire.
     
  7. Skips

    Skips

    Feb 19, 2003
    I understand your point, but still feel more comfortable with my 30 watt. Although, at some point, I've had specific needs and have used my 15, 25, 30, 100, and propane blowtorches to solder things.
     
  8. LoJoe

    LoJoe

    Sep 5, 2002
    Concord, NC USA.
    I'm with Hambone.

    Former Navy Satellite Ground Station Technician here and I still have my antique Hexacon with the "lifetime tip". They weren't kidding either. This thing is 30 years old and still kicking. 150 to 400 Watts depending on how hard I squeeze the trigger. High heat, in and out in a second. Solid hot joint, no cracks or air pockets. Much better alternative than cooking the components or circuit board for 15-20 seconds with a low watt gun and possibly getting a lousy joint for your trouble and then having to try again. I use it on solid state components all the time.
     
  9. [Tim Allen voice on]

    oooooooooooo!!

    [Tim Allen voice off]
     
  10. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    Transplanted some electronics in basses using 15, 25, and 100 guns.

    The 25 is what works best for me. Bartolini recommends using no more than a 25 but I have definitely found that soldering needs to be done fast. Low wattage held in place will torch it. I bought the 100 cause I was having trouble getting heat to the pot top quickly for ground wires. I later discovered that all I needed to do was place a larger tip on the 25 watt gun to get the desired results. Also found that a small long tip makes life a lot easier for most tasks. And you've got to keep the tip clean and don't use cheap solder. Having the trigger type guns (like the Weller) is a real plus though in terms of it shutting off when you're not using it.
     
  11. Gander

    Gander

    Jun 5, 2002
    Texas
    Great posts Hambone and LoJoe. I'm putting away my miserable slow heating 30w and getting out my 200w gun.
     
  12. LoJoe

    LoJoe

    Sep 5, 2002
    Concord, NC USA.
    Just remember, the key is speed. Make sure your iron has a nice pointy clean tip, and you literally want to be on and off in a second or two. With a high heat iron, too much time on there and you will melt through the circuit board.

    In my training as a technician, we did soldering qualification drills. We'd get a circuit board with 100 holes in it one inch apart and 50 pieces of wire 1.5 inches long. Our drill was get all fifty wires ends stripped and then connecting two holes each with clean solder joints before the buzzer went off. I think it was like 15 minutes. It sucked, but we definitely learned how to solder!
     
  13. I don't know if this has been covered yet but some other good tips are:

    • Tin your leads - pre-wet the stripped wire with solder before attaching the the component. Just a short time (with aformentioned death ray quality soldering guns) and the solder will "leap" into the braid.
    • Clean your components - I use anything I can to get a nice shiny surface on my contacts. Then I'll use a special paste flux for electronics to further bind the metals. If the work is small like in a control cavity, flux core solder is good but make sure it's the type suitable for electroncs.
    • Use small diameter solder - I particularly like the small gauges because I can't get too much in and on the joint.
    • HEAT YOUR WORK - NOT THE SOLDER - Gotta say that one in big letters. When you heat the components and then add solder, it will melt onto the components and not so much your gun.

    Hope this helps.
     
  14. Skips

    Skips

    Feb 19, 2003
    Hambone, I just want to be clear...
    You use one of these giant tips for adding and removing ICs and similar componants?
    [​IMG]
    I understand your points about the heat, but the fat tips and annoying holding position on guns makes them seem like an unlikely choice for precision work.
     
  15. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE

    Yeh, that's what my 100 watt gun has and about the only thing I can solder in a harness with something like that is a ground wire to a pot top - if there's nothing in the way that is.
     
  16. Sure, that's the one. But like just about every tool I use, it has been modified slightly. I just take a file and make any shape I want to the bulbous tip. Too sharp doesn't make for enough contact but a nice flat nosed bullet shape works great. However, I can solder anything on a bass or amplifier - I won't likely get into the circuit board though - with one of these in the stock configuration and do it cleanly, quickly, and with perfect conduction. Tinning helps with this process too.

    I've even made my own from copper wire in a pinch.
     
  17. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    I use one of those Weller adjustable solder stations with the grounded / isolated tip. It is a holdover from my days carrying a tool kit repairing computers and related equipment. I can set the temperature of the tip to anything I want and it stays there, depending on the size of the work I'm doing. Lower for small components and IC's, higher for grounding wires to the back of pots or speaker lugs.

    Also, I keep a damp spong on the base / holder for the iron and wipe it between each joint to keep it really clean.

    You're also going to want a good solder removal gun. One of those ones that you cock and then hit the trigger and it very quickly vacuums off all of the old solder. They work MUCH better than the simple little solder vacuum bulbs. And some solder wick for removing bulk blobs of solder from speaker lugs, the back of pots, etc.

    Lastly, I like heat shrink tubing vs. electrical tape.

    :^)~
     
  18. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE

    Where do you get your shrink tubing? I picked up some from Radio Shack and I've never seen such a useless assortment of tubing. It's either too big or too small to fit any wiring in a guitar. Also, I usually just use the barrel of the soldering gun to shrink it, what do you use?
     
  19. Skips

    Skips

    Feb 19, 2003
    I've often wondered if I'm missing anything from soldering with a straw in my mouth, and just blowing really hard. :)
     
  20. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    I pickup heat shring tubing almost anywhere I can find it, although I do avoid those "mutli-packs". You're absolutely right with those, I end up using up one size and then am left over with a bunch of pieces I don't really need. Home Depot has packs that are all the same size, as does most electronics supply places.

    Mostly though, I frequent real electronics supply houses. There are one or two her in Colorado Springs that sell real electronics parts and tools vs. Radio Shack. I really like those surplus places that have acres of old stuff that they have bought in bulk from other OEM's. I love to browse through piles of stuff, and you never know what you'll find.

    I usually shrink my tubing with a heat gun, however, sometimes in the control cavity of a bass there might not be enough room to really get in there, and I have used the side of the tip of my soldering gun to get to it when doing repairs. When wiring up a new bass, I'll wire up the control cavity harness outside of the bass before installing it.

    :^)~