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What's the best size soldering iron tip for metal?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Papazita, Feb 9, 2016.

  1. Papazita


    Jun 27, 2008
    Well ok, not quite for metal exactly, but it will be used on metals...

    I need a new soldering iron. The all-purpose tips most irons come pre-installed with are a bit large for precision work and the small work areas involved in a bass control cavity. I always get clumsy with the larger tips and bump something I didn't want to and have to redo some work.
    What's a good size tip for bass related work?
  2. Crater


    Oct 12, 2011
    Dallas, TX area
    A soldering pencil with at least 25 watts but no more than 40 watts is ideal for bass & guitar electronics. Pointed pencil tip or chisel tip is a personal preference....
    Growlmonkee likes this.
  3. Growlmonkee


    Jan 30, 2013
    Florida, U.S.
    I prefer small chisel shaped tips, and a smallish pencil handle, I use a Hakko 936 iron, the pencil handle is quite small, and they make a lot of different tips, I agree with Crater on wattage, though an iron with adjustable temperature is nice, for me, having soldered a lot lot, hotter is best, using very brief touches with the iron, I line things up, so the wires are in place , both hands free, then work fast, so as not to overheat anything.
    LoveThatBass likes this.
  4. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    i've learned that the ticket is big fat tips, as large as you can practically deal with for a given job.

    better "thermal momentum", meaning the solder melts and the stuff gets hot faster at a given temperature, making the joining easier and causing less "cooking" of components from trying to hold the iron against them for too long.

    conical tips might be the worst for guitar stuff, you can't put a properly large surface area of soldering iron right against the work. the flatter, wider chisel tips are better, and i've recently found that i like the tips that are a straight-up wide cylinder with the end sliced off at an angle.
    Will_White likes this.
  5. I've got 2-3 tips in regular use. The one I use mostly, and on guitar point-to-point stuff, is a small chisel tip. The conical tips are really for circuit board stuff. (The tiny one I use for surface mount parts is sharp enough to prick you!) When I was a boy, I started soldering with an iron that had a 5-6mm tip that was cut off at an angle. I made many circuit board projects and did my first guitar stuff with this, but I've no idea how!

    And FWIW, don't bother with solder pencils unless you are on a very strict budget. These are OK for circuit board stuff where the parts don't sink so much heat, but for guitar wiring, a decent solder station is far better. (If you are on a budget, buy two solder pencils, a 20W and a 40W.) Also, being able to adjust the temp is very useful as you are dealing with quite a range of parts to solder. eg, I crank my iron for stuff like pot casings, switchcraft jack lugs, and large areas of copper shielding foil.
  6. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Most times you'll find a conical or needle tip preinstalled on a new soldering iron. As others have already mentioned, get yourself a small chisel tip for guitar work instead. That tip will save you huge amounts of aggravation.

    Also pick up a small spool of desoldering braid and a can of flux cleaner while you're at it if you don't have those already.

    Definitely go for a soldering station if you can afford one. They're not that expensive. I own a Hakko which is overkill if all you're doing is guitar wiring. Those run close to $100 - but you can get decent stations (Weller, Stahl, et al) for around $40 if you shop on Amazon for one. A soldering station makes a huge difference in convenience and the finished results. Otherwise, get the best temperature controlled 30-watt pencil model you can find.
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2016
  7. 5544


    Dec 1, 2015
    I use a Weller soldering iron that has interchangeable tips.
    LoveThatBass likes this.
  8. Papazita


    Jun 27, 2008
    Thanks all. An adjustable Weller station looks like all I need, but the only tip it comes with looks questionable for what I want.
  9. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I have a Hakko with several tips. Having swapped them out a lot, I find that the standard chisel it came with works best for most jobs. I would call it a "medium" chisel if I had to pin it down.
    LoveThatBass likes this.
  10. Clark Dark

    Clark Dark

    Mar 3, 2005
    @Papazita you should check out Parts Express for a good soldering station. Good prices and the one I have I bought with multiple tips, a Stahl Tools TCSS.
    LoveThatBass likes this.
  11. Snaxster


    Nov 29, 2008
    This right here:

    metal soldering.
    Growlmonkee and Papazita like this.
  12. Growlmonkee


    Jan 30, 2013
    Florida, U.S.
    I actually used to use an iron just like that one Snaxster, to solder together seems on lead radiation barriers.
  13. audioglenn


    Jul 14, 2012
    I agree!
  14. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    I have one too, only really use it for Fender amp chassis grounds.

    As far as instrument work, I like the Hakko chisels ranging from 2.4-4mm, and the truncated conical/cylindrical ones like this in about the same sizes:

  15. Snaxster


    Nov 29, 2008
    Crazy. Though I modified the image I posted (nails and attire), I assumed that original was a stock product image. But I was hoping it was a gag. :D
  16. Growlmonkee


    Jan 30, 2013
    Florida, U.S.
    Nope, not a gag, those are useful when the work piece is too massive to heat to temp with a normal size iron, but you can't use a torch, because it will burn through. (that was years ago), now there are induction soldering irons available, they are expensive, starting at around $400, but when heat is drained from them, they reheat to temp almost instantly, so even on large work pieces, you can't perceive any cooling down, they are actually great for all soldering work,( they're normal sized) but they cost as much as premium commercial soldering stations, but with less features, other than the heat thing)
    . (Hakko's FX- 100 is induction, it's a very good iron, but $550 )
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2016
  17. LoveThatBass


    Jun 28, 2004
    Which Weller are you considering? If it is the WC-100 the Iron it comes with is a little on the cheap side and will eventually break. I use to use one until the iron broke then I bought one like we use at work (WES51 Weller). It heats up really quick and and is temperature controlled. I like a very small chisel tip for guitar work (1/16"-1/8"). Bought it from Parts express. It makes soldering enjoyable again.

    Here is a decent price ($93) for one
    Crescent Analog Soldering Station-WES51 - The Home Depot
  18. Growlmonkee


    Jan 30, 2013
    Florida, U.S.
    If you're new to soldering, you can get a very good idea about how things should look, when finished....do a web search for "military spec solder joint"...just for the pictures. They usually have pictures of "pass", and "fail", it's a good source to get to know how things should look when your finished, a little practice on something you can discard makes it easier to do a good job, if you can match the "pass" mil spec pictures, your doing it well.
  19. Oddly enough, my recent solder joints are better than the half-ass stuff I did in the military, LOL!~
    Growlmonkee and LoveThatBass like this.
  20. Growlmonkee


    Jan 30, 2013
    Florida, U.S.
    I can believe that, US mil spec only applies to contractors selling to the military, not military people soldering ( I'll bet they don't QC to it within the military). They made the spec to improve durability, and set a standard for critical applications, ones that could not afford a failure. It is a good spec for quality control, and became somewhat of a standard for quality conscious manufacturing. it's pretty simple, as far as soldering, using diagrams of a cold solder joint, a cracked joint, a burnt one, and one with really bad flow, and calling them "fail", then one flowed nice, and shiny, and calling it "pass", with diagrams for various through hole, surface mount, and point to point examples. If you can equal the "pass" examples, you're doing a good job of soldering, that's why I've brought it up a few times. I have seen some factory basses that "fail" in a few spots. (MIL-STD-2000) is a crash course on doing it right.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2016

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