Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tip: Solder Iron Cleanliness

The Soldering iron is a tool that needs to be in every geeks arsenal, whether you work with cars, build computers, or like to tinker with digital and analogue circuitry. While this tip won't give you the skills you need to solder well, it will give you the ability to solder BETTER than you already do. If you clean your iron, great! If not, read on...

You might be wondering, "why is his solder tip so broken up?" Well, that is because it is covered in a layer of cool solder. Metal is prone to all sorts of contamination and the more contamination you get into your solder joint, the less strong it is. Also, it is more difficult to make a good solder joint to begin with!

See, the key to soldering is surface area contact. The heat moves from the iron, onto the solder, and then onto the wire. If there is contamination between the iron and solder, there is less heat transfer. Subsequently, there will be even less heat transfer once you contact the solder with the wire (You NEED solder on the tip in order to solder a wire well!). For those of you PC builders, remember how you apply thermal paste: you have to keep the heat sink and processor surface clear of dust, finger grease, and hairs.

So to keep clean:

1) Before every usage, dab a bit of (flux/rosin core) solder on the tip, then brush it off with a copper wire brush (don't use plastic or steel). This will remove any contamination.
2) After every 1-3 solder joins, brush of left over solder on the tip and start fresh.
3) When you are finished, dab a healthy amount of solder on the tip and turn off your iron. The solder will keep the iron free from the air, and subsequently contamination.

There you have it! Keep that soldering iron clean! It will lend to your expertise and skill! It is another step to worry about, but you don't want to mess up your project.

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