Do I have to tin the tip of my soldering iron every single time? + other questions

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by rambomhtri, Nov 9, 2015.

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  1. rambomhtri

    Thread Starter Member

    Nov 9, 2015
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    Hi, I'm a total beginner on soldering and stuff. I was reading guides and tips about the soldering process, and I've learn that you have to protect the tip from oxidation by tinning it. I'm gonna explain what I've learned, and then, please, correct me if I'm wrong.

    A regular soldering iron is made by a inner cylinder of copper (core), covered by an iron plate and a chromium plate:
    [​IMG]

    Well, when the iron soldering warms up, the iron plating, which is the working surface, would start oxidizing due to the temperature. To prevent this, you use solder to protect it. So when it's heating up, you must apply solder (60 tin + 40 lead) to the tip, and this process is called tinning the tip. First questions:

    1. Why do you have to apply solder, if it's supposedly designed not to get stuck on the tip?

    2. According to the cause of tinning the tip, this process should be done every single time you heat up the iron soldering? Seems excessive to me...

    Then you can start working. First, you must heat up the surface or surfaces that want to solder. When they are hot, you can add the solder and stuck it to the 2 parts you want to solder.

    3. Right after a solder, should you tin the tip again?

    4. When do you have to clean the tip with the wet sponge? What's the purpose of it and how should the tip look?

    5. Isn't it contradictory that if you clean the tip with the sponge, you're removing the thin layer of solder created in the tinning process (I still don't understand how the solder gets stuck on the tip), and then you're exposing the hot iron plate and it will start oxidizing? After cleaning the tip with the sponge, should you tin the tip again?

    So, after you've solder everything you wanted, you got to turn off the iron soldering. I've read that you should let it cool down slowly, so instead of unplugging the solder station, you should first turn down to minimum the temperature knob, and then, after a few seconds, unplug it from the wall.

    6. Is that true? Then, what if you don't have a temperature knob?

    7. I've read also that you should not use the exactly TIP of the iron soldering tip. Instead, you should use the sides of the tip. Why? Is that true?

    8. What should you do when you have finished one solder (out of 5, i.e.) and are doing other stuff, but the iron solder is still on? Should you turn down the temperature to minimum until you use it again? Or is it OK to leave it at maximum temperature, cause you're gonna use it in 3 minutes?

    9. What's the white smoke that appears when you heat up the soldering iron or apply solder? I've read that it's because the rosin or flux. But the solder is 60% tin and 40% lead, it does not have any kind of flux or rosin...

    I've bought this soldering station:
    [​IMG]


    It includes 2 tools for cleaning. How should I use them?

    As you can see, I have a lot of questions...

    Thanks!
     
  2. mcgyvr

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 15, 2009
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    Don't make it so difficult.. :)
    Clean the tip with a sponge (with distilled water on it) when needed.. Approx after every couple solder joints.
    Apply a bit of solder to the tip when you are done and just turn it off..
    And turn if off when you aren't using it or won't be for more than 15 minutes or so..
    The smoke is the flux burning up.. Most solder wire has flux in it..
     
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  3. rambomhtri

    Thread Starter Member

    Nov 9, 2015
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    Well, thank you for replying, but I'm looking for a more expert response, cause I want to know the specific replies to my 9 questions right there. After reading your reply, I have 2 more questions, lol:

    10: Should I protect the tip by tinning it when I've finished every joint? I mean, should I save the soldering iron with the tip tinned?

    11: Is it normal if the first time I turn on the soldering iron, smoke start to appear? I've read that the very first time you warm up your soldering iron, you may smell burnt plastic or smoke comes out of your soldering iron or from the tip...
     
  4. mcgyvr

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 15, 2009
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    I've been soldering for 25+ years and am IPC class 3 certified... And have run everything from wave solder to reflow to selective soldering over the years..
    Hard to get more "expert" :cool:
    So I know that you are way OCD with the extensive reading you have done.. Its FAR more about practice than anything else. and tinning is the least of your worries...

    Its all about maintaining a "clean" tip to prevent contaminates in your solder joints.. You want to maintain a "shiny" tip at all times. Because if its not "shiny" its "dirty".
    Its really as easy as I said above.. Keep tip "clean" with sponge/distilled water during use and apply some solder to the tip before you shut it off.. Nothing fancier..
    When you see pin holes or "dark" surfaces in your tip and the solder won't "wet" over that anymore...change the tip

    and your 2 additional questions..
    10: absolutely not... overkill x 10000
    11: no.. you simply bought junk/cheap station

    and one more time..
    Keep tip "clean" with sponge/DI water and apply a bit of solder to tip before you shut it off.. Thats it.. Nothing more.. anything else is simply overdoing it..
    And... I've seen plenty of people NEVER tin the tips and the tip life is barely any different vs those who tin it daily..
     
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  5. rambomhtri

    Thread Starter Member

    Nov 9, 2015
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    :D OCD? Nope. I'm just curious about how to correctly maintain the soldering iron.

    OK... Nevertheless you said this:
    "Keep tip "clean" with sponge/DI water and apply a bit of solder to tip before you shut it off"

    but then you said this:
    "absolutely not... overkill x 10000" (protecting the tip by tinning it after finishing the work is overkill)

    So I don't understand what should I do with the soldering iron tip once I'm done soldering... :confused:
     
  6. kgstewar

    Member

    Apr 5, 2012
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    FWIW, I am not an expert, just an active hobbyist and over the years I have done exactly what Macgyvr suggests. My soldering station and tips have lasted for years.

    I'm confused by your confusion re: question 10. He did say tin when finished with the job and are putting away your iron.
     
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  7. dl324

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    Mar 30, 2015
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    The bottom line is you tin it when it needs it. Sometimes I tin the tip when I'm finished and sometimes I don't. Just keep it bright (free of oxidation) for good heat transfer.

    You'll also see conflicting information regarding whether to use a damp sponge or not. Some say to only use metal wool to clean the tip. Personally, I've used a damp sponge for 40 years and have not replaced a tip because it was damaged.
     
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  8. rambomhtri

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    Nov 9, 2015
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    Yeah, but I mean once you've completely finished the job. You're done soldering, it's time to save the soldering iron in the box and unplug the station. In that moment:

    Should you tin the tip and let the iron cool down with the tip tinned?

    That way you would avoid the tip to be exposed all that time it's in the box. And then, the time you want to use it again, you let it warm up and it's already tinned.

    He said it's overkill to do that, but then he said that I should tin the tip when finished. So I don't know which statement is true. LOL.
     
  9. rambomhtri

    Thread Starter Member

    Nov 9, 2015
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    Yeah, I was also gonna ask about sponge vs brass wool. As I have so much questions, I think the best thing I can do is reading an introduction to the soldering iron world. I've seen already a lot of videos and read a lot of posts, but you know, some say it's crucial to tin the tip, others say it's not, other's say sponge is OK, other's say it's not.
     
  10. dl324

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    Mar 30, 2015
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    The bottom line is you tin it when it needs it. If you have build up on the tip when you've finished soldering, tinning the tip before it cools makes good sense. If you wipe the tip on the sponge and the tip is clean enough for you to solder with, then it doesn't need to be tinned.
     
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  11. dl324

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    I've seen videos on-line that were helpful and others that were junk. The problem is knowing what is believable...:rolleyes:

    I gave the brass wool vs damp sponge about 2 seconds of thought and decided the sponge works for me. The iron came with a sponge, not brass wool.
     
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  12. kubeek

    AAC Fanatic!

    Sep 20, 2005
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    The solder IS supposed to get stuck on the iron plating. It is not supposed to stick to the Cr plating. The layer of tin will almost allways be present on the tip and you can´t easily wipe it away.
    No, all you want is not to have oxidized solder on the tip.

    Then you can start working. First, you must heat up the surface or surfaces that want to solder. When they are hot, you can add the solder and stuck it to the 2 parts you want to solder.
    Right after you finisish for the day.

     
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  13. mcgyvr

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    Oct 15, 2009
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    I read this as "should I tin the tip after every joint" (aka after every solder connection is finished... NOT the whole job is done).. And the answer is absolutely not as it way overkill..
    You only need to apply some solder to the tip when you turn it off to protect/renew the surface (or when it needs it and once you have some experience you will know when you need to tin the tip)

    on the sponge vs brass wool topic..
    Either is really "fine".. the brass wool does not cause the tip to cool as much as a moist sponge does.. And the thought process there is that rapid (and repeated) cooling/heating can cause problems.. Does it..maybe... I've never noticed a real difference..
    I use both.. just depending on whats in the soldering station at that time.. If I had to choose I would pick the wool because I don't have to get it wet and it doesn't get old/fall apart like a sponge will over time..
     
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  14. rambomhtri

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    Nov 9, 2015
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    Fantastic Kubeek!!!

    So... any regular solder, it doesn't matter if it's 60/40, 63/37 or lead-free, should look like this?
    [​IMG]

    All right, all right, I'm learning now some stuff...

    Once my soldering station arrives, I should turn it on, apply some solder to the tip, turn it off, and save it 'till I need to solder stuff, right?
     
  15. mcgyvr

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    63/37 should be bright when cool/clean...

    I don't like 60/40 as it doesn't work as well as 63/37 IMO because of the "range" in which its "pasty" compared to 63/37 which immediately wets.

    lead free is usually a bit "duller" than leaded solders..

    "practice/experience" is better than any discussion on the topics..
    Go solder something.. report back with a clean picture..
     
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  16. rambomhtri

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    Nov 9, 2015
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    Yeah, but before start soldering, I wanna know the basics and learn as much theory as I can. It makes sense.
     
  17. takao21203

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    Apr 28, 2012
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    The point tips are a nightmare. Not only does the iron top not conduct well. They deform easily or turn black.

    I have good experience using broad tips, applying angle at times to solder small points, and take off solder.

    The one I use now, the coating has come off and is cracked, but the top still intact. I have 5 identical bits as reserve, though.
     
  18. rambomhtri

    Thread Starter Member

    Nov 9, 2015
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    All right, it finally arrived! :eek:

    1. First, the manual says that the first time you warm up the soldering iron, it may produce smoke. It says it's totally normal cause it's due to the grease used in the manufacturing burning off. So, mcgyvr, now you know that the smoke in the first use may be is produced by the remaining grease of the soldering iron.

    2. I've read in the manual that I must work in a well ventilated area. Some people in YouTube say a fan is totally fine. Can I use this USB PC fan:
    [​IMG]

    3. The manual says nothing about the cleaning tools. They look like this:
    [​IMG]
    They look like brushes in one side, and plane screwdrivers in the other side. What are they for? (cleaning, ok, but what exactly? May be something I can't remove using the sponge) How do I use them?

    4. Why they recommend to wear safety glasses?
    I can't imagine any single situation where while soldering, anything could get into your eyes.
     
  19. mcgyvr

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    #1--Yes that can happen. (I assumed when you said the first time you warm up that you were referring to "each" time you warm it up and not just the one time after unboxing it.. oils can be present on the parts..)

    #2--You want to avoid breathing in the flux fumes as its a mild irritant and can cause problems with those with allergies/breathing problems,etc.... Any fan that pulls the fumes away from your nose is fine.. (best to use a "fume extractor" with a carbon or carbon/hepa filters to absorb the slight odor and any particles..) Just get the smoke out of your face and out the window or across the room if possible..

    #3--Tools could be for cleaning up flux/solder balls around where you soldered. or just generic "picking" tools/brush to clean burnt flux off joints,etc.... I don't use any tools when hand soldering.

    #4--yes you should absolutely wear safety glasses... If you look at the soldering process under a microscope its like a miniature explosion going on.. Small particles of solder,etc... go flying everywhere (potential for up to a few feet in either direction).. Not to mention you will be trimming leads after soldered,etc.. which can get into your eyes,etc.. And each time you clean the tip on the sponge/wool you will flick little particles all over.. I've had numerous small/very..very minor burns on my hands from solder flicking off onto my hands..

    And make sure you wash your hands/work surface after soldering with soap/water and before eating or putting anything in your mouth.. lead in the solder is hazardous.. And like I said.. that miniature explosion throws particles of solder all over the place.. Do not keep any open food or drink around the area either..
     
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  20. ian field

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    Oct 27, 2012
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    You seem to have a few of the basics nailed down, but not all in the right order.

    You're correct about tinning the iron plating before it gets hot enough to oxidise - but that's a one time only with a tip fresh out of the packet.

    If you over-clean the tip after use and then leave the iron in the holder, there is a slight risk of oxide on the iron plating - I always clean and tin the tip immediately before using, and leave any residual solder on the tip while its in the holder.

    Actually - I just flick the excess solder off, but it makes a mess and if something gets in the way, you can knock the end off your iron.
     
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