Soldering tip - Am I doing it wrong?

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by bumclouds, Dec 5, 2012.

  1. bumclouds

    Thread Starter Active Member

    May 18, 2008
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    0
    Hi everyone,

    I bought a new soldering tip a couple of days ago (cone shaped one, pointy tip), and already about 40% of it is blackened. The solder will not melt on those parts.

    Also, the very very tip of the soldering tip is blackened, which makes it near on impossible to solder small components.

    Why did I do to create the blackening? How can I avoid it? :(
     
  2. debjit625

    Well-Known Member

    Apr 17, 2010
    790
    186
    Clean the tip first than ,heat it ,then apply some solder flux if you have the paste type flux, dip the tip on the paste and immediately ,tin the tip with solder.
    After soldering, clean the tip with a wet sponge,and tin the tip when needed.

    http://www.inlandcraft.com/uguides/tipcare.htm

    Good Luck
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2012
  3. THE_RB

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 11, 2008
    5,435
    1,305
    I don't use a wet sponge as the rapid temperature change causes microscopic fracturing and damage to the surface of the metal on the tip. I find it it better to rub the tip on a soft metal surface like a blob of solder, which polishes and burnishes it without the rapid cooling and metal fatigue. Then apply clean solder, and always try to leave the tip with a coating of glossy solder on it.
     
  4. atferrari

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jan 6, 2004
    2,652
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    A very thick paper napking, cleans easily the tip and does not affect temperature.
     
  5. DenzilPenberthy

    New Member

    May 28, 2012
    20
    7
    Hi,

    I'd recommend using a brass scourer like this:

    http://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/soldering-station-accessories/0203410/

    they clean the tips really well. Also get yourself as little tin of tip cleaner like:

    http://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/soldering-iron-cleaning-accessories/0226287/

    it is solder paste mixed with some kind of agrressive flux. Get the tip nice and hot, plunge it in and all of the crap gets removed from the tip. it does generate some pretty unpleasant smoke though.

    Also, when you take the iron out of the stand to make a joint, clean and tin it but when you've finished resist the temptation to wipe the tip clean before you put it back, instead tin the tip with loads of solder. That way the solder blob oxidises instead of the tip. When you want to use the iron again, just take it out and tap it on the stand to flick off the solder blob and hey presto, you've got a lovely clean shiny wetted tip.
     
  6. KJ6EAD

    Senior Member

    Apr 30, 2011
    1,425
    363
    If you use a wet sponge, use distilled water. Some minerals in tap water can create black oxides.
     
  7. mcgyvr

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 15, 2009
    4,771
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    ^^ yes all good comments.
    What is the set temperature and solder type?
    Some of our users like to crank it all the way up thinking its faster then complain because their tip life is short.
     
  8. takao21203

    Distinguished Member

    Apr 28, 2012
    3,577
    463
    If you need to, set a high temperature. But turn back immediately if no longer needed.

    Points tips are problematic, they oxidize easily.

    The last resort really is sand paper (P100).
    Don't use it like you normally would on metals or wood.

    Fold a small piece together, and pull over the tip, until it no longer leaves black residues.

    I saved one permanent tip that way! These only have a very thin coating, which easily can be punctured. One small puncture will produce a cavity quickly which ruins the tip.

    Point tips are bad generally. Only use rectangular tips.
     
  9. DerStrom8

    Well-Known Member

    Feb 20, 2011
    2,428
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    As mentioned before, you MUST "tin" the tip before every use, and clean it when finished. It's best to apply the solder to tin it when the iron is still heating up. Otherwise, if the iron is too hot, the solder will just ball up on the tip and won't coat it properly. I have found that this is the #1 cause of "dead" soldering iron tips among students and other newbie solderers. They don't know how to tin the tip to keep it from burning up.

    As for the solder type, I personally recommend 60/40 rosin core solder. The rosin core is flux, so it eliminates the need for some other type of flux on the side. It cleans the tip and component as it's being used. Lead-free solder melts at a higher temperature than standard 60/40 tin/lead solder, so depending on your iron and your application, I don't recommend it.

    @DenzilPenberthy, I wouldn't use anything that can damage the tip. A damaged tip can mean fissures that solder can't get into, which makes it easier to burn. If you have a small crack, it tends to burn and grow until the tip is completely unusable. I can see it as a last resort ONLY. I would strongly recommend against it for normal use.

    @takao21203, I have never had to use a chisel (rectangular) tip on my soldering iron. I've always used the pointed types, and they work fine. In fact, in some cases, they work far better than a chisel tip due to space constraints and component lead sizes. I don't think it's right to say "never use a point tip" or that "Point tips are bad generally". That is far from the truth.

    Back to the OP:

    I have seen many irons die due to the user not knowing to tin the tip. I am sure that's the problem with your iron. I'd suggest cleaning the one you have (if you dare--you don't want to damage it), or even buying a new one. On the first use, apply solder as it's heating up to ensure that it flows evenly over the tip. This coating is absolutely critical for the iron to transfer heat properly to the component lead. Without it, the tip will burn up and the iron will not work at all.

    Good luck!
    Matt
     
  10. DenzilPenberthy

    New Member

    May 28, 2012
    20
    7
    I'm not sure what I recommended that would damage a tip.

    The brass scourers work far better than a wet sponge and are much kinder to the tips, which is why a good proportion of professional irons are supplied with them instead of sponges. I certainly always use them at work. I don't mean take an oven scourer and go mental on the tip :) Just poke the tip into it a couple of times and it's as clean as a whistle

    Also, the little tins of tip cleaner are made and marketed by the major soldering iron manufacturers for precisely the purpose of renovating oxidised tips. They work extremely well. I'd steer *well* clear of using sandpaper!

    I'd like to re-iterate as well that you shouldn't wipe the tip clean and then put it back in the holder - it leaves the tip surface to oxidise. Load the tip up really generously with solder before putting it in the holder and you'll never have any problems with tips going crusty and dry. I'd been cleaning the tip before putting it away ever since I started soldering but got taught this on a SMD soldering course a few years ago and it's the best soldering advice there is.
     
  11. PackratKing

    Well-Known Member

    Jul 13, 2008
    850
    215
    Also, avoid leaving your rig idiling overnight :rolleyes: tips and irons go to blazes in a handbasket at that rate
     
  12. DerStrom8

    Well-Known Member

    Feb 20, 2011
    2,428
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    Ah, I misunderstood you. I thought you were telling the OP to use (essentially) steel wool to scrub off the blackened portions of the tip. I now understand what you meant. I have used that method before myself and it seems to work, except when you use it enough it starts getting small balls of solder and other cr@p stuck back on the iron tip. But if you keep it clean, I suppose it works just fine.

    I agree that sandpaper should not be used. That is definitely dangerous and will damage the tip every time.

    My apologies for the misunderstanding.
     
  13. DenzilPenberthy

    New Member

    May 28, 2012
    20
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    Haha, oops yes that's not what I meant at all :)
     
  14. takao21203

    Distinguished Member

    Apr 28, 2012
    3,577
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    Normally permanent tips don't need any cleaning. I often use tips for months without cleaning. For sure the tin on the tip should be removed from time by time, and then fresh solder wire should be applied. This will keep the tip clean.

    Tin solder or lead solder does not really make a hudge difference. I often need to set a higher temperature anyway depending on the type of solder joints. The solderability mainly depends on the operator skill, and the type of flux. Pure tin or 60/40 is different of course. A high quality pure tin solder can be easier to use than cheap 60/40 solder.

    About the point tip, if you normally solder factory made PCBs with thin component wires, you may find it more handy. However even the finest SMD solder joints can be made if you apply the rectangular tip at a 45 degree angle. On the other hand, you can not use a point tip to drag-solder SMD components.

    I often do unusual soldering, for which a point tip isn't the right thing.

    Sandpaper of course is bad. I said use it very carefully, with little pressure. I have done it once, and ever since then, the tip is like new (It is a permanent tip). It should only be used on otherwise "dead" tips, when nothing else helps to remove the blackened oxidization.

    Solder tip tinner which is sold in small tins, is very corrosive. It is not neccessarily suitable for permanent tips.

    If you keep the temperature low, normally you don't need to clean the tip, except to remove the solder and flux remains from time to time.

    If you need to resort to sandpaper regularily, then you do something wrong in general. Actually it was a dead tip which I had around for some years.
     
  15. R!f@@

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 2, 2009
    8,754
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    Hmm.ah ha..yea..U all are good.
    Good advice ! Hmm. Nice..very good.

    Tinning & using brass scourers is the way to do it. yup!.

    Where the hell is OP ?
     
  16. bumclouds

    Thread Starter Active Member

    May 18, 2008
    82
    0
    Sorry guys, I'm right here. Thanks so much for everyone's tips (no pun intended).

    Here is a picture of my blackened tip. (click) On those black bits, the solder will not melt.

    I'm just using a very cheap soldering iron which plugs directly into the power (no station), and has no temperature control. My boss said he's going to try to acquire a more professional one soon. I usually clean it by applying solder generously too the end, and then "shaking" the solder off onto a wet sponge and wiping it. I do that after every couple of joins.

    Something about the way I'm treating it is causing the blackening. Also, the soldering tip was just 1USD. Could that be a contributing factor?

    I think I've seen someone using that stuff. It is semi-transparent right? And it looks a bit like jelly. I noticed that when he stuck his soldering iron in there, lots of black stuff came off. Perhaps I should get something like that.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2012
  17. thatoneguy

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 19, 2009
    6,357
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    What you've seen is pure rosin paste flux. The tip cleaner has a grey look to it and is a bit more firm than the jelly consistency of rosin flux. They come in small tins, and are only to be used when your tip is in the condition yours is in. When purchasing a tip cleaner, be sure to get the tin/lead tinning mix, and NOT the lead free mix.

    Dump the damp sponge. Use the brass coiled pads, or the stainless steel "Chore Boy" coils you can get at the supermarket for < $1 work well, though the brass are better. Well worth the investment.

    With a non-temp controlled iron, tinning it prior to putting it in the stand will help protect the tip by subliming rather than having the tip sublime. Just be sure to remove the "sacrificial solder" on a brass coil cleaner, and add fresh tinning when ready to solder.

    Using a dab of paste flux will also speed up soldering with your iron (the brown peanut butter consistency stuff). you only need a tiny amount, apply with a toothpick on the lead and board pad.

    Combined with the rest of the suggestions above, you should be good to go!
     
  18. bumclouds

    Thread Starter Active Member

    May 18, 2008
    82
    0
    I think I found the tip cleaning stuff you're talking about. Today somebody came in to do some soldering and he had a tin of this stuff sitting beside him:

    http://www.bomir.com/images/b/s/-/bs-2.jpg

    Is that the stuff? And I need a leaded (non lead-free) version, right?
     
  19. debjit625

    Well-Known Member

    Apr 17, 2010
    790
    186

    Tinning the whole iron.

    @ bumclouds
    I missed this in my first post, every body is talking about brass scourers and yes its the thing I always use while I am soldering .About wiping it on wet sponge is only when it gets too much messed up ,you wipe over the wet sponge and flux it then tin it properly then while soldering just use brass scourers for cleaning the tip.

    Good Luck
     
  20. takao21203

    Distinguished Member

    Apr 28, 2012
    3,577
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    If it is a copper tip you can use sandpaper with no restriction.

    You should use P100 grain because this will mainly attack the black oxydiyation, not so much the metal tip, unless you apply force.
     
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