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Ed's Excellent Soldering Thread

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  • #16
    Thanks for the detailed replies guys. I now have an understanding of sorts, of whatís involved.

    Ed, thanks for an excellent thread. Episodes of lust concerning tools of any kind are the story of my life lol. I have many excellent tools but thereís always another just around the corner. As you say, itís a steep investment. Unfortunately the units are out of my reach for the very limited hobby soldering I do. If I produced and sold something that yielded a return on the investment it would be a different story. Doesnít hurt to lust though!

    EM, I confess I feel a little silly now thinking the unit was perhaps something that might be DIY constructed. Got carried away when you mentioned the carbon rod and foot peddle control. To me it sounded like a DIY unit. Thanks for the photos and in particular the labelled chassis image. Man, thatís some seriously nice soldering with the fruity benefit of keeping the heat local. If you have any other thoughts, tips, comments etc etc they'd be welcome.

    Good tools are desirable for many reasons but core skills at the hand are the roots. You guys are proof if itís required. Keep it coming!



    • #17
      It could be a DIY project - there are plans and articles out there often starting with a battery charger. The key is sourcing a transformer that is rugged enough.



      • #18
        For those new to soldering, EM's example of a soldered chassis joint is textbook. Beautiful fillet on the solder-application side with full penetration to the opposite side.

        As for Michael's comment about skills. Michael is right, core skills are key. But...

        Nobody is born with skills, they are developed over time with practice. There is no reason to be intimidated by examples of good work. Anybody who thinks, "Oh, I couldn't do that!", is probably selling themselves short.

        As I said at the beginning of this thread, soldering is a simple skill to learn. For most soldering the tools and supplies are cheap and readily available. Unlike many skills, soldering has an easy 'on ramp'. Strip two wires, twist them together, apply flux, heat and solder... BAM! You've made your first solder joint. You can now solder! From here on out its just a matter developing your skills through practice.

        Ed Bianchi


        • #19
          Here is a fine set of videos that dispel much of the bad info out there on the web:


          • #20
            Reacting to the excellent videos posted above...

            As I said at the beginning of this thread, there are bona fide experts on soldering, (and I am not one of them!) I'd not be at all surprised that some folks have gotten their PhD's doing research in soldering techniques.

            Look at soldering like auto maintenance. You can start at the shallow end -- analogous to checking the oil level and tire pressure -- and advance over time, with training and experience to the deep end -- analogous to engine and transmission repair. How deep you go is up to you, and you can advance at your own pace.

            Again, basic soldering is simple. You have to get a few things right -- metal, flux, heat and solder. Try it, prove to yourself that you can do the basics, and take it from there.

            Ed Bianchi


            • #21
              I have recently come across two new soldering accessories (new to me at least!) -- and I have fallen in love!

              One is a ceramic plate perforated with a precise and tight pattern of through-holes, which is so very excellent for fixturing parts to be soldered together. The other is a pack of stainless steel pins, with tapered ends, designed to fit in those holes. The tapers make it possible to closely fixture parts that do not exactly fall within the spacing of the holes in the ceramic plate. Both are shown below:

              I bought both items on eBay for less than US$25.00 total. The ceramic plate is available in a number of sizes. The one I bought is 5-1/2 by 7-3/4 inches. The pins came 20 to a pack.

              Since the plate is ceramic, it is heat and flame-proof. I was able to use a propane mini-torch to do my soldering -- no issues. And the pins, being stainless steel, are also flame-proof. Better yet, ordinary solder won't stick to them. That can be very helpful when the soldering has to be done in tight quarters. But you should know that some special solders -- like Stay-Brite Silver Solder -- will bond to stainless steel. Then extra care may be required.

              The next photo shows an assembly I fixtured up for soldering using the ceramic plate and tapered pins. Should be self-explanatory.

              But there is another trick illustrated here. The center strip of brass (which is one inch wide and 1/16" thick) is wrapped in a piece of aluminum foil. Since it is not possible to solder to aluminum, the foil allowed me to use the central brass strip as a spacer without having to worry about it getting soldered into the assembly. In point of fact the thickness of the aluminum foil provided a few thousandths of clearance, so the assembly wouldn't bind when fitted to the one-inch-wide chassis it was designed for.

              The assembly was cleaned up. First with acetone, to remove the remaining flux. Then it was wire-brushed with a Dremel tool, to brighten everything up.

              Ed Bianchi
              Last edited by HO RacePro; 12-13-2018, 04:59 PM.


              • #22
                Clever stuff. Interesting to learn about the properties of aluminium and stainless steel.

                I'm guessing that ceramic plate also dissipates the heat pretty quickly.


                • #23
                  Originally posted by Wet Coast Racer View Post
                  ...I'm guessing that ceramic plate also dissipates the heat pretty quickly.
                  Just the opposite, Wet; because the ceramic material dissipates heat slowly (i.e. it acts as an insulator) almost all the heat from the soldering iron (or torch) goes into the metal part you're trying to solder and not into heating up the big block of material that it is sitting on - think about how difficult it would be to solder something clamped to a big slab of aluminum plate.

                  Remember, entropy always wins, but there's no point in helping it bring about the heat death of the universe any sooner than absolutely necessary



                  • #24
                    If you are looking for one of these ceramic blocks, Google "Honeycomb Ceramic Block". To find the pins Google "Honeycomb Solder Pins".

                    My ceramic block is a half-inch (12.7mm) thick, so it does an excellent job of protecting my wooden benchtop from the torch flame. (And just to be clear, by 'torch' I am not referring to a flashlight. So what do you Brits call a propane-fueled heating appliance?)

                    Ed Bianchi

                    PS - The Three Laws of Thermodynamics
                    1) You can't win.
                    2) You must lose.
                    3) You can't get out of the game.
                    Last edited by HO RacePro; 12-14-2018, 10:32 AM.


                    • #25
                      Blow torch


                      • #26
                        Soldering Pre-Forms

                        Soldering is not only used by hobbyists, it is also an industrial process, and used for more than just electronics. It can be used for mechanical assembly in the 'real world' too.

                        One way to industrialize mechanical soldering is to produce and use what are known as 'solder pre-forms'. That is, parts made of solder that are fitted up into the assembly, often with flux printed on, and then heated to the point where the solder melts and fuses two or more parts of the assembly together.

                        Solder pre-forms can be used by hobbyists too. And they can be a great aid in making precision assemblies. An example follows. I wanted to make a front axle assembly with independently-rotating front wheels. The key part was a thin brass washer that was a tight fit on the axle. I soldered that washer onto the axle using a solder pre-form made of Stay-Brite solder, and a small drop of Stay-Clean brand solder flux. I needed to use those soldering products because the axle was stainless steel, and ordinary solder would not stick to it.

                        This first photo shows how I made the solder pre-form, by wrapping a length of solder about the axle. I used a needle-nosed pliers to get the solder tightly wrapped around the axle, then I cut the pre-form off with diagonal cutters. I made two solder pre-forms.

                        I clamped the axle in a bench vise, then assembled the wheel, and the washer onto it. I applied a very small drop of Stay-Clean flux on top of the washer, then put the solder pre-form in place, on top of the washer. See below.

                        Finally I heated the end of the axle with my miniature propane torch, melting the solder pre-form and attaching the washer to the axle. The finished assembly is seen below.

                        I cleaned that up a bit with a Dremel tool and wire brush. I used the second solder pre-form to attach another washer to the other end of the axle.

                        Solder pre-forms can be made in any shape and size, and used for many jobs. All it takes is a little ingenuity. For example, if you wanted to make a wide, flat solder pre-form you can take ordinary solder and hammer it flat on an anvil. Need a hole? Drill a hole. Or you can take a thin sheet of brass or copper, tin both sides, and cut out the shape you need. I'd still call that a solder pre-form.

                        Take it from there!

                        And, just in case anyone is curious, here is the miniature propane torch I use for much of my soldering these days. It doesn't have an igniter built-in, so I light it with a cigarette* lighter. No biggie.

                        Ed Bianchi

                        *Cigarette: Analog precursor to modern vaping appliance.
                        Last edited by HO RacePro; 01-06-2019, 04:22 AM.


                        • #27
                          Originally posted by HO RacePro View Post
                          ...... the pins, being stainless steel, are also flame-proof. Better yet, ordinary solder won't stick to them. ..............
                          The ceramic plate is a great tip, I've got one on order

                          Pins that ordinary solder won't stick to is good, it's important they are made of the right grade of stainless steel

                          Many grades of stainless steel can easily be soldered using ordinary solder and the flux used for ordinary (not stainless) steels. Indeed many modern chassis are made of stainless steel and are soldered with ordinary solder.


                          • #28
                            I think I am the only person left that can not solder to save my soul.....


                            • #29
                              If you are having problems soldering there is a rather short list of things you might be doing wrong:

                              - The metals you are trying to solder aren't suitable. Copper, brass, and steel solder easily. Other metals may require special solders, fluxes or tools.

                              - The material isn't clean or the flux isn't strong enough. Use a wire brush if needed to expose bright, clean metal. Then use an appropriate flux. I use acid flux exclusively. Lots of people don't recommend acid flux. Your call. Regardless, with any flux, always wear eye protection and avoid breathing the fumes.

                              - The soldering tool you are using isn't right. Usually the problem is not enough power. For light electrical-type soldering you can get by with 25 to 35 watts. For light structural soldering 100 to 200 watts should work. Heavy structural soldering usually requires a propane torch.

                              - Your soldering tool tip is dirty. If the tip is cruddy, remove said crud with a file until you see bright metal. Then apply flux and solder to the tip and "tin" it. Your soldering tool tip should always have a bright "tinned" surface. In the middle of a job I will often dip the hot solder tip into my can of paste acid flux to get it bright again.

                              - You have poor heat transfer. Even if your soldering tool tip is bright, sometimes the heat just doesn't want to transfer to the work. A small drop of molten solder on the end of your soldering tool tip will often help bridge the gap and make for good heat transfer.

                              - The solder is not appropriate. Most solders will work on copper, brass and steel. Beyond that you may need a special solder.

                              - Your fixturing is no good. You need to have a way to hold the parts in place while you apply solder and heat. Time and effort spent on proper fixturing is well spent.

                              If you still can't solder, what can I say? You are cursed. Make an offering to the Soldering Gods. They like jelly donuts.

                              Ed Bianchi


                              • #30
                                Originally posted by wheelszk View Post
                                I think I am the only person left that can not solder to save my soul.....
                                I suspect there are many of us out there. At least in our hobby it need not be a major deal