Time out to vent. I just wasted twenty uncomfortable minutes scrunched in an awkward position under a vehicle trying to solder a wire splice. It is beyond me why there seems to be only one brand of soldering iron or gun that all the stores sell, and why people keep buying it. It may work for awhile, but soon enough it quits producing enough heat to melt solder. Tightening the screws may fix it temporarily, but that becomes less and less effective until it doesn't. Absolutely infuriating.
Go cordless. The best money spent on a soldering iron:
Yea Steve I know what you mean. I had the same problem just the other day. The gun I was using was working fine one day and the next I couldn't get it to heat up. Just when you need them the most they quit working.
Walter, I don't think Mr. Thrifty will be buying a $130.00 soldering iron any time soon.
Snap On looks like they have a good one. Not cheap though.
Stock #R450B 45/450 W $116.00
You can find it in there catalog under the wielding section.
Sorry, about the spelling error. Find it quicker under the welding section.
I just have a couple of small electric pencil-type irons that are so old that they pre-date the cheap chinese junk era. So far, so good.
I didn't either Seth, but I couldn't find an easy link for a $20 one at a garage sale like how I got mine.
Still, after having had the benefit of owning one, when this one dies I'll have no trouble paying full retail for its replacement. Not being tethered while soldering is the best thing ever.
A Weller soldering gun I bought at a yard sale for $10.00 was a good buy.
Best soldering irons I ever owned came from a stained glass shop that I worked at. Expensive but reliable. Along those same lines, the stained glass shop was the best place to find 60/40 and 50/50 solder.
Steve, a little less money, but one of the best automotive soldering irons in my opinion, Weller PSI 100k
I owned one for 20 years before it broke I believe to freezing in the garage for a long period. I promptly bought another to replace it. I put ALOT of hours on these things for automotive use. It handles up to 10 gauge easily, a little more if your patient.
I think the tips go bad, get a replacement tip and retry.
I have some Weller guns that are very old,60's from a old tv shop. they work well.
Steve,I am surprised you don't have 1 of those heater things with 4 of the old copper irons like they used for soldering telephone wires !
You really let me down Steve. I just KNEW you would have a copper soldering iron and a gasoline blow torch.
Kinda hard to get in tight places
Steve, Are you using a Weller? I have two that are at least 30+ years old. One 'standard' the other 'heavy duty' higher wattage. I forget what wattage but you get the idea. Don't know if you tried this but, I found instead of just tightening the nuts/screws, even before I start a job, I loosen then tighten a couple two or three times. Particularly if it's been a while since last used. This seems to 'seat in' the connection better. Also, if you are using an extension cord, there are the obvious things to consider. I typically have had no trouble with the Wellers on extensions. I have an "American Beauty" iron my father gave me at a young age when he taught me soldering skills. I'm sure it must be 60+ years old. To this day, the only time it ever failed, was when I tried to use it with an extension cord!
I wouldn't have thought there was enough drop in wattage, but it made a difference. What do you think?
What I'm using is a Weller like this.
By undoing the screw, rotating the tip a bit, and retightening the screw tightly, at last I was able to finish the job. I've started looking for something bigger and older at auctions, but haven't found anything yet. Dennis is correct. I'm not paying big bucks unless I have to.
Hmm, I see. Sounds like a heat transfer problem. I should have said the Wellers I have are the trigger operated guns. I have a small iron much like yours, it is a Radio Shack import I'm sure. Compared to mine, yours has much less heat discoloring on the barrel. It would appear to have less hours on it than mine. I have always found a good clean well tinned tip and just enough flux or flux core solder can make or break the job! Speaking of heat transfer, I had a furnace problem. This uses what I call a modern thermo-couple. It's basically a probe sensor with a single wire to the control module. It was suggested to clean the probe. It really didn't look bad. I polished it with some fine steel wool and PRESTO! Go Figure! Good Luck Sir!
Steve. I own, operate and maintain a fleet of cranes on the east coast. We solder and heat shrink EVERY electrical connection as we work on these rigs. I use a 300/ 250 watt Weller gun and bare ( no plastic ) barrel connectors as a butt splice. I crimp it, solder it with rosin core, and then cover it with glue lined shrink tube. The little iron like you pictured is torture to use. That 300 watt gun will make that barrel connector break into a sweat in maybe 3 seconds and then I touch the solder to it. Done. Get a big boy. Even the 100 watt guns suck if you're laying on a creeper trying to get a job done.
Take a look at American Beauty soldering irons. I've used the larger irons to do leaded glass. This is the descendant of the American Electrical Heater Company on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, across from the end of Piquette Avenue.
To splice electric wires in a location where a soldering iron is unavailable, or where one cannot get it into an awkward location, I bare the wire ends, twist them together, then wrap a small length of thin solder 'wire' around the joint and melt it into place with a cigarette lighter.
In other places I use my 1950's electric iron.
Steve before you throw it away strip all the copper out of it that you can that stuff is getting expensive!
Thomas. Thanks for posting about the American Beauty tool line. I had never seen these. Very nice.
I have an extra Weller 260/200w gun that is in excellent shape. I find a ton of value in your website and videos and would gladly send it to you free of charge if you PM me the address you would like it shipped to.
Seems like all the connectors and end fittings for electrical wiring are all the compression type; where you push the wire in and then compress? I have problems with the wire pulling out of these connectors. Even the shrink-wrap type. So going back to soldering and electrical tape; like Steve is doing.
I don't want a propane soldering kit for most work. A 15 dollar soldering gun kit is 100 Watt and big enough for most heavy wiring work.
The pencil ones are for electronics.
Dane, that sounds good for a lot of situations. But in this surgery the patient is a fuel gauge wire (I've dropped the tank to install a new filler hose), and I dislike the idea of a flame next to an open tank.
Chuck, that's why I'm soldering. But instead of tape, which tends to come undone, I put shrink wrap over the splice. Putting terminals on wire, I remove the plastic insulator, solder the hardware, and apply the shrink tube.
For people new to shrink tubing, remember to slip it over the wire before putting on the connector. Don't ask me how I know.
Reminds me of working at a hardware store as a teen. I had a 'not so mechanically inclined' coworker who must have flared a copper tube without putting the nut on first 100 times.
Steve, that's a very good idea and LOOKS GOOD!!
#1 rule in soldering is a good mechanical joint first(assuming it is already clean)...this means a crimp. However, not all crimping pliers are equal...I would never think of using a cheap flat crimp pliers for anything but cutting brass screws. A dimple set of good Klein crimping pliers has never failed me. I do not solder stranded wire unless it is clamped solidly to support the joint. Vibrations are hard on soldered stranded wire where the solder ends. The wire likes to break at that point. Shrink tubing with a heat gun is a great way to go.
Greg; bought me a Klein crimping pliers. Looks like that should help with the connections. May still use solder and, of course, the shrink wrap.
I repair two way radios, the kind that police, fireman, and others use. Cleanliness is a real key to soldering. We must use lead free solder so our equipment runs 650 degrees plus. A good cleaning with isopropanol alcohol at least 90% proof and good flux makes a big difference. A good tip cleaner available at Radio Shack to stick the iron in and retin it makes things go a lot better. The radios I work on usually run from $600-$1800. No mistakes are allowed.
Well since you brought it up, I have never been able to solder with lead free solder. I can't make it stick for love nor money. I have no trouble at with 50/50.
Steve, that's how we were taught in McPherson College to attach terminals. We used Weller soldering guns. I forget the actual model number, but it's the higher wattage one. I found that sometimes the tips would oxidize in the gun and a buildup of old solder would make it hard to heat new solder properly. I would take a Dremel with a wire brush and clean the ends of the tip until they looked shiny and new. Took about ten minutes for the whole operation and I could get hours of use out of the tip again. Just an idea.
These are all very helpful ideas!!!!!!
Jared has got it! clean the tip, always keep your soldering tip clean. Take emery cloth and sand it clean, while you are using it shake the gun rapidly away from you to shake the excess solder off the tip. I work on ambulances and always solder connections and have found when the gun stops heating the connection fast, stop and clean. And of course make sure the tip screws are tight.
A most important lesson in life, "don't forget the tip" guys with your soldering guns and ladies, you know
Use a sal ammoniac block and flux to clean soldering iron tips. Be sure to tin the tip in order to assure proper heat transfer. Tin your work piece as well.
Keep a wet sponge available to wipe the iron on between each solder joint.
Never leave your iron sit for extended periods of time. When the job is done, clean the tip, tin it and place the iron on its cradle. Then unplug the iron.
Abrasive paper and wire brushes are not good for soldering tips. Most tips are copper core with iron outer case. Grinding on them with abrasive paper destroys them and all you really need is a sal-ammoniac block.
Match your soldering iron to your soldering needs. There's no need to use a 200 amp iron where a 25 amp will do the job.
Weller makes as good soldering irons as your going to need. If your going to use a heavier gun than what's necessary for the job, invest in a rheostat. Being able to adjust the heat on the iron will extend its life and a good iron will give years of use.
I prefer paste flux and 50/50 or 60/40 solid core solder. As I previously mentioned, I purchase my soldering equipment and supplies at local stained glass shops. Ecologically minded folks would love to see a lead free world but quality solder produces quality results.
I worked in a stained glass shop for a few years and learned how to maintain soldering equipment and perform proper soldering techniques while repairing some very old, delicate and expensive lead Windows for churches and high end customers. When you have to make a living while utilizing your soldering abilities you learn quick how to maintain your tools and what the best supplies are.
Along those same lines I worked a few years manufacturing populated printed circuit boards for hand held automotive diagnostic equipment utilizing flow soldering methods. With that came electronic repair and hand pick and place and soldering several through hole components. It's surprising just how critical proper solder joints are.
When I replace a Weller soldering "gun" tip, I like to tin the ends of the tips that go into the 'gun'--it seems to keep the connection cleaner for a longer period of time.