1. Mike VE2TRV

    Mike VE2TRV TrainBoard Member

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    Why not both? After you fix the board with the soldering gun, and it still doesn't work, use the Redhawk to put the darn thing out of its misery...

    The first iron I had was a pencil-type, and old Wen my dad gave me when I was a teen. It was over 100 watts, and the tip turned cherry red after a while. :eek:

    Then I got one of those ubiquitous Weller 100/140 watt guns, which lasted a long, long, long time. I even fixed one of my ham radio sets, re-soldering a surface-mount coil that had come loose. How I pulled that one off, I don't know. The radio worked OK again.:whistle:

    I can relate to the smell of the flux thing. My dad was an electronic hobbyist since before I was born - he did a correspondence course in electronics back in the 1950s, back in the day when anything electronic glowed and was warm. Every time he did some electronic work, I sat and watched him and that smell of the rosin flux always triggers those happy memories. That and the smell of vacuum tubes warming up.

    I went through a lot of cheap soldering pencils since then, and about 10-12 years ago I got the Weller soldering station I have now and has faithfully served me ever since.
     
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  2. Shortround

    Shortround TrainBoard Member

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    Ah! Those nice warm radios on a winters eve. :love::):):)
     
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  3. hawkdriver

    hawkdriver TrainBoard Supporter

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    Many years ago, I used a low wattage iron called a 'Princess Iron'.
    Probably about 30 to 35 watts, it worked well for printed circuit assembly, (Heathkits).
    I'll bet all you Heathkiters out there remember a Princess iron.

    To solder heavier items like Coax, I used a Wen soldering gun. Dark red in color and momma bear sized.
    I now use and strongly advise a Weller soldering station. Mine is a digital readout and I strongly recommend a Weller
    station for those starting out soldering. It works very well and will make soldering easier.

    The other item(s) necessary to accomplish good soldering is a good flux and premium solder.
    Don't use plumbing supply paste or solder!

    Flux: try to start out with Radioshack flux, it's usually on Ebay. It's a very good beginner's flux.
    Solder: Don't go cheap here. If you are at a hamvention or a train show, look for 'ERSIN' 60/40 Multicore solder.
    I do see it sold from time to time.
    Otherwise choose a premium multicore solder for radio work.

    And remember, keep your iron tip CLEAN. Use a paper towel, wet sponge or tip cleaner salve ....but to solder
    well, it MUST be clean to successfully solder any joint....this is very important.
     
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  4. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Is it just me or is lead-free electrical solder harder to work with? I find my old skool lead solder melts at a lower temperature, flows better and cools with a nice shiny joint. The new school lead-free solder is quite the opposite, at least in my experience.
     
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  5. Shortround

    Shortround TrainBoard Member

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    I don't have any of the Heath Kits left. But I do have the little yellow pen iron. A Radio Shack with two settings - 15W & 30W. Along with the stand with sponge and two tips - flat & pointed. A heavier pen with broad flat tip. A Weller Gun - needs new tip. And of course, a wrist band with coiled cable to ground ME. And an orange squeeze bulb with a plastic tip, to suck up old solder and by products.
    Have any of you used Wire Glue by Anders Products? It's a paste in a little white plastic jar. A black liquid to glue the connection instead of solder. It does work but not very strong.
     
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  6. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    The biggest problem we had with Pb-free products is the propensity for tin whiskers growing over time and shorting out signals. Our products were exempt from Pb-free requirements, but we were a small part of our component vendors' markets, so we often had to take what they had and find a way to make it work, or pay processors to re-finish the component leads for us (expensive). TI had the best component lead finish (NiPdAu) that was compatible with Pb or Pb-free solder processes. Turns out much of the commercial electronic components industry is not particularly interested in the relatively tiny volumes for high-reliability, Pb-free exempt products (mostly military and medical equipment). TI is a big exception, and a loyal supplier.
     
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  7. Mike VE2TRV

    Mike VE2TRV TrainBoard Member

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    We transitioned to lead-free solder (SAC 305) about ten years ago. I haven't noticed any peculiarities about working with it. It still flows nicely at 600F. I've noticed that the amount of copper in a board (especially hidden planes in the inner layers) has a lot more effect than the solder type.

    We also use "no-clean" flux for nearly ten years. We noticed that the water based flux (OAJ) we used before had a tendency to eat the copper traces and vias if the boards were not thoroughly and meticulously cleaned, leading to board failures and, on more than one occasion, wire connections failing. That was especially true under surface mount ICs where the cleaning process had a hard time getting under. :eek:
     
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  8. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    SAC 305 is likely the leading candidate for a long-term-reliable (e.g. >30 yr shelf & operational product life) replacement solder system, but it just hasn't been around and studied long enough to know yet. We have >80 years of well documented experience with thermal and mechanical aging response of SnPb solder.

    There are some really weird mechanical properties of SAC's response to shock and vibe. In some cases, it actually gets stronger during/after exposure, but it (at least as of a couple of years ago when I retired) is not known how/why. Normally we think of vibration and shock testing as taking life out of a product, but it could actually start adding life! Still a lot to learn to get as comfortable predicting its long term behavior, compared to SnPB solder...

    Nevertheless there is a ton of pure Sn finished leaded components that are out there due to lead-free initiatives. That stuff is death to long term reliability. Stress (like from thermal cycles, shock & vibe, etc.) actually greatly increases Sn whisker growth. Conformal coating is the best defense, but it is not perfect, especially when the conformal coating bridges between component leads.

    And of course any manufacturing processes we change have to be qualified and approved by the customer, long in advance. And they move at a snail's pace.
     
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  9. Shortround

    Shortround TrainBoard Member

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    The more I read about the art of soldering the more I want to avoid doing it on any of my engines. Especially N. :eek:
     
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  10. Mike VE2TRV

    Mike VE2TRV TrainBoard Member

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    At that size, I agree it's getting a little tough. Avoid excess coffee (enough to stay awake but not enough to start shaking).

    I'd say it's about the same as working on surface mount components the size of gnats... while the boss bursts urgently into my office as he loudly blurts out my name...
     
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  11. Kitbash

    Kitbash TrainBoard Supporter

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    I use a Weller 35W with a thin pencil tip for most things. Soldering track, engine leads, decoder installations, etc. I also have a 75W unit that I rarely use. At my work bench I have an American Beauty resistance unit that I really need to work with more.
     
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