With a soldering iron, you can perform a wide variety of different projects, ranging from home improvement and electronics repair to metalwork and even arts and crafts! It's important to take good care of this instrument since it's a delicate, highly specialized instrument - especially the tip, which is the most fragile (and indispensable) part of the iron. The following tips will help you maintain the tip of your iron properly:
You should avoid filing, grinding or otherwise reshaping the tip because it can damage it permanently. Instead, buy a soldering iron tip size that is better suited to your needs. Most manufacturers offer a wide range of soldering iron tip sizes for precisely this purpose.
Tinning is the process of cleaning a solder tip by using fresh solder. Fresh solder dissipates any oxide covering left on the tip.
If you are soldering at particularly high temperatures (more than 665 degrees Fahrenheit) or if you are pausing your soldering work for more than an hour, always clean and tin the tip to prevent oxidation.
Use only synthetic sponges to clean your tip; do not use cloths, rags, or other fabrics. Use distilled water to clean your tip, as tap water contains minerals that can contaminate it.
Make sure you don't rub your soldering iron's tip against the metal you are joining.
If you want to connect wires, don't apply solder directly to the tip itself. Instead, heat the wires so that the solder melts when applied.
For the project in question, use the lowest possible temperature to help prolong the soldering iron tip's life.
Do not remove the excess solder from the tip before turning off your iron. This solder actually prevents oxidation and helps protect the tip.
Finally, always store your soldering iron in a specially designed storage case or holder after it has cooled completely.
Soldering Iron Selection
Before you make your purchase of your soldering tool there are some things you should take into consideration. In what applications will your soldering tools be used? What kind of heat will your soldering jobs require? Is your work at a repair bench, where a power supply is easily accessible, or will you need a cordless soldering tool to be more portable? When choosing soldering tips, it is also important to consider the proper type of tip.
Now let's discuss which soldering tool you should choose based on your work.
Generally, I recommend using a Soldering Station to perform soldering at a service bench environment. There are many options for Solder Stations, but you should choose one that has an adjustable power (wattage) setting. This gives you many Soldering Irons in one tool. You can also use the Solder Station to store your Solder Iron between uses. Because of its size and need for AC power, Solder Stations are not portable.
Take these important factors into consideration first if you decide to buy one of today's quick cool Solder Irons. It is true that they are the most portable Solder Irons available today. They do not require AC power, and most batteries in these types of Solder Irons in most cases give you up to 10 hours of use before they need to be recharged.
However, this type of Solder Iron has the disadvantage of not having enough power (wattage). It is my experience that fast cool Solder Irons have a maximum power of ten watts. It may be adequate power for small solder jobs or working with heat sensitive components, but it won't be enough if you're working with wire or larger components that aren't heat sensitive.
An AC-powered solder iron or soldering gun offers a wide variety of power (wattage) options as well as some portability. Although solder guns offer enough power to solder wire and other large components, they do not provide technicians with the flexibility to work in small spaces. On the other hand, solder irons offer a wide range of power levels, ranging from 6 watts to 60 watts. For almost any soldering job, you can also change to different styles of soldering tips.
A butane solder iron also provides the technician with the portability of a cordless solder iron, the choice of soldering tips, and the power (wattage) required for most soldering tasks. However, you will need additional butane for refills, so they are a great choice for most parts.