Soldering question and tips

Discussion in 'Beginners/FAQ' started by Edika, Feb 5, 2018.

  1. Edika

    Edika SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    3,546
    Likes Received:
    506
    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2010
    Location:
    Londonderry, N.Ireland, UK
    Hey guys, I was never much into soldering but I decided I wanted to do my wiring and repairs on guitars as well as swap pickups without having to rely on techs. As with everything practice makes perfect and instead of doing a few tests on scrap parts and wires I read my online tutorials and dived in.
    The results were never satisfactory optically but connections seem to function more or less. I never was able to do what most tutorials recommend, that is to heat the part and wire you want to connect with the heating iron and apply the solder on the connection and not melt it with the tip of the iron. I did pre-tin the tip (or I thought I did).

    Now I'm doing some more wiring and bought a few new tips as the one I had on my soldering iron disintegrated. I also got thinner soldering wire as per the suggestion of members here. I had a wet sponge this time too to clean the tip and reapply solder. Immediately I saw that the pre-tin tip worked great with the heat transfer. I managed to heat up the parts quickly and got shiny connections with the solder spreading on the connection without blobbing and by not touching the tip with the soldering iron. In short as I have been seeing on the tutorials.

    However after a few joints I noticed that the tip became dull and trying to tin it after cleaning it with the sponge would just make blobs of solder on the tip without spreading on it. I thought the iron was too hot so whenever I wouldn't use it I'd just unplug it. I would also see that even after cleaning the head and trying to tin it immediately it would have the above effect.

    What I understood is that I was not tinning the tip properly in the past and something happened to the tip while I was working with it. I think the sponge dried up as after a while I was mostly burning through it instead of just cleaning the tip. The tip is now grey and dull and I want to finish up the job I started.

    My questions on this are, how do I clean the tip from any oxides that have been formed? Do I just heat it up, clean it and tin it just before I do a joint?
     
  2. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

    Messages:
    26,731
    Likes Received:
    4,105
    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2008
    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    Tips don't last forever and the more you burn up on it the shorter the good running life.

    It sounds like outer layer of plated iron has started to fail. I'd assume the chrome and nickel layers are gone as well.

    Do you have a picture of the tip? How much have you used it?
     
  3. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire ERG hoarder/pickup tester

    Messages:
    5,513
    Likes Received:
    2,633
    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Location:
    Minneapolis, MN
    you could try to sand the oxide off. honestly though you shouldn't be burning up tips unless you use the iron a lot or leave it on for too long. Try not to run the soldering iron any longer than absolutely needed (which realistically should be a couple minutes at most). It also really helps to have a soldering iron with a temp control (there are some cheap chinese ones on amazon for 15 USD or so). I have a cheap one and it works just fine for how little I currently solder, still on the same tip after more than a year of sporadic use.
     
  4. trem licking

    trem licking SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    289
    Likes Received:
    12
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2013
    Location:
    MI
    I've had the same issue as you... new tips only last 10 or 15 minutes tops, with constant cleaning/re-tinning after each joint. they just turn black and wont accept solder anymore. you can get these rosin/copper cleaner and re-tinner cups on ebay that work pretty well for getting the tip back in working order, but i have had to constantly use that specific cup to get the tip working before it fails yet again.
     
  5. Vyn

    Vyn Not a Sparkly Vampire Contributor

    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    437
    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2010
    Location:
    Australia
    I've been wiring guitars and pedals for over 15 years now. Tips should last quite a while, especially if you clean as you go as well as after the iron (a wet sponge is seriously the best piece of soldering gear you will ever use and own) and don't go too hot. I'd recommend spending the extra coin on a quality temperature-controlled soldering iron so you can progressively crank the temperature up. You should have to have the iron tip on a pre-soldered joint for a number of seconds before it melts. If it melts nearly instantly you're running far too hot.

    Also spend the money on quality pre-tinned tips because they are generally better than anything you'll be able to tin yourself. If you're having trouble with solder sticking, use some flux. Also, you should aim to not hold solder on the iron, it should mostly always go on the work and what gets on the iron is just excess from the work.
     
  6. Petar Bogdanov

    Petar Bogdanov SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    1,023
    Likes Received:
    93
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2006
    Sounds like you're overheating the tip. Get a temperature-controlled soldering iron if you don't have one. Even one for 15 bucks will make soldering a hell of a lot a lot easier and more consistent.

    Just make sure it actually measures temperature, because there are some shitty versions on the market that only adjust the percentage of power with no regard for temperature.
     
  7. Edika

    Edika SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    3,546
    Likes Received:
    506
    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2010
    Location:
    Londonderry, N.Ireland, UK
    Hmm really good advice and thank you guys.

    I did some solder work yesterday and managed to clean the tip better to accept solder. I also unplugged it whenever I wasn't using it. I saw when I cooled it off a bit after soldering it would tin better.

    The current tip seems still good under the oxide but is seems if I leave solder on or don't clean it immediately after use it turns dark, which is to be expected it seems.

    One question when using flux to clean the tip. Should I heat up the tip and apply the flux ir put the flux on the tip first and then heat it up?

    It also seems I need to get a temp control iron.

    Now I did manage to wire the input jack incorrectly so I don't have any signal out of the guitar lol. I'll fix it up and see how it sounds. As long as I have signal and manages to ground things correctly I'll be happy.
     
  8. Vyn

    Vyn Not a Sparkly Vampire Contributor

    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    437
    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2010
    Location:
    Australia
    Flux isn't for cleaning the tip - it's for applying to the work (terminals, wires etc) to help the solder take better. All you really need to clean the tip is a wet sponge. Get into the habit of sponging the tip after every joint.
     
  9. Edika

    Edika SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    3,546
    Likes Received:
    506
    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2010
    Location:
    Londonderry, N.Ireland, UK
    Ah ok, I see what you mean.
     
  10. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

    Messages:
    13,778
    Likes Received:
    1,829
    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2005
    Location:
    St. Johnsbury, VT USA
    Not that this applies to your situation, but the guys at work are always using the soldering iron for their stuff. We have, of course, bought several extra soldering irons to try to fix this problem, but it doesn't really matter, since no one here really gives a crap about which tool they are grabbing.
    But yeah, these guys use the soldering iron for electrical stuff, plumbing, engraving, even jewelry repairs, and it severely fucks up the tip every time. I've tried sanding the tip, but it it never as good as new after a healthy dose of whatever weird kind of solder. So I think it's perhaps understated, but using the correct solder type for the work required and making sure that you stick with that solder type over the life of the tip really helps, along with the other tips already mentioned - temperature control and using a wet sponge in between each time the tip comes in contact with solder.
     
    Edika likes this.
  11. mnemonic

    mnemonic Custom User Title

    Messages:
    4,354
    Likes Received:
    599
    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2006
    Location:
    Chester, UK
    Keep the tip coated with solder and that stops it from oxidising. Keeping the heat from being too high also helps.

    Use a wet sponge or scouring pad to clean it, sanding the tip can remove the surface and you’ll eventually get down to the metal underneath (probably copper). You can use the bare copper to solder, but it will disintegrate a lot faster and will need reshaping every now and then.

    Steel wool is also good to clean tips.
     
  12. goobon

    goobon SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    7
    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2018
    Location:
    Texas
    First ever post here, but here's my tips from my limited soldering knowledge from high school electronics class and replacing some pickups, pots and inputs.
    1. Get a variable temp soldering iron. Sounds like yours is getting too hot and messing up the tips. Tips should last a pretty long time, so it sounds like heat may be an issue.
    2. Keep the sponge handy and tin your tip often. Always keep it shiny and nice looking with the solder. A lot of folks don't bother, especially for quick soldering jobs, but keeping the tip neatly tinned will do wonders in making a soldering job easier and keep your tips longer too :)
    3. Keep a solder wick, tweezers and solder sucker handy. Solder wick is an absolute godsend and I'm really surprised by the lack of soldering kits that come with it. Works well when taking excess solder off of the contacts on inputs and pots.
    That's really about all I can say. I highly doubt you're bad at soldering and need help, you just need a better iron, which can be had for fairly cheap. When working with guitars flux isn't really needed because it's more helpful for board repair. Anyways, keep tinkering, and take pride in the fact that you're doing the work yourself and not having a tech do it for you :banana:
     
    Edika likes this.
  13. Edika

    Edika SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    3,546
    Likes Received:
    506
    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2010
    Location:
    Londonderry, N.Ireland, UK
    Again thank you for the tips guys.

    As a small update I did wire correctly the input jack and I'm getting signal. I do get noise when I 'm not touching the strings or the bridge. And not the usual nois I get from other guitars but a lot more than usual. I did a lot better soldering job than in the past and especially for the the ground wires on the pots. Or at least I think I did. One think I did differently, that I also did on the last time I soldered stuff and sounded similarly noisy, was instead of using a single cable with shielding to connect the jack, I used to individual cables, one for the signal and one for the earth which are thicker but have a strand of wires. The new barrel jack I used had the really long grounding post and I clipped it a bit to fit the jack cavity. I see that if I press the jack in a bit too deep the signal cuts out so maybe that's a combination of issues.
    Or maybe I just messed up one of the grounding joints.
     

Share This Page