I think there is already a thread on this subject but I can't seem to find it. I want to buy a new soldering iron to use for soldering brass and piano wire, can anybody recommend one please? What do you all use?
I have this one from Maplins, the online price is a bit steep but it was on special offer a few weeks ago. Its a very good bit of kit & mine gets used a lot at work. The spare tips are about £11 for four.
I have a Weller as recommended by SLR & whilst they will do the job they can be a bit cumbersome & I find mine gets too hot for a lot of (piano) wire soldering jobs & could do with some form of temperature control.
Most scratch builders use something like this nowadays, http://www.rapidonline.com/sku.aspx?tier1=...;catref=85-5486 if you do splash out on one make sure you also order a "chisel" tip with it.
You really do not need a big iron to solder to brass plate, it is actually a question of good heat transfer. For one thing the heat from the heating element needs to get to the tip, so it is best to use an iron where the heater and tip are one piece. I use a 40 watt Ungar iron with a chisel tip. To get good heat transfer the tip should be clean and shiny. If you leave the iron running at full power thye tip will oxidize and the heat transfer will be greatly degraded. I made a soldering station with a light dimmer to drop the voltage. For doing chassis work I use acid core silver solder and acid flux. For electrical work I use rosin core solder. First I tin the tip with solder, then a swipe on a wet sponge is enough to clean the tip in most cases.
Rich, when the element went in my xytronic iron I bought the big Weller & did consider a dimmer switch to control the temperature.
Had a spare dimmer & the "sparks" at the club told me how to wire it.
Never got round to it though as xytronic were very helpful in sourcing a new iron for me to plug into my existing control unit.
(Rapid no longer stocked the correct iron for my old unit)
Still use the Weller for lumps like guide plates & chassis pans as you said.
I'm not sure whether these are available in the UK, but I use a Weller #1175 50Watt stained glass soldering iron. It has an integral tip/heater and is good enough for everything I build (and as some of you know, I build lots of everything!).
One word of caution: Wet sponges are not a good idea for long tip life. It's much better to find a small container of tip cleaner and a brass wire scrubber from Inland or Xytronics. In the US, we get the tip cleaner from Radio Shack, perhaps there's a similar product in the UK. It is partly sal ammoniac, partly solder paste, and it cleans and re-tins a hot iron very nicely. The brass scrubber helps get any oxidation off the tip.
A dimmer or some other form of turning the iron temperature down is vital too, and there are a few other tips I have learned. I use an Inland Fume trap, which is basically just a fan that pulls the solder and flux fumes away from the work and blows them through a carbon filter. The trick is to set up the fan so that it blows onto the soldering iron tip while it is not being used. This flow of air keeps the tip temperature down too, but it heats up again very quickly as you pick up the iron and clean it in preparation for soldering.
You have probably gotten a soldering iron by now, but for other racers who need a good iron, I build a lot of D3 chassis and find anything less than a 80watt iron a waste of time. I recommend a Weller hobbykit 2 available from Machine Mart at about £30, I have just replaced mine when the original burnt out. When soldering brass you need a high wattage as brass contains a lot off copper which is a very good conductor and will take the heat away from the iron very quickly, The brass thickness's I use vary from 1mm to 1.6mm, and when soldering a motor bracket to a piece of plate you need heat to avoid cold soldered joints. the tip is a bit large, I sacrificed the iron coating and filed it to a chisel tip, and I use it for larger items, a example is body mounting tubes to chassis pans, changing to a finer chisel tip for most other work, I have no problem with finer work such as hinge tubes to chassis rails. When soldering, cleanliness of the items to be soldered is paramount, use a acid flux, clean afterwards in hot water using a brillo pad or other scrubbing pad. For a example of the chassis I build look at the raceway 81 website 2011 D3 championship results. My son won all 3 finals with my chassis. Incidentally I find that removing the iron coating on the tip helps increase heat transfer at the cost of tip corrosion, needing to be cleaned often, I find this worthwhile on the smaller tip for fine work , heat quickly, apply solder, remove heat for a clean joint.
Most of the slot racers in the club use a soldering iron like this , when soldering lead wires, pinions etc many use a smaller temperature controlled iron.
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