For most people, soldering is a simple
procedure once they understand the basic technique. Beginners
will greatly appreciate the benefit by purchasing quality solders
and tools. The following are simple procedures that may be
- Keep the hot iron tip free of dirt by
wiping it frequently and lightly on a clean, wet
cellulose sponge or metal mesh cleansing pad.
- Re-tin the tip surface with a thin
coat of solder after cleaning.
- Some irons require loosening the set
screw near the tip after the iron has cooled to prevent
the tip from "freezing" in the shaft.
Occasionally remove the tip and brush off any scales from
- Important: Never immerse a hot
tip in water or flux.
- A rheostat is helpful for maintaining
- An iron that is not hot enough will
cause solder peaks to form.
- An iron that is too hot will cause the
solder to seep through to the other side instead of
Purchase high-quality solder manufactured
by a reputable company for dependability and ease of soldering.
Contaminated alloys or substandard processing conditions during
manufacturing can produce solders that give undesirable results.
Dross (dirt) that rises to the surface of a soldered seam appears
as black specks or pits.
The numbers on the top of the solder spool
refer to the tin and lead alloys in the solder. The first number
refers to the tin, the second to the lead (i.e. 60/40). Usually
the higher the tin content, the lighter (in weight) the solder is
and the stronger the bond. For instance, a large lamp constructed
with 60/40 solder will be lighter and more durable than one made
with 50/50 solder.
Solders such as 63/37 are manufactured
specifically for creating raised beaded or decorative seams. This
solder is even lighter in weight and stronger than 50/50 or
Applying the appropriate flux is an
integral part of the soldering process. When a solder company
manufactures its own flux it is usually more compatible with
their solder. Important: Remember to replace flux when it
becomes cloudy or dirty. It is a wise idea to pour only a small
amount of fresh flux into a container or bottle cap before each
soldering session so that you don't contaminate the entire
If the metals (came lead or copper foil) to
be soldered are oxidized, it can hamper soldering. If possible,
store came lead in an airtight container and keep rolls of open
copper tape in plastic bags. Clean metal surface with fine steel
wool or emery cloth to remove oxidation.
To prevent solder "drip through"
when soldering copper foiled seams of your project, use 50/50
solder first to tin coat the seam on both sides. Then apply 60/40
or 63/37 to create a raised bead seam because it melts at a lower
temperature than 50/50.
When soldering copper foil seams, heat both
metal and solder long enough so that there is deep penetration of
solder on the surface.
For best results, always solder a beaded
seam immediately after tinning the surface because the metal
oxidizes quickly and becomes more difficult to bead.
Make sure that all the lead joints butt
evenly against each other. Since lead melts at nearly the same
temperature as solder, do not heat the lead. Load the tip of your
soldering iron with 60/40 solder, and touch the joint quickly
with the hot tip. The solder will drop and flow into the seams. A
very small amount is sufficient: finished seams should be smooth
and flat. If the solder does not melt completely into the seams,
beads of solder may break off.
Important: Once a lead joint or a
copper seam is soldered, allow it to cool undisturbed. Vibration
during cooling encourages large lead crystals to form within the
seam, weakening the entire solder bond.
To prevent corrosive acids (white film)
from appearing on seams, with the passing of time always wash
your piece immediately after completion. Use warm water, baking
soda and liquid detergent (not soap). Use a soft brush or sponge
and scrub gently. Rinse in clear water. Also, a thorough
cleansing prevents the acids from deteriorating the silver
backing of mirror glass.
Go to "The Leading Technique"