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Soldering Iron Question... Solder won't stick!

post #1 of 42
Thread Starter 
Hi all! Quick, probably basic question here. Of late, I am having problems tinning my soldering iron. The solder just balls up and doesn't flow on the tip. I have a brand new tip and the first time I tinned it, everything was normal. After solder a few joints, I went to retin the tip for storage. This is when the problem occurred. My iron is on 4 of 5 heat setting. My soldering station is a Weller WLC 100 and I'm using Johnson IA-423 solder. I'm not sure what's happening here, whether the tip doesn't need tinning, or the iron is too hot or too cold etc. I also have some rosin paste flux, but I'm not too sure how to use it, if that helps at all (and a quick lesson on this would be nice too)

Thanks in advance!
post #2 of 42
Use the hottest setting and try again. I use the Cardas lead-free tri-eutectic and I used to have similar problems with my Hakko. Maybe try to use normal lead-tin solder if this problem persists.
post #3 of 42
Thread Starter 
I have used the Cardas lead-free tri-eutectic and the problem persists. I also have the tip inserted into the iron all the way until the shoulder on the tip. I'm also using the smallest screwdriver tip (ST1).
post #4 of 42
Flux, flux, flux. Can we say it enough here?
post #5 of 42
It happens when the iron gets a coating of crap on it so the solder can't directly contact the metal. I don't know what the proper solution is but if it gets really bad I just use sandpaper lightly on the tip. If it's not too bad then I use a sponge/cloth to wipe the tip after putting some solder on it.
post #6 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by ezkcdude
Flux, flux, flux. Can we say it enough here?
No, say it some more and maybe it will become self evident.


Quote:
I also have some rosin paste flux, but I'm not too sure how to use it, if that helps at all (and a quick lesson on this would be nice too)
Stick the hot iron right in the flux, then tin it.
You should be good to go.
post #7 of 42
Thread Starter 
thanks all for your help. Actually, my problem was solved by Zenja's suggestion. I just rubbed the tip really hard on the sponge and the black stuff finally came off and it tinned like a dream. Do you sandpaper it when it's hot?
post #8 of 42
I wouldn't recommend sandpapering it when it's hot. I've never tried, but it works fine when cold.

Also, I highly recommend you pick up one of those brass brillo-pad like soldering iron cleaners. They work great for removing crud while the iron is hot.

DO NOT use steel wool or an actual brillo pad when hot. Steel wool contains oil to keep it from rusting and it catches fire easily. That is a lesson best learned from reading this post.
post #9 of 42
Hot iron, wet sponge, and a fair amount of aggression is all that's required in my opinion. Sizzle, my pretty!
post #10 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by clatter View Post
Hot iron, wet sponge, and a fair amount of aggression is all that's required in my opinion. Sizzle, my pretty!
Me, too. I've never used an abrasive on an iron tip.
post #11 of 42
If enough crud builds up that flux can't cut through it, you want to abrasively remove it, BUT with the least abrasive method possible.

Sandpaper is best avoided because tips are generally plated and you don't want to wear that plating off- some will even consider the life of a tip, gone when the plating is shot.

On the other hand you might have some low-end iron and tip that wasn't plated good and are getting most of it's usable life after the plating is already shot (generic and radio shack irons for example) and so you'd end up perpetually re-sanding or filing the tip to the right shape again because the flux ate up the flat surface. This is a situation best avoided when you get a better iron.

With a better iron (tip), forcefully wipe the tip against a wet paper towel. If you have a fancy copper mesh cleaner that'll work too, with the idea being to wipe against something harder than the residue but softer than the plating, so copper mesh is a lot better than something like steel wool.

Wipe while the iron is hot, but if you must try to salvage a tip with sandpaper or a file, do it cold.
post #12 of 42
Weller sells a little abrasive stone that you can clean tips with. It's designed to not damage the tips plating. You should be able to just whipe that crude away on a damp sponge...
post #13 of 42
I've just taken my old Weller 25w (non-regulated) iron, and ground it down to a fine point. Works much better now. The trick, it seems, is before heating to grind it down not totally smooth, dip it in plumber's flux, and wrap it in silver-bearing solder. Presto - tinned iron.
post #14 of 42
Thread Starter 
argh... I bought a new tip, and already after about 3 hours of work, it's developed the same problem. I haven't tried sanding it down, but no amount of elbow-greese will get that black-ish stuff off. The only thing I can think that I'm doing wrong is I have left an un-tinned tip in my solder iron holder for about 15 minutes or so with the station on and after this a tiny fleck of the black stuff appeared and then it seems to grow over time...I'm getting rather fustrated with this station!!!

Another point is that this is Weller's smallest screwdriver tip that I'm using... don't know if that matters.

also, I filed off the black stuff on the last tip, and it ended up breaking (a millimeter or so off the tip... so I'm not sure a file is the best idea)...

jl123: I'm looking for one of those black weller stones, but have no idea how to search for it
post #15 of 42
If you're just talking about a black ring between the part of the tip that accepts solder and the part that doesn't, this is harmless. Ignore it.
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