Which surface to solder on?


Which surface to solder on?

Postby sammakins » Wed Oct 09, 2013 9:30 pm

Hi again everyone,
I'm keen to know what surface people use to rest work they are soldering on, I've tried MDF but find if I am resting a small flat piece on it then the heat tends to make a surprisingly strong bond between the two! I've also used plywood which is slightly better but not ideal.
Is there an ideal material to use?

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Re: Which surface to solder on?

Postby Tonycardall » Wed Oct 09, 2013 9:44 pm

I've had the same problem and have just bought myself a 'solder-pad' from B&Q. I think that it is made for plumbers to use to protect walls etc. when using a blow torch. Regrettably, since buying it last week I have not had occasion to need it and so can't tell you how effective it is. I've just realised how useless this reply will be to you. but I am interested to see if others have more helpful advice.

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Re: Which surface to solder on?

Postby JFS » Wed Oct 09, 2013 9:51 pm

I use an off-cut of kitchen worktop - smooth enough to hold things level yet quite heat resistant.

I suppose if you have not had a new kitchen recently, you would need to make friends with a kitchen fitter?


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Will L
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Re: Which surface to solder on?

Postby Will L » Wed Oct 09, 2013 10:33 pm

Any old off cut of chipboard ought to do it, although possibly not with white paper/platic vernier.


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Paul Willis
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Re: Which surface to solder on?

Postby Paul Willis » Thu Oct 10, 2013 6:34 am

I use two types of material:

On my workbench at home, I have a piece of hardboard screwed to the surface. This can singe a bit if I linger with the iron, takes cut marks from the scalpel, and inevitably has holes drilled into it. The great advantage is that when it becomes too battered, I can just unscrew it and replace it with another from the offcuts that I have in the garage.

See here when it was new.


When I'm at Missenden, or elsewhere with a portable set of tools, I use a sheet of Tufnol. This is about eight inches square, and much more heat and cut-resistent. It cost me a few quid from Ebay (other auction websites are available) and has lasted very well. Seen here amongst the other typical clutter of my modelling at Missenden:

GER Y6 tram 18.jpg

I have the bits to build another portable "workbench" (or glorified tea-tray). This is so that I can sit downstairs with the Better Half and file little bits of metal in front of the tellybox. So for that I'll probably use Tufnol, as I do think that overall it is more practical, even if it does cost the price of a pint or two.

Beware of Trains - occasional modelling in progress!

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Re: Which surface to solder on?

Postby Re6/6 » Thu Oct 10, 2013 7:21 am

I use one of these from MSE http://www.modelsignals.com/items_for_a ... _frame.htm
70219 6" x 6" £19 Soldering pad - small Heat resistant pads for soldering on – components are held in place with pins; wrap in tinfoil and you have a resistance soldering pad!

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John Bateson
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Re: Which surface to solder on?

Postby John Bateson » Thu Oct 10, 2013 7:35 am

I use balsa wood sheets acquired from small daughter when she worked in a surveyors office and cut them up as needed.
Sheets 4" wide I use for general soldering - throw then away when too singed.
Small offcuts like 2" by 3" I use for holding things which are being soldered but which can't sit on a flat surface - they act as a insulator and stop the small of burnt skin.

Just type "balsa wood" on ebay for current prices such as

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/BALSA-WOOD-3mm-1-8-x-75mm-3-x-305mm-12-5-SHEET-PACK-/360753129601?pt=UK_Crafts_Other_Crafts_EH&hash=item53fe8fe881 BALSA WOOD 3mm (1/8") x 75mm (3") x 305mm (12") 5 SHEET PACK

All this on top of a cutting mat which is on top of a kitchen workbench.

Slaving away still on GCR stuff ...
Avoiding the soaps ...

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David B
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Re: Which surface to solder on?

Postby David B » Thu Oct 10, 2013 8:16 am

On the whole, I don't solder on wood unless for a reason such as having things on pins like Southwark Bridge bicycles or soldering bearings into Masokit units.

Some time ago I watched Tim Watson demonstrating at a Missenden Weekend and he worked on a piece of ceramic. So I went to a local Fired Earth and bought a small, plain, cream ceramic tile. It cost less than £1.

I use this and it works very well - no charred wood deposits, it wipes clean and is heat resistant. It is something I would recommend and it doesn't cost a fortune, even to try.

Another wheeze I picked up, again at Missenden, is to use off-cuts of rubber mould between finger and piece when fingers are required to hold things. I happened to have experimented with mould material someone else possessed and had some pieces. I have avoided scorched flesh many times now. I have several blocks about 10 x 10 x 5mm.

Last edited by David B on Thu Oct 10, 2013 8:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Which surface to solder on?

Postby 45609 » Thu Oct 10, 2013 8:18 am

I now use one of these....having gone through the MDF, soft wood and Tufnol phase.


Having not seen the soldering pad that MSE sell it seems from the size, description and code number that they are one and the same. The great thing I find about this is the fact I can use pins to hold things in place. However, I'm still not sure the permanent nerve damage I've done to my fingers ends by trying to hold things that are ridiculously hot will ever be repaired.

I guess someone found a sales outlet for all the redundant Space Shuttle re-entry tiles. ;)


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Guy Rixon
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Re: Which surface to solder on?

Postby Guy Rixon » Thu Oct 10, 2013 9:11 am

I use an piece of ceramic wall-tile which is flat, rigid and totally heat-proof. It also acts as a heat sink, which can be useful with small assemblies and a problem for larger ones needing lots of heat.

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Tim V
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Re: Which surface to solder on?

Postby Tim V » Thu Oct 10, 2013 3:28 pm

I use a piece of kitchen worktop, set up like this one on the 2mm site. http://www.2mm.org.uk/mag0897/clamps.htm
I was demonstrating this at Scaleforum.
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Re: Which surface to solder on?

Postby dal-t » Thu Oct 10, 2013 5:11 pm

It depends how much heat you're planning to put into the workpiece. For most soft soldering jobs, using a smallish iron, there is great benefit in the MSE-type block which takes pins. But for greater heat protection, if silver soldering with a torch, for instance, heavier duty asbestos-substitute blocks or sheet may be better. These, and carbon blocks which enable greater control over where the heat will be reflected, are available from jewellery tool suppliers such as Cooksongold (see as an example http://www.cooksongold.com/Jewellery-Tools/Soldering-Sheet-300mm-X-300mm-X-9mm-Asbestos--Substitute-prcode-999-969#product-description ). Prices are cheap enough to allow the blocks to be replaced regularly or cascaded to jobs where contamination is less important - hence my modelling supply is ex-silver-smithing stock ...
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Re: Which surface to solder on?

Postby Eastern » Thu Oct 10, 2013 6:31 pm

I actually use both a plain asbestos substitute sheet (6" x 4") and a 6" x 6" honeycomb ceramic for use with pins. I choose which one to use depending on the task.

Both these sheets were obtain from H S Walsh, and I was pointed to that source from the "Where to Get" lists in the traders section of this website. Walsh do several sizes of sheets (see www.hswalsh.com).


Re: Which surface to solder on?

Postby sammakins » Thu Oct 10, 2013 7:34 pm

Cheers for the advice everyone, I particularly like the ceramic but also the jig type thing Tim uses seems like a brilliant idea! Mums a jeweller aswell so she might well have some old asbestos substitute blocks around.

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Andy W
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Re: Which surface to solder on?

Postby Andy W » Fri Oct 11, 2013 9:36 am

Bear in mind that for nearly all jobs in 4mm you don't really need a huge heat source. A touch with a 25 watt iron is usually enough.
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