Soldering irons

Includes workshop practice, painting and weathering, model photography etc.
User avatar
David Thorpe
Posts: 833
Joined: Tue Oct 21, 2008 11:13 pm

Soldering irons

Postby David Thorpe » Fri Apr 10, 2009 9:21 am

Happy Easter, everyone!

Now that I'm back into some serious railway modelling, I've decided (probably on the basis that a bad workman always blames his tools) that my soldering irons are not really up to scratch. I've got an 18 watt Antex, which is good for very small items but not much else, and a rather old and cumbersome nameless model which is good at burning things on the rare occasions that the tip emerges from the crust that surrounds it. Any recommendations for a replacement for the latter? For example, is a soldering station with variable temperatures worthwhile, or would I be better having a range of separate irons, each with a different size bit (numerous irons, I should say, are not particularly welcome on my small workbench)? Is resistance soldering worth investing in, and is it limited to only certain specialised types of task? I mainly use the irons for etched brass kit construction, but also some track construction. I'm prepared to spend a bit of money to get something good if necessary.

Thanks in anticipation.

David.

User avatar
Mike Garwood
Posts: 515
Joined: Sun Aug 03, 2008 4:51 pm

Re: Soldering irons

Postby Mike Garwood » Fri Apr 10, 2009 11:46 am

Hi David

And a Happy Easter to you...
I use three irons in my battle with kits, a 15watt Antex with a 1.5 mm tip, standard 25 watt Antex and a Weller 40 watt. However, I have toyed with the idea of using/buying one of these:
http://www.antex.co.uk/product.asp?strP ... 5&P_ID=892

I believe that this is the model that John Brighton uses or at least something very similar. If its good enough for him....the advantage that this soldering station gives is that it replaces all three of my existing irons. Cost effective? Something you'll have to judge for yourself.

regards

Mike

nigelcliffe
Posts: 510
Joined: Mon Jul 21, 2008 8:31 am

Re: Soldering irons

Postby nigelcliffe » Fri Apr 10, 2009 12:18 pm

I have an Antex 660TC, the one mentioned in the previous post. Its a very nice bit of kit, and I use it more than any other iron I own.
I find its ability to sink a lot of heat into an item to be very useful, that is due to the 50W of power. Its also a nice light handle, same size as the Antex 18W mains unit. The temperature control ensures things don't get too hot if that is what I want. I am not sure if the temperature scale is "accurate", but after some use I developed a clear idea of what is appropriate for jobs.

Although its a good tool, in the words of Scottie, you "cannie break the laws of physics, captain", so if soldering something with a large thermal mass, that mass will get hot, and will depress the temperature.


Antex are not the cheapest, but they are in the UK and their support is excellent (I have had one hand unit replaced by them, replacement arrived quickly). Sometimes firms like Maplin have temperature controlled irons at a fraction of Antex prices. I know people with them, and they report them to be fine, though the lowest temperature isn't as low as the Antex, and, if buying cheap no-name kit, I suggest getting a stock of replacement tips at time of purchase incase they cease to be available.


I also have a London Road Resistance Soldering unit, several mains irons and a couple of gas powered ones.


- Nigel (too many tools to be healthy!)

User avatar
grovenor-2685
Posts: 3178
Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2008 8:02 pm

Re: Soldering irons

Postby grovenor-2685 » Fri Apr 10, 2009 1:06 pm

I have been using Temperature controlled irons from Maplins which seem to work fine.
I started with this one, http://www.maplin.co.uk/Module.aspx?ModuleNo=35016 then upgraded to this one when they had a special offer last autumn, http://www.maplin.co.uk/Module.aspx?moduleno=219133
This last one I would recommend and its on offer at £20 off right now (and free delivery).
The resistance soldering unit I have but rarely use, partly because it takes up to much space to keep out, then there is a significant setup time so its only worthwhile for a biggish job. It is very good for dismantling soldered track when I have a re-modelling job on but I wouldn't buy one now if I didn't already have it.
Regards

User avatar
David Thorpe
Posts: 833
Joined: Tue Oct 21, 2008 11:13 pm

Re: Soldering irons

Postby David Thorpe » Fri Apr 10, 2009 3:40 pm

Thanks for these helpful replies, everyone - I thought you'd all be out gardening as I have been required to do!

Keith, the Maplin offer seems too good to miss and, based on your recommendation, I've gone for it. As I've never tried temperature controlled soldering before, £30 seems a very modest price to start out on. I've also followed your suggestion, Nigel, and ordered some spare tips as well as i suspect that this particular unit has been discontinued and therefore discounted. Having said that, hopefully it won't be too much of a problem in future as the tips seem to be the ones also used by this unit's direct replacement. If I like this unit, I might join Mike in aspiring to the Antex one day!

Really looking forward to it coming now and getting started........

Any tips, by the way, as to the best way of keeping the tip clean? Mine invariable end up horribly black and nasty.

David.

User avatar
Mike Garwood
Posts: 515
Joined: Sun Aug 03, 2008 4:51 pm

Re: Soldering irons

Postby Mike Garwood » Fri Apr 10, 2009 4:52 pm

David

Three things, tip tinner, wire brush and a wet sponge. I occasionally have days where the tip goes black, but a few swipes of the wire brush and a fresh coat of tip tinner seems to do the job. Nothing complicated

Mike

nigelcliffe
Posts: 510
Joined: Mon Jul 21, 2008 8:31 am

Re: Soldering irons

Postby nigelcliffe » Fri Apr 10, 2009 5:53 pm

DaveyTee wrote:Any tips, by the way, as to the best way of keeping the tip clean? Mine invariable end up horribly black and nasty.


For years I wiped the tip on a soldering iron wet sponge. However, I've recently swapped to the dry "brass swarf pad" available from various sources. Mine came from Rapid Electronics (who happen to be a short cycle ride from home). It seems to be just as effective and avoids having to add water to a sponge.

I'm not that convinced by tip cleaner compounds, they do work but the effect seems very temporary.

Final tip; there are recommendations around to avoid mixing lead-based and lead-free solders on the same tip, also don't mix normal solders with low-melt used for whitemetal. I have loads of lead based solder stocks, so will let others work out which lead-free combinations work well for modelling applications.


- Nigel

davebooth

Re: Soldering irons

Postby davebooth » Sat Apr 11, 2009 5:50 pm

DaveyTee wrote:Happy Easter, everyone!

Now that I'm back into some serious railway modelling, I've decided (probably on the basis that a bad workman always blames his tools) that my soldering irons are not really up to scratch. I've got an 18 watt Antex, which is good for very small items but not much else, and a rather old and cumbersome nameless model which is good at burning things on the rare occasions that the tip emerges from the crust that surrounds it. Any recommendations for a replacement for the latter? For example, is a soldering station with variable temperatures worthwhile, or would I be better having a range of separate irons, each with a different size bit (numerous irons, I should say, are not particularly welcome on my small workbench)? Is resistance soldering worth investing in, and is it limited to only certain specialised types of task? I mainly use the irons for etched brass kit construction, but also some track construction. I'm prepared to spend a bit of money to get something good if necessary.

Thanks in anticipation.

David.



Many years ago I pratted around with an old GEC electric soldering iron. In those days you did not get power ratings quoted so readily as now. Next I purchased an Antex 18W which the mags. of the day quoted as being the best. But all this was with old fashioned 'tinman's solder'; again no technical info given. My success was at best moderate.
Only when I read about using an Antex 25 watt with a 3mm tip and 145 degree solder did thinks begin to shape up well and I could cope with brass kits.
Then John Brighton suggested the Antex soldering station which at 40 watts is backed by plenty of power without the tip reaching an exorbitantly high temperature. At around 100GBP for the digital read-out model it's a big investment but oh! so very worth while. There is a cheaper version without the read-out.
Apart from any of my machine tools, the Antex station is the best, most cost effective tool I have purchased for my modelling.
If the price is too high for you then go for an Antex 25W fitted with a 3mm tip for every day work. The larger the area of tip contact then the better will your work heat up. I'm not sure about the availability of the 145 solder now, ( I stocked up with enough to see me until I join that big model railway club in the sky ) but look for solder with a melting point around that figure. "Normal" solders melt at about 185.

User avatar
David Thorpe
Posts: 833
Joined: Tue Oct 21, 2008 11:13 pm

Re: Soldering irons

Postby David Thorpe » Sat Apr 11, 2009 9:57 pm

Again, thanks very much, everyone. I've decided to get the best of both worlds - because I got the Maplin soldering station so cheap, I've also ordered an Antex 25w iron with 3mm bit and the combination should equip me for most tasks. I may graduate to the Antex station at a later date.....

As to cleaning, I had a look at Rapid Electronics site and assume that the brass swarf pad to which Nigel refers is the pot containing what they call brass wool. I thought that, apart from its colour, the brass wool looked remarkably like the stainless steel scouring "pads" that we buy for cleaning saucepans - I can only describe them as a bundle of tightly curled, very thin and narrow stainless steel strips. Has anyone given them a try for cleaning solder? They're extremely cheap and i thought I might test one on my old iron.

C&L Finescale certainly still sell Carrs 145 degree solder, both with and without lead, though the latter is considerably more expensive and admitted by them to provide a weaker bond.

User avatar
Tim V
Posts: 2267
Joined: Tue Jul 29, 2008 4:40 pm

Re: Soldering irons

Postby Tim V » Sun Apr 12, 2009 7:07 pm

The steel would probably scratch the iron coating, brass would not, being softer.
Tim V
Scalefour News Editor

User avatar
David Thorpe
Posts: 833
Joined: Tue Oct 21, 2008 11:13 pm

Re: Soldering irons

Postby David Thorpe » Wed Oct 14, 2009 9:43 am

Does anyone here ever use a butane soldering torch and if so, are they useful in a modelling context? I ask because Aldi's currently have a 135W mini soldering torch kit among their weekly specials at £12.99 and I'm tempted to get one just in case it's ever required. Although it's by no means a fortune, I'm a bit wary because I've got quite a lot of DIY tools that remain unused, having been bought "just in case" :) .
http://www.aldi.co.uk/uk/html/offers/28 ... 0-09-16-04

David.

davebooth

Re: Soldering irons

Postby davebooth » Wed Oct 14, 2009 4:47 pm

DaveyTee wrote:Does anyone here ever use a butane soldering torch and if so, are they useful in a modelling context? I ask because Aldi's currently have a 135W mini soldering torch kit among their weekly specials at £12.99 and I'm tempted to get one just in case it's ever required. Although it's by no means a fortune, I'm a bit wary because I've got quite a lot of DIY tools that remain unused, having been bought "just in case" :) .
http://www.aldi.co.uk/uk/html/offers/28 ... 0-09-16-04

David.


I certainly use a butane torch. It is used where a large mass of brass or what-ever is involved - but practice on scrap material until you're happy that you've got the hang of it; they are very fierce. Also usefull for heat treatment like hardening or tempering.
A good investment IMHO

User avatar
David Thorpe
Posts: 833
Joined: Tue Oct 21, 2008 11:13 pm

Re: Soldering irons

Postby David Thorpe » Thu Oct 15, 2009 10:54 am

davebooth wrote:A good investment IMHO
But not, unfortunately, one that I can take up now - they've all gone! Sometimes you've got to be pretty quick to get these Aldi specials. Thanks for the feedback though - they'll come round again and hopefully I'll be quicker of the mark then.

David


Return to “Tools and Techniques”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest