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Easiest solder to use and clean?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Music Tech DIY Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7  Next [all]
Author Easiest solder to use and clean?
itijik
I am going that extra mile to do things the 'right way' with my DIY stuff (through-hole only), and I am looking for some soldering advice.
I am plagued with cold solder joints and black stuff (burned flux?) all around the joints. I am finally replacing my pencil iron for a temp controlled station, so I think that will help with the cold solder problem. Now I am thinking about cleaning up the mess.
I have a huge spool of kester '44' rosin core that I bought long ago. I read that this isn't the stuff I want to use. So here are my questions:

What solder do you use?
What is the easiest to work with, and easiest to clean up?
How do you clean your boards, and what do you use to clean them?
sduck
Throw the 44 away. Or just use it for repairing copper pipes.

I use Kester 331 (mouser part 533-24-6337-6401) for soldering basic parts onto the pcb - this is the water soluble kind - wash it off with hot water when you're done. Don't use it for parts that can't be water washed - use your common sense on this.
And then Kester 245 (mouser part 533-24-6337-8800) for everything else.

These are the kinds that both Paul Schreiber of MOTM and John Blacet of blacet supply with their kits.
NV
I'm with sduck. There are a number of people who love 44 and think it's the ideal solder, but after using the 331/245 combination I can't believe I ever used 44. 331's flux will wash completely away in a few seconds with warm water and a bit of scrubbing with a cheap toothbrush, and 245 leaves hardly any flux at all for the parts you wouldn't want submersed in water (pots, wiring, etc). Buying two solder rolls at once may seem like an annoying investment, but buy a 1lb roll of each and they'll likely last the rest of your life unless you start churning Klees out daily.

245 is very slightly harder to work with since it has little flux that isn't as active, but really not hard enough where it's a problem and typically you're not soldering difficult or compact joints with it anyhow. On the other side of the spectrum, I've found 331 to be much easier to use than 44 as the flux is very active. This means that you need to wash the flux away as soon as you can (take a break every hour or two and wash the PCB in other words), which is what you're supposed to do with 44 solder anyhow. Cleaning up 44 flux is a bitch, can get expensive, and often doesn't really work all that well anyway. Most arguments I've heard in favor of 44 solder are due to sentimental reasons like the rosin smell, but I wouldn't use hickory for the exhaust piping in my car because I like the way it smells when it burns. It's the same price and less effective - end of story as far as I'm concerned.

Also of note, go for 63/37 composition solder rather than 60/40. The difference is that 63/37 goes from liquid to solid very quickly, whereas 60/40 will be in a plastic state for long enough that bumping a component and creating a cold joint is much more of an issue. It's almost a challenge getting a cold joint out of 63/37.
Cybananna
Kester 331/245 here too. It made doing DIY stuff enjoyable.
megaohm
sduck wrote:
Throw the 44 away. Or just use it for repairing copper pipes.


Before you throw it out PM me. I'll take it off your hands.

I find 44 to be better wetting and my boards go much faster.
On production boards I use 331 ONLY because it is easier to clean up.
331 is in no way superior to 44, it's just easier to clean up.
331 will wear tips out faster...about three to four times faster.

44 needs to be cleaned with chemicals so it's a pain.
Alternatively, you can just scrape it off with a pick (not much fun).

Keep your 44 around. 331 blows for repairs.
itijik
Thanks guys! Some good details here thumbs up
Wow, solder isn't cheap!...I guess its been a while since I have had to buy some.

sduck lists specific mouser numbers. Is there any reason you would choose those specific diameters over the others?
Just me
I use the thinnest 63/37 I can get. It is much harder to get solder bridges with it in close quarters. I don't remember what flux is in it as I've had this roll for decades and the lable is long gone. (It was the brown lable if that meant anything.) Even using it nearly everyday, a 2 lb roll is a lifetime supply!
NV
itijik wrote:
Thanks guys! Some good details here thumbs up
Wow, solder isn't cheap!...I guess its been a while since I have had to buy some.

sduck lists specific mouser numbers. Is there any reason you would choose those specific diameters over the others?


Surface mount soldering is a nightmare with large diameter solder, and soldering a larger joint can be annoying with small diameter solder. Smaller diameter solder will generally have much less flux inside the wire, which may or may not affect wetting for you depending on your technique. I use two sizes, 0.02" for surface mount and 0.031" for everything else. Realistically though, if you were doing more surface mount soldering than a repair and a few components here and there then there are better ways to do it than typical soldering with small diameter solder.

If you're doing general through-hole work, I'd say 0.031" is a safe bet. Smaller will work, but I wouldn't go any larger than 0.031".
itijik
Thanks again guys!
Just trying to narrow down all of these nagging little questions in the back of my head. This is helping a quite a bit!
sduck
itijik wrote:

sduck lists specific mouser numbers. Is there any reason you would choose those specific diameters over the others?


Yes - these are the diameters that PS sends out, and there are several reasons, but the ones that appeals to me is that I have the 2 rolls next to each other on my workbench, with strands coming out of both, both getting mixed up with my scrap wire and odd tools pile, and in the heat of wiring up a project it'd be easy enough to grab the wrong strand - the 2 sizes make it easy to tell them apart. If you saw my workbench you'd understand perfectly. This isn't JLR's workbench.
itijik
That makes sense, and I totally understand the messy work bench thing. I consider myself a pretty clean person, but my little work area seemed to blow up with parts and wires all over.
Trying to get organized and setup with a proper work bench, soldering iron, new solder, exhaust fan...all of this start-up cost is starting to add up eek!
I just wanna make some cool circuits! d'oh!

My soldering iron is on order, though...so I am pretty stoked about that!
pugix
megaohm wrote:
sduck wrote:
Throw the 44 away. Or just use it for repairing copper pipes.

331 will wear tips out faster...about three to four times faster.


I built my entire synthesizer over the past eight years using the same soldering iron and the same tip. Never changed. It's an old GC temperature controlled station (Supertemp model 12-070) that I probably couldn't get tips for now. I used 331 for almost all the PC board work on initial assembly.

For no-clean I used either the solder shipped with MOTM kits or a old reel of RELIACORE 11 (Sn 63) that somebody gave me somewhere around 1985!

Tip life is probably impacted by a lot of factors, including habits of tip cleaning and tinning. I clean with the damp sponge that's on the station and freshly tin the tip with solder quite frequently.
paults
a) I use 331 as thinner diameter, so people could tell the difference between it and the thicker 245 (clever, no?)

b) every piece of commercial electronics since 1993 has been soldered with organic flux. Rosin is crap for electronics. What is rosin used for? It's used to attract and capute moisture. Gee....just what I want on my pc boards: something to capture and hold moisture Dead Banana
blungo2
Mr. low brow here, i've always been happy with rat shack silver bearing solder.
i'll have to try the kester, didn't even know it existed. d'oh!
itijik
More newb questions...
Do you use additional flux while soldering through hole components?
What works best for you for cleaning iron tips? brass sponge?
daverj
itijik wrote:
More newb questions...
Do you use additional flux while soldering through hole components?
What works best for you for cleaning iron tips? brass sponge?


Good solder has plenty of flux in it. The only time I ever use extra is sometimes on surface mount boards I use a flux pen to clean certain pads. You might need extra flux if soldering bare copper, like with home made boards, though a quick brushing with steel wool works well for that too.

Most modern soldering iron tips are iron compositions with a special coating. If the coating gets scratched the tip disintegrates quickly. Once you have pits or cracks that obviously go through the surface and into the tip, that tip is about to die.

- always keep the tip coated in fresh solder. The flux in the solder can clean a fair amount of crap off the tip just by applying more solder and shaking it off.

- apply fresh solder to the tip when it is heating up, and again when you turn it off.

- don't leave the iron on when you're not using it.

- while working, occasionally wipe the tip on a damp sponge and then IMMEDIATELY coat it with fresh solder

- if some hardened scale or crud builds up on a part of the tip and wiping on a sponge or adding solder doesn't help, there are typically two reasons:
--- if it is scale built up on top of the coating, then gently brushing it against brass wool might knock it off. Don't do it so much as to go through the coating though
--- the other possibility is that you have scratched the tip and the coating is gone. If that's the case there is little you can do, and the flux from soldering is going to eat through the tip in no time. It is sometimes possible to "re-wet" the tip using something like Pace Tip Restorer. But chances are slim. That usually only works if the coating is worn down but the metal underneath hasn't started to corrode yet.
itijik
Nice tips, thanks!

So you wouldn't recommend using brass wool to replace the standard sponge?
daverj
itijik wrote:
Nice tips, thanks!

So you wouldn't recommend using brass wool to replace the standard sponge?


I would expect the tips to wear out much faster if you did.
bubblesound
+1 for the kester water based with a couple of caveats. don't let the PCB sit around for too long before you clean it. the flux is VERY corrosive and should be washed off within a day or 2. and make sure your tip is very clean at the end of the day. this stuff will eat through tips.
it's a small price to pay for the easy of cleaning up with hot water and a toothbrush
itijik
Good stuff! thumbs up
MrBiggs
Hey guys

I'm about to solder my Choices barebones this weekend. And in reading this I'm puzzled by the cleaning with water parts of the thread. I'll be soldering stranded wire from the PCB to the switches, pushbuttons, and I believe the jacks. What exactly in this is water-cleanable? My inclination was that one does not wash electronic things such as this...

(I've only soldered a couple of small PCBs before, this last weekend at the Handmade Music thing in NYC. I don't recall any "mess" that needed to be cleaned. But it was only about 15 soldering points on the whole project.)

Can anyone illuminate me on this cleaning bit? You really stick your PCBs in water?
bubblesound
the way i do it is to get the PCB stuffed and wash it using HOT water and a toothbrush. i usually hold the stuffed PCB under the tap for a couple of seconds, take it out, scrub it, rinse it and do it again. but i know one manufacturer that uses an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner full of hot distilled water and tosses his stuffed PCBs right in.
once the PCB is clean and dry i solder the lacks, wires and pots. then i use a wet toothbrush to clean those solder joints. scrub and rinse. scrub and rinse. that way there's no slashing water to get in the pots. you know it's gone when the white foam stops. the flux foams when you scrub it and it looks a lot like toothpaste foam, but thinner.
polyester caps should not get wet, but things like resistors, regular caps and diodes are fine. if you're using IC sockets, and i'd really recommend it, lightly thump it against a towel to get the water out of the socket before you put it aside to dry. or use a hair drier/air canister.
TrashWaveform
Rosin Core does have a habit of doing cold solder joints more constant than usual but it is all my work will supply so I have gotten better at using it. It is not all that bad. Just keep your tip cleaned constantly. Proper maintaining and cleaning will make your work look a hell of a lot better.
daverj
Remember that "regular" solder doesn't have water soluable flux, so washing it under water won't work. Only solder with a water soluable flux gets washed in water. Other types of flux either don't need washing (No-Clean) or require cleaning with a solvent like alcohol.

Some electronic components specifically say in their data sheets "not washable". When in doubt, be sure to read the data sheets.
dude
newb q: if i keep cleaning the tip, how do i keep the layer of solder that is prescribed on the tip as well?
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