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Why does soldering iron tip sometimes become dull more quickly?

Discussion in 'Burnt Fingers DIY Effects' started by itsGiusto, Mar 30, 2021.

  1. itsGiusto

    itsGiusto Tele-Holic

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    I only ever exclusively use my soldering iron on 650 degrees for PCBs and 750 for turrets, pots and other lugs, and I try to turn it off when not in-use. Sometimes my tips will go for months and be shiny and effectively conduct heat. Other times, they'll immediately start turning dull grey and sometimes have a dull yellow patina on it (maybe flux?) as soon as I put it into my iron and start to use it. When this happens, I can wipe it off on my mesh ball, and it'll go back to being shiny.... for about 3 seconds, then become dull and useless again. Same thing goes for dipping it in flux.

    Why the discrepancy? Is there anything I can do to restore the dull tips so that they stay shiny and properly conduct heat longer than 3 seconds? Is there anything I can do to prevent the tips from getting into this state where they want to become dull all the time?

    Edit: just used some tip tinner (is that the same stuff as tip activator?) and it seemed to work well, actually. My tip is staying shiny again!
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2021
  2. kbold

    kbold Friend of Leo's

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    650 deg is good for PCB's. For pot's and other big things I'm usually at around 850 deg (I prefer short time/high heat in these cases).

    The dulling you talk of may indicate the plating of the tip has been eaten through. Once you get a hole (even a small one) in the plating, the copper core is eaten away fairly quickly. Perhaps wipe all the solder off with a damp sponge and check for this.
    Besides this, I have no other suggestions/ideas.
     
  3. jimgchord

    jimgchord Tele-Afflicted

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    Wipe the tip before every joint
     
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  4. itsGiusto

    itsGiusto Tele-Holic

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    I'm pretty meticulous about doing this.
     
  5. Boreas

    Boreas Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Sounds to me like you aren't tinning the tip properly. You must clean/tin properly when you install a new tip, and after every few joints. I tin, solder, clean(brass wool), tin. Repeat. I also tin the entire tip up to the visible line between the tip material and the shaft.You will find if you buy QUALITY tips and treat them right, they will last a long time.

    I use this stuff religiously:
     

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  6. Paul G.

    Paul G. Friend of Leo's

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    How old is the tip? They don't actually last forever.
     
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  7. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

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    The better tips are iron plated. Keep them clean, but use no abrasives like sandpaper, steel wool, or a file because that removes the plating.

    The brass scrubby or a damp sponge is best.

    Always tin the tip when finished soldering. Don't just clean it and shut it off.
     
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  8. NoTeleBob

    NoTeleBob Tele-Holic

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    Sponge the iron before doing the joint.
    Sponge the iron after doing a joint.
    Iron sitting a couple minutes? Sponge it.
     
  9. Dreadneck

    Dreadneck TDPRI Member

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    I have this tinner stuff, but it doesn't seem to work well with my tip at all. Perhaps the tip is due to be changed though.
     
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  10. Boreas

    Boreas Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Start with a good quality tip, tin it before use, and keep it tinned! Never put it to bed without cleaning and tinning. Tinning tips does three important things:

    1. It keeps the tip from oxidizing/corroding, which is death to tips.

    2. It ensures sufficient heat transfer at the solder joint. You don't have to hold the tip on the material for a long time which can damage components.

    3. It helps eliminate cold solder joints due to a cleaner joint and proper heat transfer.

    Keep that tip shiny!!
     
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  11. hopdybob

    hopdybob Tele-Afflicted

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    i have done this for years, but stept over to the brass scrubby and have less problems than with the sponge.
    someone said to me, the sponge keeps the dirt, and you don't wash yourself with the same washcloth for weeks ;-)
     
  12. Ghostdriver

    Ghostdriver Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    i too thought I had rubbish soldering irons until i discovered tip tinner, doesn't matter how cheap the iron, if you look after the tip, they will look after you for many months, and obviously they dont last forever, but I was changing a tip every guitar i was building, ludicrous !
    Tip tinner rules !
     
  13. SbS

    SbS Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    Just sharing experirnces..

    About a year ago when found this guitar hobby again, I went with the cheap one first. Thought, I'll make just few pots and switches. Mistake. It was difficult to work and I burnt tips and components like there's no tomorrow. So wasn't very cheap at all.

    Then switched to better quality Iron, but still basic level without bells and whistles. Better, although it ate tips too (or I still destroyed them). Unleaded tin and some larger components require good amount of heat I guess. So I wasn't careful enough with overheating, cleaning and stuff.

    Lastly, bought not really expensive, but one with power switch and temperature adjustment. And the tip is HAKKO style, not just a simple rod I had earlier. It's really nice to work, felt controlled but efficient, could switch it off every time there was a little pause between. Came with brass/rosin cleaner so used that after every solder.

    Everything feels and looks smoother than ever before to this point.
     
  14. Lowerleftcoast

    Lowerleftcoast Friend of Leo's

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    Galvanic corrosion. The quality (thickness, impurities, etc.) of plating on the tip makes a difference. Keeping a coat of solder on the tip at all times is important to slow the corrosion reaction.

    Idk if it is true for the coating on solder tips but for chrome plating, an amount of impurities are added to create many many microscopic holes through the chrome. This spreads the reaction over the surface to lessen the electrical charge slowing the corrosion.
     
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