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Discussion Starter · #41 · (Edited)

Soldering irons when hot are capable of causing severe burns, and as such should be treated with care at all times –

Replace in a stable holder when not in use

Switch off when no longer required

Solder when molten is very hot and will burn on contact and this can occur through accidental spills or the solder spattering during the soldering process. Taking all necessary precautions with the use of (PPE) makes good sense.

Solder may cause serious burns, ulceration or even blindness to if it spatters and makes contact with eyes.

Wear fire resistant clothing like 100% cotton, re denim with it covering your arms and legs.

Another point to be aware of is that as the solder melts, it can run away with you, especially if the solder diameter is small and the joint you are working on is large. If you are not taking proper care, you could very quickly end up with your fingers right up to the joint and burning them.

  • Immediately place any burns under running water for 15 minutes and seek professional help if need be


This is something you will have in your home, garage or workshop anyway, but if not, it might be a good idea to sort something out, even if you put some of the basic first aid items in it, as you never know when you or someone else might need it.

If you are not sure what to get or can't be bothered to put one together yourself, you can get one online and there are masses to choose from to suit all pockets. I took a quick shufty on the big 'A' and captured a few to give you an idea ...

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The soldering iron will need to be placed in a stable holder or support when not in immediate use and switched off when not required, as if it is placed on a flammable surface or in a position where it could be knocked over etc., there is a risk it could start a fire.

Where possible have your work piece on a fire proof or fire-resistant surface like a silicone mat

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Have your work piece stable and secure if you can. There are many different ‘helping hand’ devices available some dirt cheap and others costing a pretty penny, just depends what you are after.

Lead solder:

Lead metal in its solid state is not very reactive, it doesn’t react with oxygen in normal situations, so is almost unaffected by fire, and as such is considered to be non-inflammable but can burn under the right circumstances.

Lead burning uses high heat to join two sheets in welding, but this is no longer practiced by plumbers, due to leads toxic properties, although roofers use the process. Lead burning produces lead oxide, which forms a layer on the lead itself.

Lead dust on the other hand, is flammable, and will burn, as the lead dust, in a similar fashion to other combustible dusts, gives rise to in this case lead particles forming into a dust cloud, which can cause a severe explosion.


Keep a fire extinguisher handy and know how to use it, and a fire blanket too, or just go for one or the other.

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Discussion Starter · #42 ·
6) Soldering a spliced wire joint

There are countless YT videos available to watch on the method of soldering, and types of splicing joints available and techniques used and believe me when I say I have watched dozens of them, but in the end, it is down to you to make your own choice based on the best of what you see. Although I have as yet to try out my soldering kit, the reason for which will become clear later, but from what I have seen and read, it is a simple task that does improve with practice, a little knowledge and having the right kit to start out with.

Rather than me going into writing another essay on the art of soldering, I have put up a YT video below, and this gent covers things very nicely I think. I did try looking for an auto/electric wire splicing clip and to get away from PCBs, but you would be amazed at the suspect safety issues they included and not to mention the rather colourful language.:eek:

For those that don’t like to spend time watching videos, I have taken a few stills and put them into pictures for you, to give you an idea, with the first method i.e. the lap splice method, being similar to the one used by Rigger 575.

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The chap in the video also gives a tip on how to make up your own solder heat shrink tubing, but sometime ago I came across another showing how to do this which is a variation on the same theme, but it was better in my opinion for a few reasons, like, making more at one time and less likelihood of wastage, then there is the flattening out the solder making it thinner and easier to slip into the tubing as well as having a greater surface area so it would melt faster.

Other tips I have came across with regard to these solder heat shrink connectors which may be of benefit in giving a stronger and more effective joint, is prior to placing the tubing over the wires, do one or more of the following:
1) tin the wires first
2) splice the wires by splurging (mesh method) and/or twisting them together
2) add a flux

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Discussion Starter · #43 · (Edited)
7) Care of and Tinning a Solder Iron

As with most things really, if you look after your tools they will look after you, and this goes for your soldering iron, longevity mainly applies to the tip, as this is the first thing to suffer by neglect and a few simple steps will keep it clean and performing as it should.

Different advice comes from reviews and YT clips but basically it all seems to me to be this:

a) Always tin a new soldering iron before anything else and the way I like from all I have seen is to add flux to the tip and then wrap the solder around the tip in a coil, have it in a horizontal position, turn on the heat and allow the solder to heat up, melt, roll and drop off.

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b) Tin the tip before a soldering job starts

c) Tin the tip at the end of the soldering job

d) Remove the tip occasionally to prevent it becoming stuck, due to a possible build-up of corrosive inside the barrel

e) Place the iron down on/in its holder to avoid damage to it, you or property

f) Frequently clean the solder tip during extending use to remove any contaminants. This can be done by simply wiping on a very damp cellulose sponge and/or dry wiping using a brass or copper wire wool ball placed in some sort of holder.
NB: one person recommends not using a wet as the cold water on the sponge ‘shocks’ the hot tip of the iron.

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For heavily soiled/oxidised tips other cleaning methods my be required such as the careful use of a damp steel wool which will help to get rid of rust if present, but definitely steer clear of sand paper.

There are commercial tip cleaners/tinners that can be purchased, but from what I have seen and read, these should be used with caution and not too often as they could end up damaging the tips themselves. As always with this sort of thing, best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and maybe check a few things on the net for yourself. However, here is some info on the one I found to be the wariest of, which is the solid block of Sal Ammoniac:

Sal Ammoniac is Ammonium Chloride ( NH4Cl ) which is a white crystalline salt that is highly soluble in water, and the solutions formed are mildly acidic. Sal ammoniac is the name given to the natural mineral form of ammonium chloride. The mineral is commonly formed on burning coal dumps from condensation of coal-derived gases and can be found around some types of volcanic vents. It is mainly used as fertilizer and a flavouring agent in some types of liquorice. It is the product from the reaction of hydrochloric acid and ammonia.

Just out of interest, ammonium chloride is also used :

  • for cleaning tip of soldering irons
  • in fireworks
  • in plywood glue
  • as an electrolyte in zinc-carbon batteries
  • as a flux in preparing metals to be tin coated, galvanised and soldered
  • as a nutritive media for yeast microbiological organisms
  • to add lustre to cotton
  • in hair shampoos and cleaning products
  • in the textile and leather industry
  • in cooling baths to produce low temperatures
  • as a buffer solution when used in conjunction with ammonia

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Discussion Starter · #44 · (Edited)
8) Connectors & tools etc. some good some not so good?

This is the last point on the list I made on my opening post and this can encompass a huge selection of things, but I have already mentioned a few, with regards to others, I will give a some examples of the many types available for the products I have looked at or bought myself, over these past few weeks.

So we have covered fluxes, solders, connectors and wire cutters, but a quick note regarding the latter and a tip about the Stanley Fatmax etc too.

Last night I went to use the Stanley Fatmax wire strippers only this time they let me down, they are not really very good at stripping the rubber outside coating from the complete flex, or the rubber coating from the individual wires, so I had a go with the Irwin ones that I couldn't master before, and this time I can't say for the life of me why, but they took the rubber from the individual wires easy-peasy lemon squeezy - excellent piece of kit and one that I can now highly recommend.

Given this is the only bit of flex I have that is rubber and that for decades as far back as I can remember everything has been plastic except for one water feature, which is now defunct and this is where I salvaged the cable from, then I can recommend the Fatmax whole heartedly too.

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While we are on the subject of wires, in order to put the wire in the right slot, I wanted to know the gauge, so as luck would have it, out came this little number that I got last week, for under a fiver - a S.W.G wire Gauge and you can get the same sort of thing in AWG too.

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We've already looked at soldering irons and if you buy a kit, invariably you get a whole lot of things come with the package but if not, you might like to get things like micro wire cutters, tweezers, hot air gun but try to get one that has an attachment for getting the air to circulate all around the heat shrink tubing, making for a faster and better result.

If the kit doesn't have a soldering iron stand, or if you buy the iron separately, there is a good choice of stands available to get as an addition.

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You are also better off working with something supporting your work piece(s), it not only makes the job easier and safer, but will probably mean the soldering is a better with the joint more effective. So I'm thinking some kind of helping hand here and there is again, you have so many different kinds to choose from.

Having said that, you don't have to spend a fortune and I have seen quite a few videos of folks making use of the equipment they already and/or making a small addition, e.g. a bench vice, with or without the use of alligator clips.

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Discussion Starter · #45 · (Edited)
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Why is it we pay so much more for so much less with these diddy soldering sponges I ask myself? Is it because they are cut to size, tiny and cost more to produce, or maybe we just like having them ready made to fit into our kit's preformed recesses made for them, or perhaps it is because they know folks like me that know no better will be taken in, while trying to do the right thing like when I bought the Silverline ones at almost 40p a pop ... yep that's the doozie me thinks.

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The soldering sponges I bought are tiny but they are the same size as the one that came in the kit so they must be right yes? Wrong!

I can see that being small they will contain a smaller surface area of contaminants but even so, the sponge does not sit in the recess snugly and instead extends over all 4 sides and I can see it slipping about and moving around rather easily each time the iron tip is rolled over on it if not unduly careful, and that is just another thing to be conscious of.

So, to get rid of that concern, I have ordered a few tins, well, it was cheaper to buy 4 than to buy one and they are about the same size as a tobacco tin, (bigger one, 2oz). I am thinking that probably the lid will do the job, but I will cross that bridge, when they arrive.

Meanwhile, I have fixed up a mini work station, with the iron holder and dry cleaning metal wool holder both being screwed to a wooden board and I have left a space for the tin sponge holder when that gets here, and I will fix that down too, without making any holes, given there is water involved.

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Discussion Starter · #46 · (Edited)
Another little project I have been busying myself with is making a solder and flex fume box extractor. As you might know, I have been perusing what is on offer and reading reviews, but I do have a budget as to what I feel is a sensible price to pay as well as I really would like to have the 3 filters to take out different sized particles, even if it comes down to placebo effect in the filters I buy, mind over matter can work wonders as the saying goes and at least if they are there, they might at least be doing something.

All the ones I have looked at, even those that cost more than I am willing to pay, don't seem to fare well in reviews with regards to efficacy, so I got my old brain box working and came up with a plan. I know others have made their own, but they tend to be tiny fans USB powered type for electronics, and I wanted a beefier one for electrics, so made up my own little jobby.

The wood was from an old wardrobe, the flex and plug I had salvaged from a water feature long gone, the wood stain, varnish, wood filler and acrylic strip were left over from a previous project, and the fuse too was a saved from an old plug – oh yes, old Ruby is some kind of hoarder ‘tis true. :)

Adding things up as best I could, I reckon it cost me about £21.50 to make the box, a 3 system filter cost £7 and I got a 3m ducting hose from Screwfix, which is at a great price at the moment, for only £4.39.

Here is a breakdown and guestimate of the cost and below is a picture of most of the sort of things used in making the fume box, and then come the pictures of how I went about it ... I bet you knew they would be along soon eh? ;)

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Discussion Starter · #47 ·
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Discussion Starter · #48 ·
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Looks great Ruby, but why not just sit a desk fan nearby, should be sufficient to disperse any fumes.
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Discussion Starter · #51 · (Edited)
Cheers matey and good question (y)

Say you are working in your study, with a good few bits of soldering to do on several PCBs, or even in your garage sorting out some electrics and it will be taking you quite some time and just for arguments sake, it's freezing cold so the windows/doors are shut, also making sure you won't be disturbed. You are using 60/40 tin/lead solder with a rosin core flux and using rosin as an external flux, just to chivvy things along and to make things more pleasant breathing wise, you have a fan on your work area blowing the solder and flux fumes away from your face, nothing wrong with that in principle and certainly better than having no fan at all.

But now if you will, look at it like this, say that closed room/garage was like the inside of an upright vacuum cleaner, no problem while the motor is off and everything is settled, but switch it on and the dust and particles whizz all around and if you were to be sat somewhere inside cylinder too, you would be breathing some of that in, no matter how well it was dispersed about inside. So, in a similar vein is the case with the noxious fumes from the solder and the flux, dispersed by the fan, filling the study or garage, only just because you can't see the dust and particles kicking up as with the vacuum cleaner, doesn't mean to say they are not there, and what's worse is these products as a result of soldering they are detriment to health, albeit relative to many variable factors which I have previously mentioned.

That's how I see it in my mind's eye, and here are some bits of information explaining it in more technical terms, from those selling the filters/fume extractors and articles I have come across, which is why, even though I was desperately wanting to have a go at soldering myself, there was no way I would, until I made my fume box.

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There are some big differences between filters and the two main ones being the HEPA and Carbon.

Basically, HEPA is designed and best suited to filter particles like smoke and fumes, while activated carbon is designed and better at filtering odours like smelly chemicals i.e., volatile organic compounds.

Solder and flux used in soldering, once heated can become volatized and emit fume, smoke and other airborne particles. It is the smoke and fumes particles some as small as 0.5 – 1 micron in size, that pose the greatest threat to heath, in relation to respiratory conditions, as they can easily embed on the lungs. I have mentioned about the risks associated with soldering, so I won’t labour the issue here, as to be fair, there are so, so many good points related to soldering, that I think we should be focusing more on that really now.

As with all things it’s always down to choice and a fume extractor is not always practicable, where a fan blowing the fumes away from the face is indeed a really good option, especially if working on a car for example, and you are outside in the fresh air anyway, it would still prevent the smoke from rising straight up and into your nostrils for sure.

Then an extractor fan with no filter is okay, add a carbon activated filter is better, with a HEPA filter on top is better still, the more filters of the right type the better, but be sure the fan is strong enough to get the fumes through them – right?

Even the pricy ones are less than a tank of fuel so a small price to pay I say, but cheap as chips to make your own

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Discussion Starter · #52 · (Edited)
Some might be thinking the same as I did in that is it okay for this type of extraction fan to be used with a flex and plug, rather than wired in as it is designed for, well before I bought mine, I looked on the web to get some answers to the query and I had to do some digging around, but the general consensus seems to be that it is okay but you must use a 3 Amp fuse, which is why I made this abundantly clear earlier on.

Oh yes, and if you do consider getting this of fan, you don't need one with a timer and it will make wiring up to a plug more complicated.

Here is a link to one such bit of info I found and the most pertinent statement being:

"I can't think of any fan I have fitted in a domestic premises which could not be powered from a plug."

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Last night was a big night for old Ruby ... the workshop was electrifying, the atmosphere crystal clear and not a shake or quiver from me trusty hands ... ahhhh, that's what years of holding a scalpel does for you ... here I go as I gripped the iron in the right and solder in the left and I was off, just like a big kid really ohhhhhh yes.

First off, I rigged up the gear to tin the new soldering iron, all going well and pleased to say the fumes were drawn into my magic box of tricks - marvellous!

Then I realised the fumes stopped, as did the melting of the solder and I didn't have the thing hot enough, so I had been turning up the heat when it conked out - 1st lesson learnt. Started again with higher heat, solder melted as it should and job done. (y)

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Next thing was to get ready to have a go at the solder proper as like, so I needed to put heat shrink tubing on the helping hands, get a couple of bits of wire ready and I was going to try a different solder.

This time I was going to use the same 60/40 but with a (RA) Roisin core, which if you remember is Rosin Activated and contains Halides. I bought this which turns out to be a mistake, but at the time I didn't know any better, and I only went and bought 20m of the stuff, so I will use it up while practising.

Funny enough with the first solder and I didn't get a whiff of the fumes at all, but with this second RA flux solder there were far more fumes produced, I had thought they would be much the same, but boy-o-boy, was I wrong. Another thing with the RA flux solder was the fumes were much more dense and I got caught out, I was definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time - not a wholly offensive odour but still not nice and I did need to move the work piece closer to the fume box to suck up the fumes.

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The next time I have a go I will try a conical tip as opposed to the bevel type I used.

On my first attempt I went for the bevel shape soldering iron tip, as I thought it might be easier to hold and distribute the heat under the wire and the solder once the wire was fully wetted. In the end though, I think it worked against me as I ended up applying too much solder, which was held in place by the larger surface area of the tip, rendering the tinned wire finish rather blobby.

With the second wire tinning, I used less solder and used the iron to help distribute what was there, rather than just adding more, this gave a tidier finish I think.

With the wires tinned it's onto my first soldering splice and it's a lap splice for me. The thing I noticed with this joint straight away is, the better a job you make of tinning the wires, the better chance of it being easier to line up and splice the wires to end up with a tidy and effective joint.
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