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Best lead-free solder?
Old 10th January 2015
  #1
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Best lead-free solder?

Hi.

I am going to be making some XLR, TRS and TS cables, and off-course need to solder the connectors.
I need some help finding the solder, as there are sooooooo many to chose from.
Most people seem to recommend 'KESTER', which I am fine with, but I need more specifics.
For example: the diameter, the composition (how much tin, silver and copper used). Also regarding the Rosin it contains.
(I know the rosin can be toxic which is the reason why I will be using an extractor, keeping windows open, and also be wearing a mask or respirator whilst soldering)... laugh if you may.

I thank you all in advance, but ask you to please refrain from turning this into a discussion/debate/argument about leaded vs lead-free solder.

I have made up my mind to go with lead-free and would appreciate if you would only discuss lead-free solder.

Also feel free to give me any tips or pointers when using the solder, as I am aware that lead-free solder can be more difficult to work with.

Thank you
Old 11th January 2015
  #2
S21
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🎧 5 years
While I don't use it, I've heard that the 99.3% tin 0.7% copper is workable.

If you are worried about toxic effects just buy pre made cables.

Last edited by S21; 11th January 2015 at 06:34 AM..
Old 11th January 2015
  #3
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Richard Crowley's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
If we knew where you were, it would be easier to suggest something specific.
(completing your profile to at least reveal your country is generally helpful)
Kester 44 Rosin Core Solder 63/37 would be my strong recommendation.

Lead-free is especially not recommended for beginner use. Because it is more difficult to get a good joint.
And do you have a modern iron that can deliver the proper temperature for proper lead-free soldering?

Some of us old-timers have been soldering with "toxic" rosin for 50 years. Maybe "toxic" means something different these days?
Perhaps I have missed it, but I never actually saw any evidence that there is a problem with lead leaching out of discarded electronic gear.
ROHS seems mostly like just another stupid politician trick.

Last edited by Richard Crowley; 11th January 2015 at 12:14 PM..
Old 12th January 2015 | Show parent
  #4
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by S21 ➑️
While I don't use it, I've heard that the 99.3% tin 0.7% copper is workable.

If you are worried about toxic effects just buy pre made cables.
So what do you use then...?
I don't like pre-made cables, as the ones that are pre-made and actually good, are EXPENSIVE!! Stupidly expensive! I can make a Β£50 cable for around Β£8.
That why I said I would ventilate well and have an extractor at the least. Im not worried with these precautions in place.
Old 12th January 2015 | Show parent
  #5
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Crowley ➑️
If we knew where you were, it would be easier to suggest something specific.
(completing your profile to at least reveal your country is generally helpful)
Kester 44 Rosin Core Solder 63/37 would be my strong recommendation.

Lead-free is especially not recommended for beginner use. Because it is more difficult to get a good joint.
And do you have a modern iron that can deliver the proper temperature for proper lead-free soldering?

Some of us old-timers have been soldering with "toxic" rosin for 50 years. Maybe "toxic" means something different these days?
Perhaps I have missed it, but I never actually saw any evidence that there is a problem with lead leaching out of discarded electronic gear.
ROHS seems mostly like just another stupid politician trick.
Yeh, sorry about that. Im from the UK. Check this link, maybe you could say which is a good lead-free one here: Kester Solder | Mouser
I understand what your saying about the whole toxic thing, and if it is actually as harmful as they say. I also agree that one moment something is ok, next minute it is poison in these so called 'scientists' eyes.... but..... As we are exposed to so much crap, poisons and toxins already in this messed up world we live in today... id rather be safe than sorry and minimize these risks where I can.
I get what your saying tho.
Old 12th January 2015 | Show parent
  #6
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Crowley ➑️
And do you have a modern iron that can deliver the proper temperature for proper lead-free soldering?
Also, we pay like quadruple the price for Kester here in the UK, and ordering from the US is not an option bcoz of the expensive shipping and taxes. I don't mind paying if it is a good solder and will last me. About soldering irons, sorry i forgot to mention. I understand that Weller's are good, but again are like double the price out here than the US. We don't have many HAKKO's here, and they r really expensive here. Which would you recommend. Or any others?

Just to clear up, I have soldered before but i'm no expert by any means.

Thanks

(revision: been looking at some 'Xytronic' stations and they offer some temperature controlled models at a very good price point. Do you know of them? If so, what do you think?)
Old 12th January 2015
  #7
S21
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🎧 5 years
You really want a temperature controlled iron, probably running 40degC hotter than for regular solder.

If you spend 50 pounds on a cable it better be 50 metres long.
Old 12th January 2015 | Show parent
  #8
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by S21 ➑️
You really want a temperature controlled iron, probably running 40degC hotter than for regular solder.

If you spend 50 pounds on a cable it better be 50 metres long.
Yeh I no that you need hotter temps for non-lead, will get a temp controlled iron. Thanks
Lol what 50 meter mogami or any other premium brand can you buy with 50 pounds? None lol, thats cheaper than the cable alone without connectors.
Don't get me wrong, i would never spend Β£50 on a cable. Which is why I make my own. I don't use mogami anyway, but just an example.
Old 12th January 2015
  #9
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
What size tip would be best to easily tin the inner wires and making the connections?
Also which would be best, chisel or pointed?
Old 12th January 2015
  #10
S21
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🎧 5 years
I'm a fan of fine pointed tips.
Old 12th January 2015
  #11
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Hi
I use an ANTEX temperature controlled iron (50 Watt) for 'out and about' and a Weller in the workshop.
Rather than getting hung up on a particular solder learn to use what you get. There are some that say 'easy flow' or whatever.
If you are doing mainly XLRs and large connectors go for 'thicker' grades (18SWG) otherwise you have to spend ages feeding it in. If you are going for D subs or smaller get thin grades (22SWG) . A 'medium' size tip is probably best for XLRs (3.2mm?)
Working in a well ventilated area is good and unless you are doing this more than 8 hours a day for years on end don't worry about the fumes excessively but do wash hands etc before eating.
Lead 'leeching' into waterways is a problem that was found in the UK by the Romans about 2000 years ago and probably identified in other areas, although the cause probably wasn't correctly identified at the time.
Matt S
Old 12th January 2015 | Show parent
  #12
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by S21 ➑️
I'm a fan of fine pointed tips.
I see. What millimetre do you use
Old 12th January 2015 | Show parent
  #13
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Syson ➑️
Hi
I use an ANTEX temperature controlled iron (50 Watt) for 'out and about' and a Weller in the workshop.
Rather than getting hung up on a particular solder learn to use what you get. There are some that say 'easy flow' or whatever.
If you are doing mainly XLRs and large connectors go for 'thicker' grades (18SWG) otherwise you have to spend ages feeding it in. If you are going for D subs or smaller get thin grades (22SWG) . A 'medium' size tip is probably best for XLRs (3.2mm?)
Matt S
Thanks for your response.
Which ANTEX is it? Wellers are scarce here in the UK and stupidly expensive compared to over in the US. I was actually thinking to order a Weller from the US and just use a step-down transformer, that should work right?

So what mm solder thickness do you recommend for just XLR and TRS 1/4inch?... May do the odd mini here and there too.

As i'm going to be using the lead-free solder, its more important to get a good one don't u agree?
Old 12th January 2015
  #14
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Im becoming increasingly confused about 'flux' and 'rosins'. Does anyone care to shed some light on this. Are the two used interchangeably? Or is rosin a type of flux? Thats what I always thought.

No clean flux i'm guessing means that you need to clean the irons tip less??
Old 12th January 2015
  #15
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Hi
I think it is called TCP?, sold by Farnell, RS and I think Maplin. Antex is well distributed here. They don't have many regulated types at 50 Watts. They are still around 50 quid!
I happen to have Wellers simply because I used them at previous employers over the last 35 Years or so.
Practice makes perfect!
Matt S
Old 12th January 2015
  #16
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Hi
Rosin is a type of flux. The purpose of a 'flux' is to clean impurities on the wires/connections and to assist the solder in flowing around the joint. Heating metals causes oxidisation which prevents a good contact being made, the flux cleans and keeps oxygen out.
The 'no clean' types are intended to speed up the work as you don't need to remove excess flux after the joint has been made. Most of the flux actually 'boils' away. In an assembly area boards would be washed after soldering. When I was doing this years ago there was a liquid called 'Arklone' which removed flux and cleaned the board. This is now banned as dangerous and new formulations are actually water soluble so the boards are washed to clean them.
I am presuming that Rosin which is the same stuff as used on violin strings/bows is a resin from trees and when used for soldering served to keep oxygen out. Other methods of soldering used acid fluxes to really clean the metallic joints but they HAVE to be removed and are not suitable for 'electronics' work.
Matt S
Old 12th January 2015 | Show parent
  #17
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Richard Crowley's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by gearhoe ➑️
Is rosin a type of flux?
No clean flux i'm guessing means that you need to clean the irons tip less??
Flux is used to prepare (typically clean) the surfaces to accept the solder (or welding) better, to achieve a better joint.

The two major types of flux are "rosin" and "acid". Rosin flux was originally derived from tree sap. You could look up the history if you are really interested. It is the type used for electronics soldering.

Acid flux is clearly an acidic preparation that etches the surfaces to prepare them for soldering or welding. Because it is a much more aggressive substance, it typically ruins electronic circuits over time and for that reason is virtually NEVER recommended for electronic/electrical soldering.

"No-clean" rosin-based flux means that it is safe to leave on the PC board and components without cleaning it off after soldering (which is typically the BKM, Best Known Method) Of course, there are some very sensitive circuits that should be cleaned after soldering, no matter what kind of flux you use. And (as you can see from Dave's teardowns) leaving visible flux on the board after soldering is a sign of cheap/sloppy/shoddy workmanship.

"No-clean" flux has little or nothing to do with preservation of cleanliness of the iron tip. You should always clean the tip before soldering regardless of what type of flux you are using. We typically leave "slag" and excess solder ON the tip after soldering (and when turning off the iron). This adds an extra layer of protection on the tip. Then just before using the iron to make a joint, clean the tip on brass shaving curls (or a wet sponge) and "wet" the tip with a bit of new solder to allow it to make a good thermal connection to whatever you are trying to solder.

We typically attempt to heat both the component lead or pin AND the PC board pad (or terminal lug, etc.) at the same time, and then flow solder into the combined structure when hot enough. A nice HOT iron and good technique allow you to quickly heat up the terminal and the component lead/pin, melt the solder into the joint, and get out quickly, before exceeding the
Old 12th January 2015 | Show parent
  #18
S21
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by gearhoe ➑️
I see. What millimetre do you use
0.5
Old 13th January 2015 | Show parent
  #19
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Syson ➑️
Hi
I think it is called TCP?, sold by Farnell, RS and I think Maplin. Antex is well distributed here. They don't have many regulated types at 50 Watts. They are still around 50 quid!
Matt S
Thanks. Il check them out. 50 quid aint too bad.

(Edited: just looked them up, not sure when you bought yours, but the cheapest Antex soldering station is over Β£140. Think I will have to go 'Xytronic'.)
Old 13th January 2015 | Show parent
  #20
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Syson ➑️
Hi
Rosin is a type of flux. The purpose of a 'flux' is to.....
Matt S
Thanks for response. Makes sense.
Old 13th January 2015 | Show parent
  #21
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Crowley ➑️
Flux is used to prepare (typically clean) the surfaces to accept the solder (or welding) better, to achieve a better joint.

"No-clean" rosin-based flux means that it is safe to leave on the PC board and components without cleaning it off after soldering....
Thanks a lot for your detailed response, really appreciate it. You have cleared up a lot of my confusion.

So..... should I use a 'no-clean' rosin flux cored solder for my intended purpose then.
Some solders also say activated on them too. Do you mind briefly touching on that. And also this whole organic thing. My guess is instead of them using an acid, they use an acidic organic material that serves a similar purpose to the acid??
Also about halogen and halogen-free?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Crowley ➑️
A nice HOT iron and good technique allow you to quickly heat up the terminal and the component lead/pin, melt the solder into the joint, and get out quickly, before exceeding the
Where you going to finish off by saying: ...exceeding the temperature of the material, for example: frying the components? or what would that do to lets say: the cup contacts on an XLR connector?
So what is the recommend temperature to use above the solder's melting point?

Thanks
Old 13th January 2015
  #22
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Anyone had any experience with 'Xytronic' soldering stations. Or could any1 recommend any other good soldering stations for under Β£80. Living in the UK where 'Weller' is expensive, which doesn't make any sense since it is a european brand!
Any suggestions?
Looking for a temperature controlled unit by the way.
Old 13th January 2015
  #23
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Anyone got any opinions on this station bellow or any reasons not to buy it? I could just get a station separate and extractor fan separate. Not sure which would be better.

Xytronic Fume Extractor with Iron 456DLX | Rapid Online
Old 13th January 2015
  #24
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Hi
The model I have is:
ANTEX

Manufacturer: ANTEX
Order Code: 629121
Manufacturer Part No TCS230

From Farnell.

Unhelpfully the 'data sheet' called up on this item is incorrect (from Farnell).
It is 'simply' an iron and is priced at Β£61 + Vat
Probably available a bit cheaper elsewhere.
You can fit alternative bits as necessary and temp control is a small screwdriver adjuster on the side.
Plugs into the mains, simples!
Matt S
Old 13th January 2015 | Show parent
  #25
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Syson ➑️
You can fit alternative bits as necessary and temp control is a small screwdriver adjuster on the side.
Matt S
I see. I was looking for a station with a unit, preferably analog.

Thanks anyway
Old 13th January 2015 | Show parent
  #26
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Richard Crowley's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by gearhoe ➑️
Thanks a lot for your detailed response, really appreciate it. You have cleared up a lot of my confusion.

So..... should I use a 'no-clean' rosin flux cored solder for my intended purpose then.
Some solders also say activated on them too. Do you mind briefly touching on that. And also this whole organic thing. My guess is instead of them using an acid, they use an acidic organic material that serves a similar purpose to the acid??
Also about halogen and halogen-free?
I only do casual hobby-level soldering. Cables/connectors, PC boards (mostly thru-hole), etc. I'm not really into all the esoteric types of flux. Stick with a known name-brand ELECTRONIC-grade solder (i.e. not acid-core like plumbers and metalworkers use).

I use Kester flux-core solder and never even had a separate source of flux until very recently when I got a syringe to learn how to solder SMD. I find all this attention to flux is rather baffling. Majoring in minors, it seems to me. Of much more importance is keeping the tip clean, and learning proper technique to achieve consistently good joints. I typically don't clean rosin away unless it is a particularly sensitive circuit (as when I am working on a condenser microphone, etc.)

Quote:
Where you going to finish off by saying: ...exceeding the temperature of the material, for example: frying the components? or what would that do to lets say: the cup contacts on an XLR connector?
So what is the recommend temperature to use above the solder's melting point?
Yes, the last part of the message got lost in the ether. If you look at the details in the data sheets for various components, you will see temperature limits, and even heating profiles for surface-mount components.

I have a couple of old Weller soldering irons with 700 F tips and they have worked well for me for everything I've done in the last few decades. I recently got a Hakko adjustable temperature iron (FX-888D) because it has a very good reputation over on EEVblog for general soldering applications, and also for surface-mount (SMD) soldering and repair.
Old 13th January 2015 | Show parent
  #28
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Crowley ➑️
I use Kester flux-core solder and never even had a separate source of flux until very recently
I see. What diameter solder do you use or recommend for just the simple cables that i'm doing?
So you use rosin flux-cored no-clean? Correct me if i'm wrong.

Also, could you share with me what tips you prefer or recommend. The shape and diameter? e.g chisel, pointed,... etc? and the diameter size of them.

Thanks again
Old 13th January 2015 | Show parent
  #29
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Crowley ➑️
That "crazy Aussie" David Jones has done a 3-part tutorial on soldering over on his EEVblog:
Thanks lol. I will watch them for sure.

I ordered myself a new station earlier. A well respected Chinese brand, that is specifically designed for lead-free use. Temp controlled too, at a very good price point. But I have to wait as its coming from China.
There was a distributor here in the UK, but they didn't have this specific model.
Old 13th January 2015
  #30
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Richard Crowley's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I think the diameter I prefer is 0.031 inch. But that is not terribly critical. If it gets too large (> 0.1 in) it is harder to melt for small joints. If it is too small, then it is just more fiddly to use, as you have to keep feeding solder into the joint until you have enough volume, etc.

I use traditional rosin-core solder. The whole "no-clean" business is not really relevant for most connector soldering. For that matter, I am rather dubious about "no-clean" because it makes me wonder what other (probably more important) feature I am trading-off for "no-clean".

The tip I use most of the time is the default one that came with the iron(s), the Weller PTA.
See Dave's tutorial for discussion of where other tips may be better for other uses.

If you use a tip that is too big, you run the risk of burning nearby things that you didn't intend to heat up.
Aid a tip that is too small will not conduct enough heat to the joint and will result in unreliable connections.
Of course, if you are soldering something really tiny, then the smaller tip would be more appropriate, etc.
And if you are soldering something big, then the PTA wonn't be big enough.
That is why they have a variety of different tips. Select the proper tip for the job at hand.

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