In order to make your welds perfectly, you must have a soldering iron tip in good condition. As it gets dirty with each use, we explain how to tin a soldering iron tip here.
Why tin-plating your soldering iron tip
The tinning of the soldering tip improves the heat transfer from the soldering iron to the component to be soldered. It protects the tip, reduces wear and tear and extends its life. Even so, a tip is not permanent and it always ends up being rough or pitted, but you can delay this by tinning regularly.
The equipment to be used
To tin a soldering iron tip, you need metal straw. You can pack it in a very small container, such as an espresso cup, which is very handy to hold, without the risk of burning yourself with the hot tip.
You also need a spool of soldering wire to use for cleaning up the tip. If you have tested several threads before finding your favourites, use the thread you had set aside as being of unsatisfactory quality. For this operation, it just serves to “catch” the residues stuck to the tip.
You can already carry out a basic cleaning of the tip by rubbing it with the metal straw. If it does not return to its original appearance and the solder still doesn’t stick to the tip, you should consider a more radical method.
Your soldering iron tip needs to be tinned when it:
- has lost some of its shine;
- has irregularities;
- is covered with residue, or even solder is stuck on it.
You can find ammoniacal stone for tin plating a soldering iron tip in DIY stores. Heat the iron, then scrape the tip against the stone. Try not to proceed in a confined environment. Ideally, this should be done outside to avoid inhaling ammonia vapours.
Reheat your iron and bring a good piece of solder to get rid of the tiny resisting dust particles. When you have collected a nice ball of solder – which should remain stuck to the tip – rub it with metal straw again.
Check the effectiveness of your tinning by bringing in material. The ball that forms at the end of the tip should have a smooth, even appearance.
Some people suggest using a damp sponge, rather than metal straw, but this is far from being a cure-all. A sponge is not abrasive enough to clean the tip and it will cool it down. You also would have to go very fast so as not to burn the sponge. Metal straw lasts much longer and is more efficient.
To reinforce your tinning, you can use a Flux box that you can find at very reasonable prices in DIY stores or online.
Still with a hot iron, you dip your tip in the Flux, then clean it with metal straw.
Avoid sanding your tip with sandpaper, as you will remove its protective surface and it will then wear faster.
At the end of the operation, the tip should have recovered its brightness, which will obtain tin (or other) filler beads of the best possible quality to make beautiful, resistant solders.