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Sharpen and Re-tin Soldering Iron Tips

Discussion in 'Electronic Basics' started by [email protected], Feb 16, 2007.

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  1. Guest

    Hello All,

    I tried to sharpen and re-tin a tired tip once and failed. I'm about
    ready for another new one and was wondering again if it's possible and
    what the proper technique is after grinding a nice new point?


  2. Tom Biasi

    Tom Biasi Guest

    After grinding a nice new point you have ruined your tip.

  3. Guest

    I figured that out after I attempted it the first time... Hey, it was
    going in the garbage anyway.

    Other folks have mentioned that they do it, but I don't see where they
    talk about HOW they do it.

    I assume that the anatomy of the tip is a copper plated chunk of
    something? Once you grind the copper off, your done?


  4. Cheap tips are solid copper, and steadily dissolve in the
    solder, as they are used. This usually shows up as a pit at
    the tip, where they are most exposed to fresh solder. These
    can be reshaped a few times with a single cut file.

    Good tips are made of iron plated copper. When the iron is
    fresh, it is solder coated, probably by first coating the
    tip with high temperature silver solder. As long as you
    don't let the solder get burnt off and the underlying iron
    oxidized, these tips last a great many hours, because iron
    is hardly soluble in solder at the operating temperature of
    the iron.

    If the iron does get exposed, and is resistant to solder
    wetting, you might be able to restore the bond by rubbing it
    on brown craft paper (a folded paper bag) in a puddle of
    solder with active rosin flux. Anything much more abrasive
    than that is hard on the iron plating.

    This type should always be put away with a fresh, heavy
    coating of solder, that can be wiped thin, the next time the
    iron is used. If the iron plating ever gets a hole in it,
    the copper dissolves out from under the rest of the plating.
  5. I think you're confusing old tips with new.

    They used to be made of copper, and then you'd have to file them
    occasionally as the tips decayed, so you'd get a smooth tip.

    But even when I was a kid, 35 years ago, it was pretty common that
    the tips were plated with something, so they didn't corrode nearly
    as fast. Actually, I've used nothing but plated soldering iron tips
    since aobut 1974, and I don't recall once having one go bad. That
    might be a slight exaggeration, but the plated tips live on forever,
    and the only ones I can remember that I needed to replace had
    been damaged when I dropped them, or otherwise misused them.

    A practical example. One time I did want to do something out of
    the ordinary, so I bent and filed a plated tip. So the plating
    was gone, and once it was, the lifetime was pretty finite. It
    was likely a good experience, since if the long life of the plated
    tips didn't say anything to me, getting the plating off and seeing
    the decay did.

    So if a tip is plated, you never take a file or steel wool to them.
    Generally, they will only require a wiping with a sponge or paper towel,
    though of course the tip needs to be in the iron and turned on at the time.
    It will generally just wipe away. Then of course, you need to "tin" the
    iron again, which means adding a fair amount of solder, and letting it
    sit for a few minutes before wiping it clean.

    ANd of course, if you don't tin the tip in the first place, again letting
    it warm up and then melting solder on it so it covers the tip and then
    letting it sit there for a few minutes before wiping the tip, you won't
    have great success using the iron. The solder will just roll off.

  6. Many tips are iron plated copper. Grind off the iron and it's junk.

  7. Rich Grise

    Rich Grise Guest

    But "Ironclad" sounds so much more secure. ;-)

    I've got copper tips that I've filed and re-tinned for years.
    I've never had to do that to an ironclad tip, but a Weller is
    significantly more than $9.95. ;-) And new tips for my $9.95
    RS iron are about 39 cents. :)

    And I got a little tub of this stuff some decades ago: which
    can help to clean and tin a raw copper tip.

  8. Puckdropper

    Puckdropper Guest

    That cheap, eh?

    I'll probably buy one or two on my next visit, then. It'd be worth
    having a second tip around if this one starts to give me trouble.

  9. MassiveProng

    MassiveProng Guest

    IF it is solid copper, no problem.

    Problem is that NO soldering iron tips these days for circuit
    assembly are solid copper. They are usually steel with a cladding on
    them. As soon as you grind or sand on it, you kill the tip as bare
    steel will NOT take solder.

    Look for and use an item known as:

    Kester "sal ammoniac"


    About 2 to 5 dollars. A block in a box about 2.5 inches on each
    side. Mine has lasted me a couple of decades.

    You shove your hot tip (sounds nasty) into it and it removes crust
    and the like, and allows the solder to re-tin the tip quite well.
  10. MassiveProng

    MassiveProng Guest

    Wouldn't that more correctly be "Copper plated Iron"?
  11. MassiveProng

    MassiveProng Guest


    Actually, the CLADDING is NOT copper, but another more durable

    Lead is very grabby at surface molecules. Copper is very weak on
    its surface, and is easily degraded by such metals as Lead (solder) or
    Mercury, etc.

  12. No, it's ironclad copper. The copper is for thermal conductivity, and the
    iron keeps the copper from being eroded by the solder. An ironclad tip
    will last long enough to be worth its price if you don't do anything to
    break the iron coating.
  13. MassiveProng

    MassiveProng Guest

    That's not what MetCal or Edsyn uses. Iron or steel is the base
    metal, and the "thermal conduction" rate is unimportant at the heat
    source level. The difference being a mere second or two laggy-er.
    The tinning block I mentioned restore ALL of my tips to like new.

    The trick is MOT to have your temp cranked through the ceiling, and
    turn OFF your iron EVERY time, when not in use.

    Teaching my production crews this fact saved our company some bucks,
    and taught some ordinary assemblers a tid bit that improves their
    capacity to become better. more experienced assemblers.
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