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Author Topic: why is my soldering gun rubbish?  (Read 8142 times)
NEVBEN
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Posts: 43




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« on: January 12, 2012, 10:22:33 PM »

I have a Craftsman like this one: http://www.sears.com/craftsman-solder-gun-150-230-watt/p-00954046000P

I mostly solder 10/12ga 12VDC connectors, sometimes 14/16ga.  I use very thin, tin and copper rosin core solder.  I used to use a little 25 watt iron and it just wouldn't get a 10 guage connector hot enough so I went out and bought this 230watt gun.  I thought the big gun was the answer.  That was at least 10 years ago.

The gun is too heavy to hold it and the work, so I just zip-tied the trigger and lay the gun on the bench.  I hold the work on the gun's tip and the solder in my other hand.  It does get hot, but it still takes a long time to heat the connector to the point where I get good flow, and by then the insulation on the wire is toasted half an inch up from the end (that's why I slide heat shrink tubing over it when I'm done).  The gun tip gets hot enough to glow, but the work just seems like a big heat sink.  After a long time I get impatient and start melting solder between the gun tip and the connector so there's better conduction and finally it starts to flow, but of course I've got twice as much solder on there as I need now.

I did all my 12ga connectors today and now I just have a PL259 left and I'm dreading that.  I saw a guy do one on Youtube with a 65W chisel tip and it worked great.  I wonder what in the world am I doing wrong?
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WD6GLA
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« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2012, 01:17:39 AM »

You're probably not doing anything wrong Nev .  In my opinion those types of soldering guns are pretty useless .  You've figured out the problem , the work IS a heat sink and it draws the heat away from that thin wire used as a soldering tip and it cant keep up . They are OK for lighter duty work but thats about it . You are better off with a couple of soldering irons , a small one for circuit board work and a bigger one for coax connectors etc .  Another thing ,  you may be overheating the tip by using the rubber band to keep it on all the time and burning the tinning off of the tip .  Once that happens its hard to get the tip to tin again and you just cant get a good solder joint on the work piece unless the tip is nicely tinned .  The solder wont flow , it balls up and falls off meanwhile you burn all the insulation off the wiring .  Try a new tip and really tighten up the screws so it conducts the heat well ,  re-tin and see if it works better .  If you can afford it , get a thermostatic soldering station next go around  .... they work so much better and you eleminate a lot of frustrations and grief .  Second best is the irons .

Soldering ends on coax is a test of skills anyway , so you need good tools to do it right and lots of practice .  Hope this helps , good luck


N7BDY
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K8AC
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« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2012, 03:19:36 AM »

I stopped using a gun years ago for heavy work after trying an iron that had some mass to it.  I picked up a nice iron normally used for stained glass work and that's been perfect for soldering PL-259s.  I find the old gun useful sometimes when working on restoring old broadcast radios from the 1930s, particularly when unsoldering using a vacuum desoldering tool.

73, K8AC
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WA4VBC
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« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2012, 08:27:02 AM »

A 100 watt iron works good on Pl-259s.  Sid.
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W8JX
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« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2012, 09:07:19 AM »

I have soldered with a gun many times, more than I can count and for many years and it is all in technique. You have to maintain good heat transfer and also do not let tip over heat and loose its "tinning" which effects heat transfer.  This means you modulate heat/power and do not keep "pedal to the metal" with gun.
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AC4RD
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« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2012, 09:34:51 AM »

I bought one of those $20 butane-powered tiny soldering torches 6 months ago and it's the greatest thing since sliced bread, IMO.   When an electrical soldering iron isn't enough, or when out of range of electricity (like splicing antenna wires in the back yard) it's just GREAT.   Mine puts out a very small but fairly hot cone of flame--easy to solder things that take more heat than a small electric iron can handle.  I bet if you buy one, you'll like it as much as I like mine.  :-)
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NA4IT
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« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2012, 10:07:01 AM »

1) Check the screws holding the tip in the gun. If they are loose or corroded, it won't heat right.
2) Take a very close look at the tip. These tips are know to break right at the end you solder with, and if it is in fact broken, when you heat it, the solder on the tip separates and allows the tip to stop heating. They also can break at the connection to the gun.

I have a 30 year old Weller that uses the big nuts to hold the tips in. Every time I use it, I loosen and tighten the tips a little.

I also have a newer Weller high wattage gun (230W I think) and check tightness every time with it. Both serve me well.
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NEVBEN
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« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2012, 11:47:01 AM »

...the work IS a heat sink and it draws the heat away from that thin wire used as a soldering tip and it cant keep up .

...you may be overheating the tip by using the rubber band to keep it on all the time and burning the tinning off of the tip .

...The solder wont flow , it balls up and falls off meanwhile you burn all the insulation off the wiring . 

...get a thermostatic soldering station next go around 

N7BDY

This was really helpful.  I understand for the larger connectors, I need a pretty decent mass on the tip.  I think that's what I gleaned from the Youtube video I saw.  That would allow me to put a fairly decent mass connector on there without drawing the temperature down to where it takes a long time to recover.

I didn't realize I needed to maintain tinning on the tip.  Obviously with a 230W gun, fairly thin tip, and the trigger zip-tied, the tinning is long gone.  It does just what you wrote... balls up and rolls off, so I get poor conduction.

My thinking 10 years ago was that I just needed more power, but now I understand I need more mass for 10ga and coax connectors, and while I certainly need more power than the old 25W iron, I need stable temperatures that will let me maintain the tinning.

I know using Pb-free solder puts me at a slight disadvantage too, but my kids are in my work area and I don't want to deal with lead residues.

I was looking at new stations like the Edsyn 951SX, but all my soldering work is done for now besides that one PL259.  I'd need a new project to justify it. 
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K2OWK
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« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2012, 02:53:52 PM »

Hello NEVBEN,

     I have a HAK<O soldering station. It has an adjustable heat setting. I can use it for circuit boards with both discrete and serface mount components. I also use it for BNC, TNC, HN, N and UHF type PL259 connectors. It is the one soldering iron you can use for just about all electronic work. I also use it for soldering up to 10 ga wire. As someone mentioned it will take practice to learn to solder coax connectors. If you have a real problem with them, they do make crimp on.

    I have been in electronics for more then 50 years. It takes patience and practice to learn to solder properly, but once learned it will be very rewarding.

Hope this helps,

73s

K2OWK
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W7ETA
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« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2012, 11:35:22 PM »

A few years ago I bought some BIG soldering irons with BIG chisel tips, made in China, on eBay, 100 and 200 watts.

Soldering PL259s still takes time since the barrel is round.

Maybe some day I'll remember to cut a half circle out of one chisel tip, the same diameter as a PL259.

73
Bob
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K1CJS
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« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2012, 04:45:56 AM »

All the guys on here that say that guns aren't any good are way too used to doing things the easy way.  I was taught soldering with a gun, and although I have used a soldering iron, I still prefer a gun.  However, there are things that you have to realize with the use of soldering guns.  Just like there are different sizes of soldering irons, the same goes for soldering guns.   

In your case, the size of the tip on that gun is way too small to hold any useful amount of heat--which means that the gun is too small for the job you're trying to do.  You need a bigger soldering gun to put PL259s onto coax cables--or at least a bigger tip on the gun you have.  The gun tips that are just a wire that is flattened and folded over are no good.  The gun tips that are cast copper alloy are what are needed--those tips have a mass of metal at the tip.

Just like learning to solder needs practice, working with a soldering gun needs even more practice--and a knowledge of just how soldering is done.  Heat storage, heat transfer--and not letting the work get TOO hot, then practicing to refine and perfect your technique.  That is the key--practice, practice--and more practice.  73!
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AA4PB
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« Reply #11 on: January 14, 2012, 08:20:54 AM »

Tight screws and a clean, freshly tinned tip are essential. I suspect that holding the gun constantly in the on position is not good for the tip. The key with a gun is to get in, do the job, and get out (and turn the gun off) as quickly as possible.
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KA3NXN
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« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2012, 05:40:30 PM »

I use a butane powered gun and it rocks!!! I used to use the electric guns and I had to keep tightening the element down every few connectors and eventually they would break. Just junk.

I now use the Solder-it Pro 180 which I can even solder connectors outside on a cold day if I torque it up.

Go here: http://www.solder-it.com/shop/item.aspx?itemid=251

I would say it's 40% tool and 60% skill to install 259's especially on something heavy like LMR-400

Jaime-KA3NXN
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K1CJS
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« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2012, 04:57:25 AM »

Jaime, you must have bought a cheap, sloppily made gun to begin with.  I bought my two Weller guns (the small one and the large one) when I was in my twenties, and I still have them both.  AAMOF, I have replaced the shell on the small one three times and the large one once--and they're both still going strong.  Of course, you can't get quality like that nowadays--not even from Weller.  

The only downside is that I've bought so many copper tips for them both that I probably could have wired an entire house with the equivalent amount of copper wire!
« Last Edit: January 16, 2012, 05:00:14 AM by K1CJS » Logged
VE7DQ
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« Reply #14 on: January 17, 2012, 12:30:34 AM »

I've used 100/140 Watt Weller soldering guns on PL-259/RG-whatever combinations for years.  It's an acquired skill and requires patience and practice but it can be done well.

FYI, a soldering gun is just a purpose-built transformer with many turns in the primary (120 Volt) side, and one 'turn' secondary, which forms the business-end of the gun.  The newer Weller guns use 'Useless Screw-And-Collar' contrivances to retain the tips; the 'secondary' of the transformer that the 'USACs' are attached to is now made out of... (gasp)  ALUMINUM!!    Shocked   It was, and is, a disappointing method of cost-cutting.  The older guns with the nuts on the business end had a secondary 'turn' made of... (tada!) COPPER!  ...and are much better.  I used to purchase any older nut-style Weller gun I could find at flea markets until I had sufficient quantity (yes, I have several). 

My original Weller was a gift from my Dad in 1957.  It was rated at 90/125 Watts, due to the standard line being 115 volts rather than today's 120 Volts, and has done its share of PL-259s also.  The original case, which I keep for nostalgia, was made of bakelite and, like K1CJS's, cracked many years ago and has been replaced a couple of times.

I can't pass judgement on the Sears gun.  It may be adequate, but there are too many variables in the equation.  If it has an aluminum secondary, however, I'll leave myself wide-open by suggesting that you should be checking the flea markets for a weller gun with the old-style nuts!   Grin 
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