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Author Topic: Needed: Your tips and tricks to soldering pl259's  (Read 1575 times)
EI6IZ
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Posts: 33




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« on: June 17, 2001, 09:57:43 PM »

I cheat.

I have recently discovered a well manufactured PL259 that uses a compression fit mechanism similar to the type used on N type connectors, these are nice and easy to fit as you only have to solder the center pin (which is hollow like the traditional PL259 plugs)after you have fully tighened up the plug with 2 spanners.
 
Good contact is made to the braid using a collar and compression when the plug is tightened.
As an added bonus these connector would appear to be quite a bit more water resistant than the traditional PL259.

I buy mine from  Waters and Stanton in the UK but I am sure many other suppliers carry them.
http://www.wsplc.co.uk/

73's
Brendan EI6IZ
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KC5ZJR
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« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2001, 03:46:13 PM »


Well, I decided to fix up some coax cables this weekend to prepare for field day next week, and realized how much I despise working with PL259's.  It seems like 10% of the time it goes fabulous, but the other 90%, I'm fighting.

I'm wondering what your tips and tricks are to soldering PL259's onto cable such as RG8X.  I have no trouble constructing the cable, or filling the tip of the connector, it's the four holes on the side that are driving me crazy!  I've taken a lot of advice over the years on using solder guns and large soldering irons, but I still seem to be missing something.  Right now I'm trying to use a weller 100/150Watt solder gun and a 100Watt soldering iron.  

The solder gun seems to go along fine, but doesn't have enough power the moment the connector starts to eat the heat.  The 100 watt iron has a screwdriver tip and I just don't see a good way of heating the point on the pl259.

I'm curious how they get these premade cables looking so nicely!  In each of the four holes, the solder is perfect.  It almost looks like there's a small dimple in the middle of each filling, almost like the iron was placed inside and the solder melted around it?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

73
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WR8Y
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« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2001, 09:51:11 PM »

The other guy is right:  I use a 330 watt gun, and you MUST scrape the fitting down to where there is exposed brass.   ALSO, I solder the reducer to the sheild first, after scraping it with pliers (this takes two pliers, one to hold it firmly then one to scrape it.)  Try to use as little solder as needed and then use the two pliers to clean off excess solder. Also, leave only enough sheild to fold barely over the end of the reducer, otherwise there will be too much solder and sheild - the PL259 will NEVER fit!  After soldering the sheild, hold the reducer with pliers for a minute or two to sink the heat out of it - it you overdo it the center insulation will melt and short the connector.  With some practice, the parts will mate really well, soldering the center conductor is then easily done.  (This procedure is hard to learn, but was required learning 19 years ago when I was with a Motorola shop...  again, it's hard to learn but after you do you will ENJOY making these plugs up!   The reducers for RG58 are thicker and more forgiving - you might practice on them!)  This should be an enjoyable part of the hobby!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   Write me if you need help!
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AC5E
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« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2001, 05:33:17 PM »

 Hi, Neil. There are no secrets to soldering PL259's, but there are some things that will help.
  FIRST, you need plenty of heat. A 150 Watt soldering gun won't cut it. I use at least a 250 Watt Weller, and sometimes I dig out a 250 Watt American Beauty plumbers iron. The AB jobbie will stay hot almost forever.
  SECOND, you must use low melting point solder. 40/60 utility solder will melt everything in sight before it wets the work. Either 60/40 (tin to lead) electronic solder or 63/37 eutectic solder is OK - but it must be large enough in diamater. Solder made for PC board work will drive you crazy before you get the second plug installed. I generally use either 0.0625 or 0.125 dia (1/16th or 1/8th inch) rosin core solder with extra flux. I prefer the 1/8th for this work.
  THIRD, flux! Most electronics supply houses have non corrosive liquid flux. Make sure it's non corrosive and use it liberally. Even hot solder won't flow if there is no flux - and if you cannot find the real quill mineral oil (baby oil) will work fairly well in a pinch.
  FOURTH, the plugs themselves. The silver plated ones can be used without further work - but the nickle plated '259 should have the solder holes reamed out to expose bare brass. LIGHTLY tin the bare brass before you assemble the plug. (by the way, nickle is slightly yellow. If you can't tell the difference ask the XYL)
  FIFTH, the coax. The shield braid should be either bright tin plated or bright bare copper. Either will solder quite well - but if the shield conductors have corroded it is virtually impossible to get solder to flow and wet the braid. IF YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST SOLDER CORRODED SHIELD BRAID CHEAT AND USE AN ACID FLUX. KEEP THE CONNECTOR DRY DURING AND THROW IT AWAY AFTER FIELD DAY.
  SIXTH, a good bench vise or someone who can provide an extra pair of hands is an absolute necessity. The hole you are soldering must be up and the whole assembly must be held still until the solder has hardened.
  SEVENTH, learn another language. One no one else in the area understands. I reccomend either Mandarin, Xosa, or Apache. You are going to want to releive your feelings and there's no point in upsetting the local clergy.
  73  Pete Allen  AC5E
 
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AC5UP
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« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2001, 11:28:34 PM »

I'm told that 63/47 rosin core solder has the lowest possible melting point, but isn't quite as strong as 60/40. Considering this isn't exactly delicate work and you always dress your coax properly to the mast (right?) I doubt this will matter.

Strip the coax to approximate size, lightly tin the center conductor and braid, then cut the braid and dielectric to the final dimension with a utility knife (carefully) or a small plumbers tubing cutter. I use a big-momma 80 watt iron that must be heated for a good five minutes to build up plenty of thermal mass in the tip. Wipe the iron tip clean and solder the center conductor first. Don't look for artistry or perfect solder flow on either the center pin or side solder holes. Go in hot, flood it with solder, and get out as fast as you can. Often there's enough heat in the work that the solder will smooth itself out after withdrawing the soldering iron if you don't disturb the connector while it's cooling.

Let it cool until it's near ambient temperature, then clean up any baked rosin or solder bulges with a utility knife. Isopropyl alcohol will clean the excess rosin and I like to give PL-259's a quick shot of WD-40 before assembling them. (slows oxidation and repels moisture somewhat) Also, if you wonder how the pro's do it, they use a variation of a spot welder on the shell. High current at low voltage through the shell gets it real hot, real fast, and if you're quick enough the shell can flash up to soldering temperature and come back down before the dielectric has a chance to melt. There's a trick to everything.

The worst connectors I've done were with a low wattage soldering iron that had to be "cooked" for a minute or more before the connector came up to temperature. Plenty of time for the dielectric to melt, and so it did. My experience with a 100 watt soldering gun is similar to others. Center pin: OK, PL-259 shell: Worthless. Your local Handy-Guy MegaStore should have a big nasty soldering iron with a chisel tip, otherwise visit an arts & craft place that caters to stained glass hobbyists.

If there's any doubt in your mind about your craftmanship at the antenna end, re-do it until you're satisfied. It's too much work to do it again next week and you have too much money in your equipment to cheap-out on a bad connector job...
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WB6BYU
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Posts: 13335




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« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2001, 11:39:04 AM »

I'll add a couple comments from personal experience.
1) I have some cheap PL259s which appear to have Teflon (PTFE)
insulation, but it really is some cheaper plastic instead.  This stuff
melts easily when you are soldering, particularly the tabs which
hold the insulator in the shell.  Result:  when I pull the plug out of
the socket, the body comes off but the center pin and insulator stay
attached.  Lesson:  avoid cheap plugs!

2) To solder the body, I often take the element off of my soldering
gun.  I then press the two open ends of the soldering gun element
against the body of the connector, so the current flows through it
and heats it up.  This works best if everything is already tinned, so
the solder just has to melt and run together.
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2001, 04:38:08 PM »

I use (at home, not in the field) an industrial grade two-point electrical soldering station, it delivers 900W instantaneously (no warm-up time).  You place the two electric probes on opposite sides of the PL-259 body, depress the footswitch, and apply solder to the four holes.  Solder instantly flows and fills the holes, perfectly wetting the body of the connector in the process, and the entire operation takes about one second.  The finished results are very clean and shiny.  I suspect that many "factory assembled" cables are done this way, since labor is expensive and production throughput is important.  Using the 900W station, I could solder 4-6 cable assemblies per minute, or 240 to 360 per hour (if I didn't get tired).  The longest thing about the process is the cool-down time for the connectors -- they stay very hot for minutes, so you can't handle them.

In lieu of this, and the 900W station is not a "field portable" type of instrument: In the field, I normally use an "American Beauty" or equivalent very large-tipped iron.  Wattage rating isn't particularly important, although the higher powered irons will heat up faster.  But my old SP-120 Weller (120W) with it's big 1" wide chisel tip, while taking 5-6 minutes to heat up, does the job for PL-259's just fine.

It's not how fast the iron heats that matters: It's how slowly it cools off.  And the only thing that can make the iron cool off slowly is having a huge thermal mass, many times more thermal mass than the product being soldered to.  The tip's thermal mass greatly exceeds the load's, and as such when the tip is placed against the PL-259 body, heat transfers very quickly and the connector is not much of a "heat sink" for the iron's tip -- the tip is just too large to cool off.

Using the SP-120, I can solder a PL-259 connector body in about five to ten seconds.   The trick in all cases is to get "on and off" the connector body as quickly as possible, to avoid stressing the coaxial cable dielectric.  Unless it's Teflon cable, the other coax dielectrics melt at a low temperature and can be permanently damaged by prolonged heat exposure.

Soldering "guns" really can't do this job -- their thermal mass isn't nearly sufficient for the job; however, the electrical welding apparatus as described by Dale (BYU) in his post regarding removing the soldering gun's tip altogether and using the two electrical probes placed directly against the connector body, works well and is a small-scale version of my 900W Hughes soldering station.

The silver-plated PL-259's are much easier to solder to than other kinds, so I always use them.

73 de Steve WB2WIK/6
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« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2001, 07:04:15 PM »

Steve is correct, most production shops use resistive stations to get the job done fast and properly.

I use a Bernzomatic torch with the soldering tip installed.  These tips are no longer in production
for most of the torches sold today but if you have an older torch you may find the tip available from
www.mcmastercarr.com

73 murray
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« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2001, 07:30:40 PM »

I don't have the iron needed to do the job,
so, I discovered Cablexperts.com

Ok, so I cheat !  They even hipot test them too,
something I can't do at home.

I don't pass them off as my own, their coax has
their name on it !

73
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WB6BYU
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Posts: 13335




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« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2001, 12:17:19 PM »

I don't consider buying a commercial cable to be cheating!

They do a better job then most of us do at home.  I couldn't tell
you how many times I've tracked down a rig problem to find that it
was a coax problem instead!  For a lot of hams, the reliability is
worth the cost difference, particularly if they don't have the tools
to do a good job.

For some of us, any station setup or antenna is always temporary.
Cables come and go, and get made on the spot when we need one
for a particular experiment, using whatever materials are at hand.
If you'd rather spend your time operating than soldering cables (and
tracking down problems due to faulty cables) then buy good cables
with soldered-on connectors (NOT crimp-ons!)
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KL7IPV
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Posts: 984




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« Reply #10 on: June 22, 2001, 12:09:04 AM »

Okay guys, here it cmes......It may be sacrileges, but I DON'T solder my coax to the outside of the PL259!! I have good SWR and never had a problem losing connectivity. How? I slip the adapter over the RG-8X, RG-58A/U or whatever I am using that is not RG-8. (That is another story). After I slip the adapter over the coax I cut the sheath and all else to size and then fold the braid back on the adapter. I solder the braid to the ADAPTER and "gunk " the solder on so the adapter has to be almost forced into the PL259. I use two pair of pliers for that job. That forcing of the adapter ensures good contact between the adapter and the PL259. Then I solder the center conductor to the PL259 and trim the conductor. For RG-8, which I hardly ever use since I never run over 100 watts; I fold the braid over the outside sheath of the RG-8 and then screw the braid and sheath into the PL259 until it just wont go any more. Then solder the center conductor. I can hear all the groans out there about they way I do it, but in 35 years I have never had a connection go bad nor get wet. I always have gotten a 1:1 ratio on my antennas and it is a very quick way to do the job. It may not be the prescribed way of doing it, but success is hard to knock.
73,
Frank
KL7IPV
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AC5WA
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Posts: 35




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« Reply #11 on: June 25, 2001, 04:00:41 PM »

That's the same way I do it!  I've had great success and the connectors can be removed easily and reused.

With RG8, just fold the shield back over the jacket, strip the center conductor and screw it on.  If it will be exposed to weather, I use some swimming pool filter housing and valve grease (Magic Grease) on the braid before screwing it into the PL259 to water proof it, then solder the center conductor.  Don't get the grease on the center conductor as it makes a pretty effective anti-flux.  Solder just about won't stick to the wire if you get "Magic" grease on it.

When the coax goes bad or gets squashed, cut or whatever, you can recover your prized tarnished silver connectors by heating the center pin and just slinging the solder out and unscrewing the cable.  With just a little degreasing to get rid of the sealant, they are ready to go again.

Hey! All I can say is that it works for me!  If you're too fastidious to try it, it's your loss.

73 de AC5WA
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KL7IPV
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« Reply #12 on: June 26, 2001, 12:08:05 AM »

Gee, and here I thought I was being original. Darn. HiHi I use Coax Seal on the connectors to keep them watertight.
73,
Frank
KL7IPV
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KA2QFX
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« Reply #13 on: June 28, 2001, 07:40:15 PM »

This is copied from another post of mine earlier to another question. Hope it's useful.


PL-259s are not a very well designed connector but at HF they're quite adeqaute. But they must be soldered well to avoid excaerbating the little impedance bump they contribute.

Here's a trick I use for soldering coax sheilds to PL-259s, it works especially well for the foam stuff that oozes when you get the connector hot enough.  
 Cut back the outer jacket about 1 1/2 inches. Just score the jacket once around and again from that score straight to the end.  You can then peel the jacket off without having nicked any of the braid.

Now take your soldering iron and quickly tin about 3/8 inch of braid above the jacket. Don't build up any solder, just tin the strands. It requires very little heat to do this and the braid will now be a structurally strong tube around the dielectric.

Using a sharp knife score and cut through the braid and dielectric about 1/4 to 5/16 from the outer jacket. Remove the dielectric and braid.

Screw the PL-259 onto the coax (Don't forget the threaded coupling first Smiley )  Option: I like to put a very thin film of silicone grease on the jacket to ease the threading and prevent twisting of the jacket. But don't use any petroleum based lubricant if you don't have silicone, it will eventually creap and contaminate the dielectric.

Now you should be able to heat up the connector and get the solder to flow into the braid much easier than without having tinned it.  The now rigid braid will position itself right up there under the holes where it should be, evenly located all the way around.  Naturally, cut off whatever center conductor you don't need.  
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AD6A
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« Reply #14 on: July 22, 2001, 01:43:01 AM »

I use a Weller 3600 degF Propylene brazing
torch directly on the fittings. You have
to be careful where the flame goes and it
takes practice to get just the right amount
of heat to make the solder flow and be "wicked"
into the PL259 holes. I find that I can put
a '259 onto 0.5" cable in a couple of minutes
with no fuss and with very clean joints.
I always test the cables afterwards with a
sig gen and spectrum analyzer to see if they
are okay at RF, but haven't had a bad one yet,
so the method seems to work for me - YMMV.

73, Dave, AD6A
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