Tools and Supplies for Soldering

Discussion in 'General' started by klrwhizkid, Apr 4, 2009.

  1. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    From years of experience come the following suggestions:

    1) Rosin core solder - the best for what we are doing is Kester 44 and I usually get the 0.031" diameter 1 pound spool.

    2) old cellulose sponge - not the "plastic" type but the type that will get hard as a rock when dry. This is moistened and used to wipe the crud off of the soldering iron tip regularly.

    3) Kynar wire - this is a type of small wire that is used for wire-wrapping(more on that later) but works very well for getting into tight places and making easy connections. I buy small spools of at least two different colors.

    4) Kapton tape - this a heat-insensitive insulating tape that beats anything else I have ever found. I use it primarily for holding things in place but also for protective insulation between a locomotive motor connects and the frame. 1/4", 1/2" and 3/4" widths.

    5) Heat shrink tubing - find an assortment of sizes, focusing on the smaller end of the spectrum - this is great for insulating splices. I use a lot of 1 mm, 1.5mm and 2mm.

    6) Good electrical tape. There is none better than 3M #33. The adhesive will not get nasty and sticky with time and this tape will stretch to get a good, tight wrap.

    Tools: (NOTE: read my update post #4)
    1) A̵ ̵h̵i̵g̵h̵ ̵w̵a̵t̵t̵a̵g̵e̵ ̵s̵o̵l̵d̵e̵r̵i̵n̵g̵ ̵g̵u̵n̵,̵ ̵s̵u̵c̵h̵ ̵a̵s̵ ̵t̵h̵e̵ ̵W̵e̵l̵l̵e̵r̵ ̵8̵2̵0̵0̵.̵ ̵ ̵T̵h̵i̵s̵ ̵i̵s̵ ̵i̵n̵v̵a̵l̵u̵a̵b̵l̵e̵ ̵f̵o̵r̵ ̵m̵a̵k̵i̵n̵g̵ ̵g̵o̵o̵d̵ ̵s̵o̵l̵d̵e̵r̵ ̵j̵o̵i̵n̵t̵s̵ ̵w̵e̵r̵e̵ ̵c̵u̵r̵r̵e̵n̵t̵ ̵f̵l̵o̵w̵ ̵m̵a̵t̵t̵e̵r̵s̵ ̵-̵ ̵b̵u̵s̵ ̵&̵ ̵f̵e̵e̵d̵e̵r̵ ̵w̵i̵r̵e̵s̵ ̵f̵o̵r̵ ̵D̵C̵C̵,̵ ̵s̵o̵l̵d̵e̵r̵i̵n̵g̵ ̵f̵e̵e̵d̵e̵r̵s̵ ̵t̵o̵ ̵r̵a̵i̵l̵s̵.̵ ̵ ̵T̵h̵e̵ ̵r̵e̵a̵s̵o̵n̵ ̵t̵o̵ ̵h̵a̵v̵e̵ ̵s̵u̵c̵h̵ ̵a̵ ̵t̵o̵o̵l̵ ̵i̵s̵ ̵t̵h̵a̵t̵ ̵y̵o̵u̵ ̵a̵r̵e̵ ̵t̵r̵y̵i̵n̵g̵ ̵t̵o̵ ̵h̵e̵a̵t̵ ̵t̵h̵e̵ ̵j̵o̵i̵n̵t̵ ̵q̵u̵i̵c̵k̵l̵y̵ ̵a̵n̵d̵ ̵m̵o̵r̵e̵ ̵m̵a̵s̵s̵ ̵i̵n̵ ̵t̵h̵e̵ ̵j̵o̵i̵n̵t̵ ̵r̵e̵q̵u̵i̵r̵e̵s̵ ̵m̵o̵r̵e̵ ̵p̵o̵w̵e̵r̵.̵ ̵ ̵I̵f̵ ̵y̵o̵u̵ ̵d̵o̵n̵'̵t̵ ̵h̵e̵a̵t̵ ̵t̵h̵e̵ ̵j̵o̵i̵n̵t̵ ̵w̵e̵l̵l̵ ̵-̵ ̵r̵e̵s̵i̵s̵t̵a̵n̵c̵e̵ ̵i̵s̵ ̵t̵h̵e̵ ̵r̵e̵s̵u̵l̵t̵ ̵a̵n̵d̵ ̵r̵e̵s̵i̵s̵t̵a̵n̵c̵e̵ ̵i̵s̵ ̵n̵o̵t̵ ̵o̵u̵r̵ ̵f̵r̵i̵e̵n̵d̵.̵ ̵ ̵A̵l̵s̵o̵ ̵t̵h̵e̵ ̵q̵u̵i̵c̵k̵l̵y̵ ̵p̵a̵r̵t̵ ̵i̵s̵ ̵v̵e̵r̵y̵ ̵i̵m̵p̵o̵r̵t̵a̵n̵t̵ ̵t̵o̵ ̵h̵e̵l̵p̵ ̵p̵r̵e̵v̵e̵n̵t̵ ̵m̵e̵l̵t̵i̵n̵g̵ ̵t̵i̵e̵s̵ ̵w̵h̵e̵n̵ ̵s̵o̵l̵d̵e̵r̵ ̵t̵o̵ ̵t̵h̵e̵ ̵r̵a̵i̵l̵s̵.

    2) A̵ ̵L̵o̵w̵ ̵W̵a̵t̵t̵a̵g̵e̵ ̵S̵o̵l̵d̵e̵r̵i̵n̵g̵ ̵I̵r̵o̵n̵ ̵o̵r̵ ̵b̵u̵t̵a̵n̵e̵-̵f̵i̵r̵e̵d̵ ̵s̵o̵l̵d̵e̵r̵i̵n̵g̵ ̵p̵e̵n̵.̵ ̵ ̵M̵y̵ ̵f̵a̵v̵o̵r̵i̵t̵e̵ ̵i̵r̵o̵n̵ ̵-̵ ̵i̵t̵ ̵h̵a̵s̵ ̵b̵e̵e̵n̵ ̵w̵i̵t̵h̵ ̵m̵e̵ ̵f̵o̵r̵ ̵o̵v̵e̵r̵ ̵2̵0̵ ̵y̵e̵a̵r̵s̵ ̵-̵ ̵i̵s̵ ̵m̵a̵d̵e̵ ̵b̵y̵ ̵A̵n̵t̵e̵x̵;̵ ̵c̵h̵o̵o̵s̵e̵ ̵1̵5̵ ̵-̵ ̵1̵8̵ ̵w̵a̵t̵t̵.̵ ̵ ̵I̵t̵ ̵i̵s̵ ̵s̵m̵a̵l̵l̵ ̵a̵n̵d̵ ̵c̵a̵n̵ ̵g̵e̵t̵ ̵i̵n̵t̵o̵ ̵t̵i̵g̵h̵t̵ ̵p̵l̵a̵c̵e̵s̵ ̵a̵n̵d̵ ̵h̵a̵s̵ ̵a̵ ̵v̵e̵r̵y̵ ̵s̵m̵a̵l̵l̵ ̵t̵i̵p̵.̵ ̵ ̵I̵ ̵a̵l̵s̵o̵ ̵h̵a̵v̵e̵ ̵a̵ ̵W̵e̵l̵l̵e̵r̵ ̵0̵4̵0̵7̵ ̵B̵u̵t̵a̵n̵e̵ ̵t̵o̵o̵l̵ ̵t̵h̵a̵t̵ ̵I̵ ̵b̵o̵u̵g̵h̵t̵ ̵a̵s̵ ̵a̵ ̵k̵i̵t̵ ̵-̵ ̵g̵o̵o̵d̵ ̵f̵o̵r̵ ̵a̵l̵l̵ ̵k̵i̵n̵d̵s̵ ̵o̵f̵ ̵j̵o̵b̵s̵ ̵i̵n̵c̵l̵u̵d̵i̵n̵g̵ ̵s̵h̵r̵i̵n̵k̵i̵n̵g̵ ̵h̵e̵a̵t̵ ̵s̵h̵r̵i̵n̵k̵ ̵t̵u̵b̵i̵n̵g̵.̵

    3) A Soldering Iron Stand - keeps the soldering iron at bay to lessen the chance of burns and most importantly prevent unintentionally melting the pride of your fleet.

    4) A good pair of Flush-cutting pliers. The name you're looking for is Xuron. These allow a good close cut - they are also good for removing plastic model parts from the sprues.

    5) Clip On Heat Sinks - theses are like aluminum clothes pins that can protect components from the heat of soldering. They clip on LED leads, etc. Also good for holding small items. 5 piece kit about $5

    6) Small needle nose pliers for getting into tight places

    7) Wire strippers with stripping holes for all gauges of wire. We don't want to nick the conductors since 80% of the current flows on the surface (believe it or not).

    8) A good modeling knife like the ubiquitous X-acto knife.

    9) Soldering tools - to help hold, twist or bend leads

    10) Extra credit - get a desoldering tool - bulb type or spring-cocked solder sucker. These can't be beat for removing heated solder to get things loose. For guys on a budget like me, I have used the heck out of my Soldapullt to scavenge resistors, capacitors and LEDs from dead electronic stuff from VCRs to cordless phones to radios - anything!

    11) Helping hands holding tool that has adjustable alligator clips on a crossbar. I picked four up for about $3 each off ebay.

    That's what I have in the drawer next to my work space in addition to all the other general tools. I had to figure this stuff out and find it all kinds of places before the convenience of Google and the internet. As I wrote this post, I jumped around on the 'net searching for the suggested stuff and was able to find everything at very competitive prices. But please, don't forget your local hobby shop. Give them a chance, too.

    Hope this helps.

    p.s. There are also tutorials floating around on the net for soldering, take the time to watch and practice on some hunks of wire 'til you get a good clean joint.

    Last edited: Oct 1, 2015
  2. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    A superb summary! Even knowing what tools to have makes my wiring job seem MUCH less daunting.

    Now, with that big ol' Home Depot gift card I have, I can make my shopping list.

    Best Regards,
  3. pbender

    pbender Member Supporter

    I actually prefer self adjusting wire strippers, especially ones that allow you to strip an gap in the insulation in the middle of a wire. (This lets you strip a bus wire in the middle and attach feeder wires without actually cutting the wire).

    Another tool I find handy is a solder spool holder, especially when doing small electronics work (decoders, for example).

  4. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    TOOLS (replaces tools 1 and 2 in post number one above)

    Since my original post, I "got religion" and have come to the realization that there is no better soldering tool than a temperature controlled soldering iron or soldering station. I have four, a newer Hakko FX-888 that stays on my workbench, two Hakko 936, one which travels with me in my traveling tool bag and one that stays on a tool cart in the layout space. I picked up the Hakko 936 off of ebay from a seller in China for about $60. It was a Chinese-made, Hakko-authorized copy of the original Japanese-made models. The other is from Harbor Freight: a Schneider 5 - 50 watt soldering station that will work very well for decoder work and soldering feeders to rail and it uses the same tips as the Hakkos.

    The soldering station has the finite control to solder tiny wires but the power to solder 12 gauge bus wires together. The tips are readily changeable and available, as well as other parts. If you are going to do much soldering I feel this is a very wise investment. Hakko also makes an all-in-one temperature controlled soldering iron, the FX-601, that sells for $50-60. The big key is the temperature control.
    As result of these, I have virtually abandoned all the previous soldering irons/guns that I have used in the past.
    Ozarktraveler likes this.
  5. magistrate

    magistrate Member

    Keith, have you ever used a resistance soldering outfit? If so could We hear your thoughts on those?
  6. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Robert, I have used a resistance soldering unit, but not for the typical use; unsoldering or soldering brass locomotive parts or details. I have not really had the need for one, so I don't own one yet. I used one at Stephen Priest's layout to do some soldering of large buss wires. The neat thing about resistance soldering is that the heat is developed very quickly in the material between the two tips of the soldering tool, so the surrounding areas are typically unaffected. The concentrated heat allows a very small area or part to soldered or de=soldered immediately adjacent to other items. I have purchased a used American beauty power supply, but have not purchased the remaining pieces yet to make a fully functional system. I will, though, because I am a Tool Guy and tool guys know that when you need a particular tool to get something in particular done, not having it stinks.
  7. Sirfoldalot

    Sirfoldalot Supporter Supporter

    Better watch it young man. We may have to start referring to you as "Tim the tool man Keith".

    Very nice writeup, cannot believe I am just now seeing it.
  8. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    They got the idea for Tim from me.
  9. magistrate

    magistrate Member

    Keith, thank you for your reply. I asked about resistance soldering as I have a large number of O guage brass pieces to assemble and have purchased an american beauty 250 watt outfit but have not yet worked up my nerve to try it. My feeling was that the large pieces would be more than my soldering station could handle.
  10. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    The 250 watt American Beauty will do just fine.
  11. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    I need to add this post for safety's sake:

    A number of local modeler had soldering stations such as the Weller WLC-100 40 Watt Soldering Station (see image below). This type of soldering station may have a soldering iron with a standard A/C plug that plugs into the side of the soldering station, which uses some type of current control to vary the power output. I was using one at a guy's house and while soldering feeders onto the rail, I happened to rest my forearm on an adjacent track. I immediately received a shock. Out of curiosity, I used my Fluke DMM to check for voltage between the tip of the iron and the rail. I found close to 80 volts A/C present. I informed the owner of the hazard, and he unplugged the station and cut the A/C cords on both the station and the soldering iron itself. He subsequently purchased a Hakko Temperature-Controlled soldering station.
    I found three other local modelers with the same Weller WLC-400 and checked theirs for leakage. In all but one, some level of A/C voltage was measured between the soldering iron tip and the house ground. Those two soldering stations were summarily dispatched in similar fashion. The one that did not have leakage was also dispatched by the owner.

    The issue with the design of the WLC-100 and others like it is that there is no isolation transformer between the A/C line and the tool; this allows possible A/C voltage leakage through the soldering iron tip. Further investigation revealed that the irons in question all showed evidence of having been dropped onto a hard surface, probably breaking the heating element and compromising insulation safety.

    Word to the wise; Soldering stations that appear be knock-offs of this same design (not temperature-controlled) or have soldering irons that can unplug from the control unit and plug directly into A/C outlets may present electrocution hazards if they are compromised.

    Weller WLC-100.jpg 58W-MOSS-Iron-station-1.jpg st_50_2.jpg station.jpg
    qaprr likes this.
  12. Iantha_Branch

    Iantha_Branch Member

    Thanks for the heads up Keith.

    I'm going to be in the market for a new iron with this new layout build coming up. If I read this recent post correctly, you still recommend the Hakko models mentioned above?
  13. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Yes, I do. Emphatically. The Schneider from Harbor Freight is a little low on max wattage for soldering feeders to 14ga and larger bus wires by comparison.

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