Author Topic: Using brass mesh to clean soldering iron?  (Read 5671 times)

Justus

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Using brass mesh to clean soldering iron?
« on: October 07, 2014, 09:01:46 AM »
Okay, so I've read a lot about cleaning and tinning a soldering iron, and even tried to watch some youtube vids (most just fly through that step).  I'm currently using MG Chemicals 63/37 no-clean solder with my Hakko FX-888D.  The solder has been working okay, but I feel like I'm using a lot trying to get my iron tip properly tinned.  In fact, I've pretty much abandoned using the brass mesh to wipe the tip and I'm now unsure if I ever knew how to properly use it.  (now using the wet sponge almost exclusively)  It seems my mesh is just filled with solder now, to the point that it's nearly unusable.  I've only had that mesh a short amount of time, as I bought my soldering station sometime in late May.

So can anyone give some step-by-step tips on proper technique for cleaning and tinning a soldering iron tip?  Pictures would be very helpful as I'm a visual learner.  It seems that every time I try to tin my iron tip, I get a blob of solder on the end instead of a thin coating on the entire tip.  (Even tried with a brand new tip, same results).  I'm even beginning to wonder if the solder is the problem.  It seems like the flux kind of goes to the outside of the solder blob and then turns brown.

pickdropper

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Re: Using brass mesh to clean soldering iron?
« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2014, 09:26:44 AM »
Well, the brass mesh is meant to be consumable.  Over time it will fill up with solder and need to be replaced.  The good news is that replacement brass is cheap.  I've never been a fan of the sponges; they just don't clean the tip very well.

You may also want to look into tip tinning:

http://www.amazon.com/MG-Chemicals-SAC305-Copper-container/dp/B003BDOEUU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1412695323&sr=8-1&keywords=solder+tip+tinner

What kind of iron do you have?  That can make a difference as well?  I used to have a Radio Shack iron that consumed tips no matter what I did.  I've had much better luck with Wellers and Metcals.
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Leevibe

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Re: Using brass mesh to clean soldering iron?
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2014, 09:33:18 AM »
Well, the brass mesh is meant to be consumable.  Over time it will fill up with solder and need to be replaced.  The good news is that replacement brass is cheap.  I've never been a fan of the sponges; they just don't clean the tip very well.

You may also want to look into tip tinning:

http://www.amazon.com/MG-Chemicals-SAC305-Copper-container/dp/B003BDOEUU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1412695323&sr=8-1&keywords=solder+tip+tinner

What kind of iron do you have?  That can make a difference as well?  I used to have a Radio Shack iron that consumed tips no matter what I did.  I've had much better luck with Wellers and Metcals.

I'm with Dave on this. I gave up on the sponge almost immediately. I could never get the ball of solder completely wiped off, and the water cools the tip of the iron. I'm wondering if you have the temp cranked too high. Try dropping the temp down, flow some solder on the tip, run the tip through the brass, and then maybe a touch more solder. If that doesn't work, it's possible that the plating on your tip is going. Did your brass tip cleaner come with your iron? Maybe you got a bad one?

muddyfox

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Re: Using brass mesh to clean soldering iron?
« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2014, 10:19:15 AM »
Just to get it out of the way, I also think sponges need to go. Right now. They don't clean well and drop your temperature tip way down in a blink of an eye.
Now, I'm starting to think there are several types of wire thingies. I've bought this one local brand forever (the same one wifey uses on the dishes) and it worked great. Then they stopped making it and I switched to a very similar one that says "inox" on it, supposedly it doesn't scratch the pots and pans. Since I had that one my tip has gone from nice and shiny to having some plating missing way too quickly for my liking. It could be just a coincidence and the tip was done anyways, though...

davent

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Re: Using brass mesh to clean soldering iron?
« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2014, 11:03:24 AM »
I haven't had no issue with the solder clogging up my brass wool, there's usually a pile of  solder 'dust' at the bottom of the wool's tin.

I've some Weller Tip Tinner/Conditioner like Dave showed and it works great for bringing a tip back to life. Tiny little tin, i'd envisioned something like a shoe polish tin but it's very very small.
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Re: Using brass mesh to clean soldering iron?
« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2014, 11:52:42 AM »
I use the brass ball  8)

But occasionally use a tip cleaner tinned that I got at radio shack as needed.

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GermanCdn

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Re: Using brass mesh to clean soldering iron?
« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2014, 12:49:47 PM »
I use the MG63/37 with my FX888 as well, and they don't play particulary well with each other.  Tried a couple of different tips and a wide range of heat, and I still get a higher percentage of solder balls, especially when I'm tinning leads.

After I clean the tip when I'm done for the night, I run it across a Scotch brite pad (make sure the tips cooled down before you do this) to do a final clean, seems to help for a while, but not a great solution either.

All that being said, it does a good job on boards, which is why I keep using it, but when I find something that works better, I'll change over.
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Justus

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Re: Using brass mesh to clean soldering iron?
« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2014, 12:59:49 PM »
Yeah, I have and have used the RadioShack tip cleaner/tinner.  I think I just might not be understanding how to correctly use the brass mesh.  It apparently doesn't completely clean the tip like the sponge, but rather just helps the solder coat the tip in a thin layer and not in a blob on the very end of the iron tip?

I was soldering at 700* F, but I dropped my temp to 685* recently.  I'm using the Hakko FX-888D with digital temp readout.  Easily the best soldering station I've ever owned, coming from some experience with the non-adjustable RadioShack irons.  The brass mesh came with the station and sits in the iron holder stand.  I have 5 extra brass mesh that I got for cheap on Amazon, so I can let the first one go and replace it since it seems gummed up with solder.  I honestly just think, again, that maybe I'm trying to use too much solder to tin the tip and not using the brass mesh correctly (i.e. expecting it to work more like the wet sponge).

lincolnic

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Re: Using brass mesh to clean soldering iron?
« Reply #8 on: October 07, 2014, 01:03:27 PM »
To the best of my knowledge, you just stab your iron into the brass filings to clean it. You don't wipe it on the iron like a sponge. I've been doing that for a few years and haven't had any trouble, anyway!

Justus

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Re: Using brass mesh to clean soldering iron?
« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2014, 01:09:07 PM »
So does this sound like a good gameplan? 1. Heat up the iron to 685 (it has a big blob of solder on the tip right now - always make sure it's good and coated before shutting 'er down), then wipe the tip on the wet sponge to clean off the solder, that leaves me with a clean tip that looks like a very light copper color (genuine Hakko tips). 

2. Apply a bit of solder to the very end of the iron tip.  It will coat the tip a little, but will most likely blob up mostly at the end of the tip.

3. With the tip not really fully coated, stab the iron tip into fresh brass mesh to cause the solder to coat the entire copper colored portion of the iron tip with a very thin layer.  (Copper colored portion is, of course, less than 1/2" long)

4. Apply a tiny bit more solder to the end of the tip, then go solder.

RobA

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Re: Using brass mesh to clean soldering iron?
« Reply #10 on: October 07, 2014, 01:56:30 PM »
So does this sound like a good gameplan? 1. Heat up the iron to 685 (it has a big blob of solder on the tip right now - always make sure it's good and coated before shutting 'er down), then wipe the tip on the wet sponge to clean off the solder, that leaves me with a clean tip that looks like a very light copper color (genuine Hakko tips). 

2. Apply a bit of solder to the very end of the iron tip.  It will coat the tip a little, but will most likely blob up mostly at the end of the tip.

3. With the tip not really fully coated, stab the iron tip into fresh brass mesh to cause the solder to coat the entire copper colored portion of the iron tip with a very thin layer.  (Copper colored portion is, of course, less than 1/2" long)

4. Apply a tiny bit more solder to the end of the tip, then go solder.

Which tip are you using (shape and size)? Depending on which tip type you use, different amounts of the tip will actually be what gets covered in solder. I have a few different types, and each of them has the solder stick to a different shape and size of the tip. It's really only the part of the tip that is meant to contact the parts/pads that carries the solder on the tips I have. Like on the hoof tips, only the flat part really has much solder stick to it.

I use all three of the cleaning elements of my Hakko. I use the brass mostly. It does fill up and you do need to take it out and move it around on occasion. I've had to replace mine once so far because it was too full to get a new area to work with. I use the sponge when I need to remove almost all the solder from the tip. For example, when I'm doing an SMD IC and I want to be sure exactly how much solder I'm going to put on. The third cleaner is the rubber edge by the brass scrunchie. I use this when I need to get off built up gunk or I want to really get everything off the tip. I use a no lead solder (AIM SN100C) but I like to clean and store the tips using a 63/37 solder (also AIM Glow Core). So, I clean the tip with the rubber bit and then tin the tip with the 63/37 when I'm not going to use a particular tip for awhile.

It also might have a bit to do with what diameter of solder you use. I've gone to using the .020" stuff because it gives me more control over how much I stick on the tip and in the joints. It also works better with SMD parts.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2014, 09:47:53 PM by RobA »
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wgc

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Re: Using brass mesh to clean soldering iron?
« Reply #11 on: October 07, 2014, 07:48:23 PM »
I use a sponge. The trick is it has to be damp, not wet.   Wet draws too much heat out.

Sounds like you had your iron too hot and you cooked the plating off. Try another new one but make sure it's not hotter than 700 f.

Love the met cal stuff, wish I had one.
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pickdropper

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Re: Using brass mesh to clean soldering iron?
« Reply #12 on: October 07, 2014, 08:19:41 PM »
I think iron temp somewhat depends on the iron.  I basically leave mine at 720F and occasionally run it at 810F (for tinning Litz wire).  My tips last a long time.

I agree with Billy that you may have just cooked the plating off (or you got a bad tip - it happens).  I would also suggest trying another one.
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Justus

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Re: Using brass mesh to clean soldering iron?
« Reply #13 on: October 07, 2014, 10:02:55 PM »
I really don't think it's a bad tip.  The plating isn't gone.  And I did try with a new tip and got the same results, both tips being identical.  They're the 1.6mm chisel tip (genuine Hakko).

The tip will take solder, don't get me wrong.  It just won't cover the entire tip without some help... it likes to mostly run down to the end of the tip and blob up there, instead of coating the entire tip with a thin layer.  I think my problem is about 50% technique and 50% the type of solder I'm using according to GermanCdn's experiences.

wgc

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Re: Using brass mesh to clean soldering iron?
« Reply #14 on: October 08, 2014, 07:27:10 AM »
Temp depends on the solder and flux and the parts, but your iron's wattage, tip geometry and the thermal mass of your work may lead you to over compensate via temp. I do it too but I don't make it a habit.  Dave's temps seem fine to me, but I run a little cooler. Lead free will require higher temps. And this all assumes your iron is in spec.

I've seen some guys crank the temp because it lets them "go faster" but it can have detrimental effects on pretty much everything involved due to thermal shock, not to mention burning the flux off, oxidizing your joint, and at really high temps you can boil the lead out of the joint.

Their tip is glowing at 900f and they wonder why it doesn't last or their parts are bad. Which is why production irons have locking temp settings and calibration screws. Also makes something like metcal really appealing because you can't cheat by tweaking the calibration setting.

As for the op, a chisel tip in my experience won't get a completely even coating, it will pool at the flat surface up to but usually not over the edges. Fwiw, that is my favorite tip style as it allows me better surface contact to the work.
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