Instructables

Make a Brass Soldering Iron Tip (, How I ...)

Picture of Make a Brass Soldering Iron Tip (, How I ...)
Well I don't have a very well tooled machine shop at all,
but my first soldering iron had a brass or bronze tip,
and other people have remarked about how new tips
don't last as long as rare or unobtainable brass ones
from times gone by.

I can't say how good this is yet since I just made it
and will compare it to the other tips as far as wearing
out goes. Brass is supposed to be copper and zinc,
but just about any other yellow alloy using copper
may also be called brass, and dark coppers bronze.

Another reason I want to make soldering tips is that
I plan to try to make a very tiny soldering iron for SMD's
that I will have to solder under a microscope for
interesting one-time projects. One such project
may be phonographic (sounds groovy!) in nature.
 
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Step 1: What you need

Picture of What you need
Tools and Parts. Here are the ones I used:

1.A regular moderately cheap soldering iron.
(not the 99 cent ones that melt in your hand though)
2.A brass rod similar in diameter to the iron's non-brass tip.
3.A rotary motor tool kit like a dremel.
4.safety glasses
5.solder
6.flux

7.Something not very important to solder the first time.

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EPAIII3 months ago

As others have said, the "old" tips were copper because it conducts heat very well. But copper dissolves in solder so the tip gradually wears away. Since brass has a high copper content, I expect it will also dissolve. Most of the iron makers went to steel plated tips. Copper on the inside to conduct the heat and steel on the outside. These tips work just as well and last a lot longer: I have some that are over 40 years old and still perfect.

Solder guns still use copper tips. In fact, you can just use 10 or 12 gauge, solid copper wire to fashion your own.

Scott_Tx7 years ago
You could form the tip by chucking it into a drill and grinding it down on a stone. And if you could find a nut with the same threading as the soldering iron you could use that as a die to cut the threads with.
VIRON (author)  Scott_Tx7 years ago
Good ideas. Especially I'd rather get the tip stuck or broke in a nut than an iron. Hmmm that happens alot to regular tips when they're old, so they are rarely replaced; I wonder if there's some way to prevent that.
FN64 VIRON7 years ago
When the tip is new put a very light coat of graphite on the threads. Recoat it a couple times a year. Between the graphite and the action of physically removing, cleaning & re-inserting the tip will assure you can take it out when necessary. Over time oxidation will build up on the threads causing it to stick. This should resolve it.. FN
Ian01 FN641 year ago
Does that interfere with the heat being conducted from the heater to the tip?
VIRON (author)  FN647 years ago
Thanks, sounds good, I'll try that.
Rukbat2 years ago
1) The old tips were pure copper, not brass.

2) The "new" (actually a few decades old, at least) "iron" tips are actually better and last longer. (My current "pcb tip" is about 18 years old and still looks the same as when it was new (plus heat discoloration).

3) If you want to make a tip, get a real die for the thread the iron uses. (Different irons use different threads. Take the original tip to a GOOD hardware store [or a machinist] and find out what thread it is.) Thread the end of the rod. Cut off the length you want. Shape the cut-off end.

For a new tip, just flux it, heat it and, as it starts to get hot enough, rub the normal solder you're going to use all over it. A thin film is enough. Once it's all "tinned" (that actually means "covered in solder", not "covered in tin"), wipe it on a wet sponge (which you should always have handy when you're using the iron - keeping the tip clean is an important part of good soldering).

My ways may not be the ones you'll read in the books, but most of those books weren't written (the authors weren't even born yet) when I learned to solder about 62 years ago. And my ways have worked for 62 years so far.
Agent242 years ago
So, how well did the brass tip compare to normal iron-plated copper tips?

Did it last longer, or did it fail sooner?
codongolev3 years ago
my soldering iron tip broke off inside the iron and I couldn't get it out, so I drilled out the tip and jammed a nail in there. it works. (I used my blowtorch to flood the connection with solder to get a good thermal connection.)
Ian016 years ago
I have a soldering iron that looks the same as yours, except mine has a base and is 20/40W. The trouble is that the tip has female screw threads, i.e. it screws on around the other part. Is there an easyish way to make a converter or something?
I might attach a photo later. The path from my camera to here is very circuitous.
http://www.proskit.com/soldering-assy/tips/5PK-353-T2 the tips are up on the page, cause I just ordered some from them.
To clarify, I was looking for tips different from the type that came with the iron. Those tips, or similar ones (the ones I don't want), can also be found at Canadian Tire (linked in my other comment) but your source seems cheaper.
they also have chisel tip, but you'll have to email customer support to add them to the site
MilotisX Ian015 years ago
i have that iron! and i bought a few tips only to find that the ends looked the same on the iron and the tip. i was like FFFUUUUU-
Ian01 Ian016 years ago
Update: I have found out that it is a Nexxtech-branded Mastercraft soldering station, model 58-6301-2.
The only tips I can find for it are the same as the one it comes with.
Soldering station
Tips
petre4 years ago
petre says: forgot to mention i use that never-seez compound on all my sparkplugs also. i have never had a frozen plug since using it.
petre4 years ago
petre says; my iron is also a weller and a 10/24 brass screw fits perfect. a product called never-seez is very good for those threads.rated at 2000 degrees f.
lemonie7 years ago
My soldering iron is old, I got it from my dad, and the copper tip has corroded to ~ half it's original diameter.
However I can't replace it...
why not?
My soldering iron was old (in 2007 when I posted that comment) I got it from my dad, and the copper tip had corroded to ~ half it's original diameter.
However I couldn't replace it because the heater was too tighly wrapped around it - not built to be replaced.

L
I know it's probably a lost cause, but if you still have it.. there MIGHT be a rescue.


If you can carefully sand/file the tip to a circle...
Grab a chunk of copper, and shape it in into a new tip.
Now, drill a hole 3-5 thou undersized, hole depth should be 3/4 total bit length.
Stick your whole solder iron in the freezer.
when it's nice and cold(24 hours, give or take?) prepare your work surface in the kitchen.
clamp(c-clamp works fine) the frozen solder iron onto the counter, with the tip hanging in open air. Grab the new tip in pliers(or hemostats, or tongs, or whatever you have). stick that bugger in the stove flame till it's glowing nice and cherry.
Now QUICKLY slide the new tip over your old, re-formed tip.

Within a few milliseconds, they should be irrevocably joined.


Another technique I've used, for "make it work cause we can't afford a new one" is slightly easier, much less dangerous, and not quite as good.
Make the new tip, reshape the old tip, drill for a clearance fit, and assemble onto the old tip with thermally conductive epoxy( the Omegabond 200). The epoxy can withstand 500F, and most soldering is done below that value. The repair will chew slightly more electricity for the same heat, but if you have to make due, this will  last a good couple years.

BIG BOLD DISCLAIMER

This second technique is NOT to be used on flame heated solder irons. While they achieve similar tip tempatures, the use of open flame(at or above 2000 degree F) can cause nastiness with the epoxy. If it doesn't cause outright failure of the joint, it can BURN the epoxy making noxious vapors.
Sounds reasonable, if a lot of work. Not having the copper I just bought some new tips.

L
ah ok have you bought a new one i got one in a electrics kit rom argos best iron i ever had
Wilkinson.

L
ah i never checked there do they sell solder aswell?
Maybe, but they didn't have any in last time I looked.

L
ok thanks
hellstudios6 years ago
damn dude what's up with all that wasted solder on your stand? lol
its probably all that fell off from tinning the tip or something
Late reply, Don't you think?
maybe... but you know better late then never.
True dat
neat idea, i replaced my stock tip with a brass woodburning tip, it came in a set but the other tips are too skiny to fit the tool. i might try making my own next
VIRON (author)  thematthatter7 years ago
My first soldering iron WAS from a woodburning kit. It seemed to last a long time and solder well, though it was a long time ago, and when someone reminded me of "rare" brass tips I remembered it and decided to try a brass. Soldering irons can have a lot of uses, for example, you can weld plastic with them if it's cracked and too old to fuse with methylene chloride or xylene or MEK (some solvents can repair plastic cracks very well). If a board is held in a case by melted plastic studs which have to be broken to fix it, a soldering iron can remelt the studs afterwards. BUT IT stinks and gunks up the tip! I mention this because the brass has a known dual use of perhaps mainly burning fancy wood designs. I seem to remember dropping it and burning a hole in the carpet but the brass was not so fouled up as copper tips seem to get. But it was a long time ago. The soldering iron I used here was $8 at Radioshack. I'm accustomed to using those because they work well for that price.
mine is a weller iron, i got it because the element was shorter than the cheaper ones. i think it was about $10, their tips are plated though and if you sand them they wont hold any tin. i didnt know that methylene chloride disolved plastic, i have worked with it before in organic sythensis. i need to find some.
Foxfire (the pyrotechnical supply company) sells methylene chloride for $10 a quart, and they list it as specifically for melting plastics. It is also the active ingredient in most paint removers and strippers, but usually has added thickeners. I bought some methylene chloride from Foxfire to make my own Christmas or jukebox glass-tube bubble lights (maybe this is a future Instructable???). The methylene chloride is listed at: http://www.firefox-fx.com/ChemM.htm and scroll down to the very bottom of the page.
nice, i will make mine out of a hanger piece :-)
Coolbreaze7 years ago
Pretty neat. As for Vendigroths it's hard to say depending on the alloy but I think copper is still the best cost/wise heat conducter. As far as this goes I find it pretty nice for the cheap 25$ soldering iron. As for tip life when you buy Pace like I use on my old refurbished MBT-210. You buy Copper tips that have been plated in 2 possible ways (depends if the it's electroplating for the chrome or not) Electroplated way is nickel then iron then nickel electroplate then chrome electroplate (the come part is on the body of the tip and not the end. it is there to prevent your soldering alloy from eating it and to protect temperature wise) the end of the tip is dipped in iron (in the case of the new Pace tips they dip it in iron with diamond dust to help it live longer in lead free environments). If you always Tin you tips before and after working your iron tip should last a long time also you should think of investing in Tip cleaner (mind you it is a little toxic it works great) Also always use your wet sponge! Never ever ever!!! sand down your tip when it's dirty exposing the layers under the iron will kill your tip faster. If you reach the copper of the tip this is where your tip will die fast (because copper is easy to solder with lead/tin or lead free alloys) The last thing that I see a lot of is people using incorrect temperature. The higher you go the faster your tip gets full of crap. Depending on what soldering alloy you are using (if lead free contact me and I can send you the melting points. Keep in mind lead free melts at higher temperatures. Tin/Lead 50/50 418 degrees F (214 degrees C) 60/40 374 degrees F (190 degrees C) 63/37 364 degrees F (183 degrees C) 95/5 434 degrees F (224 degrees C)
i was just about to go on about these exact points. for those of you out there with fixed-temp stick irons, keep in mind that the tip temperature is regulated only by wattage input and the rate of heat loss. most unregulated irons (>25w) run with a higher tip temperature than is really needed (since they can't compensate for changes in the rate of heat loss). this means that attention to tip cleaning and conservation is even more important to prevent smutting and erosion. (even though your tips are cheaper to replace). anyway, happy soldering
Vendigroth7 years ago
is brass better cos it conducts the heat better? so you get a steeper thermal gradient so you only warm up the bit of the board you're working on quickly, instead of the whole thing more slowly?
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