Making a fine tip for your solding iron for SMD soldering

Picture of Making a fine tip for your solding iron for SMD soldering
Surface-mount soldering can require a very fine tip for your soldering iron. If you only have a small amount of soldering to do, then why spend the time and money buying a tip when you can make one?

I came up with this after reading

The cost is pretty much zero, and you can do it in under 5 minutes!
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Step 1: Get some copper wire

Picture of Get some copper wire
The first thing you need is some copper wire. I have a reel of single-cored (i.e. solid) wire that has a conductor diameter of about 1.5mm - this is perfect. You might be able to use something a little thinner, but probably any thicker would be too difficult to bend.

Cut yourself about 10-15cm of wire. Use a knife to remove the insulation.

Step 2: Create your new tip!

Picture of Create your new tip!
Take your copper wire and wrap it tightly around your soldering iron's bit. Use a small pair of pliers to help you get it tight.

When you get to the end, leave a small piece sticking out, and cut it off at an angle. This is your new soldering tip. Cut it shorter than I did in the picture, to reduce the heat loss.

Copper is a good conductor of heat, and so the wire will quickly become hot enough to solder with. Tin it with a dab of solder on the end, and you're ready to go! You can make the point as small as you like by cutting/filing it. If it gets too oxidised, just file it off.
daveselinger made it!1 month ago

Just did this to do some soldering of a tiny stepper motor from a DVD drive and BOOM! after 2 hours of being frustrated not having a precise tip and not wanting to go buy one, this worked ABSOLUTELY perfectly. Thanks!!!!

A.C.E.1 month ago

I'm late to the party but I just had to say that this is a genius idea. I wouldn't have thought of it, thanks for sharing! Time to go mod some old xbox 360 controllers and consoles!

vimes792 years ago
That's a pretty smart but simple idea there for doing small amounts of SMD work without a proper copper SMD tip, hot air station or hotplate. Next time my copper Antex SMD tip gets to the end of its life I will give this a shot using one of the many spare tips I have never used and see how it goes. I have a huge amount of copper wire in various gages that I can strip out of electrical and communications cable that I use every day at work and never thought of doing this. There are some variations to this you could do too for even smaller work using finer copper wire, although the copper wont last as long the smaller you go.
not bad but since you get it really tight, does it come really easly?
ringram23 years ago
Brilliant. And it works flawlessly. Yes I did redress with tip with a small file a few times but it did work great
kramerr6 years ago
I've gone in the direction of this tutorial myself in the past. After an hour or less of soldering you're copper tip will corrode to a rough blunt end. There really is no magic substitute for a quality soldering iron.
Well yes it will but then you just trim it off and go!
MrZebra (author)  kramerr6 years ago
Yep, that's why I only recommend it if you have a very small amount of soldering to do - because it would be a waste of time buying a bit and waiting to have it shipped if you only have 5 LEDs to solder. Maybe I didn't make that clear in the text.
drzcyy MrZebra5 years ago
yes, i have tried this before too. copper will be "amalgamated" by the molten solder, it wont last long at all. use a piece of stainless steel or aluminium (similarly fashioned) instead. it will last much longer.
 what if I am just using it to make holes in plastic.?  Would that corrode the tip?
MrZebra (author)  handprints5 years ago
It will make a bit of a mess of the tip, yes - but the point of this is that the tip is only a little piece of wire, so if you mess it up you just throw it away and make a new one.
Arbitror5 years ago
Good job, now I won't have to buy a precision tip!
lieuwe5 years ago
why would you need this? unless you have one of those soldering guns, if you do it right you won't need this :-)
arthujt5 years ago
.You may try using tinned hookup wire available at your local radio shack. It lasts a little longer . I got about a weeks use before I had to replace the end (3-4 small bourds. also helps if you take a small file and dress the end to a "hoof",which allows more control of solder flow..
Whatnot5 years ago
I once long ago did the same as described here, it was not a good plan because once the iron got hot the expansion of the coper made it slide off leaving a iping hot piece of metal falling where I did not want it. So if you try this keep that in mind, find a way with a clip or some sort of spring action to keep it attached, winding is NOT enough to keep it on the tip in my experience.
ste54425 years ago
Good idea if you are stuck. Also, if you have the copper wire poking straight out (rather than at an angle like shown) it will not spin around the soldering iron when you touch the component ;-)


junits155 years ago
LiporXT5 years ago
the lidl cutter!!!
MrZebra (author)  LiporXT5 years ago
I've got several knives, and this is the BEST one by a long way!
Dr.Bill5 years ago
Now this is a really GOOD idea. I've been wondering how I was going to solder small parts. Now all I need is a microscope/camera combo to be able to see what i'm soldering!
Bongmaster6 years ago
how well does it work?
MrZebra (author)  Bongmaster6 years ago
It works well enough to solder a few SMT LEDs or something. I wouldn't recommend it if you want to do ICs or if you have a lot to do, but if you just have a couple of small things then it saves you some expense.
kool i'll prolly give it a go sometime :) i got a smal project needing that .