Soldering 101: Lesson 1: Tin the Tip


Step 4: Why Tin?

Now that your tip is properly tinned, you can start soldering.
Try to solder immediately after tinning the tip, the sooner the better.

Periodically while you are working (after soldering one or two connections), clean and re-tin the tip.

Tinning improves conductivity and makes soldering easier, as well as quicker, which is a good thing.
Some electronic components are sensitive to heat, and the quicker you can solder them, the less likely they are to be heat damaged.

According to the instructive Terry, properly tinning the iron tip before putting it away will help preserve it.
Comparing our soldering iron (like new), and the iron of the guys down the hall (terrible) this seems to be a good practice to keep.

Happy soldering! -Royal

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amplex1 year ago
When you mention conductivity, is this heat or electrical conductivity? I fail to see how tinning helps for either. Just wondering why tinning is an important step. I can see how tinning the tip before you are done can help preserve it by limiting oxidation (rust). Thanks for the instructable!

IanWizard amplex3 months ago

Heat conductivity. And I believe it's because it prevents the oxidation, and keeps the tip covered in molten solder.

Dromedary21 year ago
Thanks; I am a newbie here and to soldering and tinning. yes, I had/have a cheapo soldering iron but afterv reading this instructable, it's a good quality non blister-pack iron for me. Incidentally I am learning to solder deans connectors and banana clips for use in high-end rc aircraft...

Great instructable; I look forward to learning a LOT here! Hope onde day to add my input and help others :-)

I just bought a iron from radioshack, and it cost about $8. I got home turned it on and suposedly tinned it( melted the solder on there and wiped off the excess. My joints were not perfect, but as I went on I relized my tip was eroding away. What can I do to stop this, I have rosin core solder. This has happened to me plenty of times before. Is it me or the fact that I have a cheap soldering iron? Please help. A video would be realy nice.

if your using a wet sponge, stop. IMO it just causes thermal shock and I would put a big divot in a radio shack tip in no time flat. I got a copper scowering pad and the tip still looks new 3 years later (use dry).

now I have not been using it all that much, but my good iron came with a flux soaked brass sponge and its tip is just now starting to show some wear over 2 years later.

The other side of that coin is people argue the metal sponges scrape off the coatings used on better quality tips, though I have never seen brass foil knock a hole in to cast iron ...
blade973 years ago
This is pretty good, but isn't there a way to cool the solder on quickly, no matter what solder I use I can't tin the tip of my iron because the solder runs off no matter what, I have used at least 15 different solders and I can't seem to get it to work.
osgeld blade972 years ago
Get some tip cleaner, its basicly nasty flux and petrolium jelly that smells like hell but will restore your tip (or just buy a new one) if the solder is not sticking its cause it will not stick to dirty stuff
kbb06252 years ago
Excellent Instructable! Exactly what I was looking to learn, thanks
Hi, you did not explain how to correctly solder - ie form a "heat bridge" by touching the soldering iron tip to the wire or component until it heats up, hold the solder to the work and watch the molten solder "wick" onto the component. cheers
The title of the lesson is "Soldering 101: Lesson 1: Tin the Tip"
dh1235 years ago
Hi! Nice tutorial but I have two comments. First, 750F is HOT! Really HOT! On the pcb's, wires, etc we do in my lab regularly a well tinned iron never needs to be above 650F. If you need to do some really heavy gauge wire, or a board that has a great copper pad you might need to go a little warmer, but only for a short period of time. Secondly,add a slow 1 count while the tip is heating the joint to ensure you don't get any cold joints. Nice instructable, thanks for taking the time!
DJPhil dh1234 years ago
I thought I might help avoid a misunderstanding. What dh123 is saying is excellent advice for the most often used lead based solders. In the past several years there has been a movement to begin using lead free solder, and these types of solders have a higher melting temperature. An iron temperature of 750F is a respectable mid-range for the average lead free solder, and would be excessive (likely to the point of harm) for assembly work with lead based solder.

To add to the above, I believe one of the many good reasons to buy a temperature controlled soldering iron is that you can adjust the iron temperature for both the job at hand (heating more metal takes more energy, too much energy damages fine components) and for the specific mix of solder you are using. There are many off brand digital thermocouple controlled adjustable irons available nowadays, and little research should turn up several between $50-$100US. They provide a drastically different experience than the standard $10US blister pack iron. My advice is that if you intend to work on circuit boards of any kind (as opposed to just the occasional wire tinning or appliance mending) you will be well served by investing in a good iron.

More details can be found on the soldering iron and solder pages on Wikipedia, and out in Googlespace. Some brand names to search for would be Weller, Hakko, Aoyue, and Xytronic.
ksjlkdjlddj6 years ago
Always heat the work, not the solder.
highwaykind7 years ago
Now all I need is a soldering iron... ;) Thanks heaps!