Introduction: Uses of Different Soldering Iron Tips

Picture of Uses of Different Soldering Iron Tips

I recently got a collection of soldering iron tips and realized that many people (including myself) might not know what the different tips are used for. After all, for a long time I was under the impression that there was only about three different types of soldering tips and only one useful type of tip.

While I still only use two different types of tips (an improvement), I am much more familiar and confident in using whatever soldering iron tip I may happen to find on the iron. Please know that is far from a comprehensive list of all the different types of soldering tips available, but rather a small handful that I am personally prone to use.

If you are not familiar with soldering, I recommend checking out noahw's instructable on How to Solder.

Step 1: Tips That I Am Using

For those of you that want to know, I am using a 10 piece set from The DIY Outlet. This particular set features 5 different categories of 900M soldering iron tips. It has:

  • three 900M-T-C series tips
  • four 900M-T-D series tips
  • one 900M-T-B series tip
  • one 900M-T-I series tip
  • one 900M-T-K series tip

Don't worry if none of this means anything to you; we'll go over each of them individually.

Step 2: B Series Tips

Picture of B Series Tips

This is the tip that many people new to soldering would likely imagine to be the only kind of soldering iron tip, because, well, it looks like a soldering iron tip as opposed to being ground down on one side.

Due to its round shape so that soldering can be done from any angle, you can use this particular tip in a large amount of soldering applications from point soldering to drag soldering. Because of this, B series tips are widely used for general purpose soldering, but tend to be put aside when a specific soldering job needs to be done.

Step 3: D Series Tips

Picture of D Series Tips

These tips, which have a kind of chisel look to them and are my personal favorite, are also widely used in general purpose soldering much like the round B series tips. The difference is that these tips offer a much larger surface area on the face and tip of the chisel than the B series tips.

The reason you would want a larger surface area is so that more heat is able to be transferred from the soldering iron to the electrical component and/or solder. With more heat transfer, solder will flow more readily, arguably making the D series tips easier than B series for quick solder applications.

The four tips shown in the picture are different sizes (just in case you weren't sure). This is so you can pick the appropriate sized tip since larger is not always better, even though you would have more heat transfer with larger tips. The reason for this is because if your tip is too big, you may end up having solder flow from the one point you were trying to work on to it's friend next to it creating a solder bridge, which can be a real bummer.

Step 4: C Series Tips

Picture of C Series Tips

Despite looking like they were accidentally ground down on one side, these C series tips are rather useful, especially in drag soldering. The slightly curved face is ideal for spreading out solder over the tip and then evenly applying small amounts of the solder over multiple components in close proximity (such as the pins on a surface mount component).

These C series tips are different than the "hoof tips" (CM series), which have a concave impression in their surface to either distribute or collect excess solder.

If you want to learn how to drag solder the small surface mount components, check out my upcoming Instructable on drag soldering.

Step 5: I Series Tips

Picture of I Series Tips

As you have likely guessed, the I series tips are for needle-point work. However, the draw-back with being able to do detailed work is that because the tip is so small (and thus less surface area) than the B series tip, it is not able to transfer a lot of heat, making it difficult to solder (relatively) larger components.

Step 6: K Series Tips

Picture of K Series Tips

This particular type of soldering iron tip is useful in a wide variety of applications. The slanted knife edge (K for knife) allows for point soldering, drag soldering and fixing solder bridges. However, because it is wide, it can become slightly unwieldy to do point soldering in confined areas although not impossible.

Step 7: Final Thoughts

As I mentioned earlier, there are many more types of soldering iron tips out there that I did not cover which have their own strengths and weaknesses. However, I have hopefully made it clear that there are a variety of tips that can be used to do a myriad of soldering jobs.

Sure, it seems that you could pick one tip and use it for everything; and that's completely true. But at the same time, it might be easier to use a different tip that is better suited for the job, but in the end that's up to you.

Check out the Digilent Blog for other things that I and the rest of Digilent team are up to!

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.


MordimerM (author)2016-09-17

So I got t12-ILS which as you pointed cant be used for larger elements. Can you suggest a replacement? B or D series? I was thinking about T12-B2Z ?

JColvin91 (author)MordimerM2016-09-23

Hi MordiemerM,

I would personally go with the B series (presuming it's not a huge element you're working with) since you can still use the B series size for some (not all) precision work as well as the larger components without taking too long or burning anything out. They're pretty versatile in that way.

MordimerM (author)JColvin912016-09-23

I went with D12 and for small work I can use my ILS tip :)

LouisR37 (author)2016-09-01

Thanks for a very useful and informative piece.

emilzacharia (author)2016-06-03

Good one. I came to know the different types of bits & their uses. Thanks.

Yonatan24 (author)2016-03-29

Hi, I've added your project to the "Beginners Guide to Soldering" Collection

This is the link If you are interested:

JColvin91 (author)Yonatan242016-03-29

Cool! Thanks for highlighting my 'ible!

MooMeat42 (author)2014-07-14

My dad gave me a soldering iron with a blackened pointed tip bent to at 40° that cannot melt solder. Is that tip usually used to increase frustration over time?

Squidyman (author)MooMeat422014-07-28

Two solutions.

You can either buy a new tip, but given the condition of it I would rather you get a new one. Soldering irons can be cheap $5 up to nice up to $120.

Second temporary option would be to use sandpaper or some other abrasive material to sand off the tip to make it shiny again. It works, just every time you want to use it you will have to sand down the corrosion again.

A note about sanding it down. If you buy a new iron, don't sand it until it gets bad. Instead use light grade steel wool to polish the tip. Tips have a special metal coating that prevents corrosion and you don't want to remove it unless you have too.

Hope it helps :D

M.S4 (author)Squidyman2016-02-14

i m using Soldering iron for nearly 1 year and that cost me less than $2

bzurn (author)MooMeat422015-06-06

Weller makes a tip cleaner that comes in a small tin the size of a quarter. You can find it on amazon. It works great and it's worth trying that before scraping the tip.

blightcp (author)MooMeat422014-07-23

It is to reach around a part, in a professional electronic station you may have 30 + tips and 3 -4 different iron based on the situation. Use plumbers flux on the hot tip to try to get them clean.

DDW_OR (author)blightcp2014-07-24

be careful using plumbers flux on electronic parts. some plumbers flux or solder have acid.

electronic flux or solder has no acid.

blightcp (author)DDW_OR2014-07-25

Most of the flux is still acidic, just not enough to harm components "much", when you are working on old parts. The purpose of flux is to clean oxidation of of the part, this requires some kind of acid.

As a hardware verification engineer, I still see corrosion issues from no clean flux when it is not cleaned esp, when it is made in "cough cough(china)". The non-lead solder paste now used has almost no corrosion resistance.

The "no clean flux" does not work well with repairs of old equipment. In the 90's I worked repairing a 50Kw aircraft radars from 1965 for 6 years in the Air Force, you are going to need the strong acid based flux to work on old equipment or anything left outdoors.

JColvin91 (author)MooMeat422014-07-15

Blackened tips are definitely frustrating. What has most likely happened is that the soldering iron was turned on for too long so that the tip got oxidized and turned black so it no longer has good heat transfer.

You can generally fix this by cleaning off the tip with a brass mesh while the iron is hot. However, if it has been oxidized too much (as I have experienced when I first started soldering) you can scrape off the oxidized layer with a file, and then clean the tip with the brass mesh.

The 40° angle (in case you're curious) is so that you can more easily reach some spots on a circuit that you could not otherwise. It's the same idea as using an angle wrench; it happens to be more useful then the standard wrench in certain applications.

SiliconFarmer (author)JColvin912014-07-15

If the tip is so badly oxidized you are considering using a file, the tip is ruined. You should never use an abrasive such as a file or sand paper on a soldering tip. This removes the thin, protective nickle coating and exposes the copper core. The soldering iron will then oxidize almost instantly when you heat it up, and you will be back to where you were before.

The solution is to buy a new tip.

I've actually done this. My tip was all crusty so I hit it with some brake parts cleaner and a wire brush. The tip got so clean it went back to copper. I still tried to use it, but it doesn't really work anymore. (I did this to avoid buying tips from online stores, as the local hardware store doesn't carry tips anymore.) Actually, it still works okay for wood burning, but not soldering.

DDW_OR (author)laughingjungle2014-07-24

be careful. some solder iron tips are multilayered, I learned that from both a Hakko and a Weller sales rep

JColvin91 (author)SiliconFarmer2014-07-15

I agree that in the end buying a new tip is safest. But in my own personal experience, which is in no way authoritative, carefully removing the oxidized layer without removing the secondary coating does work as a temporary fix, at least long enough to finish the soldering job.

DDW_OR (author)JColvin912014-07-22

I use an Exacto knife held at an 80 degree angle to the tip to scrape the black carbon off the tip. start with a light pressure, increase pressure as needed.

once the carbon is removed i use solder to re-tin the tip. also if the iron is not to be used for a few minutes i add a layer of solder to the tip, then wipe it clean before i use it.

my favorite tip is the K-tip, it has the long edge for IC's and can be rotated to use the tip for small components, and has a large contact area to heat up larger parts such as heatsinks. used it for 17 years when i did component level repair

blightcp (author)DDW_OR2014-07-24

Same here, Air Force component level repair for KC-135.

JColvin91 (author)DDW_OR2014-07-22

The Exacto knife sounds like a good way to help get that oxidation layer off of the tip. And the K-tips are super versatile; it's a great design.

DDW_OR (author)JColvin912014-07-22

Yes it is. I have used it to cut rope, cut plastic, melt-weld lawnmower gas tanks.

then a hot tip on a wet sponge to clean. then solder wire to re-tin.

blightcp (author)SiliconFarmer2014-07-23

I agree. You can try flux on the tip to soften it and see if it will come off but if the black is on the primary contact area it going to be an issue.

SherpaDoug (author)SiliconFarmer2014-07-23

Larger sizes of soldering irons used for roofing work don't come with any plating. They are just plain copper that you tin yourself when you use them. You can do the same with tiny tips used for electronics.

DHAutoTX (author)2016-01-26

I've been having great luck with this kit. It even has super thin and bent tips for reaching into tight spots.

GrinninSam (author)2015-07-27

Nice article! Well written.

I've always used a chisel tip for drag soldering, which works pretty well. Maybe I'll try out one of these C tips for comparison.

bluemoon6 (author)2015-06-07

Thank you so much..Pretty new to soldering ( jewelry) and this was very informative...

slu6alka (author)2015-06-06

Really nice! Thanks for sharing this :)

oilitright (author)2015-06-05

My first introduction to soldering was working with tin and copper sheets. The soldering irons for that were huge tools that were heated in a small furnace.

Spokehedz (author)oilitright2015-06-06

They are still used by plumbers who can't get a torch into a small enclosed area. They work quite well, if a bit inefficient with wasted heat.

linuxlizard (author)2015-06-05

Are these the best tips for soldering probe wires onto surface mount leads?

JColvin91 (author)linuxlizard2015-06-06

I suppose that would depend on how steady your hands are, but if I had to get wires onto surface mount leads, I would try to use as small as a soldering iron tip as possible so I don't accidentally short some of the pads together.

So yes, I would personally use these tips in your situation.

lacewonda (author)2014-07-22

Thank you for sharing this info. All I need now is to expand my 'tip'collection to enable my soldering jobs.

AJMansfield (author)lacewonda2014-07-22

You can make your own tips fairly easily, actually. Just by appropriately sized solid copper wire (8 GA for me) and file a point/other shape onto a length of it.

ac-dc (author)AJMansfield2015-06-04

That only works for the cheap/crude soldering irons, not those with good temperature control which is important for working on small electronic components with lead free solder due to the higher melting point and small window within which to get the component soldered without overheating and potentially damaging it.

JColvin91 (author)lacewonda2014-07-22

My pleasure! It is definitely helpful to have a designated tool for a specific job, but like I said early on in my Instructable, I really only use two or three of the tips that I talked about.

AJMansfield (author)2014-07-22

For me, all my soldering tips consist of lengths of 8 gauge solid copper wire with ends filed down to the appropriate shape. At only $.69 per foot, this is actually really inexpensive. Plus, you can also bend your tip (like into a hook shape, for out-of-position work) without worrying about damaging it, since you can just unbend (or replace) it.

dragontirex (author)AJMansfield2015-06-04

I do use the same method for making my own soldering tips, but that only works for soldering guns or soldering irons that have a screw type tip mount. They don't last too long before they get "eaten" and need to filed to bring it back into shape but hey, at least I don't need to bother to order every now and then new tips. I use my Metcal station not very often at all. Having zero cost for the tips suits me just fine. Unfortunalty it won't work In basically none of the temperature controlled soldering stations like the Hakko 936 or whatever brand they are because they usually mount on the heating element, thus the need to have a hole in the middle. Anyway, Cheers :)

dmushnad (author)2015-06-04

nyce thanks

marc_macd (author)2015-01-09

Here's a link to some videos for you all. I did the Nasa soldering skills course care of the Airforce in my earlier days. The small precision bits are for young hands and the big ones are for old shaky hands like my own, ha ha ha happens to us all. :-) Cheers

adithyapaip (author)2015-01-06

Thank you ....I got to know much about types of soldering iron...

lorogan (author)2014-12-11

Just so that you will have 80 comments<:D

lorogan (author)2014-12-11

Thank You! Best put it on my X-mas list!

Merry Christmas!

lorogan (author)2014-12-10

Will these fit on a Radioshack Proline soldering station? The station looks a lot like a regular Weller... Thanks!

JColvin91 (author)lorogan2014-12-11

I believe so. Or at least that's what different customers have said on amazon reviews of this set of soldering iron tips.

SparkySolar (author)2014-10-19

I like your Instructable

Thank you so much for sharing


JColvin91 (author)SparkySolar2014-10-20

Thanks! I'm glad you liked it.

SparkySolar (author)2014-10-19

I like your Instructable

Thank you so much for sharing


baecker03 (author)2014-09-10

where do you buy your tips?

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