Soldering 101: Lesson 1: Tin the Tip




About: Every now and then I come up with a unique idea. And then I find someone else has already thought of it . . . which is AWESOME! Who knew there were so many kindred spirits on the web! YOU GO all o' us!

This short and easy instructable shows how (and why!) you tin the tip of the soldering iron.
Never soldered before? Here's where to start.

If you appreciate this instructible, please visit my blog for more ideas:

Last week I decided to make a USB powered flashlight.
While I know a lot about computers, I'm pretty much a solder newbie.

This was a problem.

Luckily, though, I work with a formerly-NASA-micro-soldering-certified technician and soldering instructor.
Yesterday, he instructed me as I soldered together my lovely little flashlight.

My newbie perspective is useful as I won't overlook any "obvious" things that more experienced solderers might.
And my knowledgable overseer (Thanks Terry!) taught me the proper methods, so you can do things the right way too.

You will need:
A soldering iron

If you can't get a soldering iron with a digital temp readout (and I can't) get a soldering iron with a temperature dial. You'll be glad you did in the long run.

Step 1: Prepare the Iron

Clear your work area (like a desktop).

**If you're reading this instructable, you shouldn't be soldering chips (ICs) yet, but if you WERE to solder ICs, you'd be soldering on an ESD mat.

Plug in the iron and turn it on. Using water, soak the sponge that comes with the iron and squeeze it out a little. This sponge is used to clean solder off the tip of the soldering iron.

Adjust the temperature of the iron to about 750 F(75 on the dial) like so:

Step 2: Clean the Tip

After a minute or two the iron should be hot enough to steam when touched to the sponge. If not, wait a bit more, or add more water to the sponge if it's too dry.

When the iron is hot, wipe both sides of the soldering tip on the sponge. Your goal is to remove old solder from the tip.

Step 3: Tin the Tip

When you put a light layer of solder over another piece of metal, it's called "tinning".

Holding the solder in one hand and the iron in the other, briefly touch the solder to both sides of 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

Like this instructable?
Try Soldering 102: Soldering a Jumper Next!



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    76 Discussions


    6 years ago on Step 4

    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!

    2 replies

    Reply 1 year ago

    Running helps reduce oxidation so the electrical connection is as clean as it can be to produce the conductivity for the metal to be heated properly


    Reply 5 years ago on Step 4

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


    Reply 1 year ago

    Yes of course u can. I never really do. But iron requires a little more maintainence


    Reply 2 years ago

    Yes but you're going to get brittle joints if you do. There's also no reason not to do it. It takes about 10 seconds after the pen warms up and doesn't take a lot of solder to do.


    Question 1 year ago on Step 3

    new soldering iron, can't get any solder to stick to tip,using fluxed solder 60;40, cleaned tip with steel wool no result, tried liquid flux, no result, solder turns to balls and rolls off, never had problems before. DRAPER 60w. tip looks black and sooty, Regards J.

    1 answer

    Answer 1 year ago

    Has you solder gotten any residue on it. Like oils or sut. Try cleaning the solder with the wet sponge and a paper towel to dry it. And or if you’d soldering iron has a removable tip. Remove it ( when cold ) and make sure there’s no oxidation causeing it to no make good contact and Not be hot enough to melt the solder the way it’s suppsed to be


    12 years ago on Step 1

    Wow! Nice solder station! I only have a Weller model WTCPN :( I'm jealous. On the upside I have a much better way of tinning a soldering iron. I use my solder pot, just dip the cleaned tip of the iron in.

    7 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    You posted this comment when i was 6 years old, time has really flown


    Reply 12 years ago on Step 1

    Now a solder pot would be nice! But, this isn't really my soldering iron--it's the job place's. I do all my soldering there because of my cheapo iron at home.


    Reply 12 years ago on Step 1

    Oh, that's a pot of molten lead--I've never seen one, but my soldering guru says they're really great for tinning the leads on anything. Just dip it in!


    2 years ago

    Wet spunge is bad choice. I never apply water to the bit. i prefer steel wire mesh. Cleans it much better I find. And preserves the Bit you are using.

    I have the same Soldering Iron as you, i bought mine off ebay. Very common on there.

    Im not sure if the WES51 is the best brand tho.

    2 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    I don't particularly agree with that, but comment back on more reasons why steel mesh is better. I think that not only does the sponge help keep the bit well maintained, but I agree with ScunnerDarkly that companies probably wouldn't include a sponge with every soldering kit if it was worse than steel wire mesh.


    Reply 2 years ago

    "Wet spunge is bad choice"... Seriously, if that was the case manufacturers of hand-soldering equipment wouldn't supply sponges with soldering stations and iron stands, for that exact purpose. Cleaning a hot soldering bit on wet sponge is quick, effective and non-destructive to the tip's plating. Using steel wool or mesh will reduce the lifespan of the bit as it will wear through the plating at the tip. I know from experience as I've been soldering for nearly forty years.