Tips for Choosing the Correct Soldering Iron Tip

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Introduction: Tips for Choosing the Correct Soldering Iron Tip

About: I am work in a high voltage laboratory, the largest laboratory owned by a university. I am in love with electricity. I have been fortunate enough to work with a variety of green technology including fuel cel...

I will be discussing how the choose the correct tip for the project that you are soldering. There are many different tips by many different manufactureres, some are even patented by certain manufacturers such as the z wave tip by Pace. I will be using my home setup as reference.

Guidelines for choosing a tip

Choose a tip compatible with you iron

Determine the style of tip, some tips work better than others I explain a bit more below

Determine the correct size tip, too small and heat will not be transfered well too large and you could over hang the pad and damage the board.


Tips that I use

I am not a fan of conical tips especially for beginners. Most people, when learning to solder, think that applying pressure will help the solder flow and end up damaging the board. Also any tip with a point will have a shorter life due to the amount of metal at the tip, the sharper the point the shorter the lifespan.

I prefer chisel tips, the one pictured is over 3years old. I like them especially for surface mount applicationss. The idea is to have the tip be 60% the width of the pad, this will allow the soldering process to take place as quickly as possible with the least amount of thermal stress on the compoent. Chisel tips are thicker at the tip which will store more heat. I have differnt sized chisel tips for different applications

Chisel tips are ideal for:
Through hole
Surface mount
Wire
desoldering w/ solder braid

I also use a "Hoof" tip or gullwing tip. I use this for drag soldering multi lead SMT IC packages. Drag soldering is a thing of beauty. You can solder a 120 pin flat pack in minutes. This technique can be tricky because you need to have the right amount of solder applied to the tip or you will bridge the leads. I also use this tip for "blue wiring" circuits using small gauge wire.

Hoof Tips are ideal for:
Drag soldering
soldering small gauge wires

As I stated there are many styles and sizes of tips these are just a few that I use. I will conclude this instrucable with a few tips.
Always treat tips as thought they are hot, even if you know that it isn't

Do not use excessive preassure when soldering , you can damage your tip and your project.

when you are finished soldering apply a thin layer of solder to the tip, this will help prevent oxidation

Never use the tip as a pry bar or screwdriver

Use the lowest temperature possible, this will prevent premature wear tot he tip and damage to the components

Always use a tip appropriate for the application, you can use the advice in bold as a guideline.

Turn the system off when not in use, if you aren't going to be usin the iron in the next 10 minutes turn the station off.

Keep your tip clean, I wipe my tip on a damp sponge after every solder joint is completed.

I hope that you found this informative. If you should have any questions feel free to ask.

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    19 Discussions

    What does 60% the width of the pad mean? I need to solder an IC on a motherboard. What size should the chisel tip be? I'm lucky enough to have a Weller WTCP-S

    Where's a good place to go and get different soldering tips? For a soldering station what is a good model to get? I just have a butane soldering iron and I think a low wattage radioshack one.

    2 replies

    This is a nice guide! I'd love to see labels on the top photo.

    This type of information -- which tip to use for which project -- is lacking in many of the 'how to solder' guides online. They generally encourage you to choose the correct equipment but don't give enough detail on how to make that choice.

    I recently attempted to use my "hobbyist" soldering station (Tenma 21-7945) for a project and, through ignorance and stubbornness, ended up ruining the board of the $100 wifi router I was working on (hard-wiring a serial connector). Since I've been doing research, I now know that my tip was in bad shape and my cheap station is terrible at maintaining a consistent temperature. And even if I wanted to stick with the station, the tips are expensive and hard to find. Classic good-money-after-bad scenario.

    I ended up getting a Weller WESD51 and an assortment of tips. It cost about as much as my old soldering station and my ruined wifi router, not to mention the 2 or 3 cheap hardware store soldering irons I have laying around. I was also looking seriously at the Hakko FX888D, which looks excellent, but the price and availability of tips led me to choose the Weller. Hakko and Weller have both been in business for decades, and these are popular models, so replacement tips should be available for the life of the station.

    I generally use Hakko products, they produce a quality line of solder/rework stations at a good price. Pair that with the great customer service they offer. However for large volume production/rework I have used Metcal/Pace.

    That being said, if you want to spring for a Hakko system search amazon for the FX888D it will run you around $90.00

    If you want to get something a bit cheaper I bought the Xtronics 4000 series it comes with a lamp, all be it very cheap, and a variety of tips. I have been using it for over a year without issue. It is based off of the Hakko 936 unit you see above.

    Hope that helps if you should need anything else just let me know.

    Amazing. So now I understand why I was changing tips frequently. I need less heat, less pressure and a sponge. Thanks for the info.

    I use a Radio Shack digital soldering
    station EVERY day at work(the boss saves money where he can). I have
    been using conical tips at 774 degrees (after reading your article, I
    see why they don't last long).

    The labels are gone from our
    spools of wire, so I don't know what gauge we use (it is thin as hair).
    We also use a couple surface mount components in series within our
    circuit (not on a board). I see you use a "Hoof" tip for small gauge.
    Would these help in our setting? Our circuit is VERY unusual to say the
    least (check us out on youtube _ ultravoice speaking device).

    Thanks for the info and article. New things to learn! I like it!

    Darryl

    1 reply

    774 is a little hot. I usually never have to go above 630, and that is when I am soldering on a heavy ground plane.

    As stated above, I use a chisel tip, size appropriate, for most of what I solder. If you are soldering the components together in series with a PCB, I would use a small chisel tip.

    Hope that helps.

    I use a Radio Shack digital soldering station EVERY day at work(the boss saves money where he can). I have been using conical tips at 774 degrees (after reading your article, I see why they don't last long).

    The labels are gone from our spools of wire, so I don't know what gauge we use (it is thin as hair). We also use a couple surface mount components in series within our circuit (not on a board). I see you use a "Hoof" tip for small gauge. Would these help in our setting? Our circuit is VERY unusual to say the least (check us out on youtube _ ultravoice speaking device).

    Thanks for the info and article. New things to learn! I like it!

    DArryl

    My Weller 921X (obsolete, I think) needs a new tip. No info on the iron as to its model, and I am having a hard time finding any information on the 921X Any ideas? Tip #? Iron #

    Thanks

    Dave

    Nice writeup. I think the most common mistake people make is using the wrong size tip for the job. Soldering large wires? That tiny tip isn't going to get enough heat into it!!! I was as guilty as anyone of this at one point.

    3 replies

    I can solder with a pair of pliers holding a rusty nail over a candle. It is all in the wrist!

    a hoof tip has a flat angled side like a hoof. this way you can apply solder and run it across leads and drag solder. see picture 3 above, it has solder on it so you can't see how flat it is.

    a chisel is more rounded than square, imagine a conical tip then imagine slicing an angle off two sides from the tip, see image number 2 above

    Was using a butane iron with a wrecked tip for small gauge wires (repairing a damaged speedlite) and it was hell, not being able to pick up the solder easily made the work really tricky...