It is important to keep your stained glass soldering iron tip properly maintained to make it last longer and perform properly. The most important soldering iron maintenance aspect is to keep the soldering iron tips clean and freshly tinned.
If the tips aren’t maintained properly or become oxidized, it will make the soldering process that much harder and unreliable. And will eventually ruin your iron.
Below are some recommendations on how to clean soldering iron tips to keep them in great shape:
Keep the soldering iron tips clean
It is important to keep the tips of your soldering iron clean. It will not only help prolong the life of the tips but will make the stained-glass soldering process more efficient. Simply use a damp or slightly wet sponge to remove the oxides and flux. You can also use a brass wool sponge tip cleaner to help keep the tips clean and shiny.
Tin the tips constantly
Tinning the tips is essentially coating the tip of your soldering iron with a little solder. This helps to preserve the plating on the tip by creating a barrier between the tips and the air around it.
To tin your tips, first heat up the soldering iron to the proper operating temperature for your solder or project. Then wipe the tip on a slightly damp sponge or dry brass wool to clean it. Then apply a small bead of solder to the tip ending and wipe off any extra solder onto a damp sponge.
Remove tips to prevent them from freezing
It is important to store your soldering iron properly to help extend the life of the iron as well as keep the tips performing properly. Just loosen the screw or the nut that holds the tip in place before putting the iron away, then remove the tip at least once a week. This will prevent the fumes from corroding the barrel, causing the tips to “freeze” in place.
When the tip has been removed, clean the inside of the iron barrel (tip mount) with a wire brush and wipe the shank of the tip clean.
Re-tin the tips before unplugging your iron or shutting down for the day.
Reactivate the tips if they turn black
If the tip of your iron is dark or heavily oxidized, it is time to reactivate the tips. This can be done by gently rubbing the tip surfaces with a Hexacon or Weller tip scrubbing bar or steel wool.
Then you will need to tin the tips right away with a fresh solder coating. Be careful not to break through the tip plating layer.
Turn your iron down when not using it
When you are not using your soldering iron, turn it off for not only safety purposes but for the life of your heating element. Further, if you are not working on your project for at least ten minutes, turn the iron off or turn the temperature down low as excessive heat is the enemy of the soldering iron and can destroy it.
This is especially important if you don’t have an external control that will automatically turn your temperature down when you aren’t using it for more than five to ten minutes.
When the tip is worn out
The tips of the iron are meant to be changed periodically and are easy to replace. Once the plating layer of the tip has worn through, it will become pitted and no longer properly transfer heat. Make sure to buy a new replacement tip that is designed for your soldering iron.