Whether you’re an electronics manufacturer, engineer or even a stained glass hobbyist, you invariably use solder. Solder is the alloy that is used to join the wire or joint to make a permanent bond. Flux is needed to prepare the base metals to “wet” to the solder, either inside the wire or a separate flux.
What is Solder Made of Anyway?
Solder is a metal alloy and is usually made of tin and one or two other metals such as lead, silver or copper.
Solder comes in both lead and lead-free variations. Stained glass uses solid solder with external flux. Lead-free solders generally have higher melting points than leaded solders:
- 50% Tin/ 50% Lead: 361 - 413 degrees F
- 60% Tin/ 40% Lead: 361 - 372 degrees F
- AQ Lead Free Alloy: 403 - 453 degrees F
- 99.3% Tin /0.7% Copper: 441 - 441 degrees F
Lead-free solder is the most commonly used type of solder
For electronics soldering, the most commonly used type of solder is lead-free rosin core solder. This type of solder is usually made up of a Tin/Copper alloy. You can also use leaded 60/40 (60% tin, 40% lead) rosin core solder but it’s becoming less popular due to health concerns and regulations.
There are lead-free replacement solder alloys for every leaded soldering application, whether soldering electrical components or seam soldering as in stained glass.
How soldering works
Soldering is typically done with a soldering iron which can be in the shape of a pencil or a gun. The pencil iron is the most popular because it is easier to control. You can change the tip which makes it more versatile.
The process involves applying enough heat between the two surfaces being joined together. The trick is to heat work above the melting point of the solder. This enables the solder to flow into the joint on whatever mechanism you’re soldering. After the joint is formed, you’ll stop feeding solder before removing the soldering iron and let it cool off.
Unplug the iron, clean it with a sponge, and put it away for when you are ready to use it next. To clean the iron, you can use a wet sponge and rub your tips on both sides to remove any dirt or oxides.
If you use a high wattage iron, it doesn’t produce higher temperatures. A higher wattage iron is generally used to heat bigger components. The higher mass the tip, the higher wattage is needed.
Make sure to solder in well-ventilated workspaces. Try not to inhale the flux fumes and make sure to wear goggles or safety glasses.
The solder you want to use is generally determined by the project or job that you are working on and whether you need to use lead-free or a regular tin/lead solder.
If you aren’t sure the type of solder that is right for your project, our technical support team is always happy to help.