There are many benefits in using lead-free solder in projects that don’t require regular, leaded solder. Not only is leaded solder harmful to the environment, but it can potentially cause some health risks.
Therefore, any stained glass project that is handled, such as kaleidoscopes, jewelry, jewelry gift boxes or any giftware should be made with lead- free solder. There are many solid, well-performing lead-free solder variations that can make the transition that much easier.
While the price for lead-free solder alloys tends to be higher than regular solder, it should be used for any project that is either handled or worn since it is much safer. The higher price of lead-free is partially offset by the lower density. Lead-free is 14% less dense than 60/40 which means you get 14% more feet of wire in a one-pound spool!
How does lead-free solder differ from regular leaded solder?
The biggest difference is that lead-free solder doesn’t have any lead. The most popular leaded solder that is used in copper foil work is 60% tin, 40% lead (60/40). The other type of regular solder is 50% tin, 50% lead (50/50) which takes a little more time to set up than the standard 60/40 due to its higher melting point.
The finish on lead-free solder is a little grainier than either 50/50 or 60/40 and you need more heat to flow it.
In fact, there are lead-free replacement solder products available for every leaded solder application.
Lead Free-Solder Uses Higher Temperatures than Leaded Solder
When using lead-free solder, you’ll need to use a higher temperature to solder or increase the contact time. If you use a soldering iron that requires different tips for different temperatures, you will need to use a hotter tip.
Lead-free solder usually melts about 40 to 70 degrees higher than 60/40 solder.
Lead-free Solders tend to have higher melting points that leader solders:
AQ Lead Free Alloy: 403 - 453 degrees F
99.3% Tin /0.7% Copper: 441 - 441 degrees F
Tin/Copper/Silver: 418 - 440 degrees F
60% Tin/40% Lead: 361 -372 degrees F
Try to practice soldering with different temperatures until you get a feel for the lead-free solder.
Are there any other benefits to lead-free solder other than health concerns?
There are also environmental concerns when using leaded-solder. Lead-free solder is not toxic to the environment. Leaded-solder can find its way into the soil, water and even air.
Once the lead is in water bodies, it affects the marine life and people living around these water forms.
Some of the other benefits of lead-free solder are the following:
- It is easily repairable
- Higher tensile strength
- There isn’t the risk of getting lead poisoning
- It is compatible with most applications
Most lead-free solder is available is all solder forms, including solder paste, cored wire solder, solid wire and solder bars.
While lead-free soldering takes a little more time, effort and maybe even some practice, it is certainly worth minimizing the health risk. Particularly in giftware or jewelry.
And, of course, whether you are working with leaded or lead-free solder, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after you finish your soldering work.
If you are unsure of which application of leaded-solder to use for your stained glass project, our customer service team is happy to help you.