Solder a wire

Wiring lay­outs and ac­ces­sories usu­ally re­quires sol­der­ing, but it’s noth­ing to be afraid of – Ge­orge Dent goes back to ba­sics to show you how to make a re­li­able elec­tri­cal joint.

Model Rail (UK) - - Contents -

Ge­orge Dent goes back to ba­sics to show you how to make a re­li­able joint.

Noth­ing puts more mod­ellers off than the prospect of sol­der­ing, be it wiring a lay­out or as­sem­bling a kit. Yes, it’s a tech­nique that re­quires a lit­tle prac­tice and fore­knowl­edge to get right, but it can soon be mas­tered and the pos­si­bil­i­ties that it of­fers are al­most end­less. To dis­pel the myths, let’s have a look at the very ba­sics: pre­par­ing the sur­faces and get­ting the solder to flow. Whether we’re con­vert­ing a lo­co­mo­tive to DCC or sim­ply re­pair­ing a bro­ken wire, sol­der­ing will pro­duce an in­stant, en­dur­ing and fully con­duc­tive joint with­out the need for bulky screw con­nec­tors or reams of in­su­la­tion tape. Sol­der­ing irons are fairly in­ex­pen­sive, al­though choos­ing the right one for your needs is im­por­tant. For most hobby tasks, an 18-25 watt tool will suf­fice and brands such as An­tex and Weller are rec­om­mended. Nim­rod and Dremel also of­fer cord­less irons that are pow­ered by bu­tane (as found in cig­a­rette lighters), and these can be a great help when work­ing on far-flung cor­ners of a lay­out. The size of the iron’s tip is also im­por­tant, as a bulky wedge of metal will cause prob­lems in a con­fined space. Some of the bet­ter iron man­u­fac­tur­ers of­fer in­ter­change­able tips. You must also be sure to choose the right solder as some melt only at spec­i­fied tem­per­a­tures. For gen­eral elec­tri­cal work, a reg­u­lar 60/40 resin-core solder will be suit­able, prefer­ably of around 0.7-1mm di­am­e­ter. Flux is an acidic solution that, when heated, pen­e­trates the joint and takes the molten solder with it, cre­at­ing a more re­li­able joint. It also al­lows the iron to be in con­tact with the sub­ject for a shorter amount of time – some­thing highly de­sir­able where plas­tic and del­i­cate com­po­nents are never far away. Flux comes in pow­der, paste or liq­uid form; paste is the bet­ter op­tion for elec­tri­cal tasks as it’s eas­ier to ap­ply and clean up.

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