Soldering wire to track.

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Boxcar Willie
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Soldering wire to track.

Postby Boxcar Willie » Sat Jan 16, 2016 12:19 am

Greetings to one and all and I hope that the New Year's resolutions are still holding fast and that you've all abstained from dressing up as Wonder Woman on Fridays or whatever your resolution was.

Anyway here's a question. I've been working on a small layout - it's actually my first attempt to build one - and I've managed to get the base boards built, the track laid and so on. The problem is there's a dead spot - it happens where two pieces of rail are joined together and rather than relying on the fish plates to do the job I decided to bridge the gap with a couple of pieces of wire soldered to the track and hidden under the base board. When it's all weathered and ballasted a man on a galloping horse won't see the difference. Here's the problem - I can't get the blasted wire to stick to the track. I've heated the whole shebang to a temperature which would be considered indecent by Lucifer himself but the wire won't stick to the track. I've reached the point where the adjacent sleepers have begun to melt (and found a solution so no problem there anymore) but the damn wire won't stick to the damn track. The solder has a flux core; the iron is good and hot; the track is Hornby something-or-other chosen because the wheels of my mostly ancient rolling stock will tolerate it.

But the damn wire won't stick to the track.

brit-in-bama
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Re: Soldering wire to track.

Postby brit-in-bama » Sat Jan 16, 2016 5:49 am

the way I do it, (and my track is mostly from the 70's and 80's various types) is scratch the inside if the rail on the bottom flat with a old very small screwdriver, then clean it with a cotton bud dipped in alcohol, use a little bit of flux from a tin with a tooth pic and place it on the area cleaned, put a small blob of solder on the iron tip and just gently touch it on the same spot as the flux, as soon as you see the solder run onto the rail remove the iron, (about 2 seconds) when you tin the wire, hold it upside down, and use plenty of solder, this will create a small teardrop on the end of the wire, pass it up through the hole in the baseboard making sure it actually touches the rail, then again just touch the wire for a couple of seconds, the teardrop will melt and flow into the solder already on the track, the heat from the solder will transfer to the track and melt the solder almost instantly, remove the iron as soon as you see the solder melt and flow onto the track, then clean up any excess flux residue with a cotton bud with a solvent, (I use isopropil alcohol), make sure you are using low melt 60/40 lead/tin solder, and not that awful lead free cr*p, it needs far too high a temperature for modeling the delicate stuff we do, (we have actually banned it in our workshops on all electronics too, too many burned up circuits and boards), many people frown on adding extra flux, but if its used sparingly, and you dont mind cleaning up with a cotton bud afterwards, it really is a much better joint. others will no doubt have various methods, but having the right solder at the right temp and a small amount of flux paste and clean metal is always the best approach.

Tricky Dicky
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Re: Soldering wire to track.

Postby Tricky Dicky » Sat Jan 16, 2016 8:41 am

Like Brit said it sounds as if the rails are dirty or oxidised, either use a screwdriver as already advised or better still a fibre glass pen to clean the area where the wire is to be soldered. Then proceed to solder by tinning the rail and the end of the wire first before bringing the two together and sweating together. This is also an instance of using a high enough wattage soldering iron for the job, a minimum 25watt or higher would be better. Using a low wattage iron you will find the rail acts as a heat sink resulting in the rail dissipating the heat faster than the iron can supply it therefore not getting hot enough to melt the solder but enough to melt plastic sleepers. A high wattage iron is ironically less likely to melt the sleepers simply because the process of soldering is quicker and the heat in the rail more localised. The essence of soldering is to get the temperature of the two components being soldered hot enough in the locality to melt the solder only then will the solder fuse to the metal. Consider your soldering iron as a heat source and not merely a solder melting tool.

Richard

b308
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Re: Soldering wire to track.

Postby b308 » Sat Jan 16, 2016 9:40 am

You should only have to hold the iron there for a second or so, if you are having to hold it so long it's melting the sleepers then there's something wrong! The OP gives the classic description of trying to solder on dirty surfaces! Fibreglass pen for me as well, gives a much better clean surface than a screwdriver (or other sharp implement such as a needle file!)...

Ordinary solder with "built in flux" is fine for this purpose, there's no need to go low melt, though personally I use a drop of liquid flux on the rail before applying heat, but it does work without as long as the surface of the rail is clean...

One other thing, "tin" the wire before applying, all that means is apply a small amount of solder to the end of the wire so it looks "silver", it just helps when soldering it to the rail!

Soldering seems to be one of those "black arts", but it shouldn't be... Practice makes perfect, as they say, and cleanliness is next to godliness as others say!! :)

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Re: Soldering wire to track.

Postby Ex-Pat » Sat Jan 16, 2016 11:07 am

Boxcar Willie wrote:; the track is Hornby something-or-other chosen because the wheels of my mostly ancient rolling stock will tolerate it.

But the damn wire won't stick to the track.


Are you absolutely sure what the track is? Could it possibly be steel? Try a magnet?

b308
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Re: Soldering wire to track.

Postby b308 » Sat Jan 16, 2016 11:27 am

That's a good point, I'm so used to nickel silver track that I just assumed that's what it was! If it's old Super 4 or earlier or steel versions of series 6 you will have fun trying to solder to it, not! Most older stock will still work on modern code 100 unless it's stuff from the '50s, so unless you want to go back to those times using modern code 100 n/s may be easier if you are trying to use the old stock!

BTW it may be worth looking more closely at those rail joints, if it is Triang Super 4 then a tweak with a pair of long nosed pliers will normally sort out loose fishplates!

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Bufferstop
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Re: Soldering wire to track.

Postby Bufferstop » Sat Jan 16, 2016 1:01 pm

Boxcar - I just used my Admin privilege to check your location, you email address and IP address suggest you are not in the UK. Even here where 60/40 lead solder is only banned for water pipes many businesses will tell you it's illegal. You may have the same problem, go on line to look for 60/40 alloy solder. If it really is illegal to sell it where you live you may be forced to smuggle it in! (Not that I would advise anyone to break the law)
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mahoganydog
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Re: Soldering wire to track.

Postby mahoganydog » Sat Jan 16, 2016 1:03 pm

b308 wrote: Most older stock will still work on modern code 100 unless it's stuff from the '50s


If it's Tri-ang and Trix it won't but Hornby Dublo is perfectly happy on code 100!

Re soldering even steel track solders just fine *if* the solder is the right stuff. Give the surface a scrape with a small screwdriver and try again. If you get too much heat the flux burns and turns into a sticky brown mess that will prevent any joint from being made. If it still won't take get some non-acid flux and try a tiny amount of that but remember to clean it off afterwards or you'll get green corrosion on your track.

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Dad-1
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Re: Soldering wire to track.

Postby Dad-1 » Sun Jan 17, 2016 10:29 am

I've not read all the posting - I'm always in too much of a hurry
retired people just don't have the time !!

Soldering, given materials that will solder and I don't recall any track
that shouldn't isn't difficult.

First rule of good soldering & welding, in fact ALL engineering is
cleanliness. Even Peco Nickel Silver rail will tarnish with an oxidised
skin. Before soldering either clean with some wet 'n dry, or as I do
with a fine file in the small location where you want to solder. I use
a file as the slightly roughed surface provides additional keying for
the solder to grip.

Make certain the soldering Iron has fully heated up.

Keep the soldering tip clean - frequently wipe with either a damp cloth,
or one of those mesh ball thingies. I in fact use very damp paper kitchen towel.

Use a 60/40 lead & tin solder, easier with a flux cored solder like Stannol
that I suppose is still available (German Manufacture). My old reel is getting
low & I need to replace (0.7 mm wire)

A very quick touch should be enough to tin the point where you want to attach.
Tin the end of the wire to be attached and then a quick touch should then join
together.

Geoff T.
Remember ... I know nothing about railways.
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Dad-1
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Re: Soldering wire to track.

Postby Dad-1 » Sun Jan 17, 2016 10:49 am

Just done a google search on
"60/40 0.7 mm solder" loads available
from around £5. 100G reel should do all you'll want.
You want flux cored.

Geoff T.
Remember ... I know nothing about railways.
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b308
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Re: Soldering wire to track.

Postby b308 » Sun Jan 17, 2016 11:59 am

Dad-1 wrote:First rule of good soldering & welding,


:lol:

That made me laugh, appropriate if it's Super 4 or Series 3 Triang track, though! :wink:

Dad-1
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Re: Soldering wire to track.

Postby Dad-1 » Sun Jan 17, 2016 12:43 pm

Today I ordered a 250G reel total cost just over £17 inc VAT.
As I seem to maintain the clubs test track I went for the 250G
reel from a U.K supplier.
For Boxcar Willie I think any 60/40 0.7 cored solder in 100G
reel would last a lifetime.

I bought Stannol because that's what I already use & I know the
German quality as well as knowing Wuppertal where one of my
old employers make brass components.

b308 I am a qualified welding engineer - but welders look down on
soldering as it's not really joining metals together, it's just an
interface like glue !!

Geoff T.
Remember ... I know nothing about railways.
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Boxcar Willie
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Re: Soldering wire to track.

Postby Boxcar Willie » Mon Jan 18, 2016 4:51 pm

Bufferstop wrote:Boxcar - I just used my Admin privilege to check your location, you email address and IP address suggest you are not in the UK. Even here where 60/40 lead solder is only banned for water pipes many businesses will tell you it's illegal. You may have the same problem, go on line to look for 60/40 alloy solder. If it really is illegal to sell it where you live you may be forced to smuggle it in! (Not that I would advise anyone to break the law)



I'm actually in Ireland but I have no idea of the laws concerning lead solder. I have a reel of solder that I've had for about twenty years and it seems to go on forever - it must be the lead stuff if it's that old. I'd never allow a trifling little nuisance like the law to come between me and my modelling anyway. I'm planning on modelling a nuclear flask train and you folks have no idea of the trouble I'm having getting real plutonium. Well, people put real coal in tenders and bunkers don't they? Actually that's difficult as well -there's a total ban on smoky coal in towns here now and while it's done wonders for the health of the nation the little nuggets of smokeless coal don't break up properly.

Edit - BTW thanks for all the replies folks!

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Flashbang
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Re: Soldering wire to track.

Postby Flashbang » Mon Jan 18, 2016 5:31 pm

Sounds as though you need to visit a Steam Fair in your area sometime. Ask one of the traction engine / road roller etc owners if you can buy a couple of nuggets of their coal? Most likely they will look rather strangley at you, but once you explain what it's wanted for nine times out of ten they will give you some. Tip... Take a plastic bag with you!

We still don't know if your rails are Nickel Silver or Steel?? Try a magnet, steel will attract. If NS rail just clean the area, the iron must have a good conditioned tip then heat iron, of at least 25watts, for a full five miniutes, wipe tip on a dampened sponge then feed cored solder onto the tip until it's coated in solder. Press iron onto the cleaned area, wait a couple of seconds then try to feed a little of the corded solder onto the heated rail. Assuming the solder flows ok, strip and then coat with solder the wire end. Wipe tip on sponge and recoat the tip in fresh solder and then place the coated wire onto the tinned rail. Hold in position and place coated tip of iron on top of the wire, again wait a couple of seconds and the two solders should melt into one. If necessary feed a little of the cored solder onto the heated joint with the iron still in place until solder flows all around the joint. Remove iron and do not move the joint for at least five seconds or until the joint has cooled and the solder turned a dull silver colour.

If at any stage you can't get the solder to flow, your iron is not hot enough due to its wattage being too low or the item you're trying to apply solder to isn't suitable for soldering!

Last resort is to apply a tiny spot of flux to the rail then see if you can get the solder to flow. Ideally only use a flux specifically designed for electrical work - such as Carrs Orange label, DCC Concepts Sapphire flux or flux sold under the heading of 'Reflow' flux. eBay us a good source. These usually contain little or no acid and use alcohol as their base.

You will also need to obtain a large quantity of lead sheeting for screening the flask container! :D
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Boxcar Willie
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Re: Soldering wire to track.

Postby Boxcar Willie » Tue Jan 19, 2016 11:15 am

I had a check with a magnet and the track in question is nickel silver. There is a mixture of steel and n/s track on my little layout but following the advice on here I don't anticipate any more trouble. Iv'e a power feed and a couple of link wires to do so I'll get at that this evening.


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