Soldering Problem

by Jan Andrews
(Mount Vernon, Tx, U.S.)

I'm running a finishing bead of solder on a foiled joint. The solder looks perfect until it cools, and then it is bumpy and sometimes looks like it had smidgens of sand or something under the surface. I constantly clean my iron tip with a wet sponge, and/or the sulfate block cleaner. I am also having trouble getting the solder (60/40) to run to the bottom side of the iron when I melt it on the top of the iron as I run the bead. I just started having the problems today, so the solder and iron should be good. Any help will be appreciated!! Thanks


Answer
Hi Jan,

I honestly don't know what's going on, but here are a few things to look at.

Is you tip shiney on both sides after you clean it off? Does the tip look sunk in on the bottom side? If it isn't shiney on both sides or it is sunk in on the bottom, it may be as simple as needing a new tip.

What about your flux. Do you use it straight from the original container? If so, the flux is contaminated. Get new flux. Every time you solder, pour a small amount of flux in another container for use during that soldering period. Dispose of the remainder...don't use it again.

If you don't think either of those scenerios are the problem, run off any solder that's on the panel. Go over the seams with very fine steel wool or bronze wool (my preferance), then clean the panel by wiping with alcohol. Try soldering again.

Let us know what the outcome is!

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soldering copper foil

by cherie suhy
(kingsley, mi)

I too am having problems with a smooth soldering seam and have tried everything I can think of to accomplish this, The lift method still leaves subtle lines down the whole seam. When I go back and fix a spot it leaves lines on either side of that area. Also on projects with several small pieces and a lot of intersections is looks messy. I try to solder the longest seam first but still cannot get away from all the several small intersections. I have tried to gently place my iron on the intersections to melt the area but lines still form around the melted area. (I do not stop in the middle of the intersection but go beyond).Even the touch method I pause slightly before lifting and do overlap each seam but still not a smooth line. However the many small messy intersections bug me the most!!! Thanks

Answer

Try starting at the intersection and running your bead out from it rather than running into it. You don't need to start using more solder for each subsequent seam that runs into the intersection until you have heated the intersection and started running the solder already there away from it.

For pieces already done, flux the area you want to remove solder from. Set the panel on edge and tilt it forward. Touch the area with your soldering iron. The excess solder will drop off onto your work bench. Make sure your hand and arm are protected so hot solder doesn't burn you. Then you can touch up the area to make it blend in with the rest of the solder bead.

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Soldering on Copper Foil Problems

by Ger
(Scotland)


I am trying to do the microscope slide pendants using a 40 watt iron and a tin of ZJ-18 PH7+0.3 gel flux that I saw someone use on youtube.
My problem is that the solder is not sticking to the copper foil, it's very patchy. The solder flows ok and sticks in some bits but not in others. Have tried cleaning the tape with window cleaner, washing up liquid, vinegar and alchohol but solder still very patchy. Can anyone suggest where I'm going wrong please?

Answer

I'd change things, one at a time.

First of all, a 40 watt soldering iron is quite low wattage for soldering on copper foil. You should be using a minimum of 60 watts and 80 watts would be ideal.

I'm not familiar with the flux you're using. I did a Goggle search for it and only found one web site that sells it. There wasn't much information about it other then it appears to be used for welding copper pipes.

If you're still not getting the results you'd like with a higher wattage iron, try a different flux. I don't know what's availabel in Scotland, but you would be able to get the right flux for copper foil from a stained glass supply shop.

Lastly, if all else fails, get a new roll of copper foil. Occasionally a roll of foil just won't accept solder, no matter what you do. It doesn't happen very often, but it does happen. I have had more than one person with soldering problems get a new roll of foil and the problems disappear.

You can change things in any order you want (soldering iron, flux, copper foil), but I would definately get a higher wattage soldering iron. You'll be much happier with the results of your soldering efforts.

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Copper Foil Soldering Problems

When I go to solder the pieces together it gets clumpy and dirty looking and the outside edges are difficult to solder, what can I do to help this problem?

Answer

Hi,

It sounds like you have contaminated flux and/or a dirty soldering iron tip.

You should not dip your flux brush in the bottle the flux comes in. Constantly rubbing the foil with the brush and dipping the brush back in the bottle contaminates the flux and causes all sorts of soldering problems.

Get a new bottle of flux. When you're ready to solder, pour a small amount (like a tablespoon) into another container. Use the flux out of there. When you're done soldering, dispose of the remaining flux in that container. The flux in the original bottle will remain fresh and uncontaminated.

Wet a paper towel and squeeze it out so it is only damp, not soaking wet. Fold the towel into a square. As you're soldering, frequently wipe your soldering iron tip on the towel. That will keep your tip clean.

Lastly, read my tutorial on soldering copper foil.


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My Soldering Stinks!

by Jaki
(USA)

I have bubbles and ridges on my solder lines, they look so terrible. What is causing this to happen? Do you think I need a new soldering tool as the end wiggles?
I am so envious of other works that I have seen with such neat smooth lines.

Answer
Hi Jaki,

The first thing to do is to check the screw that holds the soldering iron tip in place. It might not be tight enough. That would cause the wiggling, and keep the tip from getting hot enough because it's not making contact with the heating elements.

If the screw isn't loose, get a new bottle of flux. The flux you are using might be contaminated from dipping your flux brush directly into the bottle. When you're ready to solder, pour a little bit of flux into a separate container. Use that for one soldering session. When you're finished soldering, dispose of the remainder...do not re-use it. The separate contained I use is the lid of the flux bottle. There is usually just enough flux for one session, and the lid is easy to clean out before putting it back on the bottle.

If neither of those suggestions work, yes, you might need a new soldering iron.

However, before you get a new iron, read this Soldering Tutorial. You'll find a lot of information with step by step pictures showing how to solder copper foil.

Lastly, practice, practice, practice. It takes a lot of practice to learn how to make an acceptable solder seam.

I hope some of this helps you. If not, please Contact Me. I can then ask you some specific questions that will give me more information to work with.

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Soldering smoothly

by Linda Seto
(Highland,In 46322)

I have been doing stained glass for a little over a year. My soldering is lacking in smoothness. I use 50/50 as my first pass and 60/40 after that. I took a 6 week class to learn how to... I know with practice and time I should improve but somehow I still can't make beautiful smooth lines.
Can you suggest anything to help me out.
Also, why does the solder sometimes bleed through when I am soldering? Is it to much heat in one area?

Thank you
Linda

Answer

Hi Linda,

You will find a tutorial for soldering copper foil at Soldering Copper Foil. That should help you learn how to get smooth seams.

The solder runs through if there is a gap, or if you hold the iron in one place for too long. In the soldering tutorial, you will learn how to avoid run through. It really doesn't have anything to do with too much heat. I don't use a temp controller and I use a 100 watt iron for all of my soldering. You basically have to learn how to keep it from happening.

If you have a big gap, my first recommendation would be to replace the piece of glass that is causing the gap. If that is impossible, hold a wet cloth on the underside of the gap as you solder over it. The wet cloth will prevent the solder from running through and at the same time will cause the solder to set quickly. When you solder on the reverse side, do a series of quick touches with your soldering iron, letting the solder set and cool between each touch. As long as you don't hold the iron there too long, the solder shouldn't run back through to the first side.

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Solder Nightmare

by Tori
(Sioux City, IA USA)

Hi Sue.

I was hoping you might have some advise on my problem before I spend anymore money to remedy it. I've been having issues with my solder for some time now and now I am working on a project where it really matters. My solder is not smooth and mostly pocked. I've tried using less flux. I bought 2 new different types of flux, including paste and gel. I use canfield 60/40, and I have a 2 year old 100 watt weller iron. I tried cleaning the tip, but I'm afraid it is beyond that so I replaced it. Still, I have these problems. Do you think it is the iron itself? I thought I would ask your opinion before I went out and spent any more money.
Thanks,
Tori

Answer

Hi Tori,

I can think of several reasons why your problem might be happening.

1. You aren't using enough flux.

2. Your iron isn't hot enough.

3. You are contaminating your flux by dipping into the bottle instead of pouring out a small amount into a container, then disposing of the remainder after each soldering session.

4. It could be your iron. It is only 2 years old, but it could be defective.

If I were you, I'd take the iron to your nearest stained glass shop and have them check it out. It is difficult for me to determine if it is a faulty iron without actually using it.

If it isn't a faulty iron, you can email me a picture of your soldering. That would make it much easier for me figure out what's happening. You can do that at Contact Me. I'll add the picture to this page and continue with my answer here.

I'm sure everyone reading this is interested in what is causing the problem. If you figure it out from what I've suggested so far, let us know. You can do that at the bottom of this page where it says "Comments".








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Soldering To Patinaed Surface

I'm making an angel and in the pattern it has the wings built separately and then soldered on the back side. I have already put the angel together and patinad her. Can I still add the wings to the patinad surface instead of attaching them to the back????

Answer

Yes,you can, but it works better to take the patina off first. Just use fine steel wool or bronze wool to rub it off in the area you will be attaching the wings to. If you leave it on, it makes dirty spots in the solder that are very difficult to remove.

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Soldering Questions

Since I am quite new to the art I'm not sure what type of solder to use or the proper technique for using the iron. I've seen people slanting the iron and using the tip and making it flat against the glass. As this can be an expensive hobby, I don't want to waste any of the material and become frustrated. Thanks for your help!

Joyce

Answer

Hi Joyce,

I understand what you're saying, but you won't be alone if you waste materials and become frustrated. That's part of the learning process.

Learning to solder takes practice. There is no right way or wrong way. Whatever works for you is the best way. Your aim is to get a smooth bead.

Use 60/40 solder and practice on some plain window glass. Cut it into shapes, foil the shapes then solder them back together. You can go over the solder quite a few time as you practice getting it right. Just add flux each time you re-do a seam.

Here is a tutorial on soldering that might help you: Soldering Copper Foil

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Large area to be soldered

by Heidi
(Richmond, Virginia)

I am working on a winter tree pattern where the branches and trunk of the tree will be solder. The trunk is about 1.5" wide, and some of the branches are a little wide, too. Any tips? Should I use lead strips to fill in the trunk area, or cut a metal mesh?

Answer

You can buy sheet copper foil to fill in the areas. Venture makes a sheet that's a foot square. Cut the shapes, then solder them before you put them on the glass. If you try to solder a large area on the glass, there's a good chance the glass will crack. You can lay the copper pieces on a cookie sheet or anything else metal, then solder it. Once it's cooled off, you can stick it on the glass and solder it along the edges.

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Copper foil/solder question

by Pam
(Salem, Indiana, US)

Is it true you can't leave a foiled piece out in the air for an extended period (a month) or else the foil oxidizes and solder won't stick?

Also have you ever worked with lead free solder and if so any suggestions on kinds and tips?

Answer

Clean air won't cause the foil to oxidize. However, to be on the safe side, put the foiled piece in a zip lock bag (if it's small enough to fit in one), or wrap it with plastic wrap. The plastic will keep the foil dust free, and it will prevent the foil from being exposed to things that could cause oxidation such as open bottles of chemicals in you work area. Even high humidity can cause copper to oxidize.

As for lead free solder, I have never worked with it. I'm sure there are other people reading this have used it and will be able to give you some advice. If they are able to help you, they will use the comments section below.

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Soldering Copper Foil

by cecilia
(bariloche- argentina)

I want to know if the soldering copper foil it's dangerous. I talk about the Smoke welding. do you use some protection? I am worry about this.
I'm waiting for yor answer.
Please excuse me because I speak a little english.
Thank you,
Cecilia

Answer
Hi Cecilia,

No, soldering copper foil is not dangerous, but breathing the fumes from flux could cause health problems if you solder in a room with no ventilation. Therefore, you should take precautions. I use a fume extractor, as well as working in a room where I can have windows opened. You can see one type of fume extractor here.

Until you get a fume extractor, have a fan blowing from behind you. It will blow the fumes away from you. Don't have it blowing on the glass because it will cool the solder to a point where it won't flow properly.

You can also solder outdoors, on days when there is no wind. Many of don't live in a climate that allows us to work outdoors for many months of the year, but take advantage of it if you can.

I hope this helps you and calms your fears,
Sue

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Solder has dull finish in areas

by Colin
(Germantown, MD)

When my solder cools on a copper foiled piece, there are often little patches of dull areas left behind instead of the smooth silvery finish that's expected. Sometimes, the dull areas sink slightly. Other times, the dull areas develops a black finish. What am I doing wrong?

I think it's a combination of the wrong flux and not using enough solder. Try a different flux, one specifically made for copper foil. Have a look at this tutorial Soldering Copper Foil for some soldering help. On the pieces you have already done follow my instructions for Cleaning, Patina and Polishing

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Solder is Pooling on a Foil Project

I just finished foiling a project and am experiencing a problem with laying down the solder. It is not flowing, but rather pooling. Meaning I have to push it to get it to lay on the foil and stretch it instead of beading it. Spool is new 60/40, foil is not old or oxidized, using same temperature on iron as usual. I changed spools, changed irons, and still the pooling and globing. First time in 20+ years this has happened. Glass was clean, no oils or old stuff on it. Any ideas? I am stumped and have done a half dozen pieces in the last month, with all the same stuff, no problems. Just now. Any help would be appreciated.

Answer

Your flux might be contaminated. Try using a new bottle of flux, pour some in a clean container to use while you're soldering, then dispose of the rest. Dipping straight into the bottle will contaminate the flux quickly.

Did you have a fan blowing on you and the glass while you were soldering? That can cause problems with the way the solder flows.

What about the foil? Did you use a new roll of foil? That could very well be the culprit. I have seen areas on foil, even a roll you have been using with success, that just won't let the solder flow, no matter what you do.

One other thing you could do is to check your temp controller (if you use one). It may not be working properly and is keeping your iron too cool.

Those are the only things I can think of. Hopefully, it won't happen again.

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Question on Ceaning Solder Lines

Is using Bronzo a better cleaner than using the industrial #92 scrub pad (which I can't seem to be able to find)?

Answer

Bronzo and the #92 scrub pads are used for 2 totally different things.

If you can't find the scrub pads, buy the blue scrub pads in the cleaning products section of your local grocery store. They are the non scratch pads made for non-stick cookware. They don't work quite as well as the white pads, but are easier to find. Before you give up on the white scrub pads, try your local industrial cleaning supply store.

Bronzo (Bronze Wool), which has many uses in stained glass work, is more abrasive than the scrub oads and can be used to remove oxidation or to remove patina on solder lines.

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Not Soldering Foiled Pieces Immediately


(Wisconsin)

Hi,
First, your site is fantastic. My problem deals with not soldering foiled pieces soon after they are foiled. Is there anything you have to do to the foiled pieces if they've been foiled for a week before your ready to solder?

Thank you.

Answer
Hi,

If you have a panel that's been sitting for only a week, you shouldn't have a problem with oxidation.

I say "shouldn't", because each situation is different, depending on the temperature and moisture content of the room the glass is in, and depending on whether or not there are open chemicals in the room.

In most cases, once you flux the panel, the small amount of oxidation that might have been there will be removed. My husband used to teach soldering for NASA. His description of flux is: "something that properly prepares the surface to readily accept solder". Flux cleans off oxidation, as long as it isn't heavily oxidized.

If you have more oxidation than flux will remove, go over the foil with very fine steel wool, or better yet, bronze wool, rubbing up and down the foil, not cross wise. Bronze Wool is sold by some stained glass suppliers.

You'll know if the flux isn't working to clean off the oxidation, because the solder will not flow like it normally does.

In the future, store the foiled pieces in a zip lock bag until you're ready to use them. If you already have them laid out on the cartoon, ready to solder, slip the whole thing in a plastic bag, or cover it with Saran Wrap, making sure the edges are tucked under to keep the air out.

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Beading

by Margaet
(mahe seychelles)

I have just started stained glass and having problem with the beading. How can I get it right.
Many Thanks,
Margaret

Answer:

Hi Margaret,
Thank you for asking this question. I'm not sure if you are talking about edge beading or getting smooth, rounded solder lines, so I explain both.

This article will give you my edge beading technique: Edge Beading.

If you are talking about your solder lines being smooth and round, practice is the most important piece of advise I can give you.

Wrap foil around some scrap pieces of glass and practice soldering them together.

Don't use a temperature controller, just plug in your iron, wait for it to get hot and start soldering. Don't stay in one place too long...keep moving along.

Use enough flux. Many instructors tell you to use it sparingly. I say the opposite. Pour a small amount of flux into another contained and use it from that container rather than the bottle. Dispose of any that is left when you're done soldering. Flux gets contaminated by the brush being dipped into it, so if you use it straight out of the bottle, the entire bottle will be contaminated. The contamination causes spitting (and then holes) as you are soldering.

Run a bead of solder all along on solder line, then try using a touch and lift method to make it smooth. Touch all the way down so you feel the tip touch the foil, then gently lift the soldering iron straight up, out of the solder. The next touch down should just slightly overlap where the solder stopped flowing from the last touch. You can get a nice rhythm going as you touch and lift. That is my preferred way of soldering.

Experiment with the touch and lift method, and see if your solder lines look better...they should.

I hope this has helped you,

Sue

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Black bits in my solder

by Sue Solomon
(Bridgend, South Wales, UK)

I have now tried absolutely everything to solve the problem I am always getting with my solder - I get black lumps of what look like soot in my solder - it is not the solder I have changed supplier still same problem, it is not flux I have changed that as well, it is not the solder tip I have changed that as well the only thing I can put it down to is that my soldering iron is an Antex 200 watt but with no heat controller - could this be the problem that the iron is getting too hot and possibly burning the solder or flux in some way???

Answer

I would not use a 200 watt soldering iron for stained glass work. The only place that wattage is necessary is for tinning heavy pieces of metal such as vase caps, brass rods, etc.

Get an 80 or 100 watt iron. I'm sure that will solve your problem. Make sure you keep the tip clean as you solder by wiping it on a folded up wet paper towel or a wet sponge.

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Tack Soldering

My instructions for my project is to tack solder another piece of glass onto another piece of glass. What does that mean and how do I do it?

It is a glass spoon that rests in a coffee cup and extends out of the cup.

Answer

You would complete the cup and the spoon separately, then lay the cup on the spoon (in the proper position) and solder the two together wherever a foiled edge of the spoon meets a solder line or an edge of the cup. It would be easier to turn the two pieces up side down with the spoon laying on the cup, otherwise the cup will wobble on the spoon while you're trying to solder them together.

The term "tack solder" actually means to solder two pieces together in just a few spots, only enough to make it hold together. Some people tack solder an entire panel before they do the final soldering (I'm not one of them!).

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oxidation on half soldered window

by kelly
(warrensburg, ny)

hi, great site. I started a window last year(all cut, coppered fluxed and tacked) but didn't finish it. the oxidation on areas tacked is really difficult to get off. any tips????

Answer

Use fine steel wool or bronze wool to remove the oxidation. Just be careful so you don't rip the foil...it's pretty easy to do when you get focused on removing oxidation. From now on, don't tack solder the pieces if you plan on leaving the panel for a long time before you can solder it. Once the pieces are foiled, put them in a zip lock bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible. The foil will remain bright until you are ready to assemble and solder it. You can also assemble the panel, without tack soldering it, and place the assembled piece, on it's work board in a zip lock bag.

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