There are a bunch of solders used on a regular basis. Well, you’re not alone if you find yourself standing in a store, staring and thinking “there just so many of them, so, what do I choose”? Fact is a lot of people get confused with this because there really is a wide range of what to use and many people make common mistakes when trying to find the best solder for electronics. There are basic things anyone looking to use solder should be aware of. First off, what is solder and why is it used?
A solder is a material (an alloy, typically, tin or lead) used to join soft metals, such as copper, gold, and silver. In solder for electronics, we’re mostly concerned with lead and tin. For fixes or remodeling, you may need soldering. For example, models and vintage cars, soldering from radiators to batteries, allows you to bind metals together and at a lower temperature than would brazing or welding. Regardless of the use, one thing is for sure: You need solder flux. Fluxes help in many ways but we ‘ll leave that for later discussion.
However, you’ll have to know more than just what an electrical solder does in order to find one that fits your needs. While it is certainly a challenge to find the right tools that are worthy of your hard-earned money, it isn’t impossible. That is why I will point out the key differences between and how to use solders.
P.S. In preparing this list, I tested literally dozens of products. But in rounding up the final, I had considered on a number of factors including features of the products, value for money, and reputation of the manufacturer. Without further ado, let’s get started.
Solders for Electronics Reviews
The Kester 24-6337-0010 possesses good conduction and control abilities. It also comes with a solid rosin core flux that’s adequately compatible with small electronics. Additionally, there’s a whopping 1-pound spool in-built in the solder. This 63/37 solder wire is lead-based and has a small 0.31-inch diameter. The size makes it handy for small through-hole or larger surface-mounted components where lead solder will stick. It’s, however, a bit more difficult for use in filling in larger solder lugs on the vintage. The most relevant application for this solder may be on point-to-point wiring.
As with all soldering work, it’s important to remember that proper ventilation is required. But it appears to be more in this type of solder because the lead content is uncomfortable for breathing and will be in the smoke and fumes. Wear a mask while soldering with it in order not to breathe the fumes! Unfortunately, this has been the nature of lead-based solder and had been the standard. These days, there are newer printed circuit board materials that are optimized for both non-lead solder and lead-based soldering works. So, you can add a layer of protection with one of those. Vintage rework generally works better with the lead solder but will work with non-lead solder with the help of the RA type flux.
- Even though it’s more expensive than the rest, its effect is many times more potent. So, it’s really okay if you don’t mind paying a little extra for solder that I’m sure won’t let you down.
- The included rosin makes it better than the core solder.
- Not much of rosin is listed anywhere in the description, but so, it may be confusing for potential buyers.
I tested many rolls of this solder a couple of months ago due to the good reviews I read on it, and I was very satisfied with both the quality and price. Normally, I used it for my stained glass (because my supplies were getting low). If you’re planning on getting one like this, you should probably add gloves to your budget. Using gloves prevents it from spilling on surfaces which is a good one considering the fact that it kind of saves you a little more for your next usage. Contrary to the 60/40 and 63/37, the Victory soldering wire is metal-based (predominantly silver metal). It has plenty of flux so, don’t worry about not achieving a great window seal.
However, I faced one real problem. I don’t know what the deal is. But you have to make sure that you check it as well. It looks like many fakes have been introduced into the market. The last roll I used may have been adulterated. I wasn’t sure what it was. So, I tried my other solder (60/40) on the panel & it flowed just fine, thus isolating the problem to this batch of Victory solder. Then I opened a fresh pack of the EDCO foil I always use and also opened a brand new bottle of flux. The problem persisted. The point was clear – the Victory batch was fake.
- It’s affordable.
- Good for starters.
- Sometimes it also happens that the solder doesn’t attract the fluxed copper foil. It won’t flow properly nor will it bead well. Just makes you think as though there is no flux in it.
Since most glass artists need a very specific mix of alloys in their solder to get a smooth and clean bead on their work, Canfield is a good example of a solder to be used here. Any other type could be difficult and sometimes impossible to work with. Because it is the 60/40 solder (which means 60% tin and 40% lead), it stays in a liquid stage longer, giving you more time to produce smooth solder seams. It also melts at a lower temperature than 50/50 and is popular among beginners as well as experienced crafters. Like kiester, it offers a convenient 1 lb. spools. You should also that it does quite well for use on copper foil seams and lead came seams. The average melting temperature is between 361° and 376°F.
- Offers superior flow when compared to some solders.
- One of the most versatile solders out there.
- Typically, lead content could cause harm to the user.
The Alpha rosin core is an American made solder and contains about 4 lbs of 1/16 solder. It is also a lead-based model of 60/40. This solder seems to flow so well and when I used it on track or circuit boards, it did the job so much better than the previous solders I have mentioned. It works under a variable temperature of 150 to 420-degree celsius. However, it requires a standard melting temperature of 650 degrees Fahrenheit. It is around 1.1mm thick. I need to mention that this solder is not sold in length but rather in weight. From the name, you already know it has a rosin core and shouldn’t need additional flux.
- It doesn’t give off that acidic effect (aggressive).
- It’s a bit too thick for smaller electronics.
The Kester 44 Rosin is an activated rosin formula for use in flux-cored solder wire. The 44 Rosin Core has virtually dominated the field of activated rosin core solders for well over four decades. It is leaded solder and otherwise called the fully activated Rosin core. The core in the name indicates a flux content that can be 1,2,3 – percent flux content. This is the easiest solder to work with. It has an instant welding action. The high mobility and fast-spreading action of this flux results in a more reliable production line soldering. The Kester is classified as ROM1 per J-STD-004 and is one of the best solder for electronics.
- It’s very easy to work with.
- Leaves the most residues behind after soldering.
What is Solder Made of?
You should know that three key solder contents are lead, tin, and flux. Lead and tin improve the conductivity of the solder and retain its liquid state respectively. The main needs of flux, on the other hand, maybe put into various parts. It forms an effective spread across the soldering. Then, it keeps the metal clean until the solder alloy reaches its path. Finally, it increases how much of the solder spreads on the metal surface. Put simply, flux could be considered an aqueous solution and is made up of a solvent, activator and wetting agent. Below are examples of what solder could be made from:
- Copper blend. It decreases the melting point and improves the wetting properties.
- Antimony blend. It hypes the mechanical ability of Sn and at the same time stops additives from filtering into the solder (without cutting the weight resistance).
- Nickel blend. It acts as a shield for specific surfaces like UBM from damaging the soldering blend.
- Bismuth blend. It reduces the melting point significantly and improves weight resistance. It prevents whiskers from growing on the tin.
- Indium blend. It increases the melting point. Due to its high-temperature tolerance, ductility increases and is used in gold-plated or cryogenic applications. It’s also very pricey and quickly damages due to oxidation.
- Silver blend. It offers lower ductility than lead, however, it showcases great mechanical strength. It can boost thermal fatigue tolerance in lead-free solders.
While these metals can be of enormous advantages, depending on where you use them, there are a few things to be mindful of:
- Do not place metals of different groups with one another. This could lead to galvanic corrosion.
- If you have to combine metals, make sure you do so in specific conditions. Making a solder blend – 63% tin and 37% lead is most effective at 183 degrees Celsius.
Before we go into learning how to solder electronics, let’s first talk about things not to do when soldering (safety measures) and must-haves (tools) for soldering.
- Putting solder on the iron first and then trying to carry it over to the stand in order to scrape it off.
- Applying solder on the iron and not directly on the spot to be soldered. Even if you get the solder to stick to the connection, it will likely be an unreliable join that will break with any vibration or temperature changes. The reason is that solder won’t adhere to parts that aren’t hot enough or parts that are covered with dirt or oxidation (rust). Unfortunately, all metals oxidize and much faster at higher temperatures, this is problematic since soldering occurs at higher temperatures and solder won’t adhere to oxides the solution something like flux. After it removes oxides, flux acts as a placeholder to keep oxygen away until the solder displaces it. It also reduces the surface tension of solder to help it spread and acts as a blanket to help distribute heat.
Fast forward to how you can solder electronics. Let’s say you’ve purchased a brand new soldering iron. What’s the very first thing you should do before you even turn the soldering iron on?
- A soldering iron
- Rosin iron core
- A stand
- A sponge
For a soldering iron, it’s better to use one of 20-40 Watts. The higher the electric current, the faster it joins. However, higher, in this case, doesn’t mean hotter. Then as for rosin core, ensure that its ration to the solder iron 1.0mm to 0.75mm. Next is a stand, and there are a lot of varieties you can choose from. And finally, use a damp sponge to wipe the solder iron’s tip.
- Get some solder ready – whether it’s 63/37, 60/40 or lead-free, whatever you’re comfortable using, you need to have that ready.
- Put the soldering iron in a stand and do not turn it on until you have the solder ready. If the tip of your new solder remains dry, then it’s still not set right.
- Set the soldering iron between 300 or 350 degrees celsius. That’s a comfortable range to work with.
- Wet the sponge.
- Get your abrasive cleaner ready.
- Solder will stick to only a clean surface.
- Until soldering, dust the copper foil with steel wool.
- Remove all forms of oil or paint, wax, with solvent or wool or fine sandpaper or any whatever you can access that point.
- Steam the solder for a few seconds, then add solder to steam the contact to the tip of the metal.
- Heat up only the connection. You must avoid heating the solder.
- Hold the iron soldering near the bottom of the handle, just like a pen.
- If you want to form a good connection, then ensure that all parts that are soldered dry up first.
Nowadays, the market offers various types of solder that it can be terrifying to choose the right one for repairs. Luckily, there are three main groups of solder classes to help you shorten the chase. Let’s take a look below.
- Lead group. The solders focused on lead basically changed the way people went about fixing electronics. A 60-40 (Sn/Pb) mixture with a melting point between 356-374°F happens to be the most frequently used solder blends. Tin has a relatively lower melting point than lead (this helps in making a liquid solder for electronics). Lead differently helps inhibit tin whiskers (tiny projections) from forming. With a higher concentration of the tin, concentration comes greater tenseness and mechanical strength.
- Nonlead group. The European Union passed a law to limit the content of lead in electronics widely used by consumers (this was a move to cut down lead poisoning that was fast becoming an epidemic). In fact, not only did some countries uphold the law, they also went as far as rewards manufacturers who based on lead-free electronics. For instance, the US could provide tax benefits to manufacturers for using solders completely free of lead. The use of modern techniques like including additives (nickel) could also reduce tin whiskers. Lastly, non-lead solders have higher melting points than traditional ones.
- Flux group. This solder type is marketed as a “wire” a substance at its core that reduces metals. In other words, a counter attacks the oxidation of metals. The flux is let out while soldering to solidify the wires being connected. The flux core is normally rosin and is used in electronics. The acid core is more for repairing metals or plumbing.
Another classification of solders is by their core type. There are two solder groups here.
- Acid-core. This type of wire is shaped like a wire, but its core contains acid flow. The acid center is more potent and corrosive than a cleaning flux. The use of this solder helps to eliminate metal oxides and keep them from forming a strong link to the solder.
- Rosin core. The flux used is a smaller rosin variety which is of a solid shape and made out of conifer, like pine. It’s likewise produced with a hollow center fixed inside a wire.