We assume it is your first time tackling a soldering job and finding yourself in dire need of identifying the right temperature to melt the solder.
When soldering, it is very important to take proper time and understand everything – from the tools to the processes – in order to prevent mistakes that could potentially put your health and your working station at risk. This is why determining the right temperature at which solder commonly melts must be given great consideration. Worry not – this article could be of utmost help so you could successfully turn your soldering project into a real masterpiece!
What is Solder?
Quite sure, many of you are already familiar with solder – what it is and how it looks. Generally speaking, it is a non-ferrous metallic element with a low melting point of approximately 200 degrees Celsius. Its composition varies depending upon the type. However, solder commonly consists of tin, lead, or both.
It comes with various forms: stick, wire, and pellet. Wires are for normal soldering while both the pellet and stick solder are for solder-pots. Although, you can also find solder available in paste, sheet, and pallions (chips or clippings). Paste solder is a combination of small particles of solder blended with a paste flux. It is typically used by mass producers in machine soldering. A costly form of solder, though. You can use it for soldering intricate jobs (e.g., filigree).
Solder is available in different colors, too – copper, gold, silver, bronze, or brass. The gold solder comes with various shades to compliment well with different alloys. On the other hand, the melting temperature of copper and brass solder (also called brazing rod) is high, not to mention they are brittle.
Soft Solder: A tin-based solder that melts at a low temperature. It is usually used for creating fuse base metal parts and custom base metal pieces of jewelry as well as repairing solder shut base metal jump rings and costume jewelry.
Hard Solder: It is an alloy that tends to melt at a quite lower temperature. Gold and silver jewelry are among the few examples that require hard soldering. Also, the components of bronze, copper, and brass could be fused using hard solders.
Types of Solder and Their Melting Temperature
We will break down the types of solder and what temperature they usually melt:
Over the past year, lead alloy solder has been regarded as the standard solder generally used in electronics. However, there were reports of health issues related to lead, hence, coming up with lead-based solders. Here, the amount of lead contained in any components was limited to 0.1 percent. The 96.5/3/0.5 alloy is one of the most well-known alloys that are lead-free. It contains 0.5 percent copper, 3 percent silver, and 96.5 percent tin.
While health risk-free, this type of solder is costlier in price, offers brittle yet stronger solder joints, and tends to melt at a higher temperature. So, a higher temp flux is required. It melts at approximately 230 degrees Celsius.
It is made from the combination of 50 percent lead and 50 percent tin. It is NOT ideal to use for electronics, only for plumbing jobs. It does have a lower ductility and higher melting point.
It is a solder that is made up of 60 percent tin and 40 percent lead. Cracks do not build so easily if the joint moves throughout cooling, thanks to its very soft feature. The melting point of 60/40 solder is 190 degrees Celsius (although that still depends upon the exact composition). The recommended temperature of the soldering iron tip is at least 300 degrees Celsius.
This solder is composed of 63 percent tin and 37 percent lead. Aside from its melting point of 183 degrees Celsius, this solder key advantage is its eutectic component. This only means it is much easier to work with, as it creates lesser amounts of bad joints. Though when it comes to price, the 63/37 solder is quite costly compared to its non-eutectic counterparts.
Keep in mind that the melting point of a solder is basically determined by the zinc content. If the content of zinc is higher, expect the melting temperature to be lower. There’s actually no standard for accurate solder melting temperatures. All manufacturers have their own specifications. So, when you purchase solders from one manufacturer or dealer, you can be able to keep the various melting temperatures straight.
Your Soldering Iron Plays an Essential Role
As you know, soldering iron also plays a huge part when it comes to the amount of temperature you should release to melt the solder. Hence, it makes sense to determine the types of temperature designs available as well for future references.
Soldering irons mostly have 3 basic temperature designs:
(1) The manual design which does not feature temperature control designs. It is generally the less costly and is ideal for household soldering projects.
(2) The soldering stations which contains a soldering iron and a benchtop control unit, yet the priciest unit.
(3) The temperature-controlled soldering iron which allows solderers to ensure the tip keeps the proper temperature. But, similar to the soldering station, this one is also expensive.
Maybe 250°C is enough if you are using a high effect iron along with a big soldering tip that efficiently supplies heat. On the other hand, you might need around 400°C if you have a low effect soldering iron with a tiny, small, tip that supplies heat poorly.
Accuracy is Key!
Every time you solder particular materials/, it is always imperative to check the working temperature on a periodic basis so as to avoid low-temperature soldering and overheating as well as to improve the soldering tip’s life.
Of course, you want to make your soldering process a complete success. You don’t need to make a guess on the temperature of your soldering tip. You can use different equipment, including TID-A digital thermometer and TIA-A thermometer. High-quality equipment ensures precise temperature readings for excellent soldering performance.