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Thread: What's your favorite brand/type of solder?

  1. #1
    Comrade as in friend. Master of Shinobi ComradeOj's Avatar
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    Dec 2012
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    Default What's your favorite brand/type of solder?

    I recently exhausted a big roll of solder I've had for a few years. It was just some cheap stuff from amazon. I picked up a small tube at harbor freight to get some quick work done, and was surprised how much I liked it over my old stuff. It melted easier, flowed better, and was overall easier to work with. Although it did have an odd sweet smell to it

    My old solder was leaded while the harbor freight stuff was lead-free. I thought that leaded solder was usually preferred, but liked this lead-free stuff better. Although it might have been down to some other factor.

    It made me think. There are a lot of modders and electronics people here, what is does everyone else use? I need to buy another roll of solder to use long term and wanted a recommendation of something to buy online.
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  2. #2
    Nameless One MachineCode's Avatar
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    Jun 2013
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    Kester 67/37 .031"

    I use this stuff. Kester leaded rosin core solder. I noticed a huge difference when switching from to this stuff from the cheapo Radio Shack stuff I'd used for years. I just makes the job so much easier. I don't know how to describe it other than it flows like it should. Lead-free solder generally takes more heat and time to melt and flow, and I've personally found it just generally doesn't flow as well as leaded, so you end up having to be more careful as to not fry your components. I also found that as a result of that, you tend to see more cold joints in circuits that were produced with lead-free solder, but YMMV. That's just my experience from repairing them, but I'm sure poor manufacturing QC had a something to do with it as well.

    You can get it in 60/40 or 63/37 tin to lead ratios. 60/40 is the most common, but I personally now use 67/37. The reason for that is that 67/37 goes from melted back to solid faster, skipping that plasticky in between stage where components may shift if they aren't held completely still during the transition. While I do console work and other small electronics, I most commonly do tube amps. Especially vintage PTP handwired ones from prior to the 80's that lack PCBs. This means I can't bend component leads outward to make them hold themselves in place while soldering like you can on a PCB, so the faster transition helps a bit.

    You can also get it in different diameters. I found I much prefer the thinner stuff and as a result, use .031". With the fatter stuff, it was just a bit too easy to end up over doing it with the solder and a pain in the ass for smaller things. Feeding in more of a thinner solder is more comfortable for me and allows me to be much more precise in how much solder I apply to the joint. It also makes touch-ups and reflows much easier.

    As far as why you like your HF lead free better, it may be a difference in the quality of the flux core between the 2 types of solder you had. That can really make a big difference in ease of use. I feel like you really can't go wrong with Kester or MG Chemicals for a brand.

    Also, as a side note, getting one of these Hakko FX888D Soldering Station really changed my soldering life. A good soldering station is key. Now when it comes to SMD stuff, you might want to look elsewhere, but for through-hole, PTP, and general wiring work, it is awesome.

    Hope this helps.

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