Soldering Iron and Tip Care Guide

Most iron tips today are a copper core surrounded by iron, hence the term ‘iron clad’ that is then nickel or chrome plated. Because solder won’t stick to nickel or chrome the plating on the chisel end of the tip, (where you melt the solder) is removed to expose the iron cladding. Solder does stick to iron. To keep the tip from rusting you must keep it coated with a layer of tin, hence the term tinning. This is why solders used in stained glass are a mixture of tin and other metals (generally lead).

You will extend the life and improve the performance of your soldering iron and tips by following a few simple guidelines

Soldering Iron Care

Soldering Tip Care

Alloy Tin % Lead % Solid to (° F) Liquid at (° F) Pasty Range (° F)
50/50 50 50 361º 417º 56º
60/40 60 40 361º 374º 13º
63/37 63 37 361º 361º

50/50 Solder: This is composed of 50% tin and 50% lead. This solder melts at 417° F, (higher than 60/40) but below that remains partially liquid until it cools to 361° F and solidifies giving it a pasty range of 56° F. This solder traditionally was used for lead came projects where a flatter solder joint is desired. It can be difficult to get a smooth beaded seam because it starts to solidify sooner, that is at a higher temperature.Keep the tip of the iron clean while you work. Have a damp sponge handy to occasionally wipe your tip on while soldering to keep it clean. Properly cleaned tips are bright and shiny. Keeping it clean ensures you receive the maximum heat at the tip surface. You can also use metal mesh pads made for the same purpose.

60/40 Solder: Composed of 60% tin and 40% lead, this solder completely melts at 374° F, but doesn’t become completely solid until it cools to 361° F. This means it has a “pasty range” or “working range” of 13 degrees. This solder stays liquid longer so tends to form higher and rounder solder seams making it a preferred choice for copper foil projects.

63/37 Solder: This solder is 63% tin and 37% lead. It becomes liquid at 361° F, and solid at 361° F, giving it a pasty or working range of 0 degrees. This solder is called an eutectic alloy which means at 361° F, you can go instantly from solid to liquid to solid just by applying or removing the heat source that is at 361° F or higher.

Lead-Free Solder: Depending on the specific mix of metals, lead free will produce differing liquid, solid, and pasty range temperatures. Check with the solder manufacturer for these specifics.

See our Common Causes of Tip Failure for practices to avoid.
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Soldering Iron and Tip Care Guide (PDF) V2 05/2015 Inland Craft Products, Co. ©2015