Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What I Did On My Solder Vacation

I had my soldering class, and I enjoyed it very much. Let me start by saying that I waited two months for this class, only to have round two of the flu for the soldering class. The day before, I had to get my weekly trip to town out of the way, to come home to a very cheerful message on my machine saying to bring an un-foiled project, cut and ground, about 10" . Well that lets out Mt St Helens. So quickly, a relative term, I threw together a 10" project, which took about three hours to draw out, find glass, and cut out. Not the thing I wanted to do after shopping with the flu, but I really wanted to be at this class. Then I decided to play to the message again before taking a large dose of Nyquil and going to bed. UH-OH. I wasn't listening...she actually said..a 10 PIECE project. Mine had about 20 pieces. Now I'm thinking I'll wind up being the student from Hell who can't follow directions.

Some of the class was to clean the glass prior to foiling, how put foil on so that it actually sticks, using a fid, etc. Review of the basics is always good. Then she got to the tricky stuff..the stuff that's hard to your iron too hot, too cold, too dirty..Are you using enough flux, too little, paste, liquid, gell? I have recently been dipping my solder in the flux, kind of wiping off the excess on the lip of the flux bottle. She uses a 1 1/2" square of standard kitchen sponge that she keeps in an (empty) yogurt container. She puts it on the lid, squirts flux on the sponge, uses that instead of a flux brush. I found I had better control with this than a brush. Then she leaves it out and used the sponge piece to wipe flux onto the solder as she goes. It worked very well. Then when she's done for the day she just pops the sponge into the plastic container and puts the lid on. The sponge stays good for a few months before it starts to dissolve from the acids.

I was putting my iron tip on the foil right at the seam, where the two pieces of glass meet, and wound up with flat seams, and I was too stingy with solder. She had me try putting the tip right where the glass and foil meet, on one side of the seam, at a 45' angle, and leaned toward the foil, slow down, and apply the solder. Holy Cow! A bead! It's a miracle! Well..sort of..every new thing I learn takes practice.

I used a geode in the center of my piece, and the edge is ..rocklike.. so she showed me a decorative solder technique where you apply a bead at the seam, then go back with a damp but not dripping wet sponge on the non dominant hand, and iron in the dominant hand. Heat the bead and while it's hot, dab it with the wet sponge. It makes a very rough spatter bead. At first I wasn't fond of it, but for certain applications, it looks good.

Mostly I need to get a better handle on my particular iron, be more generous with the solder and SLOW DOWN. All in all it was a good class, and I'm glad I went. I was hoping for a miracle pill for my soldering technique, and just like my diet, there isn't one. It made a significant improvement in my soldering, but I need practice practice practice.

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