For years I have been using 2 very basic solders. A 60/40 lead/tin solder that I bought by the kilo from a stained glass shop and 70 degree solder for low melt work. I had tried many different combinations from different manufacturers but I always ended up coming back to what I knew.
I was a bit sceptical about the New DCC concepts Sapphire solders so Richard sent me some samples.
The range consists of 3 leaded solders. 145 degree, 179 degree and 100 degree for low melt work. And 2 fluxes, a standard flux and a no clean flux.
Starting with the 145 solder, I was amazed at how well it flowed. This is a solder to be used sparingly if you don't want it ending up in places you don't want it! The solder is flux cored but I started tried using it with my existing fluxes with superb results. But my existing fluxes were a strong acid flux that needed neutralising pretty quickly afterwards. They also spattered if I used too much.
I tried the new solder in some electrical work. It is by far the best I have ever used.
Next comes the 179 degree solder.
To be honest I really can't tell the difference between this and the 145. It flows and feels exactly the same to use. But I do give credit to DCC concepts for producing 2 different temperature solders. This enables step soldering (doing one assembly at a higher temperature and soldering that to another using the lower temperature solder). The fact that I couldn't tell the difference is a credit to DCC concepts. It means that I don't have to get used to different solders for different temperatures. But it does introduce a slight worry that I will get the 2 mixed up! I have been very careful to put them back into their correct packages!
I think I should add that they are not the strongest solders I have used but for just about every application I can think of, they are the best. Certainty for a railway modeller I can't think of any general tasks that can't be done with these 2 solders.
The 100 degree solder is meant for soldering whitemetal and doing brass/whitemetal joints. It is the only thing in this range that I am not so keen on. I would not recommend this solder to people who don't have a temperature controlled iron. I was finding that 100 degrees was significantly closer to the melting temperature of the whitemetal than the 70 degree solder I was using before. It is an excellent solder, but if you don't have a temperature controlled iron then you can expect a few more melted parts!
Richard points out that the 100 degree solder is still far below the melting point of whitemetal. Although I of course agree with this, having experimented with it again since writing the last paragraph, I still found it much more difficult when soldering whitemetal than the standard 70 degree solder I have been used to. The new solder does have a couple of advantages though. Firstly it does not combine with the whitemetal in the way the traditional low temperature solder does.
Secondly, in conjunction with the sapphire fluxes, it can solder whitemetal directly to brass without tinning.
If you have a temperature controlled soldering iron then I would wholeheartedly recommend this solder. But if you don’t have one then I would tend to stick to the 70 degree.
In my opinion, the real gems of this range are the fluxes. I have used several different ones over the years. Constantly trying to get that perfect flux and I think this is as close as I will ever get. They are both alcohol based rather than my traditional water based fluxes but these are activated by the heat from the iron. They massively improve the flow properties of any of the solders I tested it with.
The standard sapphire flux is a good balance between corrosiveness and fluxing properties.
The no clean flux is the icing on the cake. I must admit that I did find that things benefited from a gentle clean after a sessions soldering but this flux turned an unpleasant job with neutralising fluids into a pleasure buy allowing me to just run the models under the tap for a second or 2.
My only criticism of the fluxes is that because they are alcohol based, they are also flammable. I sometimes like to solder with a torch rather than an iron and it was a bit of a surprise to have my own personalised firework display!
It would also be nice to have them available in larger quantities. I have found that its better to purchase a larger quantity and decant it into smaller pots. Then if you knock it over you have plenty more to draw upon. The same goes with the solder. They are fantastic but I would prefer them by the kilo with a big sticker on them so I don't get them mixed up!
P.S. After I wrote this article, Richard pointed out that the 179 is actually a slightly thinner wire and now I look at them again it is noticeable.
Only the No-Clean flux is alcohol based. And although I have not had a chance to check it, this would mean that the Sapphire flux is non-flammable.
Richard also points out that the No-Clean flux was conceived as a layout wiring flux and although I had not thought about it, I think that is a perfect use for it. It’s ideal for soldering items that you physically can’t wash.
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