Low melt solder for track feeds?

Given the high cost of conductive epoxy I was thinking about trying low melt solder to attach feed wires to track already ballasted and
glued down. I did try ordinary solder but I'm not too happy with the results (the track was painted but I cleaned the area with fibreglass pencil but still had trouble getting the solder to take (I only have a 30 watt iron to hand)
Anyone had any good/bad experience using low melt solder for track feeds?
TIA
Mike
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Low melt solder is not a 'glue' , just attaching a wire either to the bottom, or side of the track will lead to failure with even slight vibration, ( like a train running along)...Solders like this are really meant to be used by 'wrapping' the wire around a pin a couple of times and then a spot of solder applied. Dry joints and failure within 6 months would be my estimate based on my experience.. Not much good now the track is down, but my recomendation would be take a Peco type track joining clip, and carefully cut it in half. Hold the wire connection on the underside of a nickel silver rail, and slide the half-clip trapping the wire tightly. Then a small spot of solder underneath just to secure it and ensure its electrical connection..

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Absolutely - ALWAYS make a good physical 'joint' before applying Solder.
David.
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Nickel silver is a wonderful conductor of heat and IMHO a 30W soldering iron just isn't powerful enough to supply sufficient localised heat to cope with that lost by conduction. Money spent on a good temperature controlled iron (60+) isn't wasted when you consider the amount of soldering jobs to be done on even a modest-sized layout. Strangely enough, you seem to do less damage to surrounding ballast, plastic sleepers etc with a 60W or even 75W iron, since the time taken to make a satisfactory joint is much less.
Incidentally, If you're into making up whitemetal kits, a good hot iron makes lowmelt solder run along joints like magic!
On Fri, 24 Oct 2003 22:57:07 +0100, snipped-for-privacy@notigg.not.no wrote:

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If it doesn't melt or distort the whitemetal. Or do you just hold the solder stick away from the metal and let it drip on? I'll have to try that. Or did you mean a clothes iron??
--
Martin S.

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No. I use a 60 watt iron with an iron bit which acts like a thermostat. They are widely used for soldering small components onto printed circuit boards. The method I use for larger whitemetal joints is to hold them firmly together and flood the joint with liquid flux. Bring the low melt solder and the bit close to one end of the joint and the solder will travel along the joint (rather like MekPak along plastic). The smallest component I have used it on is fixing footsteps onto the loco running board and the bonding has survived various knocks and drops in use.
Practice on some scrap metal until you get the technique right, but it works for me.

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The trick is to use a large wattage, very hot iron - you are not soldering the white metal, you are welding it! If the iron is not hot enough then you have to hold it onto the joint for longer - the whole lot gets up to melting temperature and you have a lump of scrap white metal. Forget the temp. controlled irons - you will only have to wind them up to max temp to get it to work.
I have succesfully used a Ronson blow torch to assemble the boiler halves of a K's white metal kit many years ago - I even did it on a demo stand at an exhibition, so that there could be no mistaking that it works!
MartinS wrote:

snip
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Very good advice! - about a week to late for me but nevertheless ...
I killed several castings last week by trying to weld them, plan "b" was to get a low temperature iron/solder however over the last couple of days I've been playing around with the 2 "hot" irons I have (well a 30W and an old plumbers 80W - I think) ... and yes using a very hot iron to near instantly melt the white metal it comes into contact with works very well - *providing you're quick*.
--

All the best,

Chris Wilson
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Hello Mike
As has been inferred by other replies, lowmelt solder is not suitable for this type of joint. I assume you're talking about 145 degree stuff here. However, using normal electrical solder should give a perfectly satisfactory joint - a lay-on joint is the correct term in the electronics industry.
What may help in your particular situation though is a spot of additional flux. I would normally suggest Carr's green label, but this is corrosive, and as the track is already laid you may want to use orange label instead. This isn't corrosive, so any traces left after cleaning are relatively harmless. Personally, I don't get on with orange label, but I guess a lot of people do!
You should also have no problems with a 30W iron, provided you have a suitable bit. I would suggest something like a 2.3mm chisel bit if you're soldering to the side of the rail, which must be clean and bright before soldering (both the rail and the bit!). I use an Antex 25W iron, amongst others, and this solders wire to rail with no problem whatsoever.
Paul

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On Sat, 25 Oct 2003 12:52:45 +0100, "Paul Boyd"

Thanks for the feedback team. Up to now I have always soldered tinned copper wire to the bottom of rail joiners, this is the first time Ive tried retro fitting feeds to track and its been driving me nuts. I'll dig out the gas iron, nice big head on it.
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On Sat, 25 Oct 2003 19:15:13 +0100, snipped-for-privacy@notigg.not.no wrote:
Mike,

You should really be able to do it with your 30W iron if you're working with Code 100 rail or smaller. A couple of weeks ago I soldered all the feeders in situ on my 0 scale layout with Code 125 NS rail and I used a 45W temp controlled Weller with a small pointed bit fitted to it. With the iron up to heat, the joints were made in a couple of seconds each. I used Telux flux to help make good joints.
Jim.
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On Sat, 25 Oct 2003 19:15:13 +0100, snipped-for-privacy@notigg.not.no wrote:

Somethikng that may not have been mentioned, but cleanliness is next to goodsolderness. Make sure the area you are going to solder is clean. Use a clean file to make a bright surface. Flux will indeed help, but a clean joint (rail/wire) normally means that resin-cored solder is more than sufficient. I use a 15w iron, especially after an electrical fitter friend of mine asked me was the tip screwed tightly home into the iron. Needless to say, it wasn't. He also told me to keep the tip shiny with solder. Both these tips (pun! pun!) made a world of difference to my normally pathetic soldering technique.
Steve Newcastle Oz
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I can't understand why you hadn't soldered the wiring in place before ballasting and painting. It always makes sense to thoroughly test the layout for smooth running and electrical soundness before doing the scenic work. Also, the ballast and paint is extremely useful in disguising the wiring.
I've always found a 30 watt iron and standard multi-core solder perfectly adequate for layout wiring.
John.
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snipped-for-privacy@notigg.not.no writes

That shouldn't cause you a problem. I've soldered lots of feeds to the rails on my outdoor layout when it's been cold and windy, and also when it's been lightly raining. I use a 40 watt iron, so there's plenty of heat. However, I do what all the soldering instruction manuals tell you not to do. I've got a tin of Fluxite soldering flux ("the most effective flux known") and after cleaning the rail web with a file I smear a small amount of that onto it. Then I tin the rail by briefly heating it with the iron, and poking the multicore solder into the angle between the iron and the rail. If I now bring the ready-tinned connecting wire to the tinned part of the rail and touch them with the hot iron, all the solder melts and fuses together, resulting in a strong joint. The plastic sleeper web does not melt during any of this.
It is easier to do than to describe.
--
John Sullivan
OO in the garden http://www.yddraiggoch.demon.co.uk/railway/railway.html
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On Fri, 31 Oct 2003 22:46:34 +0000, snipped-for-privacy@notigg.not.no wrote:
Mike,

It sounds as if your soldering iron needs a bit of TLC. Someone mentioned earlier that the best shape of tip for trackwork is a chisel point which looks a bit like a blunt screwdriver. This allows a good area of the tip to contact the rail and transfer the heat. If your soldering iron bit is a pointed one, or a round one with a flat at an angle, then it's not all that easy to get a good mating surface with the rail to transfer the heat quickly. What appears to be happening to you is that the heat is transferring slowly allowing the rail to conduct it away and heat up a long section of the rail, and thence melt the chairs. With a good tip shape, the heat is onto the joint and the solder flowed before the heat has had time to conduct further down the rail and do damage.
Whatever bit you've got must also be in good shape. If it is a plated bit, then you want it as clean as possible and a damp sponge or a piece of damp **natural** material (cotton duster) can be used to clean it. If the plating is in poor shape, get a replacement since you will be wasting your time trying to use a bit with bad plating. If it is a copper bit, then this will need treatment from time to time since the soldering process tends to pit the copper and destroy the shape of the bit. You should file it up to shape, getting rid of any pits, then tin the clean filed surfaces immediately with solder.so that the copper surface at the tip is protected from oxidisation by the tinning, and it leaves you with a bright clean surface to allow fast heat transference.
Jim.
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wrote:

Thanks for the responses team - I was probably just being lazy - I'll clean everything up and have another go - I'll try John's technique with the flux and fusing the two tinned surfaces together.
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I wouldn't clean with solvents after using the fibre pencil as you want a pefectly clean metal surface for soldering and the dried solvent may leave a film on the rail.
Alan
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