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Re: soldering iron troubleshooting
Bits: It's useful to have a small selection of manufacturer's bits (soldering iron tips) available with different diameters or shapes, which can be changed depending on the type of work in hand. You'll probably find that you become accustomed to, and work best with, a particular shape of tip. Often, tips are iron-coated to preserve their life, or they may be bright-plated instead. Copper tips are seldom seen these days.
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The WP35 is strong enough and the ST3 tip will do the job. The larger tips are really only for covering larger items but when soldering it's the wire you heat, rather than the solder, and melt the solder with the wire. The tip will reach the same temperature regardless of the size and while the larger tip might heat the wire a little faster the difference would not even be noticeable.
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Consider the wattage of the soldering iron. A good soldering iron will have wattage of 80 to 150. A wattage of lower than 80 is not ideal for stained glass. You need a soldering iron that will melt the solder fast enough for your project. Consider the type of temperature control you want. Some irons will have a temperature control built in the tip. When the temperature drops, it will turn on and when the temperature is reached, it will turn off. Other soldering irons have a built-in rheostat. You control the temperature by turning the dial up or down. A separate rheostat can be purchased to plug your soldiering iron into. Rheostats are highly recommended. This lets you match your temperature to your soldering style and allow you to do decorative effects.
Consider the heating element. There are two types of elements, ceramic or wire-wrapped. Ceramic core irons maintain heat more efficiently than wound wire heaters. In a ceramic core, the heater core extends into the tip for faster heat transfer. This will keep the tip hot for a longer period so you can work quickly and faster. Ceramic irons maintain their temperature longer and heat up within 30 to 60 seconds.
Consider the weight of the soldering iron. You want a soldering iron that is lightweight and balanced. You will have less fatigue when using a lightweight soldering iron at long stretches of time. Check to see if it fits your hand comfortably. Check to see if it has a good rubber cushion for your hand.
Check for the ease of changing tips on your soldering iron. When soldering stained glass, you want to match your tip to the technique you want to use. There are a variety of tips on the market for soldering irons, and you want to be able to change them easily.
Check the soldering iron to see if it has a heavy-duty cord and a three-prong plug. You want a grounded three-prong plug to prevent the possibility of shock.
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It's not the solder you use for the soldering tool but the correct solder for the JOB you are doing with the tool. Read the packages and pick the right mix/flux/thickness etc for the metal/connectors/etc you are soldering.
That is normal for a soldering gun especially if you are using acid core solder. I do a lot of soldering with rosin core & have to change the tip about every 6-8 months. Just get a couple of new tips. Rick