This young fellow had never built a plastic kit before he bought a Branchlines etched Nickel Silver chassis kit. Tools were a $25 Tricky Dickies' soldering iron, a candle, Yorkshire flux goop and electronics solder. I am just about to finish my first full Whitemetal, Brass and Nickel Silver loco kit. The body and chassis are complete but unpainted, and I haven't used any glue at all.
These days I kick around with Phil Badger and Peter Grace, and watching Phil soldering is really watching a master at work. But, it really isn't all that difficult. The key to making a good joint is to get the heat across quickly, and to use as little solder as possible.
To get the heat across: A decent sized iron is preferable, mine is a little too small but turned right up works adequately. To form a heat bridge, use the flux. Don't use a paste type flux ( as I used to), I now use Carr's Red, which is a thin liquid, and a great characteristic is the acid is neutralised after it reaches a certain temperature. The liquid flux allows the heat to transfer very rapidly, so you only need the iron on for a short time. ALWAYS have a small amount of molten solder on the tip as this helps get heat across too.
Minimum solder: I used to squish a short bit of 0.9mm diameter electronics 60/40 solder with pliars, then slice up the squished bit into tiny slivers. I still do this with my torch, and for low melt soldering jobs. When soldering brass or Nickel Silver (NS), simply melt a small amount on the iron tip, and apply to the joint. The books all say not to do this, but it does work, and the amount is easily controlled.
Preparing a joint: If the material is already shiny, then I simply hold the two pieces together, then put a brushload of flux to the joint, and hit with the iron. It takes about 2 seconds with my small iron to get the heat across.
If material is dirty, use your fibreglass brush or emery paper/fine sandpaper.
Whitemetal to brass/nickel silver: tin the brass with normal solder, chip a small amount of low melt solder off the stick, wet the joint with flux, and place the bits of solder in the joint. Make sure your iron isn't too hot, then melt a very small amount of low melt onto the tip. Then quickly bring the iron to the joint, as soon as the solder looks shiny, take the iron away. It is easier to come back a second time than to melt your castings by leaving the iron on too long. .
Whitemetal to Whitemetal: I load a small amount of low melt onto the iron tip, bring the two pieces to be joined together, apply flux, and then bring the iron in. Be quick, move the tip over the whole joint, sometimes several times rubbing back and forth to spread the heat, but NEVER let the tip stay in one spot for more than a second. I actually turn my iron up so it's hot enough to melt the whitemetal and move very quickly.
I have also experimented with not using solder for whitemetal joins, on unseen joints this is often simpler. What you do is let the castings melt just on the edge, you have to move quickly and pay lots of attention. I find holding the castings fairly close to the joint helps, and when I feel my fingers start to burn I know its too much and i take the iron away. I always keep a wet tissue close to hand to cool the castings with if disaster is imminent. BUT be very careful, I would hate someone to wreck a casting because they read this page. I wouldn't recommend doing this until you have a good feel for how soldering works, and are comfortable with your tools.
Using a torch: Torches allow large joints in brass and NS to be made quickly and easily. A torch puts out a lot of heat very quickly, so is entirely unsuitable for low melt solder joints. For my torched joints, I cleaned the materials as per usual, apply the flux, and bring the pieces together. I then get my squished and slivered electronics solder, which I put right into the joint with sharp tweezers. I rapidly move the torch back and forth over the joint until I see the solder run. Sometimes I apply too little solder so when the pieces have cooled, I get more slivers and apply them with more flux, and run the torch over it again.
Other tools: If there are other parts already soldered onto the pieces, I use lumps of wet tissue placed between the soldering job at hand and the previously applied parts. Wet tissue is an extremely good heatsink. If the pieces being soldered don't stay together too well, I use common sprung wooden clothes pegs. I have also disassembled some clothes pegs and drilled a small hole through them, to which I slide a pickle-stick/tooth pick/skewer which forms a weak clamp with a much greater distance between jaws.
Email me: trainbrain @ optusnet . com . au
(remove spaces from address before sending)
Mark Kendrick 1/6/04