How to Use a Solder Pot
By F.R.R. Mallory
Solder pots are small, temperature-controlled pots or tanks with flared lips that are used to tin wires and soldering tips. Solder pots also are particularly useful for dipping electronics such as printed circuit boards (PCBs) with through-hole leaded components. Solder pots are used in smaller industrial applications or in countries where technology isn't as easily accessed.
Turn the solder pot to its maximum. Use your vented fume hood (this is a smelly process).
Add bar solder to the pot until the solder looks like it will spill over the edges. It should have a mounded up appearance.
Use a strip of newspaper and touch the end to the solder. When the strip turns a light tan, the temperature of the pot is correct. (Approximately 250 to 260 degrees Celsius for most applications.) If the temperature is too cool, the paper will not change color. If the temperature is too hot, the paper may burn or catch flame.
Remove the dull and corroded solder surface (dross) by skimming the top of the solder with the strip of paper or by using a skimmer. (Some units come with dross removers.) Save the dross in an old jar or can for recycling later.
Place the glass tray next to the solder pot, and pour liquid rosin flux about 1/4-inch deep. The flux should be a reddish color. Place a 1-foot-by-1-foot section of tin foil next to the solder pot.
Wipe the wires with a rag and immediately dip the ends of the wires into the flux and then the solder. Be sure to tin just the tips and not to get solder on the insulation (it will burn).
Hold the wire over the tin foil for 10 to 12 seconds for the solder to cool. Don't move it around; splattered solder will burn skin easily.
Turn off your pot when finished. Clean off any dross while the solder is still hot. Allow the clean solder to cool in the pot for your next use. Pour off your remaining flux in an airtight container and save it for next time. Turn off your fume vent once the pot stops producing odors.
- Keep your solder pot brimming by adding solder frequently. When you are finished, wash your hands well, so small lead particles are not passed from your hands and clothing into your food, as this can cause lead poisoning. Use tongs or long-nose pliers to hold your work when dipping PCBs. Also, preheat the PCB over a radiant heater to evaporate rosin solvents prior to dipping in the solder pot. Donate your dross to a PCB assembly house.
- The solder pot is hot, and molten solder will burn what it touches.
F.R.R. Mallory has been published since 1996, writing books, short stories, articles and essays. She has worked as an architect, restored cars, designed clothing, renovated homes and makes crafts. She is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with bachelor's degrees in psychology and English. Her fiction short story "Black Ice" recently won a National Space Society contest.