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I'm a real thrifty guy, so seeing my soldering tip with months of use on them starting to crack & peel, the layer I take to be nickel cladding, disheartens me. Again, this is planned obsolescence to take advantage of the different heating/cooling rates of nickel & copper so they would catastrophically delaminate. I've toyed with the idea of making my own soldering tips.

My question is what is a good metal/alloy to clad a solid copper core for soldering purposes? It has to be able to wet solder & have a good thermal conductivity. I had an idea of having a beryllium oxide clad, but I would have to sinter it, which is beyond my capability.

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    $\begingroup$ Beryllium Oxide is nasty stuff. nj.gov/health/eoh/rtkweb/documents/fs/0226.pdf ilo.org/dyn/icsc/… $\endgroup$
    – Eric S
    Sep 6, 2022 at 23:28
  • $\begingroup$ If it is cupro nickel , it will not "delaminate". The commercial tips are efficient and a good value. $\endgroup$ Sep 6, 2022 at 23:48
  • $\begingroup$ Buy a better iron with better constructed tips. Or you aren't using your iron properly. I have never seen a tip crack or peel, not even ones I consider abused "Again, this is planned obsolescence to take advantage of the different heating/cooling rates of nickel & copper" Ummmm....no. The iron (not nickel) is there for a reason and so is the copper. A tip made of just one or the other would not last or perform badly. If you really feel the nickel is there just to delaminate to make you buy another tip, grind it off or buy pure copper tips and find out just how short lived your tip will be. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Sep 7, 2022 at 0:35
  • $\begingroup$ Had big irons which were basically pure cpper lumps shaped with a handle - no delaminating and cleaned with a brush and file… $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Sep 7, 2022 at 5:09
  • $\begingroup$ Have you tried platinum? It's got a high melting point and some great properties... $\endgroup$
    – Abel
    Sep 8, 2022 at 2:41

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Copper soldering iron tips are plated with iron, which cannot be etched by the rosins used in solder. This coating will last a long time in a professional-grade soldering iron unless you use an abrasive like sandpaper to clean the residue off the tip during use. In that case you will eventually scratch a hole through the iron and when the liquid solder and rosin flux penetrates the hole, it eats the copper out from under the iron (which then flakes off) and the tip gets shorter and shorter until it is useless.

I learned professional soldering at a company called Chemelex in the 1970's, where I was taught the Chemelex "solder wipe", in which you clean off the hot tip by quickly wiping it back and forth against your Levi's while sitting at your soldering station. You can readily identify anyone who worked at Chemelex by noting if their pants legs have burn marks on them.

Many cheapo irons lack the iron plating entirely; these are basically junk. Beryllium is highly toxic and will give you beryllosis if you sniff the fumes coming off your iron, and you may die. Do not do this!

Plate your tips with iron instead and you'll be OK.

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  • $\begingroup$ Beryllium oxide is used as a thermally conductive, electrically insulating backing to some TO-3 devices, so I suppose it's not entirely that toxic. Although true, one typically breathes down to the solder work one is doing, rather than slapping these backing & leaving it be. $\endgroup$ Sep 7, 2022 at 22:17
  • $\begingroup$ Although, yes, I've considered Beryllium oxide to be non-wettable. I flirted with the idea when I was more of doing plastic welding. $\endgroup$ Sep 7, 2022 at 22:18

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