SAFETY [The Art of Soldering]

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One aspect of soldering that must be dealt with at the outset is that of safety. A lot of accidents, especially in the home, are caused by soldering irons. Most, if not all, could be avoided if more care was exercised right from the beginning.

It must always be remembered that a soldering iron is ve7y hot while it is on, but will not convey that message to you until you have touched it, at which time i: is too late. Always put the soldering iron in a stand or other secure holder when you are not using it and never rest it loosely or hook it onto the bench or table. This is especially important with the larger irons which could give you a very serious burn or be pulled by their cable onto a carpet and cause a fire.

Safety and Children

Make sure that your children cannot accidentally pull the soldering iron off the bench or, worse still, pick it up by tae hot end, especially when switched on. I have known this happen on several occasions and if this is done with a larger soldering iron it will cause severe burns. It is advisable to keep children under 8 years of age away from your soldering equipment. If you are going to teach your children to solder please explain to them the dangers involved. I have previously mentioned the dangers regarding fluxes. If children are around, make sure that all of these bottles or tins are securely locked away because they will be very attractive to children.

Do not let them handle the solder because it contains lead.

If they then put it into their mouths they could become quite ill. Make sure that both you and your family thoroughly wash your hands after you or they have been handling solder before eating or handling food.

With gas irons never turn the gas valve unless you are ready to ignite the iron as this may cause an explosion when it is eventually lit. Butane gas is very difficult to detect but very easy to light.

With mains electrical irons always check the cable for burns. You could have burnt through the Insulation and exposed a live wire which could kill if touched. Always replace damaged cables with a proper cable. Never fit a smaller cable than that originally fitted by the manufacturer.

His first aim was safety. Always make sure that the plug is fitted properly and that, in the U.K. especially, you fit a correctly rated fuse to the plug.

Fusing

Whilst most suppliers recommend a 3 amp fuse it is my opinion that this is too large and a fuse of 1 amp is more appropriate. These are not easily obtainable in the 1 inch size which fits the standard U.K. 13 amp BS.1363 plug, and you may have to settle for the 2 amp rating.

On a 240V mains supply, the current consumption for various wattage irons is as follows:

Wattage | Current (Amps)

18 0.075

25 0.105

50 0.210

100 0.420

250 1.040

As will be seen, a 1 amp fuse is sufficient right up to 200 watts. It is my opinion that a 3 amp fuse is no protection at all until you get to 250 watts, and there are not very many soldering irons of that wattage around. Fitting a 13 amp fuse in the plug of your 18 watt iron would be the equivalent to fitting a 2167 amp fuse to your 3 kW electric fire. I am sure you would not do that, so why risk your life by doing it to your soldering iron. People have said to me "but the iron works with the 13 amp fuse in the plug". What can you say? The fuse is there to protect both the user, and possibly their property, only when the product goes wrong.

One final point regarding safety. All items used with soldering are dangerous in one way or another. Please stop and think before commencing with soldering so that you can have a successful and accident-free time with your hobby.

The watchword is THINK!

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