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Thread: Soldering steel FYI

  1. #21
    Boolit Master Cap'n Morgan's Avatar
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    My success rate was about 85%. The ones that failed would do so quickly. I expect that your method would be more reliable.
    Jim.

    The reason carbide-on-steel brazing sometimes fails is due to different thermal expansions of the two materials. Even with a perfectly brazed joint, sometimes a slight tap on the carbide bit can cause it to snap. The trick is to use a special solder sheet where a thin (0.005) layer of pure copper is sandwiched between two layers of a copper/silver/manganese solder. The copper layer will take up the tension caused by the different expansion rate between steel and tungsten and form an extremely strong bond.
    Cap'n Morgan

  2. #22
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    Thanks for the info Cap'n, I didn't know that.
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  3. #23
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    This brought back memory of watching my Grandfather solder on a galvanized pail. He tinned after cleaning with acid and used steel wool to make the tinning stick. I have used steel wool over the years when solder didn't want to stick to wires.

  4. #24
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    Curious why on this thread their is commentary to the effect of oily steel wool not hurting the process and possibly facilitating. Elsewhere we are cautioned against touching the prepped joint surfaces with our fingers for fear of contaminating(oil?).

  5. #25
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    I thought I knew how to solder hard copper for plumbing and HVAC, and I had some mixed results. I had a friend come in and help me with a new expansion tank on a boiler at my Ma's house. One thing I was doing wrong was maybe TOUCHING the prepared copper.

    As he showed me how to do it, use a good steel brush inside the female copper fitting, and then use crocus clothe on the malle copper fitting, assemble the two with a brush of flux, build your whole assembly, slide the male in and pull it out maybe 1/32 to 1/16 depending on size of pipe.

    THEN, using the theory that heat rises, even in an assembly of copper (his theory may not be right but it may help to keep earlier work from loosening the joints in later work) start at the bottom of the assembly and work up, put the heat where you want the solder to flow, heat the joint at the bottom (again heat rises) and apply the wire solder to the top, when the joint is hot enough it will wick solder in. There was no tinning of copper prior to assembly involved. He was a Plumber/Pipefitter for 20 years so he knew his craft.

    I think touching the prepared copper was my biggest fail (oil from skin) and not starting at bottom and working up was another. After that short lesson I am WAY better at it .

    I'm guessing the flux is tolerant of some oil on the steel wool ,it must simply overcome it.

    Bill
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  6. #26
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    Well, I'm no expert, but soldering steel is a lot different than soldering copper pipe. I have cleaned up after "gunsmiths" that thought it was. You must tin the surfaces first, or you will not get a good bond.
    Tim Malcolm
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  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by goodsteel View Post
    Well, I'm no expert, but soldering steel is a lot different than soldering copper pipe. I have cleaned up after "gunsmiths" that thought it was. You must tin the surfaces first, or you will not get a good bond.
    It is probably more difficult, but I watched my dad for 20 years silver solder with borax, thin silver shim, and an oxey acet torch, he did not tin, but that is high temp silver solder, maybe 1000f burns off stuff that does not burn off at the lower temp.

    IMHO the fail of the other gunsmiths was not making sure they got a good bond, one cannot possibly do "nice" work if one has never seen it and cannot recognize it and try to achieve it. With gun work we have constraints due to heat treat, and other stuff like the rest of a pair of shotgun bbls solder job . For other non gun stuff being able to pour heat in may cure a lot of ills.

    Electronic soldering shares some with gun stuff due to heat ruining parts, surface mount parts they use a technique of tinning like you speak of, then wiping that down flat, then applying the tiny componant and heating the joint. The normal solder "bubble" laying on the surface is too tall, so it really has a lot in common with what you are sharing here.

    I'm sure your flux quickly overcomes any oil in the steel wool if the steel wool itself is becoming tinned.
    Last edited by Willbird; 01-15-2013 at 11:50 AM.
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  8. #28
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    Thank you for the writeup Tim.I had a smith repair a front sight on a Winchester .45 Trapper.The first ones were soldered on.Somewhere In the woods is my front sight.I am still trying to find a factory one to sweat back on.With your great post ,I will tackle the job myself.
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  9. #29
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    There ya go!
    He probably did exactly like he was taught, and just stuck the two together with flux in between heated, and applied solder, trusting that the solder would wick into the joint. That works with copper very well, but with steel, it will just barely hold enough to make you think you did a good job. Then, a year later the joint breaks, and you have to take it back to a guy like me, and hope this guy knows which end is up.
    I sure am glad I could help you out.
    You might want to test it on a seperate piece first till your sure you've got the hang of it. Just solder two pieces together and try to break the joint with pliers. It won't be long and you will find out what works and what doesn't.
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  10. #30
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    I've trusted my life with solder joints that were not tinned and just allowed to wick into the joint. Fine bicycles have been made this way for 100 years. That a 200lb man is supported by a 4 lb steel frame over rough roads at speed while the entire thin-walled assembly flexes continuously and focuses that stress at the joints over thousands of miles is a testament to this being a sound process. I'm not a metallurgist - just a hobbyist as most here but perhaps the difference lies in the solder type and temperature of the process as Willbird above suggested it may.

  11. #31
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    You definitely need to tin both surfaces. The thinner the coat, the better. I use a piece of scrap wool to wipe solder.
    The solid soft lead bullet is undoubtably the best and most satisfactory expanding bullet that has ever been designed. It invariably mushrooms perfectly, and never breaks up. With the metal base that is essential for velocities of 2000 f.s. and upwards to protect the naked base, these metal-based soft lead bullets are splendid.
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  12. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ed K View Post
    I've trusted my life with solder joints that were not tinned and just allowed to wick into the joint. Fine bicycles have been made this way for 100 years. That a 200lb man is supported by a 4 lb steel frame over rough roads at speed while the entire thin-walled assembly flexes continuously and focuses that stress at the joints over thousands of miles is a testament to this being a sound process. I'm not a metallurgist - just a hobbyist as most here but perhaps the difference lies in the solder type and temperature of the process as Willbird above suggested it may.
    Sometimes on a downhill the 200lb man and his bicycle are going 60 mph too, and loving every minute .
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  13. #33
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    Winchester Trapper .45 A.E. Front sight repair

    As mentioned earlier in this thread I had a soldering job to do on my Winchester .45 Trapper.The smith that repaired it earlier using an epoxy , it was also found he gouged some places I guess to get a good hold.It failed miserably , I was able to get the areas clean and tinned using Tim's and the others tips.I was able to get a front sight from Western Gun Parts in Canada.I used Brownells Hi Force 44 silver solder in ribbon form.I also used the steel wool tip for tinning both the sight and the barrel.I also used the old Forester sight drilling fixture to hold the gun level.I made a simple clamp out of milled cold rolled to hold the sight on the barrel.It has a 5/16 threaded bolt to hold it all down.
    Thanks for the tips , now all I have to do is give it a good cleanup and hit it with some cold blue.I bought some of Brownell's solder black and will be giving that a try as well.I did see a good flow of the silver solder so hopefully the front sight will stay put this time.Thanks again Tim and all the others for this great thread.Here are some pics as well.
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    If you are unwilling to defend even your own lives, then you are like mice trying to 'negotiate' with owls. You regard their ways as 'wrong', they regard you as dinner. John Farnam

  14. #34
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    Winchester Trapper .45 A.E. Front sight repair

    Here are a couple of more pics after I got the sight soldered on.If I could change anything it would be the fixture I made.I should have filed the top of the clamp flat.The front sight is flat and this would have been easier to get square.Thanks again to all for the tip on getting the parts tinned.Sorry about the glare , the smart phone camera and me don't play well together.I think it is smarter than me.The steel wool and flux tip worked great.
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    If you are unwilling to defend even your own lives, then you are like mice trying to 'negotiate' with owls. You regard their ways as 'wrong', they regard you as dinner. John Farnam

  15. #35
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    Very good!
    I can't believe some of the crapola that so called "gunsmiths" put out there! Sights can be glued in place, but you had better control the bond line with .005 wires if you want it to have a prayer of staying put, and unless it's a very special circumstance, there is no reason not to use one of the umteen other methods that work quite well.
    Glad you got 'er fixed up right!
    Tim Malcolm
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  16. #36
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    I started life as a steamfitter and picked up welding in my twenties(stick Tig Mig and Gas). I have welded just about ever type of steel and aluminum and soldered and brazed many different bronze, brass and copper alloys, soldered them too but I never in all my years did I have to solder two pieces of steel together. Until today. I soldered on a loading lever stud on my 1858 Remington clone. Using the tinning process goodsteel laid out it was a breeze.
    Thanks for this excellent information.
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  17. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by goodsteel View Post
    Very good!
    I can't believe some of the crapola that so called "gunsmiths" put out there! Sights can be glued in place, but you had better control the bond line with .005 wires if you want it to have a prayer of staying put, and unless it's a very special circumstance, there is no reason not to use one of the umteen other methods that work quite well.
    Glad you got 'er fixed up right!
    You mention 0.005" wires to make space for the glue. Silver solder needs space as well 0.002 to 0.005. An old friend of mine who makes lab equipment has developed the trick of using a small centre punch to raise the metal on the corners of the silver solder or glue joint to leave space for the glue. If the joint is too thin there is no space for the glue or solder to bond. Neat trick - now taught in a number of tech schools.
    Go now and pour yourself a hot one...

  18. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10x View Post
    You mention 0.005" wires to make space for the glue. Silver solder needs space as well 0.002 to 0.005. An old friend of mine who makes lab equipment has developed the trick of using a small centre punch to raise the metal on the corners of the silver solder or glue joint to leave space for the glue. If the joint is too thin there is no space for the glue or solder to bond. Neat trick - now taught in a number of tech schools.
    Not to be contrary, but I believe that even .002 is too big a gap for a strong solder joint. I remember reading a study on solder and brazing, and the upshot of it was that a bond line of .0005-.001 inches was ideal. Any less or more, and tensile strength of the bond is sacrificed. The test was done by soldering two pieces of steel together and measuring the force required to tear them apart.
    Most epoxies need a bond line of .005.
    Most super glues require a bondline of less than .0005 in order to adhere properly.

    I was trying to remember where I saw this study, but I'm striking out. I do remember taking special note of the exceptionally thin bond line required with solder, and that it was less than .001.
    I'll try t find the article. It'll come to me eventually.
    Tim Malcolm
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  19. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by goodsteel View Post
    Not to be contrary, but I believe that even .002 is too big a gap for a strong solder joint. I remember reading a study on solder and brazing, and the upshot of it was that a bond line of .0005-.001 inches was ideal. Any less or more, and tensile strength of the bond is sacrificed. The test was done by soldering two pieces of steel together and measuring the force required to tear them apart.
    Most epoxies need a bond line of .005.
    Most super glues require a bondline of less than .0005 in order to adhere properly.

    I was trying to remember where I saw this study, but I'm striking out. I do remember taking special note of the exceptionally thin bond line required with solder, and that it was less than .001.
    I'll try t find the article. It'll come to me eventually.
    You are very likely right on the clearance needed.
    I have always used the center punch to dimple any material I silver solder. There has to be some space for the solder or glue. I assumed the dimple would raise 0.002, it may well raise less. Solder and glue joints can fail if there is not enough room for the solder.
    Go now and pour yourself a hot one...

  20. #40
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    I called Kester solder co. today and asked to speak to someone who can answer my questions about solder thickness, and meathods for soldering steel. I was told that Peter Bianca is the man I needed to talk to, and was given his phone number.
    He told me that the ideal thickness of the solder is in the tens microns. Basically, as close as you can get the two pieces together is where it needs to be.
    The reason for this, he explained, is that the solder is changed on the molecular level where it is bonded to the steel. It actually takes some of the elements from the steel into itself, and deposites some of itself into the steel. The result is that the metal that is doing the bonding is no longer the same stuff that you melted onto the opposing surfaces. The tensile strength of the joint is much stronger than the solder itself because of what it gets from the steel. The bigger the gap between the two pieces, the weaker the joint will be. The only thing that throws a monkey in the wrench here, is that you have to have good contact with the parts you are bonding and if your parts don't fit worth a darn, then you need a thicker bond line in order to get anything to stick in the first place other than a few tiny points of contact.
    Basically, once again we see that fit is king.
    He went into a whole tutorial about fluxing and tinning and I described my trick to him, which he agreed was a very good way to force a good bond quickly, and all he added was a caution to stick the two parts together within minutes of tinning them.
    All in all, a very informative discussion!!!

    PS One more little tidbit that I got from this conversation: When soldering SS, it is important to not get the steel too hot. He didn't go into detail, but he said that if over heated, the steel will begin to sweat out something (I can't remember what element) that will keep the bond from setting up properly.
    Last edited by goodsteel; 09-09-2013 at 05:44 PM.
    Tim Malcolm
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