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Soldering iron or flame torch

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Brian Jones 1004/11/2019 08:52:38
2 forum posts


As a newby modeller needing buy equipment, I am not sure whether to buy a soldering iron or blowtorch for my first job.

This is the cabane 5/32” wires on my Sopwith pup....need to solder two lengths together and worried that I won’t get enough heat with an electric soldering iron.

I really would appreciate your thoughts...haven’t soldered before but would prefer to use an iron if possible.


Denis Watkins04/11/2019 09:55:03
4552 forum posts
124 photos

If you are a builder Brian, you are going to need both an iron And a gas torch

And maybe more than one iron if you do electronics

But for now, a good iron will solder up heavier gauge wire

Have a look at 60 watt, 100 watt irons

But for smallwork you will need 10 - 20 watt

Cuban804/11/2019 10:04:20
2994 forum posts
1 photos

No one size fits all I'm afraid. For fine electrical work then a reasonable quality small (ideally interchangeable) tip iron will be needed. For soft soldering of wirework cabanes & undercarts then a much larger iron of at least a couple of hundred watts (not expensive on Ebay, an Antex 200W is about £35 - avoid the very cheap unbranded ones) will be needed and even this will struggle on the larger diameter wire. Essentially the bigger the iron, the better. Underheating the joint and taking too long with little flow will always give you an ugly and weak job. I use a butane/propane mix torch for larger wire jobs and silver soldering - can just get away with it for smaller brazing jobs.


Good quality soldering takes practice and patience, don't expect to get perfect results after five minutes. Read up on the techniques and have a look at some of the Youtube tutorials. Good luck.

Edited By Cuban8 on 04/11/2019 10:17:31

Brian Hammond04/11/2019 10:42:49
351 forum posts

As the previous replies practice on scrap material and then practise again !

Engine Doctor04/11/2019 10:56:58
2542 forum posts
40 photos

As per Cuban 8 post For soft soldering piano wire cabanes , U/C etc a good old fashioned copper iron is your best bet and possibly the cheapest . Old irons can be found in junk shops ,swap-meets and boot fairs for coppers EX pun  . Or a high wattage electric iron will do the same job and you wont have to keep re-heating it. Use a good strong flux like bakers fluid and clean the wires with glass paper NOT emery,wet and dry or alumin oxide as they can leave a residue that will prevent solder flow . Practice makes perfect .

Just found out that P make P after trying Tig welding thin stainless after a long (many years) lay off angry

Edited By Engine Doctor on 04/11/2019 10:58:49

David Hall 904/11/2019 11:00:41
279 forum posts
16 photos

For wire undercarriage work, the old method of binding the parts with control line wire or even just tinned single strand copper wire works well with a small blowtorch. One key to success is to use a separate flux for these jobs... invaluable. A small tin will last for years.

Geoff S04/11/2019 11:04:47
3701 forum posts
29 photos

For most jobs I would choose an iron but really you need 2. A small one (preferably temperature controlled) for soldering small wires and a big one for soldering piano wire. I have a 60 watt temperature controlled iron with changeable bits to suit the job and a very old, very big (120 watt) iron for soldering undercarriages or cabanes.

A small gas blow torch is essential for silver soldering.

There are small gas powered irons for normal soldering but I've never used one. They are probably useful when there's no mains supply but I wouldn't choose one if there was an alternative.

btw what Sopwith Pup are you building? I'm currently building one, too - the new DB S&S 60"ws version.


Cuban804/11/2019 11:18:37
2994 forum posts
1 photos

The only thing I'd say is that it takes a lot more in the way of familiarisation to use a torch successfully. It's so easy to go the other way and overheat the joint in a very short space of time given the very concentrated nature of the flame - not a problem with getting the feel for the correct temperature from various cues when you've been soldering for a while with an iron, but do see what the effects of temp have on various practise pieces before having a go at anything that's taken time and effort to form or bend up into shape.

I've got a bottle of Laco liquid flux that must be forty years old, remains fine and makes wire/tin joints flow nicely. Still have plenty of proper lead solder as well, understand that the old stuff is only available to 'trade users' these days. Hopefully the modern reduced lead or lead free solders are better than what they were in past, the early stuff was more or less hopeless, but I'm sure things have moved on after several decades.

Don Fry04/11/2019 12:39:28
4557 forum posts
54 photos

I was once soldering up struts for a quarter scale triplane, happily playing a torch flame over the strut to warm the joint. Then I realised I had set the airframe alight. Mug of tea saved the day.

Bought a big iron after that.

Brian Jones 1004/11/2019 13:31:39
2 forum posts

Many thanks to all of you for your help and full responses...they were extremely helpful.

As a result I’ve just been out and bought a large soldering iron but also a butane mixed gas torch. I will try the soldering iron first....don’t want to set fire to my model!

In answer to Geoff’s question, the Sopwith Pup I am building is the DB 1/4 scale...rather a big project for a newby. That said I am taking my time and learning new skills and I must say what a fascinating hobby I’ve dropped into.

And with the help of all of you I am sure I will have it flying in the fullness of time.

Again, many thanks.


wingcoax04/11/2019 14:30:16
106 forum posts
2 photos

I always used a 15w for electronics, a 30 for heavier use and a micro gas torch(which lived in my flight box) for silver soldering. I also had a 12v iron in my box for use on the field.

Nigel R04/11/2019 14:47:41
3998 forum posts
688 photos

I use one of 25W, 150W and a plumbers torch depending on what's being soldered.

25W will deal with electrical, bowden cables and small wire, most U/C or cabane size jobs would be the 150W.

Not much call for the torch on most of my builds (handy for plumbing though) but they certainly make swift work on heavier gauge piano wire, have to be careful not to overheat as already stated.

Leaded solder is still available.

Don Fry04/11/2019 18:40:05
4557 forum posts
54 photos

Plumbers torch is a very good weed burner. Same reason it's iffy as a soldering iron. Heat too concentrated for one, great for the second.

Martin Harris04/11/2019 19:02:26
9417 forum posts
256 photos

Bakers Fluid is a very effective flux but (as with other active fluxes) must be washed off thoroughly with soapy water or you will get bad corrosion.

Leaded solder is relatively easy to obtain. You might not find it in B&Q - RS Components are just one supplier. I would avoid unleaded solder like the plague!

Andy Joyce04/11/2019 19:09:47
266 forum posts
54 photos

For piano wire I purchased a 150W iron from the far east on ##bay. Think it was less than £12. Quality is excellent and easily solders piano wire of any size. Search for; 100/150/200/300W Electric Soldering Iron High Power Copper Soldering Chisel Tip.

For silver soldering large items I use a standard plumbers torch but this can take some time to bring larger items to a cherry red. For small items such as 1/4" thin wall stainless steel tube I use a simple cooks torch.

The trick to all soldering is to select a good quality solder and its related flux. For me you cant beat good old 60/40.for most jobs.

Piano wire can be very difficult to solder with a small iron, which I think is due to the carbon content. Threaded push rods also seem to suffer the same issue.

Martin McIntosh04/11/2019 20:10:19
3479 forum posts
1216 photos

Just get a cheap soldering station. The tip stays at the same temperature no matter what the job. I can easily solder 6swg wire with only a 3mm tip. Whatever you do, don`t even think about the lead free stuff.

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