The Many Uses of Solder


(source: Electronics World, Aug. 1963)


The versatile commodity is handy, in and out of electronics, in numerous, seldom-realized ways.

IF YOU'VE ever splashed hot solder on your bare skin or fingernail, the experience doubtless made you a sadder but soberer solderer, sizzling but sincerely alert. It shouldn't prejudice you against that valuable commodity, however; for the ever-present roll of radio solder has many uses, in electronics and out, that are seldom dreamed of by those who work with it constantly For example: When storing away test leads, cheater cords, or other light wires, keeping them neatly bundled and untangled is always a problem. I've tried such things as rubber bands, twine, hire, and clamps, but none works as well as a short length of solder. Simply wrap a turn or two around the leads to be bundled and give it a twist. The length of solder can be reused when the test leads are to be bundled up again, but it may come in handy before then, as in the next application: When a temporary hook-up, for testing or other bench work, is made, test leads or other long, interconnecting wires usually spread over the bench in a random way. It is exasperating and perhaps even dangerous, to equipment and to yourself, to have such leads interfering with what you are doing. Short strips of solder, used as temporary lacing cords, are excellent for turning such a rat's nest into an orderly arrangement.

Another application: A shorting bar is often needed on the bench, perhaps to short out the input of a circuit for a particular test or some other purpose.

Simply reach for that handy roll of solder and use a suitable length. The medium is easily inserted under almost any kind of screw connector, can be fitted into a jack, or simply twisted around a lug.

Still another: When any equipment is pulled from its cabinet or rack, leads July, are usually too short to reach cabinet-mounted components. For example, when a TV set is pulled, short leads on a speaker plug may prevent connection to the speaker. There is an easier solution than unbolting the latter. Insert short lengths of solder ( about one inch will do) into the female speaker plug.

The flexible lengths can then be positioned so that the other ends can be fitted into the receptacle of any ordinary cheater cord, which then provides the needed extension.

A fifth use: You want to mount a component to a hole in a chassis with a self-tapping screw, but the hole is too large and the screw does not grip well. You might use a larger self-tapping screw, but an oversize one may not be handy and you might have to drill out a larger mounting hole on the component, which may cause deforming. Avoid trouble by filling the hole with a small length of solder. It will let the screw grip securely.

Applications do not end with electronics. If you also happen to be a fisherman, you should always carry a small hank of solder in your tackle box.

Use it to apply sinkers quickly anywhere on a line; to equip flies, spinners, or plugs with more weight; to make temporary equipment repairs; or anything else you can think of.

Solder has also had romantic overtones. The tinkers of central Europe used to melt a spoonful of solder scraps and then pour it into a shallow bowl of cold water. The shape assumed by the hardened solder was then used to determine the fortune of the individual, as is done with tea leaves. The practice has been picked up and perpetuated by electronic technicians in that part of the world.

About the only place solder isn't helpful, as noted, is on the bare skin or fingernail, when hot.

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