Any particular tricks to soldering pickup wire?

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Tristan Williams
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Any particular tricks to soldering pickup wire?

Post by Tristan Williams »

I've been futzing around with winding pickups for an 8-string guitar I've nearly finished. Winding goes just fine, nice and smooth, but the troubles strike when it comes time to solder leads to the pickup wire. I'm using 43AWG with Polyester 180 Single Coat, solderable wire. I tightly wrap the tinned lead with the wire. I heat the joint briefly and touch the solder (Stannol S-Sn99Cu1 lead-free solder) to the joint, just like one normally would, and then remove the iron. I find that the wire will break 4 times out of 5 when I remove the tip of the iron from the joint, as though the heat itself has weakened or broken the wire. I'm using a Weller 25W iron without temperature control.

Any advice would be much appreciated! Everything else about winding pickups is fine and dandy, quite enjoyable really, just this last hurdle...

Bill Mitchell
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Re: Any particular tricks to soldering pickup wire?

Post by Bill Mitchell »

Hello, being the newest member this is my first post. I use a Weller with the temp control and normally have it set to almost max. Not sure why the wire would break unless the iron is sticking to it briefly. You might want to try a mini torch so your not actually touching the thin wire with the iron. I have used them before in tight spaces for pots and such and found that the pot does not get near as hot and still get the job done. takes a little practice but might work.
You didnt mention it but are you using any kind of paste, flux to help?

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Greg Robinson
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Re: Any particular tricks to soldering pickup wire?

Post by Greg Robinson »

Hi Tristan.
Probably your biggest problem is that you aren't using a temperature controlled iron. Unregulated irons usually run at around 850°F (455°C), which is too hot, as you're finding. I use a temperature controlled iron set at around 650°F (345°C), but I also use lead solder.
Using lead free solder is also making it difficult for yourself, as it has a higher melting point. I know that lead-tin solder is getting difficult to find in Europe, but it you can find some I'd recommend trying it.
I also like to use a hemostat on the wire close to the joint as a heatsink.

Good luck!
MIMForum staff member - Melbourne, Australia

Tristan Williams
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Re: Any particular tricks to soldering pickup wire?

Post by Tristan Williams »

Bill Mitchell wrote:You didnt mention it but are you using any kind of paste, flux to help?
No, just the flux in the solder. Do you find that it helps? I'm not having any issues getting the solder to flow well onto the wire, just the breaking issue.
Greg Robinson wrote:Probably your biggest problem is that you aren't using a temperature controlled iron. Unregulated irons usually run at around 850°F (455°C), which is too hot, as you're finding. I use a temperature controlled iron set at around 650°F (345°C), but I also use lead solder.
Hmm ok. I'll see if I can borrow a friend's temperature controlled unit and see if that helps.
Greg Robinson wrote:Using lead free solder is also making it difficult for yourself, as it has a higher melting point. I know that lead-tin solder is getting difficult to find in Europe, but it you can find some I'd recommend trying it.
Right - it is getting quite hard to find here. I have now gotten used to lead-free solder, but it is much more painful for soldering SMD components. I'll see if I can find some.

Cheers for the tips :)

David King
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Re: Any particular tricks to soldering pickup wire?

Post by David King »

I agree that the excess heat is making your magnet wire brittle. Another consideration is that some solders will dissolve or alloy the copper leaving it thinner. Many leadfree formulations add some copper to slow down that absorption.

Tristan Williams
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Re: Any particular tricks to soldering pickup wire?

Post by Tristan Williams »

David King wrote:Another consideration is that some solders will dissolve or alloy the copper leaving it thinner. Many leadfree formulations add some copper to slow down that absorption.
Interesting! The leadfree solder I have is Sn99Cu1 - 99% tin, 1% copper.

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David Schwab
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Re: Any particular tricks to soldering pickup wire?

Post by David Schwab »

What I do is to wrap the magnet wire on the tinned lead, maybe like 10 wraps. Then I heat it up for a second and flow solder on it. I use a temperature controlled soldering station set at 700°F. I heat it until the PVC insulation starts to swell. You can't hold the tip on too long or the wire will break. Especially for 43 and thinner.

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