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Solder pick - titanium or tungsten?


#1

Would someone please give the reason for choosing a solder pic of
titanium or tungsten? I want to order a replacement for my very old
used/abused one. And I do not recall if it is tungsten or titanium
nor why I choose it in the 1st place. It has held up very well for
years. I only solder gold & silver (now including argentium).

Thank you,
regis


#2
And I do not recall if it is tungsten or titanium nor why I choose
it in the 1st place. 

I tried an ‘alternative’ pick for awhile, don’t recall which metal it
was. It seemed to me it wasn’t sticky enough for my taste, kept
dropping the ball so to speak. I use a stainless dental tool now,
get the tip all mucked up good, does the job I ask of it. Plus its
got some heft to it so its a bit steadier.


#3
Would someone please give the reason for choosing a solder pic of
titanium or tungsten?

My reason is that they are very poor heat conductors and they seem
to last forever. An excellent source is a spoke from your local
bicycle shop.

Jerry in Kodiak


#4

Regis,

You ask a great question. We have been using all manner of solder
picks in my studio, but the one all of us like best is the heavy
gauge of tungsten. It is not supposed to contaminate platinum ( or
any other metals) and I find that it is less prone to having solder
stick to it during pick soldering. I take mine to the belt sander to
sharpen before I solder, typically. Does anyone else have any
comments or suggestions about solder picks? I am in the process of
designing a better solder pick for our studio, and I think it will
be in tungsten.

Jay Whaley


#5

A tip:

the titanium pics set into anodized (the blue metallic ones most
frequently sold by most supply distributors) housings/handles always
come apart when heated- the better idea is to get your own lengths of
16 -20 g. titanium wires and shape to suit your needs then set them
into a wooden handle- or any material you prefer (like graphite,
carbon,bone, etc. rods) other than plastics or otherwise polymerized
chemical based compounds or substrates that when heated either melt
around the wire or give off noxious fumes - and that can easily be
reattached if or when they come loose- it is far cheaper than the
7-13 dollars US that most vendors want for the picks and they are
customizable if you make them yourself - I like the tungsten pics as
well as the titanium, if not more as they take high heat beautifully
and for hit and run soldering they barely remain warm 15 seconds
after removing the het source where I have had Ti pics tips melt down
after repeated soldering operations on more complex pieces more than
one quick join). So for the same 7 dollars you can make 4 picks
yourself in larger gauge wire than is commonly sold…rer


#6

I have been using the same titanium pick for about l0 years. I agree
with Jerry, they seem to last forever, and are excellent for pick
soldering.

Alma


#7

I don’t do a lot of “pick” soldering, so I’m NOT looking for a pick
to which solder sticks readily. So, I like a tungston pick to which
solder doesn’t stick. I make my own by going to my local welding
supply shop (or buying bulk from the internet) and buying TIG
welding electrodes (about eight inches long). They usually have some
exotic metals (like thorium) in them. They come in a variety of
gauges and I like both the heavier ones and the thinner, lighter
onces for heavier and lighter soldering jobs. Tungston is very hard
and doesn’t anneal under high heat and, therefore, it doesn’t flex
when you are using the pick to hold something down, and it’s much
less likely to burn the metal I’m soldering. I take the electrode,
cut it in half (don’t use your expensive Lindstrom flush cutters on
this hard metal; use a Wiss cutter or jeweler’s saw) and put each
half into a multi-collet, steel pin vise ($4-5) with the collet that
best fits. You can grind a sharp point onto it if you wish. The mass
of the metal in the pin vise keeps the heat from traveling up to my
hand; I’ve never had a pick made this way get too hot to handle. So
for 7-8 dollars you have a cool solder pick with an easily
replaceable “poker”. I make 'em for my students.

Denny Turner


#8

I used a stainless dental pick once when I first started and used it
to hold something in place while heating it. The dental tool had the
ends crimped into a hollow handle,. The end of the tool took off like
a bullet as the hollow handle must have had a pressure gain as it
heated. I am very lucky to have not been hit. I am sure it could have
done considerable damage to myself if hit. I would never suggest a
dental pick to place solder.

I still use picks for various things but never around a torch.


#9

1.6mm TIG welding rods are a great source for soldering probes, from
welding suppliers, they are about a pound each and will make two. I
mount mine in a bit of heavy brass tube with silicone tube over it
to give you an easy grip. It then doesn’t loosen in its holder if it
gets prolonged heating.

regards Tim Blades.


#10

Ya know, there are lots of things that can be used for a soldering
pick. For those of you who watch Bench Tube, our good friend Giacomo
often uses the end point of his tweezers as a pick. I have tried
this and now use it often…saves putting down your tweezers and
picking up a pick!! It doesn’t seem to matter much if they are
stainless steel or just plain old steel tweezers either!

Cheers from Don in SOFL.


#11
We have been using all manner of solder picks in my studio, but the
one all of us like best is the heavy gauge of tungsten. It is not
supposed to contaminate platinum ( or any other metals) and I find
that it is less prone to having solder stick to it during pick
soldering. I take mine to the belt sander to sharpen before I
solder, typically. Does anyone else have any comments or
suggestions about solder picks? I am in the process of designing a
better solder pick for our studio, and I think it will be in
tungsten. 

You sure it is tungsten? I can fairly easily solder (braze) to
tungsten, just a little paste flux and a dab of solder and it flows
on the metal. This is one of the issues I had with trying to use
tungsten as a solder pick for platinum. Actually platinum is one of
the metals used to braze tungsten commercially. A wide variety of
alloys and pure metals are used as braze filler metal on tungsten.
The joints that you get with torch and flux on tungsten are not high
quality as the flux tends to make brittle compounds with the tungsten
but you can definitely do it. In commercial practice they would use
an atmosphere controlled induction brazing system or vacuum furnace
or even a hydrogen furnace to braze tungsten so no flux would be
needed.

Titanium is much more difficult to braze and that along with its low
thermal conductivity makes it a good choice for a solder pick.

Just my observations but I really did not like the tungsten pick.

Jim

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#12

One of the things you want in a solder pick is low thermal
conductivity so that the pick will be less likely to draw heat away
from the joint. You can see from the values below that. Stainless
steel and Titanium are good choices from this point of view.

Tungsten is a little more then ten times better a conductor than the
stainless so much more likely to rob the solder and joint of heat.
Silver is the most thermally conductive metal and copper is a close
second. This is why large pieces of silver and copper are hard to
solder, the heat is drawn away so fast from the area the torch in
pointed. Thermal conductivity of some metals in W/(mK) at 300K
(26.8C, 80F)

304 Stainless Steel 16
Ti 21.9
Carbon Steel 40
Platinum 70
Fe 80.4
W (Tungsten) 173
Gold 310
Cu 401
Ag 429

A couple of other factors, are wetability, (the surface tension of
the pick with respect to molten solder) and melting point of course.
In my experience with the metals used for solder picks in the
presence of a good flux carbon steel is easiest to wet followed by
tungsten,stainless and then titanium being the hardest to wet.

Melting points

W 3422C, 6192F
Ti 821668C, 3034F
Carbon Steel 1482C, 2700F
304 Stainless 1450C, 2650F

But melting point is only part of the story, hot strength is
probably more important. If you get titanium above 1650 F it gets
real soft softer than carbon steel at the same temperature. Stainless
maintains higher strength at the temperatures we are soldering most
of our work at and of course tungsten is hardly affected strength
wise at these low temperatures :slight_smile:

So some things to think about when choosing a metal to use as a
solder pick.

Jim

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#13
My reason is that they are very poor heat conductors and they seem
to last forever. An excellent source is a spoke from your local
bicycle shop. 

Indeed titanium is a poor conductor of heat but tungsten is quite a
bit better at conducting heat and if you happen to try using a
tungsten solder pick you may find this out the hard way by getting
burned by it. Tungsten has been put forward as a solder pick for
working platinum as it will not melt at the temperatures involved
but it is not such a good tool in my opinion as the solder will
adhere to it fairly easily. I find the titanium picks to work fine
but gave up on the tungsten one I have.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#14
I don't do a lot of "pick" soldering, so I'm NOT looking for a
pick to which solder sticks readily. So, I like a tungston pick to
which solder doesn't stick. I make my own by going to my local
welding supply shop (or buying bulk from the internet) and buying
TIG welding electrodes (about eight inches long). They usually have
some exotic metals (like thorium) in them. 

Stay away from the ones that contain thorium as the thorium is
slightly radioactive and when you grind them it is real hard not to
get the dust in the air and breathe it in. If you are going to use
them buy the pure tungsten ones. The pure tungsten ones are used for
welding aluminum. Your welding supply will have them.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#15

Cutting Tungsten with anything, will dull what ever you used. You can
just snap it either with a pair of pliers (2 of them) or in a vice
and pliers. Also, Tungsten electrodes can be had in pure Tungsten,
with no nothing else. Thorium (most common alloy mix) is a bit
radioactive and NOT good to be grinding on (to make a point) so pure
Tungsten is better and available.

John Dach


#16

I use a pick almost every time I braze (solder). It’s a stainless
rod jammed into a square piece of wood so it doesn’t roll away. I
grind it clean every so often, but use it when dirty, with powder
easiflo flux, to apply solder paillons, or to apply extra flux. Heat
the pick to red and dip it into powder flux so it coats the end of
the pick, ready to apply to the job when required.

Thanks for those useful conductivity figures, Jim.

Bri
Auckland
New Zealand
www.adam.co.nz


#17
Tungsten has been put forward as a solder pick for working platinum
as it will not melt at the temperatures involved but it is not such
a good tool in my opinion as the solder will adhere to it fairly
easily. I find the titanium picks to work fine but gave up on the
tungsten one I have. 

Yes, the titanium ones resist solder sticking better. But using it
to solder platinum, I’ve too many times had the dang things
litterally flare on fire, like a sparkler. Burns the end off the
pick. The titanium ones simply don’t resist the heat as well as the
tungsten ones, perhaps precisely because they do not conduct it
away. Both tungsten and tungsten carbide work well as solder picks
for platinum. Carbide has fewer problems with solder sticking, but
is even more of a heat conductor. So in both cases, some sort of
handle is needed, for sure. The worst problems I’ve had with any type
of such tool with platinum, though, are the carbide third hand tips
sold by GRS for their soldering stations, intended for use with
platinum instead of the usual steel tips used for gold and silver.
The high temps, coupled with the carbide’s heat conductivity, and
the overall very short length of the whole third hand tweezer parts
makes them just not work very well. The handles heat up way too hot
to touch very quickly. Work more than a few moments, and the spring
in there will soften, the things heat so fast. I managed to friction
fit phenolic covers over the handles in order to give some insulation
so I didn’t get serious burns from the things, but they didn’t last
all that long. The darn things got hot enough to start to char the
phenolic, which then didn’t stay on so well. I no longer try to use
those GRS third hands for platinum work with the carbide tips. For
those, I made my own, from titanium. Since they’re not directly in
the hot soldering zone, they work better. But for picks? I’ll still
stick with tungsten or tungsten carbide. Before using, heat up the
points nice and hot, to discolor/oxidize them a bit, and the solder
sticks less.

Peter Rowe


#18

No one has mentioned niobium. I am sure there is a good reason for
that, and I’d love to know what it is.

Neil A.


#19
In my experience with the metals used for solder picks in the
presence of a good flux carbon steel is easiest to wet followed by
tungsten,stainless and then titanium being the hardest to wet. 

Perhaps the reason I don’t have much trouble with tungsten solder
picks for platinum work, is that I don’t use flux with platinum. The
pick is preheated enough to discolor/oxidize a bit, which seems to be
enough to stop most of the solder sticking problem when there’s no
flux involved.

Peter


#20
Perhaps the reason I don't have much trouble with tungsten solder
picks for platinum work, is that I don't use flux with platinum.
The pick is preheated enough to discolor/oxidize a bit, which seems
to be enough to stop most of the solder sticking problem when
there's no flux involved. 

Yes I was not clear, the flux use was from trying to use the
tungsten pick on other metals like gold and silver.

Jim

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts