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#1
Old 07-19-2013, 06:12 PM
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Old non-electric soldering iron - how to clean?

I found a beautiful old soldering iron, the kind you'd heat in a fire or coals rather than electrically. It has about a half pound copper block, losenge shaped, which is riveted between the forks of what looks like an iron shank made by a smith. The iron is rusty and the copper tarnished. If I wanted to clean it up (and yes I know there could be value consequences but I don't think this is worth much), all sorts of rust and tarnish removers would be fine for the copper and for the iron shank individually, but, given that the two metals are joined and can't be separated for cleaning, wouldn't such cleaners also create a galvanic voltage and do something weirdly corrosive, especially in the crack where the two metals join?

Last edited by Napier; 07-19-2013 at 06:13 PM.
#2
Old 07-20-2013, 01:48 AM
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What you have is a soldering copper. We had these in junior high shop class, and we cleaned them with sal ammoniac (AKA ammonium chloride). We'd put the copper in a gas flame to get it hot, then press it into a block of sal ammoniac, which would clean off the crud. We did it under a fume hood, as the process produced copious nasty-smelling gases.

It looks like you can buy sal ammoniac on line. If you decide to clean your soldering copper this way, be sure to do it in a well-ventilated area.
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#3
Old 07-22-2013, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Jeff Lichtman View Post
What you have is a soldering copper. We had these in junior high shop class, and we cleaned them with sal ammoniac (AKA ammonium chloride). We'd put the copper in a gas flame to get it hot, then press it into a block of sal ammoniac, which would clean off the crud. We did it under a fume hood, as the process produced copious nasty-smelling gases.

It looks like you can buy sal ammoniac on line. If you decide to clean your soldering copper this way, be sure to do it in a well-ventilated area.
OK, two questions. First, I thought a soldering copper was bigger than this. Second, the sal ammoniac would be fine for the copper part only, if I didn't get any on the joint between the copper and the iron parts, but I don't want to get it on both parts, or at least on the joint, because of galvanic corrosion, do I?
#4
Old 07-22-2013, 02:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Napier View Post
OK, two questions. First, I thought a soldering copper was bigger than this. Second, the sal ammoniac would be fine for the copper part only, if I didn't get any on the joint between the copper and the iron parts, but I don't want to get it on both parts, or at least on the joint, because of galvanic corrosion, do I?
The term "soldering copper" refers to the material, not the size.

As for galvanic corrosion - this occurs over time when two different metals are immersed in an electrolyte. I don't think the sal ammoniac would act as an electrolyte - it leaves very little residue, since it turns to a gas at high temperatures.

The copper tip of a soldering copper is replaceable. If you're really worried about preserving what you have, you could remove the copper and clean the two parts separately.
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#5
Old 07-22-2013, 03:01 PM
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chemicals that will reverse the oxidation can be applied to each metal separately. you will still need to do physical cleaning to make it look nice and you can clean the junction area as part of that process.
#6
Old 07-22-2013, 03:02 PM
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How do I remove it? It looks riveted.
#7
Old 07-22-2013, 09:34 PM
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Can you post a picture of it somewhere?
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#8
Old 07-22-2013, 09:48 PM
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Does it look something like this one?
#9
Old 07-23-2013, 07:26 AM
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It looks something like TriPolar's, but instead of the handle looping through a hole in the copper, the handle shank splits into a fork with the copper lozenge between its two tines, and two rivets passing through the three layers. Also the copper part is longer and less chunky.

I can't post now because I am traveling, but will when I can.
#10
Old 07-23-2013, 07:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Jeff Lichtman View Post
Can you post a picture of it somewhere?
This isn't my picture but it looks like a perfect match:

http://ebay.com.au/itm/Vintage-S...-/150822929740
#11
Old 07-23-2013, 09:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Napier View Post
It looks something like TriPolar's, but instead of the handle looping through a hole in the copper, the handle shank splits into a fork with the copper lozenge between its two tines, and two rivets passing through the three layers. Also the copper part is longer and less chunky.
Don't know if you noticed in that link that they don't think the nails attaching the handle to the copper are original. If you really want to get all the corrosion you can remove and replace the rivets. Or they may just be nails as mentioned in the link I have.
#12
Old 07-23-2013, 01:43 PM
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There's a German company called Sievert that made (makes?) similar soldering coppers - the one you have may even be a Sievert. There are companies on the web that sell Sievert coppers - here, for example. You could write to one of them and ask about cleaning the tool and replacing the head.

If I were you I wouldn't remove and replace the rivets. That could lower the value to a tool collector.
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#13
Old 07-23-2013, 03:27 PM
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How about something like this Scotchbrite wheel:
http://amazon.com/3M-Scotch-Brit...ef=pd_sim_hi_2

You can find them at just about any hardware store, frequently near the paint section. They chuck into a normal hand drill, and are great at stripping off rust, corrosion and other crap. I use them all the time to prep aluminum for tig welding, and to clean up tools I buy off of craigslist (which are invariably rusty from sitting in damp garages for decades).
#14
Old 07-23-2013, 04:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Lichtman View Post
If I were you I wouldn't remove and replace the rivets. That could lower the value to a tool collector.
Yes, the value of something like that can be lowered from any change. Sometimes it will raise the value if it's needed to restore the piece. Someone experienced with that kind of tool would have to assess the best way to go.

My guess here is that there isn't a corrosion problem between the handle and the copper if the handle isn't loose, and simply cleaning the outside would be sufficient. You could use some abrasive powder to clean around the edge of the seam where the copper and iron meet if it doesn't look good.
#15
Old 07-23-2013, 11:31 PM
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If you're just wanting a cleaning for presentation, you might check around to see if someone will soda blast it for you. A machine shop or auto body shop should be able to recommend one if you don't already know where to find one.
#16
Old 07-24-2013, 08:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Projammer View Post
If you're just wanting a cleaning for presentation, you might check around to see if someone will soda blast it for you. A machine shop or auto body shop should be able to recommend one if you don't already know where to find one.
I didn't think of sandblasting! I actually have access to a sandblaster. What is soda blasting?
#17
Old 07-24-2013, 10:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Napier View Post
I didn't think of sandblasting! I actually have access to a sandblaster. What is soda blasting?
Soda blasting uses granular sodium bicarb instead of sand. It's a necessity for soft metals like copper. I don't think you can simply use soda in the place of sandblasting media in regular equipment, but perhaps it requires nothing special except for the nozzle.
#18
Old 07-24-2013, 03:05 PM
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I use both in my hand portable blaster. The baking soda gives a nice finish. Still not perfectly smooth of course.
#19
Old 07-24-2013, 03:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GusNSpot View Post
I use both in my hand portable blaster. The baking soda gives a nice finish. Still not perfectly smooth of course.
What kind do you have? I've wondered about this. I have the portable from Harbor Freight so I can do stuff outside. It's adequate.
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