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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Based on the general rule of having power taps every 12-15 track splits, I am going to need about 7 power taps for my track. I am ready to give soldering a try and make my own power tap tracks. Can anyone provide a picture of a properly soldered tap?

I believe I have the correct solder (rosin core) and flux (rosin again - but a paste - and a hard past at that) and I bought a Cold Heat soldering iron (not sure if this is best tool, but hope it will suit the purpose). I've read about using the cold towel under the track, and have read some soldering tips.

I'm using 16ga stranded, and when I look at the wire and the track rail, i'm confused on how exactly this should be done. Any photos to help me understand would be appreciated.



While I plan on doing the above since I now have spent the money on the stuff, I do have a couple questions.

Is there really a power drop on long track (mine will be 65' lanes) that requires these power taps? The other night I did a 2-lane test layout, one wall wart and the standard Tomy power track, and using a voltmeter, I checked the voltage at the power track and at the point furthest away. Both read approx 21volts. Is it the voltage that drops and creates the need for the additional power taps, because I did not see that on this test.

Secondly, has anyone tried using "Wire Glue"? I picked some up to maybe try it. Curious if anyone else has. I woudl imagine it is a inferior product compared to actual soldering, but could it work for this application?

 

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I just drilled a hole next to the rail, on the slot side. Then used an xacto knife and exposed the rail for maybe 1/4". Scuffed up the rail, tinned it, and soldered the wire in place. After soldering, I used a file to smooth the top of the rail. The wire goes in vertically from the bottom (duh). Was relatively easy for me, but I have a decent amount of experience soldering all kinds of stuff from electronics to spring steel DRS drag slot chassis.

Hate to tell you this......But the "coldheat" has a reputation for being totally and completely worthless for soldering (brilliant marketing though...). Take it back to RS and get a 40 watt pencil type iron (like the one on the wire glue package). You need a big tip that has gobs of thermal mass to solder the connection quickly before the heat transfer melts the plastic track. It can be done. If you use an undersized tip, you have to hold the soldering iron on the joint forever before the solder melts, and by then the track is a gooey blob.......

Steel is relatively difficult to solder, relative to copper. So practice on some track you won't use.

If you search for "power taps" you'll probably get a gazillion hits with pics. Seems like there was a thread recently where someone posted their technique.

No clue on the wire glue. Was it right next to the coldheat thing? ;)


Voltage drop only occurs when there are amps being drawn. You won't see the drop without a load.

Do you *need* 7 taps for a 65' track? Mmmm, not unless you want to run hardcore races with super fast magnet cars..... I'd say 3 would be minimum, and 4 would be plenty. Put them in the middle of the longest straights, that's where good volts/amps are needed. More taps are better because the rails are steel and the joints can rust/corrode, thus making a bad connection......My track has been out in the garage two years now, and there is no obvious signs of voltage drops. The track is 40' at the most, and only has 2 taps. I wish there was one more tap, "just because"....
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
I always wondered why people asked "how well can you solder?". It always looked pretty simple and straightforward to me. After trying a couple times today to just 'tin' a wire, I have much respect for people who can really solder.

Yea, the Cold Heat was kind of an impulse buy. I had taken up about an hours of a Radio Shack manager's time - learning about led's and photosensors, transistors and such - and when I was ready to leave, I had about $3.00 worth of parts. So, I threw in the Cold Heat. I do have an old pencil type solder iron, and will compare my luck with that to the Cold Heat. I hope I can blame the Cold Heat tool for my poor soldering attempts today.

The wire glue: :). I should have known buy the packaging that it was going to be junk. I did try it today, and it actually held the wire to the track rail - until I touched the wire.

I am going to go ahead and wire for 7 power taps under the table. The determining factor on how many I actually use will be directly related to how frustrated I get soldering wires to track pieces. :)
 

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Model Murdering
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Hi Scaf, Like Manning said, make sure that Iron is a 40! Check your solder number too. The first number is lead, the second number is tin. For example 60/40 rosin or flux core is probably what you want. I think thats what you bought? The higher the tin number the longer it takes to flow. High tin content makes a harder, stronger joint for tough duty, but requires more heat to flow. Higher lead content will make a good strong joint for your application and flow fast enough so your not on the heat for long. The old school rule of thumb is more lead for electrical, and more tin for structural. I would stay away from the flux paste! Flux moves around/spreads when heated, especially if your inexperienced. It can wick or pull molten solder into places you didn't intend. You could wind up with big hangers topside. Try it with straight rosin core first. Practice repeatedly on some donor track. Do use a wet sponge or towel at all times and keep it wet. Keep a piece of 80 grit close by to clean your tip often. Heat cant tranfser through the ash and crust that will accumulate on your tip and slows the process. Clean, clean, clean the rail thoroughly! Take that cold heat thing back and slap the salesman upside the head with it for me. On a hot day, you might be able to solder circuit board size joints with it, but it's useless for tinning and soldering 16 guage multi strand you're planning to use. Good Luck! - BH
 

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Scratch or sand the rail lightly before tinning,you need something for the solder to bite into.I usually use an exacto blade to scratch the rail and make small nicks in it .Pre-tin everything wire and rail
A wet rag is better then sandpaper for cleaning your soldering iron tip.
You can also use low temp circuit board solder,it's got a 190 degree melting point and works good.
"Do" use rosin flux,it floats the impurities out of your solder joint.
A good solder joint will be shiny,a cold solder joint will be slightly dull in contrast.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
The solder I have is 60/40 rosin-core, and my old iron is a 40w.

It sounds like the flux can be benificial if used correctly, or detrimental if not used correctly. I'll do some tests both ways to see if I can tell what it is doing, and if it is helping me or not.

I do have some wires that I was thinking of soldering together, instead of using crimp-splices. Maybe these would be good tests for me - copper to copper. I bought these 6-pin molex connectors with wires already attached, and am going to use these to connect power between my track tables. Not sure if I should twist the wires together and then solder, or tin the wires first, then solder together. Opinions?

Would the best method to cover the joint afterwards be to use some heat-shrink tubing?

 

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Hornet said:
Scratch or sand the rail lightly before tinning,you need something for the solder to bite into.I usually use an exacto blade to scratch the rail and make small nicks in it .Pre-tin everything wire and rail
A wet rag is better then sandpaper for cleaning your soldering iron tip.
You can also use low temp circuit board solder,it's got a 190 degree melting point and works good.
"Do" use rosin flux,it floats the impurities out of your solder joint.
A good solder joint will be shiny,a cold solder joint will be slightly dull in contrast.
Hornet I'll agree to disagree. We all have our ways, so no disrespect intended. I used to blanch my irons! Blanching your iron may seem OK for cleaning your tip, but we all know what happens to hot metal when rapidly cooled. The metalurgy gets changed. The tip will become porous and brittle. Gently scuffing the scuzz off your iron with sand paper accomplishes three things at once. 1.Cleaning 2. reshaping the everchanging face of your tip to it's correct profile 3. just like scratching the rail it also provides a good purchase for the solder to hang on prior to transfer so those wiggling puddles of molten solder are more controlable. You need to see some bare copper once in a while! It really doesnt matter whether it's my lowly soldering iron, or my plasma cutter, proper tip care is vital for a good job. I solder quite a bit, braze, weld and bend metal in general. I used to go through some tips on my irons till an old cat at a stained glass shop set me straight. That was about 20 years ago and I've had the same irons and tips ever since. I guess I've become an old cat myself. :confused:
 

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If youve never really soldered before,the last thing you want to try to solder first would be plastic HO track rails.Its tricky for even a person that has a lot of experience soldering.

Try copper wire or something first and practice until you can get a nice hot solder joint.

Mike
 

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LOL,no problem Bill,everybody has differant thoughts on soldering,i work in a manufacturing/welding shop,so most times speed is of the essence,that's why we usually clean things with damp rags.
Always try to slide your wire connections together before soldering.
The best connection is when the wires intertwine with each other,as most of your electrical current is carried on the surface of the wire,not through the core of the wire,that's why any high amp draw circuits are usually fine strand wire with lots of wire strands being used. That's why the starter cables on your car,welding cables etc. are all very fine strand cables with lots of thin strands of cable,they'll carry more current then a single solid piece of wire will
 
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