Friday, March 1, 2013


    Shown below is a soldering copper.  Good ones are increasingly rare; what has survived the sieve of time tends to be wobbly-topped, or chewed-up by harsh flux, or just beat-up.  This one is none of those things. It has a nice copper tip, solidly attached to the steel  haft.  Stamping on the tip reads "THE ELECTRIC MATERIALS CO. NORTH EAST, PA."  (Still around, with over 90 years in the business.) Plus a very large "2" which is probably tip weight in pounds.
   In use, you heat 'em up good and hot in the fire and the tip stays hot long enough to make a few connections.  Set it back down with the tip in the heat, wire up some more components, and by the time you're ready to solder again, it's ready, too.

     Proper use is something of an art -- keeping the tip hot but not too hot and not so sooty you cool it down wiping it clean is the kind of thing that can be learned only by the doing.  But zillions of electricians and radio-minded people did, once upon a time.  (According to their FAQ, The Electric Materials Co. will still make you soldering coppers (PDF!), though they have a $200 minimum order, which would be more than "several" even at current copper prices plus other materials and manufacturing costs and their profit.)

     My lodger and friend Tam found this one at an antique shop in New Hampshire and brought it home as a gift.  Good choice!


  1. Sweet find! Good on Tam for bring that home.

    I have made more than my share of soldered connections with nothing a but a ground down screw driver and a propane torch. One does what one must...

  2. When I was a kid my friend's house was getting a new roof and gutters. The roofer used a smudge pot and a bigger version of that to solder the galvanized wires that supported the gutters. I asked him if he'd ever tried an electric soldering gun and he said they didn't make one that got hot enough. He also didn't like the dirty looking connection a torch left.

  3. More than once in moments of need I've done electronics soldering using a 10-penny nail heated over a domestic cooking stove.
    In hindsight it's strange that I would have had rosin-core solder kicking around in my travel bag yet no iron, but there you go...

  4. That brings back memories. Many farms had 32V DC Wincharger systems that did not lend themselves to soldering irons. Too much voltage for a direct connection, and DC and transformers do not mix.

    So I made a few bux circa 1947 repairing battery radios, soldering in components as needed with a two pound soldering copper heated over a Coleman camp stove.

    Burstein-Appleby had an entire warehouse of 1A7's, 1D8's and the rest of the 1.5V filament tubes, 12K output transformers, and the other necessities for earning school clothes and date money. After I quite the big famous engineering company BA even found a 1C5 for me.


  5. I was taught by my father to solder copper as in gutters, down spouts and roofing using one of those.
    the preferred copper was heavy and held heat well, the fire was a little brazier that was fired by chunk charcoal only (his law) a tin of nokorode flux and bar solder in 40/60 (more lead than tin) was the equipment. Dare I for get the gloves, and copper forming tools. Properly heated and tinned with he work fluxed I could lay down a 4-6foot joint in one swipe. I never saw pop fail to beat that. He also taught me how to solder electronics as he did that before getting into construction.

    Oh, I also have a 1D8 in the "junkbox".