What is Tinning?

How-To

In my reading I keep seeing mentions of tinning. What is it, and how do I do it?

Tinning is the term used to describe the action of putting a thin coat of solder over something else, for instance copper foil, a brass vase cap, or a soldering iron tip. One reason may be to protect the metal from the air, which is usually in reference to a soldering iron tip. The other purpose may be to color the metal underneath, which we’ll address here.

You may have seen it suggested that you tin all exposed copper foil on the surface of a panel before running a solder bead. (You will need to apply flux before tinning and again before running the bead.) Some people feel that this allows them to run the final bead more easily because all of the foil edges are already covered. Other people prefer to skip this step and run the finish solder bead directly on the raw copper foil. You should try both ways to see which gives you better results.

Sometimes you will be instructed to tin the outer edge of a small project, like a suncatcher. In this case, the purpose is to color the outer copper foil edges. Tinning adds no strength to speak of, so your goal is to allow the edge to accept patina the same as the solder seams.

You may be instructed to tin a vase cap for a lamp. This is the same idea as tinning copper foil, but it is a bit trickier. Vase caps are made from brass, which requires much more heat than copper foil to get it hot enough to accept solder. Some people use two soldering irons, one to keep the vase cap hot and the other to apply the solder. Another option is to heat the vase cap in the oven, or with a torch, to get it hot. (Don’t pick it up with your fingers!) Apply flux and solder to tin the cap.

Reprinted with permission from Stained Glass News. All rights reserved.

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Stained Glass News

Stained Glass News

Stained Glass News is a full-color newspaper which has been dedicated to informing, entertaining and inspiring stained glass hobbyists for over 22 years. Each issue features: • information on new books, tools and glass • quick tips & hints and Q&A's • columns on stained glass, mosaics, and hot glass by industry experts • photos of our readers' projects in the Readers' Gallery • glassworking hints from our readers on The Readers' Page • a photo and information about a glass workshop belonging to one of our readers on The Readers' Page • other information that makes working with glass easier, more fun and more rewarding SGN is published five times a year (on the first of January, March, May, September and November). The current issue is SGN #90 (May, 2010).