Saturday, December 24, 2011

Soldering Safety Tips

Although most of us use common sense when constructing our stained glass projects; there are a few soldering safety tips you should pay attention to that will keep you healthy and safe.
  • First, make sure you solder your projects on a fire resistant surface.
Don't solder your stained glass projects on a metal, composite paper or a wooden work table. A non-flammable ceramic tile or glass table top is a perfect work surface for soldering stained glass.
  • Make sure you wear protective safety glasses when soldering. 
Regardless of how good you are at soldering, solder will occasionally "spit" or "spatter" when the iron gets too hot or there is a contaminant on the joints.

Hot solder really burns and if it gets into your eye could cause permanent blindness or serious damage to your eyesight.
  • Its always a good idea to have a first aid kit near your soldering area as well as a fully charged fire extinguisher.
  • Never leave your soldering iron plugged in and unattended; especially if you have pets. 
Cats are notorious for being nosy and could cause a fire if they knock over an unattended soldering iron.

Most heat controllers have an "On" light that will easily tell you when your iron is on.

Without a heat controller, you can't always tell if the iron is on unless you unplug it from the electrical outlet.
  • Make sure you don't overload your electrical outlets. 
Don't plug all your power tools into the same circuit you are using for your soldering iron unless you use a surge protector.   Surge protectors are the best insurance for preventing overloaded circuits.
  • Never solder your stained glass projects in an enclosed room without using a good quality fume extractor or an exhaust system.
Solder contains some percentage of lead which is toxic to humans and can cause a variety of illnesses.  When soldering stained glass, it's a good idea not to breath in any of these fumes, especially for a prolonged period..

Several excellent quality fume extraction systems are available for soldering stations that will collect and absorb noxious fumes, yet will not break your pocketbook.   A few of the more modestly priced are pictured below.  Just click on a picture for additional information.

           Inland Portable Fume Trap - International Voltage     Solder Fume Extractor    
           Bench Top Fume Extractor     Hakko Smoke Absorber Arm Stand

The easiest way to create an effective exhaust system is to install a cheap, high c.f.m. window fan close to your soldering station to suck out any toxic fumes.  The single or dual fan systems pictured below do the job and are moderately priced.

             

Commercial stained glass studios use high tech exhaust systems situated directly above soldering stations to remove fumes.  The prices for these systems are not realistic for the average hobbyist.
  • Wear a mask
Wearing a good quality breathing mask or respirator will also help if you do a lot of soldering. However, if you have in place a good quality fume extractor or exhaust system; a mask is not necessary. 
  • Wash Your Hands! 
It's also a good idea to keep your work surfaces clean and to wash your hands after handling lead solder.

Lead and acid flux will not pose a problem to your health if you just follow your mother's advice and wash your hands when you're finished up with your project.  Eating a snack or a sandwich while you are soldering a stained glass suncatcher isn't a good practice.

According to government statistics, children and pregnant women are affected more by lead than adults, so it's a good practice to keep high risk people away from your work area when you do your soldering.

These soldering safety tips are not intended to scare you away from working on stained glass.  They are simply sound, common sense practices, that should be implemented in any stained glass studio work area.

Be Safe! 

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