Done improperly, soldering can be dangerous. Whether you work in arts and crafts, electronics or you're into home improvement, you work around hot metals and tools for melting them as well as cleaning fluxes that may be dangerous. There is a possibility for severe burns, poisoning or even starting a house fire. So before you pick up a torch or soldering gun and some soldering compound, you should review a few safety tips.
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Always wear protective eye wear and cotton clothing that fully covers the arms, legs and feet to prevent burns. Persons working on larger jobs such as soldering pipes or stained glass may want to consider wearing heavier protective clothing and gloves as well as full-face protection.
Soldering involves working with hot metals and heating elements or torches. When soldering electronics or stained glass, always be aware of where your soldering tool is, as well as the location of hot solder. Never touch the tip of a heating element, or newly-heated soldier. Work on fire-proof surfaces, and always return the soldering tool to its stand when not in use. Never leave the soldering tools plugged in while unattended. When soldering copper pipe, try to pre-assemble and solder as many pipe fittings as you can at a work bench in advance. Never solder copper pipe over your head. Always use a proper heat shield, not just a scrap of metal.
Some soldering compounds are made using lead. You should be very careful not to use solder that has lead as a component. Lead poisoning can lead to any number of disorders, including digestive and reproductive problems as well as muscle pain, joint pain and inability to concentrate.
When soldering copper pipes, stained glass foil or with electronic solder, some form of flux may be used. Flux is a compound used to take oxidation off of surfaces to allow the solder to join these surfaces together. When working with pipes or stained glass, you may be able to buy flux in a pre-packaged container of powder mix or paste and apply it yourself. In the case of electronics, some solders come with a flux core built into their centre. Flux contains acids and may irritate the skin, eyes and respiratory systems. When working with flux, you should take care not to get any on your skin, in your eyes, or to breathe the vapours.
Work in a well ventilated room to avoid breathing fumes that are released as soldering compound and flux melts. Additionally, do not eat or drink anything while in the process of soldering and wash your hands thoroughly after you have finished the task.
A large concern when soldering pipe, stained glass or electronics on a workbench is solder runoff. Runoff is when hot metal soldier drips off the workbench and onto the floor or anything else that may be under the workbench, including your feet or lap. To avoid runoff, place your work close to the centre of your workbench. You can also catch some runoff by taping a ruler to the edges of the bench as a temporary lip. As an extra precaution, stand while working. Finally, heavy work boots and a leather apron will protect your skin and clothing from solder runoff.
Other Protective Measures
When cutting your soldering compound for stained glass projects, set up a shield around your cutting area to avoid injury from flying shrapnel. It is a good idea to install a timer on your workbench to automatically shut off your electronic or stained glass soldering tools in case you forget. When soldering electronics, shut off any electricity to the electronic device that you are working on to avoid shocking yourself.
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