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  1. #1
    Senior Member MudPie's Avatar
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    Soldering stainless steel cable ends

    I'm having trouble soldering the ends of stainless steel cables. I like the smooth and durable look of a nicely finished cable end. I have no trouble soldering non-stainless steel cables.

    Previous posts on the forum discuss the use of silver solder. I bought some 94/4 (4% silver content) from Radio Shack and still cannot get the solder to wick into the strands. I've tried two different kinds of fluxes: paste type for electronics and a pink liquid made by Ruby.

    As I heat the cable with the iron, and touch the solder to the cable, the solder melts into little balls but they just roll on top of the cable, but does not wick into the strands.

    Any suggestions for the proper material or techniques. Previous posters say to use silver solder, but don't really elaborate on specifics (like brands, silver content, flux type...)

  2. #2
    Member seres's Avatar
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    I have soldered stainless steel (types 304 and 316) sheets, but not cable, with silver solder. My solder was 45% silver content, so perhaps you need a solder with more silver? A local welding products retailer should have a variety of silver solders and fluxes, and would be able to give suggestions.
    Last edited by seres; 10-05-07 at 11:04 AM.
    Eric

  3. #3
    Senior Member Sci-Fi's Avatar
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    Need to use an acid flux and silver-cadmium solder.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Thrifty1's Avatar
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    You may have to use a torch because an iron may not get the cable hot enough.....the cable itself (tremendous heat sink) might be disipating too much heat from the "solder" area......excessivley for heat transferrence from an iron.

  5. #5
    Senior Member BikeManDan's Avatar
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    Best you can do is blob it on and hope for the best
    As above stated, its not going to flow on to the metal well until the whole cable is heated up

  6. #6
    Official Website Waterboy born2bahick's Avatar
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    The higher the silver content the better.

  7. #7
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    the problem is heat. the cable is not hot enough.

    besides stainless better heat conducting capacity, it resists stuff sticking
    to it. so yeah, use a torch, pull as much cable out as you can so you don't
    melt housing or liners...and get the cable red hot


    or just bail out and use superglue instead of solder

  8. #8
    Senior Member BikeManDan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by edzo View Post
    or just bail out and use superglue instead of solder
    Or just the universally used crimp caps, they won't kill you to use one

  9. #9
    <>< SoonerBent's Avatar
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    I solder SS cables very well with 60/40 tin/lead solder and a cheap pencil iron. I use this acid flux that I have had a bottle of for years. The solder flows extremely well . I can see each coated strand. Who knows what it is but I found the text below from an article on Usenet by Googling "soldering flux stainless steel".

    Ordinary lead/tin solder will often work if the stainless surface is
    cleaned of oxides first. Remember that stainless gets its name from the
    fact that surface oxides protect the underlying metal from corrosion, much
    in the same way that aluminum does. An acid flux will be needed to
    dissolve additional oxides that form during the soldering process. A drop
    of hydrochloric (muriatic) acid applied simultaneously with the solder to
    the already heated surface is normally sufficient. Do not breathe the
    fumes and work outdoors if possible.


    After reading this I'm sure hydrochloric acid is the active ingredient in my flux. The procedure is the same and the stuff smells about the same.

  10. #10
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    You can put a spoke nipple on it,squeeze it,then cut off the flange.Looks real nice.
    Everything should be as simple as possible...But not more so.---Albert Einstein

  11. #11
    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Acid-flux solder works fine. It's the flux that allows the surface to wick in the solder.

  12. #12
    * vpiuva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by edzo View Post
    ...

    or just bail out and use superglue instead of solder

    +1

  13. #13
    Senior Member rodrigaj's Avatar
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    I use heat shrink tubing and pinch the end while still hot. Looks very clean.

  14. #14
    In beaurocratic limbo urbanknight's Avatar
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    I always thought those little cable end crimp deals were for a nice finished look while soldering was for those who just wanted to keep the cable from unravelling without looking for tiny parts. I never worry about how it looks, I just don't want it to unravel or slice my leg open.
    "Well, I guess you can cut the arts as much as you want... Sooner or later, these kids aren't going to have anything to read or write about." (Richard Dreyfus as Glenn Holland)

  15. #15
    Sneaky Fast....
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    Quote Originally Posted by urbanknight View Post
    I always thought those little cable end crimp deals were for a nice finished look while soldering was for those who just wanted to keep the cable from unravelling without looking for tiny parts. I never worry about how it looks, I just don't want it to unravel or slice my leg open.
    Something I read is that by soldering, if ever needed, you can remove the cable, & reinstall it when putting the bike back together.

    Chris

  16. #16
    1 Serving Per Container awiner's Avatar
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    I soldier the ends simply because I am one of those anal retentive types. I hate the look of end caps that have been crimped.

    A nice silver soldier finishes off the cable end nicely and does the job.

    If you are using black Teflon cables, like the ones SRAM is using, some small gage heat shrink tubing is a nice touch.

  17. #17
    Klaatu barada nikto cascade168's Avatar
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    Without getting contentious, I'm going to say there is a lot of bad information being put forward here. For "tinning" stainless steel cables you need a high temperature torch (1800-2000 degF minimum) and a very aggressive fluorine based flux (available at welder's supply houses). This stuff is pretty dangerous to work with, as well. If you are really going to go to the trouble to do this correctly, make sure you use a ventilator mask and proper ventilation. Anyone who thinks they are tinning braided stainless cables with a soldering iron and regular flux is not working with the materials that they think they are. There are many brake cables and cheap shift cables that do tin beautifully with a soldering iron and flux. But, they are not braided stainless steel. That being said, why would anyone use these cheap cables when the good quality ones are $2?

    This subject has been covered in minute scientific detail - many times - over on the rec.bicycles.tech forum and, as much as I dislike that forum due to the blowhards there, they do get down to the nitty gritty on subjects like this. If you want definitive answers about how to do this, go there.

    In the end, quality shift and brake cables cost $2 a piece at any bike shop. If you set them up properly and use a little lube (TriFlow or ExtraDry are great) when you install them then you should easily get a year's perfect service out of them. Then for less than $10 a year you can replace them. Just crimp on the little end caps and you're good to go for another year.
    "Work is the curse of the drinking class."
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  18. #18
    In beaurocratic limbo urbanknight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by green814 View Post
    Something I read is that by soldering, if ever needed, you can remove the cable, & reinstall it when putting the bike back together.

    Chris
    True, but if you leave a little slack on the cables before you put a cap on it, you can cut and recap or solder later as well. I actually figured out how to reuse the caps as well, but if I break them and don't have any more around, solder works fine.
    "Well, I guess you can cut the arts as much as you want... Sooner or later, these kids aren't going to have anything to read or write about." (Richard Dreyfus as Glenn Holland)

  19. #19
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    It's trivially easy to remove a crimp-on cap from a cable. Just use pliers to squeeze the cap on the sides opposite the crimp and the cap will usually "uncrimp" and slide right off, with no damage to the cable.

  20. #20
    Elitist Troglodyte DMF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by green814 View Post
    Something I read is that by soldering, if ever needed, you can remove the cable, & reinstall it when putting the bike back together.
    +1

    But that's why I use heat shrink tubing. You can just slice the tubing off when you need to pull the cable.
    Stupidity got us into this mess - why can't it get us out?

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  21. #21
    Senior Member Speedball's Avatar
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    Not sure if SS reacts like copper but too much heat sometimes will not allow capillary attraction to take place.

    Good Luck.

  22. #22
    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speedball View Post
    Not sure if SS reacts like copper but too much heat sometimes will not allow capillary attraction to take place.

    Good Luck.
    Nope, completely different. Too much heat will build up a film of copper-oxide which will inhibit flow of the solder. However, stainless-steel already has an oxide film. The chromium-oxide is what makes the surface shiny and corrosion-resistant. You need to cut through and remove this film in order to get to the base metal. Hence, the need for the acid-core flux.

  23. #23
    In beaurocratic limbo urbanknight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DMF View Post
    +1

    But that's why I use heat shrink tubing. You can just slice the tubing off when you need to pull the cable.
    I never thought of that. Nice!
    "Well, I guess you can cut the arts as much as you want... Sooner or later, these kids aren't going to have anything to read or write about." (Richard Dreyfus as Glenn Holland)

  24. #24
    use your best eye kenhill3's Avatar
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    cascade168-

    Please post a link or better yet show a photo of 'braided' cable. Cable that I have used forever including Shimano and other brands does not seem to braided, just wound or twisted or whatever the name is. Sorry I'm ignorant of this, but I must admit that I have never seen a cable that is indeed 'braided'.
    "I tell you, We are here on earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you any different." - Kurt Vonnegut jr.

  25. #25
    Klaatu barada nikto cascade168's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kenhill3 View Post
    cascade168-

    Please post a link or better yet show a photo of 'braided' cable. Cable that I have used forever including Shimano and other brands does not seem to braided, just wound or twisted or whatever the name is. Sorry I'm ignorant of this, but I must admit that I have never seen a cable that is indeed 'braided'.
    How about twisted multistrand? Does that work for you?
    "Work is the curse of the drinking class."
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