Connecting Wires

The first stage is to 'strip' some wire. This is the removal of an outer insulating cover (often PVC) from the central metal core. The wire I used has 7 individual strands of wire (each 0.2mm diameter and known as 7/0.2 wire) which need to be twisted together. If not twisted together, the ends splay out and become difficult to attach to anything.

If you have never done this before, practice first, as there is a definite knack to it. The hardest part is adjusting the strippers so that they cut only the PVC and NOT the wire core. Wire strippers that automatically adjust are available from specialised electronic retailers and many DIY stores.

My biggest mistake was to grip the wire strippers too tightly and therefore achieve nothing but red hands from pulling the wire. I found that the best way of achieving success is to grip the wire around three fingers of one hand, and hold the wire strippers in the other hand.

A tip I would like to pass on to you was acquired from an electronic technician and allows you to use the covered wire to achieve a better grip when twisting (and therefore a tighter twist on the wires themselves). To do this, instead of stripping off the end of the wire, move the stripper in about 4cm from the end of the wire, and strip off the PVC coating by about 2cm. Then grip hold of the PVC-covered end, and twist between your fingers until the wires twists tightly. (Not too tight, otherwise you may break the wires).

Wire stripping

The next stage is to 'tin' the wire. This coats the twisted central core with a thin layer of solder. Solder can be thought of as a 'glue'. Before joining two items, each needs to be covered in 'glue', hence the need for tinning. Solder is an alloy composed of 60% tin and 40% lead and you should therefore wash your hands after handling it. I used multi-cored solder, which means there is a substance called 'flux' down the centre. Flux helps to clean the surface to be soldered. Small quantities of solder can be bought when you buy your soldering iron.

 

Soldering

Soldering is nothing to be frightened about, but, having said that, it is obviously important to observe a few safety aspects before starting, otherwise it can be a dangerous operation. Soldering irons are an inexpensive tool to buy, and are stocked by many model shops.

The first thing to remember is to make sure the iron is on a steady surface, and to place the iron in a specialised holder when not in use. Also, don't touch any of the metal parts (they're hot!). Once the iron has been plugged in, allow it to heat it up for a few minutes.

When you are ready to tin the wire, curl a length of solder so that a length of it `stands up' by itself on your work surface. Hold the wire against the tip of the solder with one hand, apply the iron and let the wire warm up for a couple of seconds. As the solder melts 'stroke' the iron and the wire against the solder at the same time and in one movement. Try to get the solder right up against the PVC covering, but without burning it (this is easier said than done to begin with!) so that the whole length of the wire is coated with the solder. Once you are satisfied with the tinning cut the surplus wire off using wire cutters, to leave about 5mm of tinned wire.

 

 

Remember, practice makes perfect.

Having practiced and achieved satisfactory results with two tinned wires the next stage is to solder them onto the underside of two Setrack rail joiners. Like the wires the rail joiners need to be tinned first. First clean the rail joiners using something abrasive, like a nail emery board. Hold the soldering iron onto the rail joiner and apply the solder so that just enough covers the joiner. Don't hold the soldering iron on the rail joiner for too long because you will melt the plastic sleepers.

To solder wire to rail joiner hold one against the other and apply the soldering iron to this joint. Allow the solder on both the rail joiner and wire to melt, then remove the soldering iron but continue to hold the wire on the rail joiner. It is important not to move this joint whilst the solder is cooling (only a few seconds) otherwise you may get what is known as a 'dry joint'. If the wire does move, just reapply the soldering iron until the solder melts again. You may need to apply extra solder to form a decent joint. You will know when you have achieved this when the joint looks bright and shiny.

The next thing to do is to lay the two pieces of Setrack with the wires attached, following the same procedure as before, but prior to this 1.5mm holes need to be drilled in the pinboard for the wires to pass through. This is easily done by marking the position of the holes on the pinboard with a pencil, and then drilling the holes with a hand drill. Gently pass the wires through the holes and pull through making sure that the track lies flat on the baseboard.