I use cheep 30w Radio Shack soldering irons. They work reasonably well for most soldering. The only problem is that their tips are junk. They don't stay tinned properly and before you know it only half of your tip is tinned. I'm in a perpetual state of broke so i didn't want to wast my money on a new tips for my irons. I just used them until there was almost no tinning left on them and I had to hold it at just the right angle to solder anything.
I know that an iron could be retinned with tinning junk you can buy but that cost the same as the price of the tips i didn't want to buy. Besides I figured that I could tin it with normal solder if I cleaned the tip first. The ends of these irons where so caked with baked on junk that they where going to need some serous cleaning. They where also pitted in spots so I thought I could solve that problem at the same time. I chucked them in my drill and filed the old tinning and junk off the tips with a nail file. Next I reshaped them with a mettle file. This left them ruff and dull looking so I used steel wool and the drill at top speed to smooth the tips out until they where a shiny. Now the tips just needed to be tinned now so I reinstalled them into the irons and plugged them in. The copper surface of the iron worked better for transferring heat then the tinned surface so they heated up almost instantly. All I had to do to finish the project was completely cover the end of the iron in solder and wipe of the extra solder on a damp paper towel. Now the tips are better formed then they where new and the tinning is as good as new.
|After retinning. Its not the best pic my camera doesn't take micro photos well.|