We know a lot of you out there enjoy building or fixing things yourself. If you’re someone who knows a soldering iron is not some new golf club, you may be interested in the following tips and info from Sweetwater Sound fix it man, Mark (MacGyver) Phillips.
Copper tips are best for transferring heat, which is the primary function of a soldering iron; however you need to maintain the tip, which means filing and re-tinning. The copper is also softer than the materials you are soldering together so the tip eventually wears away. More maintenance.
Iron plated tips have none of the aforementioned maintenance issues. The do not transfer heat as will as copper but they will last for years. To get an acceptable heat transfer you must keep the tip very clean. Use a moist sponge to wipe crud off of the iron periodically. If the iron sits hot for more than a couple of minutes you must wipe the old solder from the tip. Then re-tin the tip by touching the tip with solder. It’s a little cumbersome but if you follow the “clean and re-tin” routine consistently you iron will always be ready to make perfect soldering connections.
For those of you who still like the copper tips for the great heat transfer (I do); I suggest that you loosen then lightly tighten the tip or its set screw before you plug it in, EACH TIME. Otherwise it will be fused by the time you need to change the tip and it will be time for a new iron.