Retrotechtacular: Solder Like Its 1944!

When we first saw this 1944 US Office of Education film about hand soldering, we figured it might still have some good information. Well, perhaps it does, but the 1944 soldering was with a giant iron, and the work looked more like metal bricks than anything we’ve soldered lately. Of course, the physics is all the same, but some of the terminology, like “sweating in” isn’t anything we’ve heard before, although we have heard of sweat soldering.

They do show some electronic soldering on components, including some interesting-looking coils. But the irons look more like a bad science fiction movie’s idea of a lightsaber. The solder is equally huge, of course.

If it Smells Like Bacon…

We liked the soldering iron holder with a magnifier — or maybe it is just a piece of shield glass — that the lady in the movie uses. It would have made a perfect vent hood, too, but in 1944 we are guessing you were encouraged to sniff the fumes. They mention not letting wire fly into your eye, but they didn’t cover safety glasses until well after that part. Not a word about lead safety, either.

The tip on the iron is bigger than most of the screwdrivers on our bench. Other than the scale, we didn’t find much to disagree with in the film. After all, soldering is soldering regardless of the size of the solder joints. Of course, the real excitement comes at the end when they start using a flame to do some bulk soldering of some enclosures.

To the Stars!

If you want a perspective from a decade or so later, check out the NASA soldering film from 1958, entitled “Above and Beyond” that we’ve seen before. You get to follow Harry who, “Oh yes, he’s a ham radio operator.” We aren’t metallurgy experts, but we think, by now, someone understands why solder alloy melts at a lower temperature than its constituent metals.

We’ll warn you, you might see yourself in some of the bad examples which, luckily, aren’t exemplified by our ham radio friend Harry. The soldering irons and tools used look a bit more familiar in this video, including a vintage pair of thermal strippers.

If you think these videos are at the dawn of soldering, you might be surprised. Apparently, humans have been soldering at least as far back as 205 BC.

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