More on voltage leakage
Since my post on voltage leakage from soldering iron tips leading to blown decoders I have done some more research and talking to my advisors. Here’s what I came up with. First, there are soldering stations like the Hakko FX888D-23BY available for under $100 that are grounded and ESD certified. Wisegeek.com rates this one as the best of the best whereas the WLC100 is rated as the best for the buck.
Since there is no guarantee that even these won’t develop a tip leak I have attached a PDF (Click Here) that outlines a method for testing soldering irons for voltage leakage. This was put out by the ESD Association. I only provide this document as a service and do not make any assertions as to it effectiveness or reliability. Please observe all safety measures when doing the tests.
Now for some more on how to avoid damage if your tip unknowingly goes bad and starts to leak electrons. First, it is unlikely that any damage will be done if the decoder is physically and electrically isolated from any earth ground during the soldering procedure. For this to happen do your soldering on a rubber or vinyl mat or some other non-conductive surface. If the decoder is installed in a locomotive and you are adding wires make sure the locomotive is on the non-conductive mat. Do not touch the decoder or model during the soldering process since you may become part of the conductive pathway and complete the circuit. Even holding a strip of solder in your fingers could complete the path–use plastic tweezers or a roll of solder in a plastic dispenser like the one shown here.
However as I described in my previous post on this subject your best bet is to remove the decoder, solder in the board or harness and speaker, then reinstall the decoder. Also, it is a not a bad idea to also disconnect your DCC system when soldering track feeders, rail joiners, or anything else to the rails or power bus.