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Hints for soldering fixture wires to tape wire


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I have begun installing lights in the Beacon Hill. In past builds, I have wound the fixture wire around a brad or eyelet to affix it to the tape. No need to remove the protective plastic covering but always the fear of a connection wiggling loose and failing.

This time I want to solder the wires to the tape wire, which means removing a small square of the protective plastic layer to expose the metal beneath. I tried to be delicate with a scalpel on the first one, but managed to cut the metal strip anyway, which of course cut the power to the rest of the house. I was able to reconnect it with solder, but am now leery of cutting across the tape wire.

For the second fixture, I used the edge of the soldering iron to melt two parallel lines across the metal strip and carefully cut lines parallel to the tape wire to remove a square of the protective covering. That left plastic residue on the soldering iron and did create some smoky odor. 

Question 1: How else can a patch of plastic be removed to provide a clean shot at the tape wire beneath to assure a strong solder joint?

Question 2: How do you prepare the bare wire for the smoothest attachment? I've tried twisting the strands into one multi-strand and bending into a circle for maximum surface. Is there a better way?

The photo is of my practice with the new soldering iron. Can't tell if the joints are good, as the wires are not attached to anything.210917-solder-practice.jpg.b6a32964fd5b33cef7b3b79b6ad8856c.jpg

Edited by KathieB
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The picture is slightly blurry, but I would say the right upper soldered point is the best. In general, you need to have a "round drop" shape flattened at the bottom, and  shiny. Or a little cone is good too.

If its dull it may be a "cold" solder and not make proper electrical contact. The solder point on the blue line, 2nd from the left, looks like a lot of little splatters of solder, and that may pose problems too. I think you may need to keep your soldering iron on the point for longer ? You should just bring in the solder to the point where the wire and tape meet, and it melt immediately on it.  Practice a lot, that's the only way to get better !

To prepare the wire, you twist the strands together, and you melt a little solder on it to "coat" the end. That way you have to bring less additional solder when you attach the wire to the tape, and it's easier to make the solder point.


I don't know how to prepare the tape, sorry I can't help on that !

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1 hour ago, _Roxy_ said:

To prepare the wire, you twist the strands together, and you melt a little solder on it to "coat" the end. That way you have to bring less additional solder when you attach the wire to the tape, and it's easier to make the solder point.

Thank you ... good advice!

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When I was doing stained glass professionally, I was proud of my nice, smooth joints. I didn't expect there to be such a high learning curve switching to electronics. A lot more practice and a switch to a rosin-core solder and now I'm happy with the results.

Figured out how to do the tape wire. Make parallel cuts on either side of the wire run (pink or blue) and slip the tip of a scalpel between the wire run and the plastic covering. Cut upward through the plastic and remove. No danger of severing the tape wire!  Then move a bit along the run and do the same on the other color.  Want to keep them separate so they don't accidentally touch and blow the whole circuit!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Some comments and suggestions:

The best connection is direct wire to metal contact (preferably copper wire) so it might be best to use some copper wire if it can be hidden between your fixture wire and the tape metal if your wire is aluminum. Copper is more expensive so cheaply manufactured items often use aluminum.

You need to insure that the wire is touching the tape metal and is flat against it. If it wants to rise up before you solder, it will tend to rise up when you apply the solder.

It might be a good idea to loop the wire on the tape metal so more of it touches the metal.

Be sure the iron is hot before you touch it to the metal. Don't let it heat up on the metal because the longer you hold it on the metal, the more chance the heat will damage the surrounding surface or nearby plastic and the wire's insulation.

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