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Solder wick is basically just braided copper wire that absorbs molten tin solder in contact. But how does it work? The molten solder is very effectively sucked into the braids. The same effect is not achieved by just one thick strand of wire. I'm thinking there is some kind of capillary effect happening, but further than that I cannot say. The molten solder, instead of melting, is sucked into the braids; why doesn't it just flow everywhere instead of flowing along the wires that make the braid?

I think this is more of a physics question than electrical engineering question as it does not involve electricity or electronics directly, so I'm asking this here.

  • $\begingroup$ Related: physics.stackexchange.com/questions/431077/… $\endgroup$
    – Brick
    Jul 25 '19 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ Soldier wick is also typically coated in flux. It's not just copper braid. $\endgroup$
    – Brick
    Jul 25 '19 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Brick What role does the flux play? I understand that fluxes are basically reducing agents that help to prevent the copper from oxidating. Why doesn't a simple copper braid without flux work? $\endgroup$
    – S. Rotos
    Jul 25 '19 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ Flux changes the way that the soldier flows when molten. The physics of how that happens, I'm not exactly sure so I'm not writing a full answer. I don't think the wick would work as well without the flux. $\endgroup$
    – Brick
    Jul 25 '19 at 18:17

Yes, that is the general principle behind wicks (not just soldiering wicks).

A definition of wick that applies here would be:

Any piece of porous material that conveys liquid by capillary action, such as a strip of gauze placed in a wound to serve as a drain.

Wicks are essentially just capillary tubes.


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