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I want to repair my computer mouse cable which has become disconnected from the PCB. The wire is insulated with enamel and I have to remove it before soldering it back onto the board.

How should I remove the enamel?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Carefully. .... \$\endgroup\$ – Anindo Ghosh Jan 5 '13 at 12:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Get a knife and some unused wire to practice on before you permanently destroy your mouse cable. \$\endgroup\$ – Christoph B Jan 5 '13 at 12:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ See also this answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Stephen Collings Apr 2 '15 at 19:19
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If you are only doing this for a few wires (assuming USB or PS/2, that's only four to 6), just scrape it off with a knife, or use some sand paper (or even an emery nail board).

This is all you need

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    \$\begingroup\$ But the wire is very thin! It cannot be removed by knife. \$\endgroup\$ – Mohammad Etemaddar Jan 5 '13 at 12:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MohammadEtemaddar You are scraping it off not cutting. Place the knife (or screw driver) at an angle when you do it so you won't nick it. It's really easy. Or really, just use a nail sanding board or piece of fine sandpaper. \$\endgroup\$ – Passerby Jan 5 '13 at 12:33
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Common ways of removing the insulation on enameled wire include:

  • Scraping the enamel carefully off with a sharp knife or blade, while trying not to nick the underlying metal wire
  • Melting the enamel off with a hot soldering iron in a quick motion so as not to cause a blob of carbonized enamel to stick to the wire
  • Sanding the enamel off with either fine sandpaper, or a polishing / sanding head on a Dremel-type rotary drill
  • Using a lit matchstick or a cigarette lighter to melt off the enamel, if the wire is thick enough to not get damaged in the process. Really thin "magnet wires" tend to clump up with such treatment
  • Not removing the enamel at all, just connecting through it to the metal wire, using either solder + flux + soldering iron, or a "vampire crimp" or "Insulation Displacement Connector" (IDC) type approach.
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you. it is magnet wire and thin. I used lit matchstick to remove enamel from a magnet wire. but it made the wire brittle! \$\endgroup\$ – Mohammad Etemaddar Jan 5 '13 at 12:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yep, that happens. I'd say lightly sand the enamel till metal is exposed, then flux and solder. Strengthen the joint by using the thinnest available heat shrink. \$\endgroup\$ – Anindo Ghosh Jan 5 '13 at 12:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ I just use a lighter to burn the enamel off. If you're careful not to over-heat the wire, this method should work fine... \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan Griggs Apr 27 '16 at 19:24
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Get a pill of aspirine. Put your enameled wire on its surface and press it down with a soldering iron's tip heated by operational temperature. Aspirin melts, boils, gets in contact with enamel and desintegrates its coating on wire's copper. So you can strip it with the same soldering iron's tinned tip pretty easily in a couple of seconds (up to 10 sec in fact). Then let it cool down for a several seconds and remove the brittle (like a colophony) melted aspirine's rests away from naked and tinned enameled wire's tip... Do not breath in the aspirine smoke.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Very interesting - +1 for a novel method! \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan Griggs Apr 27 '16 at 19:23
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I had to strip 60 ends of 0.2mm enameled wire for my little project of dead-bugging and dumping a 32-pin EEPROM:

Dead-bugged EEPROM

By the end I arrived at a method of laying the end of the wire on a piece of smooth wood, and scraping the enamel off with an edge of a thin fine file. It's not as sharp as a blade would be, so you don't damage the wire so much, and you can control the length of stripped area better than with sandpaper.

Stripping with a file

Since I had to strip short pieces, it was hard to hold them against the pull of the file, so I made a little holder by gluing two pieces of fine sandpaper to the inside of a clothes peg:

enter image description here enter image description here

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That wire you are using often has polyurethane insulation that is designed to be removable just by the heat of the soldering iron. Make sure the iron is hot enough, melt a bead of solder on the end of the iron and put the end of the wire in it. The isolation will melt off and the wire will be tinned. \$\endgroup\$ – Kevin White Nov 12 '16 at 17:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you, @KevinWhite. Yes, I heard about that, and I tested this method with that wire - it didn't work. I would have done that otherwise. \$\endgroup\$ – spbnick Nov 13 '16 at 11:16
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Hydroperitum (Hydrogen peroxide - urea) can be used like aspirin. But it is less smell and soldering is much more comfortable. Use it like resin. 1-3 seconds is enough usually.

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I'm surprised no one has mentioned magnet wire strippers. They're handheld motorized tools that give you a perfect strip with a sharp edge every time. They're adjustable over a fairly wide range, the ones I can find all seem to strip magnet wire between 0.3mm to 2.5mm in diameter. That won't help you if you're using 30 gauge or smaller magnet wire, but 28 gauge and up can be stripped very nicely, quickly, and effortlessly with one of these tools.

enter image description here

Just do a google, amazon, or ebay search for magnet wire strippers and you can find them fairly easily. They all seem to be essentially the same product, down to the model number (DF-6). They typically cost $50-$60, so they're certainly not for everyone. I think most hobbyists would find themselves hard-pressed to justify the cost. But if you need to strip a lot of magnet wire, these can save you a ton of time and effort.

Also, if you need precision magnet wire stripping capability (you people know who you are), then there is a much higher end tool for stripping magnet wire called a rotary collet stripper.

They cost $700 to over $2000 and if you need one, it is probably safe to say you already know about them, but I figured I might as well include them too.

$750 pencil sharpener

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Put the enamelled copper wire in 98% sulphuric acid and wait 10 minutes. The coating lifts and floats away. At least, this works for 'Block' brand copper wire whose coating (I think) is polyurethane.

enter image description here

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    \$\begingroup\$ That will make soldering somewhat difficult. The acid will also "attack" the copper. How do you clean the acid off of the wire afterwards? \$\endgroup\$ – JRE Aug 12 at 10:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ There is no obvious reaction between the copper and the acid at room temperature over this time scale (ie no discoloration to suggest copper sulfate production and no bubbles to suggest sulfur dioxide). If worried one could try more dilute sulfuric acid but I'm guessing this would work more slowly on the enamel. The acid can be rinsed off the copper. \$\endgroup\$ – dhutch Aug 13 at 22:46

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