How To Remove Coating On Very Thin Headset Wires?

  1. Hello there PF. I'm currently attempting to repair an old headset of mine that had the cord broken. The only thing is that I can't get the wires to make a connection. I know that wires such as these have a special coating on them that prevents shorts when they're bundled inside insulation bare.

    The only thing I can't get this coating off. I tried to burn it off with a soldering iron, and that didn't work.

    How are these coatings usually stripped?
  2. jcsd
  3. negitron

    negitron 840
    Science Advisor

    In the production environment, expensive wheel or cone strippers are used for various types of magnet wire. But for you, the easiest method is to burn off the insulation with a lighter or match, then shine up the burnt area with fine steel wool.
  4. vk6kro

    vk6kro 4,058
    Science Advisor

    You can also try paint stripper or di ChloroMethane (Methylene Chloride) if it is a type of tough varnish. This works with Litz wire which is similar.

    There use to be another one where each wire in a bundle was wrapped in cotton. That was horrible stuff and the best solution was to rewire it with real wire.
  5. Well there are two wires, red and blue with the coating in them. Another two plain ones that act as grounds for the microphone and speakers. Then a fifth one in thin insulation.

    I'll look around and see if I have any paint thinner/stripper.

    Just one thing though, I thought ~650 degrees Fahrenheit would easily burn off such a coating. I've seen my dad burn off coatings like this on a similar wire with a soldering iron.
  6. negitron

    negitron 840
    Science Advisor

    Depends on what the coating is. There are many, many types. I've always used the flame method with excellent results. There are many which can withstand soldering iron temperatures and solvents, but none can hold up to flame.
  7. Fire it is then, I'll get the torches and mobs of villagers. The coating shall fall!
  8. vk6kro

    vk6kro 4,058
    Science Advisor

    I've tried flames, but usually end up melting the copper wire or always end up oxidizing it so it is hard to solder.
    If you can find some paint stripper, I'd try that first.
    Just a few drops then wait 30 minutes or so.
    Clean it carefully and if you can see copper, go ahead and solder it.
  9. negitron

    negitron 840
    Science Advisor

    That's what the steel wool is for!
  10. vk6kro

    vk6kro 4,058
    Science Advisor

    Are we talking about the same thing? I think this is 30 gauge wire or thinner in a bundle of about 20 wires. Horrible stuff.
    They vanish in a little green flash if you put them in a flame. :)
  11. This wire is less than a millimetre across.
  12. vk6kro

    vk6kro 4,058
    Science Advisor

    1 mm is quite thick. Is it in a bundle of wires or just one?
  13. Just one, but I said less than 1 mm. It's more like .5 mm diameter, very thin. It's just an approximated measurement.
  14. negitron

    negitron 840
    Science Advisor

    Yes, that's the stuff. You have to do it quickly; just pass the wire end through the flame once or twice. If you do it right, you'll see the end just start to glow red to orange-red with a little puff of smoke. If the wires are twisted in a bundle like Litz wire you want to separate them first. I've been doing it this way for decades.

    I was spoiled for a time several years ago when I worked for a transformer manufacturer. They had cone strippers for their fine magnet wire.
  15. vk6kro

    vk6kro 4,058
    Science Advisor

    And then you use steel wool to clean the wire? Amazing.
  16. You must be pretty dexterous to clean wire that thin without shredding it.
  17. vk6kro

    vk6kro 4,058
    Science Advisor

    Yes. Why would you bother?

    Paint stripper gives you nice shiny copper which solders easily.
  18. negitron

    negitron 840
    Science Advisor

    Not at all. It just takes a light touch. Anyone can do it.

    In 30 minutes, apparently. With my method, I'm done in 30 seconds. And I also wind up with nice, shiny copper that solders easily.
  19. vk6kro

    vk6kro 4,058
    Science Advisor

    There is no real hurry.
    The actual time varies with the coating. Could be one minute sometimes.
    House paint takes about 30 minutes, so thin wire coating would be quicker.

    Try it both ways and see which is better in your case.
  20. Actually I just tried fire...and the wire ignited. :/

    But it worked! I just need to be quicker, I could actually see the coating coming off the wire.

    I cleaned it off and the multimeter gave me a nice 0.01 OHM resistance.

    I'll check back once I finish with the rest.
  21. I'm back. It worked out. The connection job on the broken cable was a bit messy.

    For one the cables weren't very willing to accept solder. Secondly I couldn't twist them the way I wanted to, so that they just twined into each other. Instead I had to twist them in a manner such that they stuck out the side, and then had to smear the solder on.

    Then a little heatshrink and electrical tape to cover up the whole job. It works now.

    Thanks for your help everyone.
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