Soldering Requirements & Guidance
Choosing a Soldering Iron
The key thing to decide, when buying a soldering iron, is whether you want a soldering station, or just a basic soldering iron. The former will generally have temperature control with an LCD display, a stand to hold the hot soldering iron and usually greater power. On the other hand a basic soldering iron will be cheaper and more portable, and will be fine for most tasks. If you can justify the additional cost, a soldering station will certainly make your soldering easier.
N.B. Soldering guns: these are utterly unsuited to the delicate work required to create our electrical boards and should not be used.
Key features to look out for
- Stand: a convenient but also important safety feature, buy one now, or after having been burnt multiple times by a loose soldering iron :-P
- Soldering station: usually involves a stand, temperature control and an LCD display showing temperature. Whilst by no means essential, a temperature controlled soldering station saves the is it hot enough yet?
- Power: for our purposes a soldering iron between 15W and 40W should be perfectly adequate, with a more powerful soldering iron, more care is required to prevent component damage (unless temperature controlled - see Soldering station).
Other things to consider are what the stand is made from - a plastic tray will melt if you put the iron down in the wrong place.
Examples available online
A list of possible soldering irons and stations available on Farnell, RS and Maplin:
- If you want to spend a little more this is a good quality and value station. A more advanced one that SHH and rlab hackspaces have available.
- RS Electronics:
Useful Soldering Accessories
You may want spare tips with different sizes and shapes. Choice are typically conical or chiseled (i.e. with a sloped flat end), with tip sizes of 0.2mm (for super-fine work) upwards. Anyone have suggestions for good size/shape for beginners. A Goldwing tip is great for SMT soldering if need be
If you don't have an integral stand with your soldering iron, then you should definitely invest in a simple soldering stand. This is not only a convenience but also a safety feature.
Helping Hands with Magnifier
The sad fact is that you need three or four hands for soldering, if you are not so blessed - buy some Helping Hands with Magnifier, which are available at one of the retailers mentioned above.
If you ever make mistakes, then you will want a desolder pump to remove the solder - you heat up the solder to be removed with your soldering iron, then use this to suck it back up. Electric ones are also available - if you have experience of using, please add it here.
desoldering wick or braid is useful for removing solder from hard to reach places - we recommend you use flux to attract the solder to the wick. You can get wick with flux embedded, such as this, although there is some suggestion that even then more flux may be needed.
Flux and Flux Remover
Flux attracts solder, making it easier to solder at cooler temperatures. Available in tubs, bottles or conveniently in flux pens. Depending on the type of flux, you may need to clean it off afterwards with a flux remover. The actual type of remover to use will depend on the flux used—and they may be rather unpleasant chemicals, requiring care in handling. You can also you an ultrasonic cleaner like this one filled with isopropyl alcohol, this does not work if you have stuff like potmeters mounted thou, so some carefull thinking in mount order might be helpfull.
Anyone with more experience able to comment on types of flux and flux remover?
These days you should be using lead-free solder, even if you're not worried about your health - think of the environment when your soldering ends up in the bin in years to come.
That said, the consensus in TVRRUG is that lead-free solder simply does not work properly. It needs additional heat, potentially damaging components, and joints are more likely to fail. This is a personal choice, but if you are going to use leaded solder, you should take suitable precautions, which you should research for yourself, but certainly include adequate ventilation. :-D
When choosing solder, avoid the cheapest, as it will just be frustrating to use. You should choose narrow gauge solder, say 0.7mm, as it will be far easier to use.
Please add a link to a suitable product here.
Whilst rarely worn, they are nevertheless a sensible precaution against the flying molten solder, and flying off-cut component legs, which will target your eyes at every opportunity.
Please add a link to a suitable product here.
A basic tool but thought it should be mentioned anyway. For fine work and hard to reach areas this one might be good
Usually integrated into a soldering iron stand, the wet sponge helps to clean the tip of your soldering iron.
Some people prefer using gold wire wool or stainless steel scourers.
Whichever method you use, the key to cleaning your soldering iron is applying some Tip Cleaner, as discussed above. The wet sponge can cause shock in the solder and it tends to remove to much of it, leaving the tip without solder.
How to "tin" your iron
We recommend that you heat your soldering iron to 350-370°C, maybe a little lower for surface mount components.
Once heated, use the wet sponge (or wire alternatives discussed above) to clean off any old residue, and then dip the tip of your soldering iron in your Tip Cleaner, e.g. Stannol Tippy.
How to solder
Rather than re-write what has already been written many times before, please visit the Instructables: How to solder
How to use desolder pump
Firstly, prime your desoldering pump. Next use your soldering iron to melt the solder to be removed. In the one thousandth of a second that you have before it re-solidifies, pick up the desolder pump, position it above the melted solder and press the button to suck up the now melted solder.
In truth removing solder is not easy and takes practice.
If you have any tips on doing this task effectively, please edit this page and add them here.
How to use solder wick
Dip the end of the solder wick into your flux, and then apply it to the solder to be removed, heating it with your soldering iron. At least, that is how I imagine it works - if you know - please edit this page and update this section.