Everything You Need to Get Started SolderingBy Robet Cong
Soldering Equipment and AccessoriesSoldering is real skill and the old saying "practice makes perfect" most certainly applies. For those who have never soldered before, it can be intimidating dealing with high heat and electronics, but there is nothing more rewarding than completing a clean soldering job. Anyone can become a pro-solderer but it will take some practice.
It's time to graduate from wire-wrapping and get started in soldering. Step one is putting together an electronics workbench with the right gear. This article will review the tools and equipment you'll need to quickly become a soldering professional.
Soldering Irons and StationsChoosing between a soldering iron and soldering station depends on how big of a project you're working on and how much space you have available. Soldering irons are more convenient for both small projects that require a few solder joints as well as fast and easy storage.
Stand-alone soldering irons are powered by simply plugging into the wall outlet, which does not allow users to adjust the temperature of the iron. Most soldering irons include a soldering stand , but some may not. Stands are important for keeping the soldering tip clean and, of course, for safety reasons (you wouldn't want an 800°F iron balancing on the edge your desk). Jameco carries a variety of soldering irons from butane-powered irons and SMD tweezer irons to the traditional soldering iron.
40W High-Performance Soldering Iron XYTronic 200PHG-40W
Soldering stations come with a soldering stand and allow for temperature adjustment for more precise controlled soldering. Stations will take up more space on your workbench, but they're also much more convenient for bigger projects where you would need to use it on a consistent basis. Most new soldering stations have a digital display showing the exact temperature of the iron, but you can still find analog stations, which are usually available at a lower price. For those who want a heavy-duty station, there are high-powered soldering/desoldering stations with enough power to handle any job. They come equipped with everything you will need except the solder.
35W SMD Tweezer Soldering Iron XYTronic TWZ236
SolderSolder comes in many shapes and sizes: solder bars, rolls, coils, just to name a few. The type and composition of the solder is really all that matters. You can perform lead-free soldering if your application calls for it, or you can go industrial-size and use some solder bars with a solder pot. Solder pots can melt a larger quantity of solder and have it ready to be used immediately. They are helpful with larger projects that require lots of solder.
Soldering AccessoriesThere are plenty of accessories available to make your soldering experiences as fun, quick and simple as possible.
Workstations such as third hands and vises keep your project board still and steady while you handle the iron. Solder spool stands keep rolls of solder neatly in place while giving you access to as much or as little as you want. Tweezers , strippers and cutters are available individually or as sets so you can move the sensitive components on your board without having to touch them with your bare hands.
Solder flux allows solder to flow more easily and creates better contact between the solder and the board, which is especially helpful with surface-mount soldering.
If you happen to make a mistake and need to desolder, Jameco has high-quality desolder braids and desoldering pumps that will soak up the solder in seconds, leaving a nice clean work surface.
There are also formula solder paste fluxes that help make desoldering and reworking easy. It comes in a syringe with plunger and nozzle for easy and clean application. This quick video demonstrates how easy it is to work with.
Fume extractors take away the noxious fumes that soldering can produce. You should always solder in a well-ventilated area whenever possible, but when it isn't, use a fume extractor, or build your own fume extractor.
Soldering TipsSoldering requires patience. Rushing it will only decrease the quality of the solder job. If you're a beginner, take your time and be sure to add enough solder onto each joint without overdoing it. A shiny solder joint with all edges clearly contacting the pad is always a good sign. Having a clean solder tip is key to every job, so be sure to wipe clean the tip with a wet sponge and/or a brass cleaner before and after each solder joint. Impurities are passed from solder to tip every time they touch, so keep it clean.
Soldering SafetyAs with all electrical or mechanical devices, soldering stations and equipment must be handled with care. The soldering iron and tip can reach extremely high temperatures and chemicals that can be hazardous if not handled properly. Here are some simple safety precautions to follow:
• Keep soldering station out of reach of children.
• Never touch the element or tip of the soldering iron. They are very hot (200°F and above) and will cause immediate burns.
• Keep a clean work surface and avoid having flammable material near the soldering station.
• Be careful that the hot iron or tip does not touch any electrical cords.
• Do not cool an iron by dipping it into any liquids or water.
• Always work in a well ventilated area.
• Always return the soldering iron to its stand when not in use. Never set it on your workbench.
• Turn off the soldering iron when not in use. Position the soldering iron in an area where you won't have to go around it or reach over it.
With the advances in technology and the ability to fit millions of transistors and other components on seemingly ever-shrinking circuit boards, the technological advancements in soldering have also been upgraded. Soldering tips transfer heat more quickly and efficiently and stations are much more accurate and reliable than ever before. Soldering equipment has been improved along with technology in order to provide the best contact connections and allow a smooth, efficient flow of electrons. So, even if you're advanced in soldering, you could probably use some updated equipment to make your jobs even easier.
Search the entire line of soldering products, and as always, if you think we are missing anything from the offering, feel free to send us a suggestion.
You may also want to review the following articles:
Soldering a Humbling Experience
Tech Tips for Soldering Beginers
Community Forum: Soldering
Robert is a graduate from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in Electrical Engineering. He is originally from Lincoln Heights in Los Angeles, CA. His interests include sports, movies, music, and playing with cool, new gadgets.
If you have an electronics story or project you'd like to share, MyStory@Jameco.com