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Getting started soldering

I have a project over the next few weeks which is going to involve an amount of soldering. The last time I did any soldering I was around 5, and was mostly fooling around (with adult supervision I hasten to add) desoldering components from old radios, etc… So to say that I’m a bit rusty is an understatement.

Because of this, is anyone here able to point me in the right direction regarding getting started in this voodoo art?

  • What equipment do I need?
  • What equipment do you recommend?
  • What can I do to get some practice in before I start on my actual project?

Thanks.

Get a temperature controlled soldering station.
They aren’t expensive - even from maplin -
http://www.maplin.co.uk/search?text=temperature+controlled+soldering+station&x=0&y=0

Don’t use a damp sponge to clean your bit - get a brass shavings cleaner -

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Soldering-Iron-Tip-Cleaner-80mm-Brass-Wool-Shavings-Heavy-Duty-Cleaning-Pad-/322021618123

Then I’d buy some Velleman project kits and solder em up - they are simple and do stuff.

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That brass thing is cool. Why is brass better? I know nothing about soldering at all :slight_smile:

When you clean the bit with a wet sponge it makes them corrode much quicker. I always used to have bits with notches out of them where they’d rotted away.
A wet sponge also cools your bit - which isn’t good.

I’ve used the same bit for as least 2-3 years now with a brass cleaner and it’s still like new.

The brass cleaners work simply by, non-abrasively, wiping off “stuff” and also capturing excess solder because they are thin enough to take the heat and, subsequently, the solder.

You can get steel wool ones - I wouldn’t though - brass is softer than the iron’s bit.

Aah, that’s why it’s brass! I was thinking: steel wool exists, right? But that’d actually scratch the soldering tip. That makes sense. :slight_smile:

I once spent a summer job removing mains leads off imported movie projectors and soldering on new ones. I’m still useless. It IS a dark art :slight_smile:

The temperature control is a top tip. Also make sure the flex actually flexes, or learn to become impervious to pain as you put it down and it twists itself onto the back of your hand. Wear safety specs. It’s surprisingly easy to fire a blob of molten solder if you slip.

I had to do some soldering recently for attaching the GPIO header to my raspberry pi zero.

When I couldn’t find my old kit, I went online, got a soldering iron kit for 17 quid, some solder, the tip clean device mentioned ( only just arrived ) and a mat.

Soldering was somewhat more challenging than I remember.

Personally - my advice to you would be to use a breadboard whenever you can, and for practice, grab some wire and a pack of these.

This is exactly what I need to do, specifically because I want to attach a Scroll pHAT to it.

While doing some research last night, I found this video:

I don’t know what it is about this guy, but he has a sort of “Geek Cool” going on (and remind me a lot of Rob from Playstation Access). The rest of his videos are also awesome - I was up way too late last night watching them.

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You’ll have to know what max heat your component (ie: transistor) can withstand. A 40W soldering iron is standard. If you want to go deep, look up solder flux. His soldering looks amature lol.

Saw on my feed that Bigclivedotcom has just put a soldering video up.

This one?

I watched it last night :wink:

I got a cheap soldering iron, along with a Velleman kit yesterday, and so today I’ve I’ve just finished my first soldering job:

https://vine.co/v/iDqpd9b57Ln

As you can see, it wasn’t 100% successful - no idea what I did wrong (possibly killed one of the LEDs on that circuit, or a loose piece of solder), but the fact that any of the light up at all is a amazing.

I very nearly picked up a variable temperature soldering iron, but figured it’s best to start cheap, and spend more money once I’m using it enough to make it worth the extra expense. I also wanted to get some extra bits, so figured an Electronics Tool Kit was probably the best option.

I often had some trouble making the solder melt, so I think my technique could probably be improved. The iron itself didn’t have a stand, but I was able to balance it on its side without the tip touching anything. Having to hold everything in place with my hands was also a hastle, so I’m going to invest in a hands free stand.

@LimeBlast any chance the ones which aren’t lighting up are reverse-biased (aka connected the wrong way around)?

It’s possible, but I was careful to put them in the right way around, and upon inspecting the LEDs, I can’t see any which are in backwards.

What the reverse looks like?

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Flip flop was my first circuit back in my electronics class in the year 1999.

In descending order of must have to nice to have.

Lead solder, with a rosin core. Trust me, the lead free stuff is terrible.

A fume extractor (aka a fan) or a good draft, so you aren’t breathing said lead.

Hot soapy water - for use afterwards, so you don’t transfer said lead from your hands to your food.

A multimeter, even if you only ever use the beeping continuity tester.

Something to hold the board/components in place. I’ve used/use pliers + an elastic band around the handlers, a brick + blu tack, masking tape, helping hands.

A solder sucker & a reel of copper braid. Solder removal is a skill in itself. None of the methods work for all situations.

TS 100 soldering iron. Just because it’s a cheapish, temperature controlled iron that fits in your pocket. Needs an old 12-24v PSU you probably have lying around. I just got one, used it a few times and been impressed.1

Side note: Maplin are convenient, but you pay through the nose. RS Components have a Birmingham branch & you can order online/collect in store.

A pack of assorted components and some strip board (aka vero board). Don’t try to make a functioning circuit - just pack em in until you’ve run out of space or components. Hopefully you’ll see a progression of your improvement.


  1. I also have a nice prepared rant about this product as an object lesson in good interfaces, I’ll bring both along to Silicon Canal next time.
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I wonder if this is why I’ve been having trouble making the solder melt?

The kit I got has a multimeter in it, and the instructions provided (that is, a scrap of photocopied paper) mention a continuity tester - but looking at it, I don’t think it has.

I tried to do this yesterday (wanted to remove the header pins from the LCD screen I had, so I could re-attach them straight), utterly failed.

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