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Friday, 03 July 2009 21:07

Soldering is one of those skills that with just 30 minutes of practice you become an expert for life. How many things can you say that about. 


Proper Tools

Having the proper tools makes all the difference in the world. With the correct tools soldering will be simple. With the wrong tools soldering properly would be very difficult. Also, contrary to belief,  you don't need any expensive or fancy tools to solder properly.  All of the tools you will need to master soldering can be purchased at your local Radio Shack store for under thirty dollars total.

So here is your Radio Shack shopping list. 

Item #1) 25-40 Watt  "Pencil" Soldering Iron ( See photo below )   Cost - $10.00 at your local Radio Shack store. This is absolutly the most important factor in learning to solder correctly. Do not fall for the fancy irons being sold such as the cold solder irons, butane irons, etc. All you need is a very simple 25-40 Watt pencil iron.  


Item #2) Desoldering Iron - See Photo Below - Cost - $12.00  at your local Radio Shack Store. This is the second most important tool you will want to own. This will make de-soldering the a breeze.  

Item #3) Silver-Bearing Solder  - Cost between 3.00  - 5.00 at your local Radio Shack Store - Get the smallest diameter solder you can find.  If you can't find silver solder just get the thinnest solder you can purchase. 


Item #4) Solder Board - Costs around $1.99 at Radio Shack.   We highly recommend picking up one of these boards so that you can practice your soldering / de-soldering before doing any actual repairs. Just make sure you buy the one that has the copper foil around the holes as shown below. If you buy the one without the foil around the hole the solder will not stick. 



Item #6) Dip Socket  - Costs around 99 cents at Radio Shack.  These are inexpensive and great for practicing your soldering. Simply pop it into the solder board shown above and solder / de-solder a few times. You can also pick up a few resistors and cheap IC chips if you like.


 Preparation and Practice

After the tools the second most important thing to master soldering is preparing the tools and  proper technique.

First lets start with preparing the iron for soldering.

  1. Plug in the soldering iron and let it reach a high temperature. This will typically take 5 minutes.
  2. Next wipe away any existing solder or contaminants on the tip of the iron with a wet sponge.
  3. Place the solder on the very end of the cleaned soldering iron tip. Keep the solder in place until it begins to melt. Move the solder all over the tip in an even coat. This is called tinning.

Now that the soldering iron tip has been tinned you are ready to pratice your soldering skills.

  1. Place the tip of the iron on the board at the base of the part that you want to solder. See the photo below.
  2. Count to 3 - As you count to 3 touch the end of the solder on the opposite side of the part your are trying to solder. It should melt quickly and make a nice volcano looking shape. See the photos below.
  3. If the solder globs up and does not form a volcano shape you are either using too much solder or your iron is  not hot enough yet.
  4. If you don't get it right the 1st time just repeat the above step until you get it right. 

Don't forget to watch our video here ( Click Here)






 Correct Solder shape shown below -Volcano shaped


Wrong solder shape shown below  - Too much solder or glob shaped.



Note: We highly recommend using a desoldering iron like the one shown below. You can purchase one from Radio Shack for under fifteen dollars. It is the easiest device to use for desoldering.

First lets start with preparing the de-soldering iron. The one above is what we highly suggest you use. It can be purchases at any Radio Shack for under 20.00

  1. Plug in the de-soldering iron and let it reach its operating temperature. This will typically take 5 minutes.
  2. Next depress the bulb a few times to make sure its working and to blow out any old solder that may be still in the iron.

Now that the de-soldering iron is prepared you are ready to practice your de-soldering skills.

  1. Press and hold the suction bulb in while you place the tip of the de-soldering iron on the the part that you want to unsolder.  See the photo below.
  2. Once the solder begins to melt simply release the bulb. This will force the melted solder to get sucked up into the bulb and away from the board.
  3. Next you will want to blow out the solder by squeezing the bulb a few times over some tin foil. The foil will catch the melted solders its blown out of the iron.
  4. Repeat the same steps above for the remaining parts you want to de-solder.
  5. If you desolder a part and it still will not come loose there is probably a trace amount of solder holding it down. Just place the de-soldering iron on the pin again and jiggle it a bit. This will typically loosen up any stuck pins.

Here is an example of how simple desoldering can be, 

An alternative to a desoldering iron is to use desoldering braid. This product is a specially treated fine copper braid which draws molten solder up into the braid where it solidifies. The best way is to use the tip of the hot iron to press a short length of braid down onto the joint to be de-soldered. The iron will subsequently melt the solder, which will be drawn up into the braid. Take extreme care to ensure that you don't allow the solder to cool with the braid adhering to the work, or you run the risk of damaging p.c.b. copper tracks when you attempt to pull the braid off the joint.

Note that we do not recommend this method unless you have done it before or spend time practicing. 

That is it! After thirty minutes of practice you should be a master at soldering and de-soldering.

Here are two examples of both good and bad soldering.