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Soldering advice - equipment?

Discussion in 'General Talk' started by Rodm, Mar 7, 2017.

  1. Rodm

    Rodm Veteran
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    Hi,
    I've done a lot of soldering but that was on copper plumbing pipe. My hands look more like bear paws than a surgeons hands but I'm up for the challenge. Any advice on how to or gear to buy would be appreciated!

    Thanks
     
  2. Kyo

    Kyo Master
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    Soldering is not to bad. A little patience and trial and error go a long way. There are a lot of helpful youtube videos for soldering but nothing quite like diving in and giving it a go.

    While I am no expert on the subject here are a few tips I have picked up and some of the equipment I like.

    - Heat the joint and not the solder. When I was just getting into soldering I found I heated the solder up to get it to "melt" rather then heating up the joint and letting the joint melt the solder

    - Clean and prep. from corrosion on old striped wires to dust and grim. A clean surface is a whole lot easier to solder.

    - Twist or braid wires together before soldering them. Don't rely on just the solder.

    - Keep your soldering iron tip clean and tinned. A corroded iron is a arse and a half to solder with.

    I really like the Hakko FX888D "Here" A little on the higher cost of things but a good unit. I also still like my little Weller "Here" still gets the job done just fine. Both are easy to get spare tips for and work well.

    A set of helping hands are nice to have when things need to be held in place. You can pick them up cheap "here" or put that 3d printer to use for a fun side project and print some "here"

    Use quality solder! This is something I shrugged off until I tried something better then the two buck packs I started with. Now I mostly use Kester rosin core solder "Here". Good stuff!
     
    #2 Kyo, Mar 7, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2017
  3. Giarc

    Giarc Master
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    Here is a free Instructables class Electronics Class That has a soldering lesson. Instructables is a great resource for fun an interesting stuff.
     
    Rodm, Rick 2.0 and Kyo like this.
  4. Jonathon Duerig

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    Useful equipment:

    - A small/cheap vice to hold your circuit boards in place if you need to solder something onto a board.

    - 'Helping Hands' or 'Third Hands'. These are weighted articulated arms with gator clips on the end. You can use it to hold a wire in place or two wires in place while your hands are busy managing solder and the soldering iron.

    - You can get cordless soldering irons powered by butane. They heat up more quickly than a standard iron and it is easier to be careful with them (no cord to pull on them).

    -D
     
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  5. gazingm42

    gazingm42 Journeyman
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    Over the years I have had cheap soldering irons. I find when I finally forked out the $$ for a nice one it made a different. As other said having helping hands or clips and hold downs help the process.
     
  6. Joe Santarsiero

    Joe Santarsiero OB addict
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    I have a couple of cheap radio shack irons floating around. They've never let me down.
    Use a damp sponge or damp folded paper towel to keep the tip tidy. The tips can be filed and sanded to your liking. I have one at about 60 degrees and it has been suitable for most jobs.
    Pick up some soldering wick too. Handy stuff if you're disassembling or applied too much to a joint.

    You don't want to overheat the joint. The heat can damage components. You want to get in and out.
    Try not to breath the fumes. Open a window or use a fume hood of you're doing a lot of soldering.
     
  7. evilc66

    evilc66 Master
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    As someone who solders electronics on an almost daily basis, here are my tips and recommendations:
    • Don't skimp on the iron. Weller is a good respected brand and makes quality equipment. As such, they fail less often and will have a ton of accessory tips available for different kinds of work. The 40W Weller soldering station that @Kyo linked to is my personal recommendation for an entry level soldering iron. It will serve you well.
    • Don't skimp on the solder. Avoid lead free solder like the plague. Most hobbyist quality irons that aren't temperature controlled don't get hot enough to properly melt lead free solder. Stick with 60/40 or 63/37 rosin core solder. It's strong, low resistance, and easy to work with. As for size, don't get too big, and don't get too small. Too large of a diameter just makes a mess on small wires. Too small ends up requiring you to feed a ton of it into the joint, and the flux burns off quicker. 0.050" diameter is a decent middle ground. 0.030" or smaller is great for fine work, like pcb level work, but it's a little too small for wire.
    • As has been mentioned before, watch a few YouTube videos. It's not particularly hard to solder. Most of it is in the prep work. Seeing as you have done copper pipe soldering, you know exactly what that entails (fortunately, no emery cloth or wire brushes this time ;) ).
    • Getting a paste flux is optional, but can help with stubborn joints. Don't try and use the flux from copper pipe, as it's highly corrosive.
    • For wire splices, learn how to make a lineman splice. It's as strong of a splice as you can get. Just don't add too much solder. You want to limit the solder to the joint, and not have it wick further down the wire. It just makes the wire brittle and it will fatigue and break.
    • Don't solder crimped connections assuming that it's making the connection stronger. It actually does the opposite.
    • Get a good assortment of polyolefin heat shrink tubing. It's more durable than PVC or vinyl heat shrink, and shrinks smaller than both of the others.
     
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  8. evilc66

    evilc66 Master
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    You never want to do that. Filing the tip takes the plating off, and is near impossible to replace after the fact. Tip tinners don't work (they are more for removing stubborn oxide layers on the tip). You may be able to get away with that on cheap Radioshack irons, but don't ever do that with any decent iron.
     
  9. dddman

    dddman Master
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    Hakko 936 if you can find one as the model is discontinued :(
     
  10. Joe Santarsiero

    Joe Santarsiero OB addict
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    Yeah. They're cheap and unplated copper to begin with. I keep them tinned. They wet no problem and I haven't had to touch up the tips in years. Good enough to heat the joint. If it's cheap and gets the job done then why not? We have several weller pens, pen stations and guns at work. To me they all do the same thing. I don't solder on a day to day basis, but I have soldered for a couple of decades now. I don't think one needs to spend $100 for a job when they can get it done for less than $20. If you need an iron for a one time project and it'll just get thrown in a drawer or toolbox for months after then pickup something cheap. You'll learn the same thing. I would recommend at least a 25watt iron though.
    I like .032" wire and have a roll of 60/40 that has been my go to for general use at home for years. I like the control of it for soldering 14 to 22 gauge. I used a $10 15/25watt RS special with that wire for my build. The iron, wick, and wire cost less than $20 some years ago and is about the same today.
    I think the point here is that if you're going to get heavy into soldering electronics then you probably should dish out the dough for a nice variable wattage station with a selection of fancy iron coated tips. If you're just looking for an iron to keep in the toolbox for auto, appliance, and the occasional cnc build you can get away with an economy kit.
     
  11. Rodm

    Rodm Veteran
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    Thanks everyone,
    I went with the Weller, a set of helping hands, solder as suggested and solder wick. The Instructables link - free classes in electronics, cnc, 3d printing looks like it will be lots of help.
     
    GrayUK likes this.
  12. Brian Slee

    Brian Slee Veteran
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    #12 Brian Slee, Mar 13, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2017
    Anthony Bolgar likes this.
  13. Anthony Bolgar

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    Great resource Brian Slee
     

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