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    Quick and Dirty Guide to Soldering [beginners please read]


    If you're going to be playing with microprocessors and the like, chances are you'll be doing a lot of soldering. I wish I'd known all this before I wasted hours fixing my mistakes. You'll make your own, but hopefully you won't be repeating mine.

    First, make sure you have the appropriate tools.
    You can buy a starter $100 kit from adafruit, here.

    The absolute minimum you need is this:

    1) You need electronics solder. None of the heavy, thick stuff. You'll want the thin solder, and you'll want to buy half a pound at a time, at least.

    60/40 Lead Solder, rosin core .031” - 1 pound for eleven bucks.
    http://www.elexp.com/sdr_0700.htm

    credit http://hackadaycom.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/dscn1486.jpg


    2) You'll need a soldering iron. Don't use coldheat! They look cool, but the tips break easily and are extremely expensive (10 bucks per little tip!!), the solder doesn't get hot enough, and you might fry your components because the coldheat device uses electricity to heat up the solder.

    You'll want a flathead or conical tip. Make sure the point is as sharp as possible! You'll need it for when you have to get into the small spaces.

    A basic radioshack model may work just fine.
    A better model can be found here:
    http://www.elexp.com/sdr_5258.htm

    credit http://www.elexp.com/solder/605258.jpg
    Feel free to buy one of each tip as well, if you want to spend the extra $13.


    3) Cutters. I used basic diagonal cutters and they worked fine for me. You might want shear cutters. Whatever you find works best, go for it.

    credit http://mactackle.com/secureshopping/images/mustad_7inch_heavy_duty_wire_cutters.jpg

    credit http://www.annemade-jewelry.com/wire_cutters.jpg


    4) A desoldering tool. This is for when you make mistakes. Incredibly easy to use - push the shaft down, position the intake near your hot solder, click the button. The solder gets sucked in and hits the metal pole, where it instantly cools and hardens. Push the shaft all the way down to remove the collected hardened solder occasionally. If you want it can be reused but I'd recommend not reusing used solder.

    They cost less than $3.
    http://www.elexp.com/sdr_0802.htm

    credit http://www.drillspot.com/pimages/101/10199_300.jpg

    A more in-depth list can be found here.





    Now, on to the basic soldering guidelines.

    PCB - printed circuit board
    Lead - the thin metal stick attached to either side of your component.
    IC - integrated circuit - this is the chip

    Most of your basic projects will be soldering basic components on a through-hole printed circuit board (PCB).

    Step 1: Put the component where it belongs so that the leads are sticking all the way through. Pay attention to direction (important with LEDs, electrolytic capacitors - the big circular ones, and diodes, among others; not important for ceramic capacitors, inductors, resistors). Generally the components that must be put in a certain direction will be asymmetrical in shape or painted differently on either end, or the leads will be different lengths.

    Step 2: Bend the leads outwards so the leads are almost flat against the board. This ensures that the component does not fall out when you flip the PCB upside-down.

    Step 3: Touch the soldering iron simultaneously to the lead and the PCB. You should be touching a small copper ring that the lead is poking through. Generally a second or two is enough for this to get hot. I usually only wait a second before I move on to

    Step 4: Bring the solder and touch the tip to the lead and the PCB. You may or may not be touching the iron itself. Either way, it should start to melt almost instantly. Now, your hand that is holding the solder shouldn't move - the tip of the solder will melt off leaving the rest of the solder instact. The part that melts off should create a shiny bead that will fill in the hole between the PCB and the lead. Once this happens, remove the soldering iron. It should look like this:


    credit http://www.lesliewong.us/images/monitor/3.jpg

    See how the circled joint isn't shiny, and everything else is? That's a cold joint. All the other joints are shiny and good. If you get a joint that isn't shiny, touch the iron to it until it flows freely and fills up the hole and shines.

    Another example:

    hot:

    credit http://www.rchelisite.com/images/soldering/soldering7.jpg

    cold:

    credit http://www.rchelisite.com/images/soldering/soldering8.jpg

    Step 5: Remove any extra with the desoldering pump.

    Note:
    Try to keep the heat on for as little a time as possible for electrolytic capacitors.
    Also, when your project has chips, make sure you're using chip holders like these:

    IC holder (IC = integrated circuit)

    credit http://gssl.rolandklinkenberg.com/images/ichouder.jpg

    ICs (the actual chips)

    credit http://www.hytek.in/images/Integrated_Circuit.jpg

    So when you use a holder, you're avoiding the risk of burning the IC with your iron, and if the IC dies you just pop it out and pop another in without having to solder anything.




    So this was the basic tutorial. For more in-depth guides, search the web or check out ladyada.net projects.

    Comments on this post

    • swattkidd agrees
    • aitken325i agrees
    • jwdonahue agrees : Good stuff gimp. One nit: these days surface mount is far more common than thru-hole.
    Last edited by gimp; October 6th, 2009 at 03:02 PM.
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    One point worth mentioning is to ensure that you start with the lowest profile components first when assembling a PCB. This way when you flip it upside down, the component you are working on will be touching the desk, which will help to ensure that it is tight to the PCB.
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    I completely agree, but for two things:

    If you do the trick where you put in the component then bend out the leads, the component doesn't fall out or even move when you flip it over.

    If you use a third arm, you don't end up pressing it against the desk.
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    Originally Posted by gimp
    I completely agree, but for two things:

    If you do the trick where you put in the component then bend out the leads, the component doesn't fall out or even move when you flip it over.

    If you use a third arm, you don't end up pressing it against the desk.
    I find that when I bend the leads, I don't get a perfect looking joint, as the little bit of leg pokes out at an angle.

    Then I don't use the third arm for the reason above...
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    Ah, I see. I find that bending the leads is actually much quicker than pressing the PCB down so that the element you're soldering is pressed against the table. This way I can be lazy and even without a third arm let the PCB just chill there.

    However I still do follow the rule, just not religiously. If I do a capacitor before a resistor, no big deal. But I still try to do all my flat-lying resistors first, as a rule.

    When I do my joints, I find that less solder makes the joint look cleaner, and this allows me to cut the wire closer to the base, which makes it not appear to stick out to the side too much. I agree that straight-up-sticking wire looks better but honestly the damn thing is going inside somewhere where I won't be looking at the reverse side of the PCB. Aesthetics matter less, in this case, than working as quickly and efficiently as possible - and I found something like a 50-100% increase in how many components I can solder in a given time using this technique.
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    Thanks for this quick little tutorial, back when I was tinkering with things like this it was really tough to find a tutorial that was just basic and helpful like this so I am sure a lot of beginners like myself will find help in this!
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    Thread stickied. Good tutorial, Gimp.

    Comments on this post

    • gimp agrees
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    Miniguide: Tinning multi-strand wire
    So sometimes you'll cut your wire and instead of a single thicker copper wire, you'll see a bunch - maybe 6, or 8 - of thin copper wires. They're not woven, but just next to each other. Now, let's say you want to use this wire for sticking into microprocessor pins or breadboard sockets. Sucks, right?

    So here's what I do.

    1) Expose the wire (usually on both ends, obviously). An inch should be fine.
    2) Get small needle-nose pliers and grab the wire. Grab it as close to the insulation as possible. Grab rather gently - like, you don't want the pliers to be sliding easily, but you don't want to be squeezing too hard.
    3) Twirl the wire, keep the pliers in place. That first twirl, the tip of the wires will start going all out to the sides.
    4) As you twirl the wire, move the pliers slowly upwards towards the tip.
    5) Your exposed wire should now be wrapped around itself in a nice helical structure. Feel free to run over it again to make it tighter. I usually do one or two extra passes; the extra passes take a second.
    6) Now take a soldering iron, get some solder, and melt some solder onto the wire. You should soon have a thin silver coat. Perfect!
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    “Rational thinkers deplore the excesses of democracy; it abuses the individual and elevates the mob. The death of Socrates was its finest fruit.”
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    Alternative soldering guide, goes more in-depth for some things.
    http://www.epemag.wimborne.co.uk/solderfaq.htm

    Issues with coldheat
    http://www.epemag.wimborne.co.uk/cold-soldering2.htm
    Last edited by gimp; October 5th, 2009 at 07:21 PM.
    Chat Server Project & Tutorial | WiFi-remote-control sailboat (building) | Joke Thread
    “Rational thinkers deplore the excesses of democracy; it abuses the individual and elevates the mob. The death of Socrates was its finest fruit.”
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    -Partial Credit: Sun

    If I ask you to redescribe your problem, it's because when you describe issues in detail, you often get a *click* and you suddenly know the solutions.
    Ches Koblents
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    A standard consumable on every soldering bench is a large supply of super glue. This is especially true these days with the prevalence of surface mount components. One tiny little dot of the stuff on the bottom of an IC or other component sticks it to the board. No bending of pins or wires AND you can use a third arm and avoid mechanically stressing your components during the soldering process. Note that the stuff you buy at the supermarket with the big plastic tip is not what you're looking for. You need to head down to your local electronics hobbyist shop or go online and buy the kind that has the long thin needle to dispense the glue.

    Wires are a bit tricky. You have to stick them in and then carefully place a tiny dot of glue between the insulation and the board, but be very careful you don't cause the liquid to wick down into your thru-hole. Just press down firmly on the wire and avoid wiggling it until the glue dries.

    I often glue all the of the components to a board before I even warm up my soldering Iron (a Weller WES51), but I don't recommend this practice to the inexperienced because you will likely miss some pins here and there. If you are new to soldering, start by soldering one part at a time. When you've successfully built up a few boards that way, progress to doing all of one kind of component (starting with lowest profile first) all at once, but continue to do IC's one at a time until you've succeeded at a few more boards.

    Soldering works muscle groups in your hand, arm and back in ways that is like few other activities. Take frequent breaks. Hobbyists who don't spend hours every day soldering, should stand up and do some stretching and walk around a bit every 15 minutes or so. If you haven't done any soldering in more than a month, it's wise to practice on something before you start on your project. I keep some copper plated perf board on my bench for this purpose. When the holes get filled up, I just desolder the board and reuse it.

    Note to that there is a big difference between soldering an IC pin and soldering a 20 gauge wire. The larger the metallic mass, the more energy it takes to bring it up to soldering temperature. Large ground planes or extra thick traces can take longer to heat up then the object you are trying to solder to them. Put your soldering tip on the larger mass until it gets hot, then move to the actual joint and apply solder. It can also help if you just put a dab of solder down to "stick" the tip to the work. It will help to conduct heat faster and acts as an indicator when the work area is hot enough for solder to flow.
    Last edited by jwdonahue; November 7th, 2009 at 06:30 AM. Reason: spelling
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