Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Soldering Tips and Tricks for Beginners - Tools and Equipment

If you look at the electronic boards or any electronic devices the soldering part seems very easy and smooth. That is not really the case in reality as a lot people will fail in the beginning due to lack of knowledge, experience, and tools they need to perform the basic good soldering technique.

I am learning from experience and of course it wasn't easy at first just like most beginners do. Sometimes solder applied too much or sometimes the solder iron taking too long to heat up or too fast and too hot as a result the board getting burnt. But the worst of all is the solder blob and getting difficult to stick to the board and slipped away.

Here is my experience how i gather most of the basic things that i need in soldering.

Choosing Solder Iron Wattage.

Most people recommend 30 watt for beginners - but i don't think so even at 40 watt to 50 watt is not good enough. Because you want the solder iron to work on most of electronic board including the factory manufactured board. At 30 watt it will takes longer time for the solder iron to heat up -
and you will have longer time waiting and sometimes it doesn't work on factory manufactured electronic board because they use a mix of nickel solder which is harder than lead.So it is harder to de-solder the components.

From my experience 60 watt is the most ideal to use because it fits almost all kind of board and solder coil type. However not to choose high than that because getting too hot going to burnt the board pretty easily if you are not experience enough to use it.

Solder Iron with Temperature Control

Many cheap solder iron doesn't come with temperature control - although it is usable but it can make life very difficult. As a beginner you will have a lot of thinking and waiting in between when soldering something because you want to make sure the component connection are correct.

Solder iron without temperature control you will have the hassle of switching it on and off all the time. Because if you don't the solder iron will keep heating and overheating up to any temperature as long as you don't turn it off. And that has the risk of burning the board or components that you are soldering. This one the beginners don't really know that solder iron - without temperature control cannot be on all the time.

Getting solder iron with temperature control is great but of course it's more expensive than without temperature control. The advantage of it is you can keep it on and maintain the temperature at the same level. Usually temperature controlled are sold in package of solder station.

Solder tip cleaner.

The most overlook item in soldering is the tip cleaner - most beginners think or maybe don't that you need to clean the tip all the time before solder something. Because the left over solder can mess the soldering process if not clean well as it contents oxidize element that prevent it from sticking on board. You don't have to buy the expensive specially made for soldering - the kitchen cleaning scourer spiral ball is good enough and it is extremely cheap. There is not much different between the specially made solder tip cleaner than the cheap kitchen scorer steel spiral ball to clean dishware.

Solder Heating Element - Ceramic vs Ni-chrome wire

Cheap solder iron mostly using nichrome wire heating element - this is because they are cheaper to make. One disadvantage of the nichrome is the concentration of heat is not distributed equally and it emanate to all over the place. The problem of this is making the solder result less neat. Despite of that the nichrome type is still widely used today because its simply cheap to buy and ideal for electronic beginner.

The ceramic heating element solder - is for the mid-range and higher range solder. It is a little bit expensive but the good side of the ceramic heating element is the concentration of heat. It makes it easier to solder and the result very neat. I've used 40 watt before and it's really better than those nichrome type.

Solder Flux

Not many newbie in soldering knows if flux exist in soldering - this one of the most important material to make the solder stick properly. You can call it the cooking oil of soldering - and what it does is to provide even heat and penetrate into the solder and the object. As a result it stick tightly. Although most solder coil today comes with flux core in it but sometimes the flux still needed to assist especially in SMD soldering. The flux also can be used to fix excess solder.

Solder Pump / Solder vacuum sucker

Solder pump or solder sucker is used to remove solder by sucking it. Choose a bigger one to have more air power sucker than a smaller one. - manual solder pump is good enough. There are electric powered solder pump but too expensive for a beginner to use such a thing. Just use the manual solder vacuum pump easily available in mr.DIY, 100% superstore, supersave.

You will need this because mistakes is unavoidable in soldering especially when there are a lot of components involved. So the solder vacuum sucker can helps to fix mistakes in soldering.

Isoprophyl alcohol alternative medication - solder cleaner

Isoprophyl alcohol is another thing that beginners don't know if it is required in soldering. Well this is one of the most important thing to have before and after soldering. Sometimes you have a electronic board which the copper is already faded. That is not a dirt but oxidation like rust - because copper is very electrically conductive element. And it need to be cleaned - if it is not clean the solder will slip and having difficulties to stick. A perfect clean surface making the solder easily seat neatly in place without blob.

After soldering is done there are might some flux or burnt by accident on the board. You can clean it with isoprophy alcohol. The best is to use 99% isoprophyl alcohol but if there are non you can get 70% alcohol swabs easily available from the pharmacy as alternative. Not the best but good enough - and i am using it most of the time because 99% Isopropyl are prohibited to transport by air due to its flammable nature.

Solder Assist 3rd Helping Hand stand (flexible)

Solder assist 3rd hand is another important equipment to have when soldering - as you only have two hands where one holding the solder iron and another holding the solder coil you need something to hold grip on the object intended for soldering. However not all solder assist hand are as useful as they are - and for that it's better to get the most flexible one or you can make it out of flexible camera pod stand.

One good unorthodox solder assist helping hand is clay dough - if you never thought of this it's the best so far in my experience. The clay dough can hold the electronic board better than the crocodile clip hand. Apart from that it can stick which is a good alternative to a tape - you can hold a single component by sticking the clay dough on it and grip it on the board while you flip it over for soldering. You can get a children playing dough from toy store.

In summary the above tips and tricks are good enough to solder something to ease your frustration especially if your solder not sticking. Of course continuous practice make you better in soldering.

Advanced Soldering equipment and materials

* Using different tips and solder station
* Hot air gun
* Soldering Oven
* Stencil - SMD soldering
* Solder paste

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