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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Soldering Guide


Soldering Guide

How to Solder

First a few safety precautions:

  • Never touch the element or tip of the soldering iron.
    They are very hot (about 400°C) and will give you a nasty burn.
  • Take great care to avoid touching the mains flex with the tip of the iron.
    The iron should have a heatproof flex for extra protection. An ordinary plastic flex will melt immediately if touched by a hot iron and there is a serious risk of burns and electric shock.
  • Always return the soldering iron to its stand when not in use.
    Never put it down on your workbench, even for a moment!
  • Work in a well-ventilated area.
    The smoke formed as you melt solder is mostly from the flux and quite irritating. Avoid breathing it by keeping you head to the side of, not above, your work.
  • Wash your hands after using solder.
    Solder contains lead which is a poisonous metal. 

       Preparing the soldering iron:

  • Place the soldering iron in its stand and plug in.
    The iron will take a few minutes to reach its operating temperature of about 400°C.
  • Dampen the sponge in the stand.
    The best way to do this is to lift it out the stand and hold it under a cold tap for a moment, then squeeze to remove excess water. It should be damp, not dripping wet.
  • Wait a few minutes for the soldering iron to warm up.
    You can check if it is ready by trying to melt a little solder on the tip.
  • Wipe the tip of the iron on the damp sponge.
    This will clean the tip.
  • Melt a little solder on the tip of the iron.
    This is called 'tinning' and it will help the heat to flow from the iron's tip to the joint. It only needs to be done when you plug in the iron, and occasionally while soldering if you need to wipe the tip clean on the sponge.

You are now ready to start soldering:

Good and bad soldered joints
  • Hold the soldering iron like a pen, near the base of the handle.
    Imagine you are going to write your name! Remember to never touch the hot element or tip.
  • Touch the soldering iron onto the joint to be made.
    Make sure it touches both the component lead and the track. Hold the tip there for a few seconds and...
  • Feed a little solder onto the joint.
    It should flow smoothly onto the lead and track to form a volcano shape as shown in the diagram. Apply the solder to the joint, not the iron.
  • Remove the solder, then the iron, while keeping the joint still.
    Allow the joint a few seconds to cool before you move the circuit board.
  • Inspect the joint closely.
    It should look shiny and have a 'volcano' shape. If not, you will need to reheat it and feed in a little more solder. This time ensure that both the lead and track are heated fully before applying solder. 

                          Desoldering

At some stage you will probably need to desolder a joint to remove or re-position a wire or component. There are two ways to remove the solder:
Using a desoldering pump (solder sucker)
1.  With a desoldering pump (solder sucker)
  • Set the pump by pushing the spring-loaded plunger down until it locks.
  • Apply both the pump nozzle and the tip of your soldering iron to the joint.
  • Wait a second or two for the solder to melt.
  • Then press the button on the pump to release the plunger and suck the molten solder into the tool.
  • Repeat if necessary to remove as much solder as possible.
  • The pump will need emptying occasionally by unscrewing the nozzle.

Solder remover wick
Photograph © Rapid Electronics
2.  With solder remover wick (copper braid)
  • Apply both the end of the wick and the tip of your soldering iron to the joint.
  • As the solder melts most of it will flow onto the wick, away from the joint.
  • Remove the wick first, then the soldering iron.
  • Cut off and discard the end of the wick coated with solder.

After removing most of the solder from the joint(s) you may be able to remove the wire or component lead straight away (allow a few seconds for it to cool). If the joint will not come apart easily apply your soldering iron to melt the remaining traces of solder at the same time as pulling the joint apart, taking care to avoid burning yourself.


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