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Joe Grand and I got together last year to shoot this 19 minute video that teaches you how to solder and desolder. This is required watching for anyone wanting to get into DIY electronics.

In this video you’ll learn lots of tips and tricks that will make you a much better solderer. I grew up teaching myself to solder and since making this video with Joe, my soldering skills have improved a lot! I don’t overheat parts, I make less cold-solder joints, and in general my soldering is significantly neater.

Solder2

In this video, you’ll learn the three ways to desolder parts too, which is a really important skill for circuit bending and hardware hacking. Learning how to use solder-wick, a solder sucker, and the Chip Quik kit will give you extra skill points and make you an awesome electronic deconstructionist.

Here’s an mp4 that plays on pretty much everything. Here’s a bigger mp4 for the HD fiends. Here’s a 3gp and 3g2 for people who like to watch on their phones! Of course if you subscribe in iTunes, the videos and accompanying PDF get downloaded automatically for you, no muss no fuss.

Note: This video is too long to go on YouTube or Revver and so you’ll have to go check it out on blip.tv or on the weekend projects page at your leisure! – Subscribe Link


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Comments

  1. p914 says:

    I have been using a Weller WTCPT soldering iron for years and I have found that having a good temperature controlled iron can make a huge difference, especially for beginners. The temperature controlled tip gives you the wattage you need to solder almost anything with a much lower risk of overheating components. The first time I used a nice Weller I was shocked at how much of a difference a quality soldering iron can make compared to the low fixed wattage pencil irons at Radio Shack. If you are going to do any serious soldering definitely consider investing in a good iron. There are several out there for around $100.

  2. bf5man_ says:

    An interesting and instructive video Bre, thanks!

  3. RonNelsonII says:

    In agreement with p914–a good soldering iron makes a world of difference. Been using an EDSYN for a while and it’s well worth the money. As with many tools, you get what you pay for. If soldering drives you crazy, try using a better tool (maybe check out a local community college–they often have electronics departments with real-world professors).

    Didn’t view the video yet, but having the battery there seems a bad idea. You might overheat the battery and/or short something out. Kinda like working on a toaster when it’s plugged in. :-)

  4. joesmooth says:

    @bf5: Glad you liked the video!

    @Ron: In this case, the battery is completely isolated from the rest of the circuit that I’m working on and just happens to be sitting in the holder. In most cases, you’re right – you wouldn’t want to work on circuitry that is powered on or plugged in.

    -Joe

  5. joesmooth says:

    @p914: Absolutely. I use a Metcal soldering station in my lab as a primary iron and have a Weller WTCPT as a back-up. Spending the money upfront for a decent soldering setup will save you much frustration in the future.

    @bf5: Glad you liked the video!

    @Ron: In this case, the battery is completely isolated from the rest of the circuit that I’m working on and just happens to be sitting in the holder. In most cases, you’re right – you wouldn’t want to work on circuitry that is powered on or plugged in.

    -Joe

  6. n3rrd says:

    I believe you’ll find the difference you’ve noticed between a cheap iron versus a quality iron to be true with almost any sort of tool you’ll work with.

    From saws, hammers, knives, to keyboards, a quality tool can mean the difference between a pleasurable working experience or a frustrating one.

  7. thomasswift says:

    Great video!

    I have a cheap cheap radio shack soldering iron, and it can be frustrating to use.

    That is a neat stand, is that commercially available?

  8. joesmooth says:

    @thomas: The vice is a PanaVise Junior (I purchased from Jameco #134439CR, http://www.jameco.com, but available all over the place) and the soldering iron stand is a Weller PH60 (From Stanley Supply Services #113-372, http://www.stanleysupplyservices.com).

    The iron I’m using in the video is a Weller WP25 (25W, 750 degrees), which is suitable for most projects (Stanley #112-074).

    Joe

  9. thomasswift says:

    @joe: thanks for the information, as well as the tips in the video.

    happy soldering!

  10. sergio101 says:

    this is very cool..

    one thing i would like to see..

    a tutorial on soldering surface mount components..

    another thing that might be neat to mention..

    on kits..

    amateur radio is a really cool way to build and solder stuff that actually lets you go on the air and talk to people..

    it’s fun.. cheap.. and you get something you can use in the end..

    off the top of my head, some links are:

    http://www.elecraft.com/ – they have a neat backpakcing one..

    http://www.smallwonderlabs.com/ fun little radios..

    there are a ton of other cool kits for digital and gps applications too..

    let me know if anyone is interested..

    thanks for the great video!

  11. skanonymous says:

    Do not watch this video. This guy doesn’t know how to solder. He’s got no clue what he’s doing. If you solder like that, you’ll kill your tip (indeed, much as his tip is already partially dead). You don’t want to keep your tip clean for more than a second or two — you want it constantly covered with a thin layer of solder. When you clean it, you immediately apply a few drops of solder to it. Otherwise, the tip will oxidize, and it won’t work too well. The thin layer of solder also helps improve thermal conduction. You also keep solder on it when you store it.

    You also don’t want a ball of solder on a pin. It’s supposed to be concave, so you can inspect the joint. If it’s a good joint, it’ll spread to the whole pin/pad. The concavity is what lets you inspect to make sure it’s a good joint. It also lets you see when the joint is properly made (when you see the solder reflowing to stick to the whole joint), so you can take the iron off, and not overheat things.

    You can also overheat parts. His SMT desoldering technique seems designed to do that, although his soldering technique is pretty good at overheating things as well.

    Weller has a good guide to soldering at: http://www.cooperhandtools.com/brands/electronic_applications/55578.pdf

    Read that, and you’ll have a clue. Watch someone who knows how to solder from industry, and you’ll have a clue. Watch this guy, and you’ll kill soldering iron tips, make bad joints, and overheat parts.

  12. skanonymous says:

    One more thing. In contrast to what he said, a soldering iron isn’t just anything that’s hot. As many people have pointed out, a proper soldering iron is a good investment and makes a big difference. You need to heat up the joint quickly, so that you can do the soldering before the chip gets too hot. This dictates that the soldering iron needs to be hot enough. On the other hand, if it’s too hot, you’ll also heat damage the part. To do good soldering, you really need a temperature-controlled iron. This can be a fixed temperature (in these, usually the tip sets the temperature, and you can’t change it on the fly) or a variable temperature (usually, a knob), but there needs to be a feedback loop maintaining a fixed, proper iron temperature. I always solder at 700F (the recommended range is 700-800F). A fixed wattage iron causes big problems for electronics work (they’re primarily designed for electrical work).

    Personally, I use the Weller WESD51/WES51 at home and at school. They’re good irons, and $100-$200. I’ve also used some cheap $30 brandless temp-controlled irons, and while they were noticeably worse, I found it actually didn’t make a big difference in soldering. The major difference was that the tips didn’t last nearly as long, but that may have been specific to the off-brand I used. But having a feedback loop setting the temperature is essential — a fixed-wattage Radio Shack iron just doesn’t cut it.

  13. joesmooth says:

    @skanonymous – Thanks for the comments. Some of your points are correct, except I’ve been soldering for almost 25 years and have never killed a soldering iron tip or overheated parts to the point of damaging them. Practice makes perfect and you don’t need the highest-end equipment to preform decent soldering. It’s more about technique than anything else and practice makes perfect.

    If you were familiar with the Chip-Quik SMD removal kit, you would realize that the entire premise of the alloy is to reduce the overall melting point of the solder that is on the board, dramatically reducing the risk of overheating parts. The method I demonstrated for SMD removal is just one of many possible methods, but one I enjoy due to the ease of the alloy.

    Remember that this video is just a *starting point* for the hobbyist community and shouldn’t be treated as gospel (nor should anything else on the Internet). I’d love to continue discussions with you, if I knew how to contact you, but you’ve obviously posted anonymously for a reason.

    -Joe

  14. paulcox says:

    Thanks for the tutorial. Question from a newbie. What is the difference between soldering and desoldering stations? Can you do both with just a soldering station or iron? Thanks again!

  15. skanonymous says:

    @Joe – Most people who kill tips don’t actually realize they’ve killed their tip — they’re used to soldering with bad tips, so they don’t see the difference. That’s what I’ve seen the vast majority of college students do. They kill the tip in the first little bit of use, and then solder with a bad one. What happens is that the surface of the tip, when hot and exposed to air, oxidizes. This isn’t a black tip — it’s just a bit darker and duller looking than a new tip. After that, it doesn’t conduct heat nearly as well, and solder doesn’t stick to it as well. Once the tip is damaged, it’s difficult or impossible to solder properly (e.g. it’s impossible to properly coat the tip with a thin layer of solder). This type of damage takes a surprisingly short time. I cannot believe you’ve never damaged a tip — I don’t claim to be an expert, but my soldering technique is much better than yours, and my tips will certainly degrade over time. When tips get used the way you use them, they get killed extremely quickly (although they can sometimes be restored with some flux).

    Thermal damage to parts is similarly subtle. You very rarely heat up a part to the point that it stops working. What happens is that parts will be a little less accurate. Barring an impressively large amount of damage (which I’ve only seen from complete beginners), the circuit will continue to function — just not quite as well. Your A/D might not be accurate to quite as many bits, or your bandgap reference might be off by a few mV.

    Cold joints are similar, by the way, in that their effects are fairly subtle. If you make a cold solder joint, where the solder touches (rather than alloys with) the metal you are soldering to, the joint will still work fine for a while. The problem is that it will corrode over time, and eventually it may either get noisy or fail altogether. This is one of the (many) reasons why hobbyist projects sometimes fail after a few years of service. It will also be mechanically weak, and if it is connecting e.g. a through-hole capacitor, may mechanically break over time (this matters less with e.g. 48 pin SMTs). If you’re building ultra-high-precision instrumentation electronics, the contact between the two different metals in the cold joint may also give some of the problems you get from connectors (when two different metals touch, the contact point acts as a very weak diode), but this last one shouldn’t matter for anything normal.

    I agree you don’t need very high end equipment to do soldering — but you do want some temperature control. You can find cheap, fixed or controlled temperature soldering irons for under $20 on the internet. The $10 fixed wattage ones will give problems no matter how good your technique.

    In terms of ChipQuik SMD removal — that was an error on my part — I apologize. That’s quite neat.

    I posted anonymously mostly because I hate creating accounts, and I hate sticking my real e-mail address in databases or on the web. I’m not sure how fruitful further discussion would be. I’m not a soldering expert (but I also don’t purport to be). I was trained in soldering independently by two actual experts many years ago (one guy with a lot of industry experience, and another guy was a Ph.D with a lot of experience in milspec construction). They had years of experience, knew the failure mechanisms, and hard numbers to back up everything they said. All I’ve got is the memories of what they taught me years back, experience training maybe a hundred students in very basic soldering, and a bit under a decade experience in soldering. You’d be better off finding a real expert and discussing with them. I’d shoot you an e-mail with my contact info, but I don’t have your e-mail address either, so we’ll have to stick to discussing here for now.

    What I’ve posted here basically encompasses the limits of my knowledge. I have some strong suspicions about more (e.g. I don’t actually know the dominant failure mechanisms when parts are heat damaged, but I do have some strong guesses from what I know about thermal budgets in IC fabrication), but I didn’t post those, since I don’t want to lead people astray.

    Some pretty good videos about soldering:
    http://www.solder.net/technical/tips.asp

    A good, short guide:
    http://www.themodelmakersresource.co.uk/articles/article012.html

  16. idea47.com says:

    Hi
    It’s pronounced sol-der.
    NOT sauder
    There’s an ‘l’ in it.
    like solitaire, solitary, solve
    get it?

    1. Ahawk3000 says:

      I know its been 2 years – but just in case anyone is confused by your disinfo/ sarcasm?
      The word solder comes from the Middle English word soudur, via Old French solduree and soulder, from the Latin solidare, meaning ‘‘to make solid’’. (wiki)
      Pronounced sŏd’É™r in American English. (dictionary)

  17. George says:

    Need to emphasize these:

    You must adhere to and follow shop and soldering safety practices before doing any project.
    You must wear safety glasses when soldering; you are wearing them (it appears).
    You must work in a well ventilated area and use a fume extractor and/or draw the fumes away from you with a fan.
    You must read the MSDS sheets before using any materials.

    George

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  19. Chris Watts says:

    I was fortunate to laern how to solder when I was at school but even though this video was very useful.

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  22. Jim Carrey says:

    This guy doesn’t know how to solder. He’s got no clue what he’s doing. If you solder like that, you’ll kill your tip (indeed, much as his tip is already partially dead). You don’t want to keep your tip clean for more than a second or two — you want it constantly covered with a thin layer of solder. When you clean it, you immediately apply a few drops of solder to it. Otherwise, the tip will oxidize, and it won’t work too well. The thin layer of solder also helps improve thermal conduction. You also keep solder on it when you store it.