Technology
Using a Washer as a Soldering Aid

Very clever trick from next month’s issue of The Family Handyman, submitted by reader Joseph Johnson.

If you have “helping hands,” clamping wire leads against a washer, as shown, stabilizes the whole setup dramatically by connecting the two arms with a rigid member, so you can bear down a bit more with the iron without pushing things out of alignment. But the hole in the middle of the washer still allows all-round access to the junction.

If you don’t have helping hands, you can just use a washer, as shown, with a pair of alligator clips (or even small binder clips) as a pretty effective improvised workholding jig for this kind of soldering.

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36 thoughts on “Using a Washer as a Soldering Aid

      1. If you’re soldering in-line wires like that take a good long look at the Western Union Splice. It’s even in the NASA quality manual as acceptable on spacecraft.

  1. The inline splice is easier to insulate with heatshrink or tape and is less likely to come apart when the wire is pulled.

    I recommend insulating the alligator clip with heatshrink or aquarium tubing because the teeth are prone to poking through the wire insulation when the wire is hot from soldering.

    1. If i’m soldering or tinning wires i a put a piece of foam (something fairly dense and flexible like neoprene) folded over into my clip and then just slide the wires into that. I’ve found that even with heat shrink on the clips it can still damage the wire

  2. The splice shown in the photos creates a stress concentration at the necessary 90-degree bend in the wires. This leads to premature failure of the wire. The Western Union splice doesn’t have that bend, so it doesn’t create the stress concentration.

    Those old geezers who wired the planet for sound (and telegraph before that) actually knew what they were doing – and still do.

  3. Use clothes pins instead of alligator clips and you will have less heating of the wires’ insulation.

  4. Want cool – no solder creep proof joint – no distorted insulation –
    fold over wet 1/2″ of paper towel at edge of insulation.

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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