Ten Commandments of soldering


We tweeted a link to these on our Make_Tips channel, but I thought they were worth reposting here. Strung here are most of the pearls of wisdom needed to be successful in ye ol’ art of soldering:

I. Thou shall not remove tip from soldering iron when power is “On.” Causes heating element to rise in temperature to approximately 1300 F resulting in thermal shock and reduced heater life.

II. Thou shall maintain a damp (NOT drenched) iron sponge (preferably with de-ionized water). A drenched sponge will bring the temperature of the tip down too drastically, causing thermal shock and reduced tip life.

III. Thou shall not disconnect soldering iron from base unit when power is turned “On.” Disconnecting or reconnecting the soldering tool from the base unit with power applied may cause a short between non-compatible pins resulting in damage to the base unit or pencil.

IV. Thou shall maintain a coating of solder on working area of soldering iron tip. Protects the tip from oxidation.

V. Thou shall never drop soldering iron while heated. Dropping the soldering tool while heated may cause thermal/mechanical shock to the heater, sensor, or tip (fractured plating).

Ten Commandments of soldering

Image by soldering superstar Randy Sarafan.

All of our soldering coverage on MAKE

11 thoughts on “Ten Commandments of soldering

  1. charliex says:

    Unless you’ve got a Metcal for at least some of these. Then just like the religous origin, starts to make less sense as society gets more advanced.

  2. rmrubin says:

    I’m not into religion or being told what to do. I’ve been using a Hakko 936 station with a 907 iron at home and at work pretty much daily for maybe 4 years…

    My hundred cents:

    I. I’ve taken tips off live 907 irons, watched the element glow red for less than a second before the feedback kicks in and cools it down. I don’t recommend it, it’s stupid to do it, but the Hakko doesn’t seem to care…

    II. People still use sponges? How do you go on about thermal shock and then tell someone to take the hot iron and wipe it in room temp water? Get a fluxed brass coil tip cleaner. Won’t cool the iron, gets all the debris off. How do you get debris off a tinned iron when the sponge hardens the solder?

    III. The 936 connector is keyed threaded circular jack. You have to be trying really hard to connect it wrong. I dunno how you short something disconnecting…

    IV. Good tips don’t oxidize. Leave a 907 iron tip on all day at >800F, just stab it into the brass coils and its like new, tins with ease. The plating on the tips lasts years with abuse like this (confirmed by me, and other more credible people). Even small diameter needle tips and sharp point conicals. They make the reliability of Weller magnetic tips look silly. I won’t even talk about Radio Shack tips… better get two just to finish one project.

    V. I’ve dropped my 907 tons of times. Also my 936 base station has been knocked off a table, landed on a corner, and cracked its housing. Still works like a champ, like 3 years later. As for thermal shock… whatever, quenching hot tips in water sponges is thermal shock for sure.

    VI. Man, I throw that 907 into that cast steel stand like a javelin. That means that I’m done for now. Again, years of use like this, and I know people who have had these Hakkos for more than a decade.

    VII. Yeah I try not to do this. More because it usually lifts pads than anything else, though. When I do manage to bend the needle tips, they always bend back fine, without even damaging the plating. This definitely belongs in the new world religion for tweezers, though.

    VIII. Well I dunno, when I’m thermal shocking my tips and element by pulling off the tip with no delay after switching the base off, I usually use the closest pliers at hand to turn the nut, pull off the tube holding the tip, and yoink the hot tip off, then reverse the process. Does random pliers count as sharp? How do you get a tip off with an xacto knife, anyway?

    IX. Every 936 I’ve had the pleasure to use has been a ‘KGB’. I’m sure some of them break. Eventually.

    X. Hey yeah in a perfect world I would turn the temp down and the unit off, but I gotta do emails, read and write docs, answer questions, troubleshoot random everything, and do whatever else boss guy says, while I’m doing soldering job. Or who knows maybe I’m just at home taking all day to solder a PCB because I found something else to do (like f@!#ing laundry). I’m not trying to babysit my tools.

    Yeah so in summary: Get a decent iron and stop worrying. Metcals rawk way harder. Hakko 936 is cheap stuff ($80 at Fry’s). This is your #1 tool in the Way of electronics. Don’t cheat yourself with crap tools.

    Hope this helps.

  3. Odin84gk says:

    I’ve got to include “Do not inhale the solder fumes” This includes filtering the air AND working in an open environment.

    Turns out I may have asthma induced by soldering. I’m not even a technician, just a hardcore hobbiest. Turns out the solder flux can really screw with you.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at garstipsandtools.com.

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