If you’re a beginner with little to no experience when it comes to soldering, then this is going to be one of the most helpful posts that you are going to read. When it comes to soldering, it is really important to know what you are doing so that you don’t make mistakes that lead to damage or even injury to yourself. The following information will provide you with a step by step guide on how to solder so you can learn to solder like a professional all on your own.
Step 1: Get Ready to Solder
In order to solder properly, you need to make sure that you have all of the proper tools that you need. For starters, you are going to want to make sure that you have:
- a soldering iron,
- soldering iron tip(s),
- soldering iron holder,
- a cleaning sponge,
- tools to work with wires,
- clips to hold your work,
- an exhaust fan,
- safety goggles,
- and most importantly, the materials that you are trying to join together.
Once you have all of these tools gathered and ready to go, you can begin to get ready to solder. The first thing you should do is plug in your soldering iron and let it warm up while you get everything else together. As you probably already know, the tip is going to get incredibly hot so please do not touch it. While this should be a given, many people will end up accidentally burning themselves in the process, so always take care when using the iron. If it is new, add some solder onto the tip of the hot iron before you begin working. If it is not new, there will already be some solder on it so you will be ready to go.
As soon as the iron is at the perfect temperature, it’s recommended you clean the tip of the iron with a wet sponge. You can use the one on the soldering base or you can use a separate sponge. No matter what sponge you use, gently touch the tip of the iron to the wet sponge and clean off some old pieces that might be left on it. When you do this, it will sizzle, so don’t worry.
Now that you’ve done that, pay attention to what it is that you are going to solder. If you are going to solder wire, you’ll need to peel back about 1/2 inch of insulation so you can see the bare wire. If you plan on doing wire-to-lead or wire-to-wire, you can twist them together before you solder. With electrical components, you don’t need a lot of prep work besides finding something to hold the pieces in place when you turn the board over. Whatever you do, the important thing is to make sure that the components don’t move when you go to solder them. This is where clips can come in handy to hold everything in place. Once all this is done, you are ready to begin soldering!
Step 2: Soldering Wire
If you are not going to be soldering wire at all and you are just going to solder electrical components, then you can go ahead and skip to the next step as this deals with just soldering wires.
When it comes to soldering wire, it’s important to note that you really can’t get the wires too hot. However, you can melt the insulation a bit but that’s okay. Once your wires are twisted together and held in place, pick up the iron in one hand and the solder in the other. Put the tip of the iron on the wire and hold it. This will start to heat up the wires and in the next few seconds, the wire will be hot enough to melt the solder. If you’re not sure if it is hot enough, touch the solder to the wires (not the iron) and see if it melts.
If you melt the solder using the iron, you are going to form a cold solder joint. This is what happens when you melt the solder around the joint rather than in the joint and it does not provide as well of a connection. You’re better off waiting a few seconds until it is hot enough. You’ll know it is hot enough if you told the solder to the wire and it starts to smoke and melts the wires. You want to make sure you have enough solder to cover the wires but not enough to the point where there is a big glob of solder. Once you have enough on the joint, pull the solder away and then remove the iron and place it into the holder.
Step 3: How to Solder Components on a Circuit Board
Soldering a circuit board is going to take more care and attention that wires. When soldering onto a circuit board, your best bet is to switch to an adjustable temperature iron. The tip on it is smaller so it’s easier to get solder where you want it. If you use the soldering iron, it is probably going to get hotter than you need and you could even damage the components. The temperature on the iron can be set to 675 degrees. While heating up, load the circuit board in the clip and then solder.
When you solder leads onto a circuit board, make sure to heat the metal contact and lead directly. In most cases, the surfaces joined in this are smaller than the wire, so everything heats up much faster. Touch the tip of the iron in between the metal pad and the lead. After a few seconds, move towards the joint and add a small amount on the end of the connection.
Once it pools a bit and the solder is in the joint, you can remove the wire and then the iron. It’s important to remove the solder before the iron because the solder hardens quickly without heat. The right amount of solder is important because too much solder causes a short and too little can cause it not to work.
Step 4: Cutting Off Excess Leads
Once you have soldered the components on the circuit board, then it’s time to cut excess leads. This is pretty easy and doesn’t require a ton of technique but it is important to have a few quick tips for success. Try and use a sharp wire cutter with one beveled side to get a smooth and flat cut.
Additionally, cut the lead as close as possible to the board to try and avoid the risk of creating a short. Hold onto the lead when you go to cut it off and you can minimize the chance of getting small pieces everywhere. Once all of the leads are cut off, you are practically done soldering.
Step 5: Fixing Mistakes and De-Soldering
Nobody is perfect. Even if you are a professional, when it comes to soldering, chances are good that you will make a mistake. If you make a mistake, you’ll rest easy knowing that they are pretty easy to fix. If you happen to put down too much solder or you put something in the wrong place, then you can reheat the joint which will melt the solder and allow you to reposition it where you need it to. The reason it is so forgivable is due to the fact that solder can be heated and cooled repeatedly so you never have to worry. Like I said, mistakes are going to happen so don’t be discouraged if you happen to make one! Just remember that you will always be able to fix it and get it how you want it, even if it takes a couple tries.
De-soldering, as you may have guessed from the name, is simply the process of removing the solder that you have used to connect two different items. This is typically the process that you are going to have to do if you need to replace a bad component or you need to change something about your design that you have already soldered into place. In order to de-solder wires, the process simply involved you heating up the connection and shaking the wires until they separate and become free from one another. Even better and quicker, if you have the extra slack, you can cut the wire at the connecting area, strip it and the re-solder it where necessary.
Now that you have read the first five steps that you are going to need in order to solder properly, you can go ahead and begin to experiment with soldering! You will have no problem soldering effectively and the more you solder, the better off you are going to be. Remember, soldering can easily be fixed if you happen to make a mistake so don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and see what you can do!