Soldering is a skill anyone can learn. Whether you will use this skill for employment or personal purposes, it is always a great addition to your technical expertise. If you want to master the art of soldering, you have to know first how to use a soldering iron.
A soldering iron is a small tool (not longer than your hands) that has a metal end which can get scorching hot. We are not just talking about the boiling point of water here. We are talking about 800 to 1000 degree Fahrenheit of heat here!
Either way, this heat is appropriate for soldering applications. Its purpose is to convey heat to things such as pads on PCBs, transistor leads, and wires. After the transmission of heat, a solder (low-melting alloy) is then applied.
Even in the age of technology and the existence of integrated circuits, soldering has still a lot of applications. Its primary use is to attach electronic components to circuit boards. Moreover, many of our electrical products today have parts that undergone soldering process. Some factories can do this automatically, but usually, soldering is done manually.
How to Use A Soldering Iron?
Before we proceed to the exact process of using a soldering iron, you should learn first several measures in handling this equipment. As we said earlier, this tool can get extremely hot. If it can melt metals, how much more is your skin? In using a soldering iron, you should follow these safety tips:
- Always wear safety glasses
- Always avoid wearing loose clothing
- Keep your hair out of the way
- Pay attention to your hands and fingers
- Have a pair of protective gloves
- Work in a ventilated area (to avoid the fumes from damaging your lungs)
- Wash your hands thoroughly after soldering (Solder contains lead)
Tinning and Cleaning the Tip
Before you can use your soldering iron, make sure that is free from old solder residues. This thing can go against the heat when you expose it to air. Aside from that, a foul tip means that you have to hold the iron longer, thus increasing the chance of damaging the PCB.
Use a wet sponge to clean the soldering iron. Let the iron heat first, then wipe it smoothly to the sponge to scrape the old solder.
Now, the next process is tinning. You need to do this to protect the tip of the soldering iron. To do this, you have to apply a small amount of solder to the tip. Make sure that the soldering iron is hot when you do this. Also, you should re-do the tinning process right after several solders.
In soldering, you should always use your dominant hand to hold the iron while the other side will handle the long piece of solder. When joining parts, you should touch the region in where the solder connected the two pieces.
After a few seconds, slip the solder below the tip so that you can press it against the PCB. Press it more for another few seconds so that you can assess if it requires additional solder.
Now, let us go to the important part. Take away the solder for the meantime and let the iron press to the parts for another two or three seconds. In this way, you can let the solder melt thoroughly to become a liquid-like substance.
This is necessary to glue two components snugly. After this, you can remove the iron already. But make sure you will not disturb the solder yet.
The solder can cool down very fast. But if you blow or move the joint, its adhesiveness will reduce gradually. Some indicators will tell you if you failed in soldering.
A poor soldering will somehow appear oxidized, grainy, and dull. It would like there is a globule of solder that manifested in the area. On the other hand, a connection that was soldered correctly will look uniform and smooth. Also, its sides will have a concave shape.
If you want to repeat the soldering process, you can always remove the solder by desoldering. On these moments, you will need a solder wick or a vacuum-based tool called “solder sucker.”
To be honest, soldering doesn’t really require dexterous hands for you to do it properly. All you need is a keen eye and focused hands. Who knows? You might be able to make a profit out of this practical skill.