Soldering help required

Hi everyone. I just signed up for Instructables, but I have been a constant visitor for a while now. I'm also the happy owner of a cheap soldering iron I bought a while ago for some projects I had on mind, so I've been checking out all those Instructables about soldering to have a clue of how to solder without dying on the attempt. The problem is, most of them are for soldering circuits and I'm more interested in other kind of stuff like audio wires, speakers, LEDs, switches, and the most audio plug jacks. So, I bought my soldering iron (a pretty cheap one) and started to use it but, hell, I just cannot figure out how to do it right. The first time I used it I tried to tin it correctly but I think I might have let a spot I couldn't tin quickly and apparently that spot never heated correctly. After several days of use the tip of the darn thing changed a few times of color to finally corroded and the mentioned spot of the tip fell apart although I cleaned it and tinned it after every use. My second bigger problem is that after tinning the tip the solder appear to have life of its own. Usually I put the tip upon the place where I want to solder and next to the wires, apply the solder, and then the solder: a) Melt, shrinks and go back the way it came.... or b) A portion stays in place but manage to stay down, left or right from the wires to be soldered. When trying to tin wires the solder always rejects them (I think running away from them). So please, help. Could anyone tell me what am I doing wrong. Is it the solder? Do I need to stop being cheap and buy a better soldering iron?? Is it me doing all wrong?? Can anyone post a "Soldering for less than dummies" Instructable??? Any help will be highly appreciated.

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fiola (author) 9 years ago
I see, my soldering iron is a 30W, though I have tinned wires and once I did it just right. Has anything to do with this that my wires are headphone wires??? How can I know if the iron is fully heated?? My logic tells me that is fully heated when the solder melts, but I don't really know. I attach the current view of the tip I mentioned. Is it beyond salvation?? Tanx again to all of you guys!!!
First of all, if you're doing wires, you need a 40 Watt or higher soldering iron. When it is up to heat, apply a little solder to the tip. Touch the tip to the wire and aply the solder to the other side of the wire. The solder should flow without touching the soldering iron tip. When the wire has been covered in solder (or "tinned") you can easily solder it to other things. Like bannana plugs. You need to heat up the bannana plug and fill it with solder first though.
caitlinsdad9 years ago
Keep a slightly damp sponge around to wipe the tip of the hot iron when it accumulates some gunk like melted wire insulation or burnt flux. Practice tinning the ends of wire or soldering twisted wires and then you can move onto soldering parts. A nice shiny joint indicates you have gotten it to the right temperature. A dull blob of solder is called a "cold" joint.
fiola (author) 9 years ago
Thanx, I tried some flux and there was improvement although solder still runs away from the wires (or from me). Any advice on how to solder a jack plug? I have this tiny one I need to solder, the rings are very small and I'm afraid to toast the whole thing. And thanx again for the help.
first off, is the tip of your soldering iron mostly black? Assuming you got it at radioshack you should take some fine sand paper to sand off the oxide (don't go to deep, you penetrate the protective coating and go into the copper, which will ruin the tip).

Feed the wire through one of the holes. Apply the soldering iron to one side, and after about 1 or 2 seconds at solder to the opposite side so that the solder doesn't touch the soldering iron. Remove the soldering iron.

This is the best soldering video I ever saw, the main point is this:

Tin the tip so there's a tiny glob of solder, just used so there's more surface area and heat transfers better.

heat up the whole metal part, this usually takes 1 or 2 seconds

apply solder so that it doesn't touch the soldering iron (directly, the solder will naturally try and go to it, but that's fine).

Soldering is a skills that improves over time. When I started I ruined tips in like 2 seconds and I couldn't soldered anything worth beans. Now (after watching the video) and some practice, I make perfect joints, everytime.

This "ruining of tips" I would like to know how that is accomplished. I wear them out over time, but I have never ruined a tip by soldering. Oh wait, you weren't using acid core solder, were you ?
. Most modern soldering irons have a coating on the tip that can be removed by filing or too much sanding. It makes a lot of the brand-new-iron prepping/tinning unnecessary. For us old-timers, who are used to working with uncoated tips, we'd probably never notice; just re-tin the tip and move on. I "ruined" (they still worked for what I did) several tips before someone told me about it. . From what I've read, for fine work (SMDs, &c) the uncoated soldering irons you and I are used to just don't get it.
To be honest, I have found that, given equal time, my wood burning tips wear out faster then the soldering tips (dragging a very hot rod of copper across the grain of wood, is probably the reason for that, one doesn't "drag" a soldering iron...normally). I know what you mean about the SM parts though. I have some sample resistors (they were called "mechanical samples" so I don't think they function) in a sleeve and out of the 10 resistors in there 2 are smaller then the average gnat, 5 are around the one or two Gnat size, and 3 I can actually see the sides you solder on (but not very well). I can just see myself trying to solder these, especially in the spring time ......aaaaachooo! aw rats. LOL
Goodhart fiola9 years ago
As Nacho hinted at, heat the part you are going to solder. It will take a bit for it to get hot, and then put the solder in touching the part and not the iron. If the part is hot enough, the solder should melt and flow in towards the heat. The rosin core solder has flux in it, so that should help clean the part as the solder moves in.
. If the solder is not flowing into the wires, you're still not hot enough or the wire is dirty. . It will help if you clean and tin the wire and lug before soldering in place. . Practice with something that can be trashed. Soldering is pretty easy, but as with everything else, practice makes perfect. It will also train your eye to spot cold-solder joints (very easy, once you've seen one).
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