Introduction: How to Solder
The purpose of this instructables is to teach someone how to solder, to make the soldered joint an example of good soldering, and to solder very safely. You might think that there is an excessive amount of steps for soldering, and while I agree, the goal here is for you to solder safely, not rapidly. The kit that I will be soldering is the Maker Bot kit, with very simple soldering joints just as a way to show you how to solder. The pictures may flip between the bot and a radio; the idea is still the same. Lastly, keep in mind that while I do know how to solder, I am by no means an expert or a master solderer.
Step 1: Gathering the Materials
Printed Circuit Board (PCB)
LEDs (Or anything you want to solder with. However, in this instructables, I will be refer to them as LEDs)
Helping Hands (If you want to)
Step 2: Prepping the Materials Pt. 1
Wet the sponge, and set up your soldering station to your liking. This set up is to my liking, but whatever floats your biscuit works. However, the fan should be placed to suction the fumes. Make sure there is no wires or cords to interfere your soldering, and make sure that nothing flammable is nearby. The soldering iron is very hot and will light things up
Step 3: Prepping the Materials Pt. 2
Turn the dial on the soldering iron. The light should come in, indicating that the iron is hot. While it will take a minute for it to heat up, avoid actually touching the iron as a safety precaution. The attached image shows where I put my dial to, but depending on the solder that you use, it could be different. You'll need to find out the melting temperature of your solder to know just how much to turn the dial.
Step 4: Setting Up Pt. 1
Place the LED into the printed circuit board, and do whatever is necessary to hold it in place (within reason). You want to make sure that the LED is in the correct position, and is securely placed so as to prevent wobbling. Know that this is a very important step, as improper placement may lead to malfunctions. I used the alligator clips from the helping hands to hold the LED in place.
Step 5: Setting Up Pt. 2
Once you determine that the soldering iron is hot enough, pick it up with your dominant hand, and pick up the solder with your non dominant hand. You should hold the soldering iron as if it was a pencil, but make sure to never touch the actual iron. Hold the solder however you want to, just make sure you don't burn yourself
(Note: That way was how I was taught, but if it is uncomfortable to you, feel free to adjust. Just keep in mind to not touch the actual iron)
Step 6: Soldering Pt. 1
Place the soldering iron and the solder over your printed circuit board, but make sure to not make contact with the actual printed circuit board. Both the iron and the solder should approach the joint diagonally, and let the two touch right over the joint
Step 7: Soldering Pt. 2
The solder should melt before your eyes. Depending on how much you need, you could push the solder into the iron while the iron is stationary, creating a big dollop of solder. Ideally, the soldered joint should look like a Hershey's Kisses Chocolate.
Step 8: De-Soldering Pt. 1
If, and when you mess up, follow the next couple steps. First, place your solder back into its holder and and pick up the solder remover. To prep the solder remover, you'll have to press down on the black pusher until you hear/ feel it click into place
Step 9: De-Soldering Pt. 2
Reheat the messed up joint until the solder turns to liquid, then place the business end of the solder remover right at the liquid solder and press the button. The solder at the joint should be gone, and you should be free to re-solder the joint. If the solder isn't removed, then repeat until it is. Be advised that this method isn't for a delicate removal of solder with pin point accuracy, but instead just suctions the whole thing up
Step 10: Conclusion
Repeat step 6 and 7 (and maybe 8 and 9 depending on your skill) until the project is complete. Remember, the best way to master something is to practice, so keep on soldering.
Step 11: Cold Solder
While I don't have a picture of a cold soldered joint, a cold soldered joint is one that looks like it was soldered, but in reality isn't. This is one of the biggest pitfalls you could fall into while soldering because visually, it looks good. It is only in close inspection and testing that you might notice a cold solder, and sometimes, that might be too late. Always make sure that the joint is soldered correctly to avoid this pitfall.
Step 12: Advice Pt. 1
Always use as little solder as possible. It's always possible to put more solder on, and while it still is possible to take it off, it's just a pain in the butt. Also, the best soldered joints aren't ones covered in solder, but ones that are done right with the least amount of solder. That way, they look clean and are functional.
Take your time with soldering. As long as you don't have a limiting time constraint, feel free to take it slow. Going fast when you don't know what you are doing will only result in failed projects.
Step 13: Advice Pt. 2
Use the side of the iron (next to the tip) if the tip isn't working out. I find it more effective anyhow. It won't create the most accurate soldered joint, but it will still work to solder the joint.
If there is excess solder and you have pretty long leads, you can put the excess onto the lead, as long as you cut it off later. What this maneuver entails is for you too reheat the joint, and just scrape the solder onto the lead with your iron
When cutting the lead from a soldered joint, make sure to
1. Know that LED is in tight and is where you want it
2. Not cut the lead too short. If the soldered joint was a cold soldered joint, then it's going to be pretty hard to re-solder the joint with short leads
Step 14: Things to Keep in Mind Pt. 1
Mistakes in soldering may cost you the whole project: be careful. I've had countless hours of work turn into nothing because of a messed up solder joint, and you do not want that to happen to you.
When soldering make sure that there is plenty of room between your finger and the end of the solder that is being soldered. When I solder, I pull out the a good length of solder from its case and hold onto the actual solder for maximum control. If you find this comfortable, just make sure that you don't hold it too close to the end.
Step 15: Things to Keep in Mind Pt. 2
Don't screw around when soldering. Ever. That means no horseplay or burning things for fun. This may seem like common sense, but it really isn't
We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.