Introduction: How to Solder - the Quick, Thorough Guide

We are IoTalabs and we are a group of Internet of Things enthusiasts that love hacking together different devices. Over the past few months we have immersed ourself in the wonderful world of hardware! In our journey, we learned the best soldering practices around.

We've been working on many projects (check out our current project http://doteverything.co/) and we wanted to share our experience on safely and correctly soldering connections!

Step 1: What Is Soldering?

Soldering accomplishes a strong bond between two pieces of metal by joining them together. In this procedure, a material called solder, an alloy mixture of tin and lead, flows over two pre-heated pieces of metal and holds them together. The process is similar to welding but differs because when you weld you are fusing and melting two pieces together to make one. When you solder you are essentially ‘gluing’ two parts together with molten metal. Most metals with the exception of aluminum, white metal and porous cast iron can be soldered. Below, you will find instructions and illustrations that show you how to use a soldering iron.

Step 2: Materials for Soldering

Soldering Iron

Modeler’s Vise or Frame (optional)

Solder

Damp Sponge

Flux to remove oxides

Step 3: Prepare Your Workspace

Make sure your table or bench top is clear and free of obstructions. You will want as much freedom as possible to move your hand around and make adjustments.

Step 4: Turn on the Soldering Iron

The soldering iron needs to be warmed up properly before it can be used to ensure clean application of the solder. Some soldering irons heat up in seconds while others take minutes. Turn it on and leave it in the stand for 2-3 minutes to be safe.

Step 5: (Optional) Secure the Items You Are Soldering

Because we only have two hands, it would be nice to stabilize the item we want to solder. This is where a vice or clamp that can hold your item sturdily would come in handy. This is not required, but can greatly increase the ease and quality of your solder joints.

Step 6: Cleaning the Soldering Iron

Because soldering irons get so hot, they oxidize and become dirty quickly. They key to reliable connections is clean components so make sure that your soldering tip and parts you are joining are clean. To accomplish this, pass the tip of your soldering iron on a wet sponge until it shines.

Step 7: Apply Flux

In soldering it often becomes necessary to use materials called fluxes to help remove oxides and keep them absent while you solder. Flux needs to melt at a temperature lower than solder so that it can do its job prior to the soldering action. There are different methods to apply flux. The method you choose will be dependent on the items you are soldering.

Step 8: Tin the Soldering Iron

If you want to know everything there is to know about how to use a soldering iron, you’ll need to know how to tin. Tinning is the process of coating a soldering tip with a thin coat of solder. Melt a thin layer of solder on your iron’s tip. This aids in heat transfer between the tip and the component you are soldering, and also gives the solder a base from which to flow from. This process may need to be repeated as you solder. You will only touch the tip of the soldering iron to the solder when you tin. Do not touch the tip of the iron to the solder while you are actually soldering.

Step 9: Start Soldering

Hold the soldering iron like you would a pen in the hand you write with and the solder in the other. Then place the tip of the soldering iron. The tip needs to touch both the wire lead and the surface so they achieve the same temperature.

Step 10: Feeding the Solder

Touch the solder to the side of the connection opposite the soldering iron after heating the area for 2-3 seconds. Then, let the solder flow only until the connection is covered.

Step 11: Removing the Solder

Remove the solder first, then the iron otherwise your solder will get stuck to your connection point without the appropriate heat. Make sure the joint remains stationary while it cools.

Step 12: Check to See If the Connection Is Solid

A smooth, shiny and volcano shaped joint is what you are looking for. If this isn’t what you see, you’ll need to reheat and feed in more solder.

Step 13: Warnings

  • DO NOT lay a soldering iron down on any surface. A soldering iron should either be placed on a stand or sealed with a heat resistant cap after every use.
  • Soldering should be completed in a well ventilated area.
  • Lead is present in most solders. Be sure to wash your hands after your project, or better yet wear gloves.
  • Try not to inhale any of the solder smoke that comes off the solder. This is lead and can be dangerous.
  • The tip of a soldering iron is very hot. Contact with the tip of a soldering iron would result in a nasty burn.
  • Your soldering iron will perform better if kept clean. A damp sponge can be used to clean residue caused by flux material. A very small skim of flux should be applied to the iron after the cleaning.

Step 14: FINISHED!

And that's all there is to start soldering. If you have any questions leave them at the bottom and be sure to visit our site at doteverything.co. We have many more guides and cool projects!

Comments

author
cowboy52 (author)2017-05-16

I found that by twisting solder and wire around each other makes sure to get solder on all parts of the wire.. Hope this idea and method meets with approval and helps at least one person..

author
MDZ18 (author)2017-03-25

When I remove soldering iron the melted part stick to iron and soldering does not happen.how to overcome this problem?

author
AlM47 (author)2016-11-01

IoTalabs--Nice guide! What do you think of these ideas? 1--A cheap or low powered soldering iron can be very frustrating. A 40 watt can be good for normal #14 and smaller wire 60 watt for bigger stuff--it should quickly (= less than 1 second) melt the solder. After a while an iron can lose power but often simply taking the cold tip out and putting it back in will renew it. 2--Lead free solder can be hard to use--A small fan can blow the little bit of leaded solder smoke away from you. 3--It is easy to over heat the wire which makes it brittle and prone to breaking down the road. Because of this it is now illegal to solder many joints in Aerospace and transportation where vibration and movement occur. Getting a good hot iron to quickly heat up the joint then getting it off quickly is the trick. In aerospace Anderson connectors are often used--they require a special crimper but eliminate the need to solder connections and provide a superior joint. They are a plug and are very good for some applications. 4--Constantly (every 20-30 seconds) wipe the tip on the wet sponge mentioned to keep the tip smooth and shiny looking--prevents the tip from deteriorating. This is why most iron holders have a sponge holder built in.

author
AlM47 (author)2016-11-01

LoTablas--very nice! What do you think of these ideas; 1--A cheap or low powered soldering iron can be very frustrating. A 40 watt can be good for normal #14 and smaller wire 60 watt for bigger stuff and circuit boards require less = 15-25watts--it should quickly (= less than 1 second) melt the solder. After a while an iron can lose power but often simply taking the cold tip out and putting it back in will renew it. 2--Lead free solder can be hard to use--A small fan can blow the little bit of leaded solder smoke away from you. 3--It is easy to over heat the wire which makes it brittle and prone to breaking down the road. Because of this it is now illegal to solder many joints in Aerospace and transportation where vibration and movement occur. Getting a good hot iron to quickly heat up the joint then getting it off quickly is the trick. In aerospace Anderson connectors are often used--they require a special crimper but eliminate the need to solder connections and provide a superior joint. They are a plug and are very good for some applications. 4--Constantly (every 20-30 seconds) wipe the tip on the wet sponge mentioned to keep the tip smooth and shiny looking--prevents the tip from deteriorating. This is why most iron holders have a sponge holder built in.

author
medwards38 (author)2016-06-09

agreed with smiley. i would also suggest cleaning the soldering iron tip with brass wool instead of a wet sponge. the tip doesnt cool down anywhere near as much - if at all with brass wool :D
gets those harder to remove pieces of oxidization a lot easier too!
great 'ible tho, thank you for taking the time to do one!

author
smileydude3 (author)2016-06-09

Nice project, I use soldering a lot so I would say that this is a great project but maybe add something about heat shrink tubing

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Bio: We build cool internet of things products. Come check us out at doteverything.co
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