This guide focuses on soldering for the beginner and explains how you can solder a variety of components using a few different techniques - from the classy to the downright caveman. Although soldering can seem daunting at first, once you give it a try you will see that in most applications it's quite simple to do.

Please note: this instructable is written for beginners, and contains lots of very basic information. If you have lots of experience soldering, please use the comments to share your knowledge. Clarifications and corrections are especially welcome.

This Instructable was the lead-off for "How to Solder" month, where we rewarded soldering tutorials with Instructables patches. See the original call for project here at submitting a How to Solder Instructable or just check out all the other soldering Instructables here at the How to Solder group.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Soldering is the process of using a filler material (solder) to join pieces of metal together. Soldering occurs at relatively low temperatures (around 400 degrees Fahrenheit) as compared to brazing and welding, which actually melt and fuse the materials themselves at higher temperatures. In soldering the filler material becomes liquid, coats the pieces it is brought into contact with, and is then allowed to cool. As the solder cools it hardens, and the two materials are joined. Soldering is a quick way to join many types of materials, from copper pipe to stained glass. It creates an electrically conductive strong bond between components that can be re-heated (desoldered) if you should ever want to disconnect two items joined together. It's great for joining electrical components and wires and is used in just about everything electronic. In this Instructable I explain how to solder the basics you see in most Instructables: electrical components and wires.

For further information and some more technical specs on soldering check out the wikipedia article.

As with many skills, having the right tools for the job effects the quality of the work being done. When it comes to soldering you can end up using a lot of fancy tools, or just a few simple items you can pick up at the hardware store for a couple of bucks. I am going to use a couple of different soldering tools in this Instructable; there are many ways to solder, and you should use what works for you.

At the very minimum you will need the solder and a heat source to melt it - preferably something small which can get to 600-800 degrees Fahrenheit. If you've got that, your ready to make a connection. That being said, there are a wide range of soldering tools and accessories that can be really helpful if you're going to be soldering frequently. Ladyada has compiled a nice list of equipment and sources to buy the tools on her site. I got together a solid supply of soldering tools by raiding the Squid Labs soldering station. Here is the complete list of what I used...

1. Soldering iron
Most people opt for using a soldering iron to solder. It's a great heat source that heats up and cools down quickly and can maintain a pretty constant temperature. Soldering irons can be purchased from a variety of places. I have picked up some at Radioshack - evil yes, but convenient, some from the hardware store, some from garage sales and a bunch more from retailers online. Low wattage (15-40 watt) soldering irons work best for soldering components on circuit boards while more powerful (60-140 watt) soldering irons work well joining thicker materials like braided speaker wire. If you use too powerful of a soldering iron on a circuit board you might damage the components you are trying to join. I like to keep a low-wattage iron around for detail work, and a high-wattage iron that I can use when I am not too concerned about exposing the material I am working with to high temperatures. It's a real pain to solder thick wires without a powerful soldering iron.

The soldering iron in most of the pictures is made by Weller, and has a variable temperature control. This is the best of both worlds since you can set the heat exactly where you want it, but it's significantly more expensive than fixed-temperature irons. If you're just going to do some occasional soldering it isn't a must have by any means. Anyone interested in modding a soldering iron should check out DIY Hot Air Soldering Iron by charper.

2. Solder
There are lots of kinds of solder available. They come in different thicknesses from around .02" to some really thick stuff you would only use on copper pipe with a butane torch. You use thin solder for detailed work like putting resistors onto circuit boards and thicker solder for joining larger materials like speaker wire. I use solder around .025" for most jobs. Most solder is made from a combination of tin and lead - it's about a 60% tin, 40% lead mix depending on what solder your using. Recent international health codes from Japan and the EU (California and New York have adopted similar policies as well) mandate that lead solder be phased out of certain commercial products and substituted with a lead-free alternative. The manufacturing deadline was this past July so we should be seeing the changes now. Even if you don't live in California or New York its still worth staying away from lead solder since lead has been known to cause all kinds of a nasty health effects from birth defects to severe developmental and neurological damage. Plus it's pretty easy to find the lead-free stuff.

Some solder will contain a small amount of silver. This pushes the melting temperature up a bit, but the silver helps the solder to flow and makes a stronger joint. If you are worried about burning whatever your working with, try to stay away from solder with silver in it, but it works very well if you're just joining wires or something that won't be easily damaged. The last thing to know about solder is that you want to use a solder that has a rosin core. The rosin acts as a flux when soldering and helps the connection - it's also the kind that's most readily available at the hardware store and from electronics suppliers.

3. Soldering iron tips
Soldering irons come with a tip, so you don't have to go out and get a special one, but it's important to know the differences between them and make sure you're using the right tip for the kind of soldering you're doing. Some small-wattage irons come with conical pointed tips for detail work, while most high-wattage irons come with a flatter screwdriver-style tip that works well on wires. You want your tip to be a little smaller than whatever you are soldering so you have good control of what you heat up and what you leave alone.

4. Soldering iron holder and cleaning sponge
It's nice to have a safe place to put the soldering iron down in between soldering. A soldering stand safely holds the iron and gives you a place to clean the tip. Some soldering irons come with their own holders. If yours doesn't have one, you can buy one or make one. jaime9999 has a Homemade nearly-free Soldering Iron Stand that is pretty much identical to what you can buy. The stand isn't a necessity for learning how to solder, but it does help.

5. Tools to work with wires
I have a go-to stock of tools that I round up when working with wires or electrical components. They consist of wire cutters, a wire stripper, needle nose pliers, and an automatic wire stripper (courtesy of the Squid Labs soldering station.) The automatic wire stripper is really convenient if you're going to be stripping lots and lots of wire, but by no means necessary. I have stripped lots and lots of speaker wire using my teeth (not the best idea, I know I know.)

6. Clips to hold your work
Often called "third hands" or "helping hands," these little guys help a whole lot when soldering. You have to hold the soldering iron with one hand and the solder wire in the other, so it really helps to have something else to hold the components you're actually trying to join. You can use alligator clips, clamps, or even some tape to hold things in place if you need to. The third hand is generally a good investment if your going to be soldering regularly, and there are plenty of Instructables with with ideas to modify them if you do happen to pick one up. Check out: Make a 3 degree of freedom 'hand' to help with soldering / gluing work and make your 'helping hands' 100x more useful for soldering / gluing small parts by leevonk to start.

If you would like to make a set of helping hands of your own there are already a number of good Instructables on that too. Quick helper for surface-mount soldering by https://www.instructables.com/member/bikeNomad/bikeNomad, QuickMods - Soldering Arms by Aeshir and Build a Pair of Helping Hands by john otto should get things started.

7. Exhaust fan
I do most of my soldering at a soldering station that is equipped with an exhaust fan. It's really not such a good idea to breathe in solder fumes, and soldering does produce fumes. Any kind of ventilation/fan you can rig up will help. Vent the fumes outside or use an indoor fan with a filter if you can't vent them outdoors. Here is a Window-mounted solder fume extractor (not just for RVs!) posted by bikeNomad. Also check out Dr. Solomon's low tech, but functional Solder Fume Extractor if you're looking to build something that you can place right on your table. If you're just doing a quick soldering job, the fumes wont kill you by any means. I have certainly done my fair share of soldering without a vent, but anyone doing repetitive soldering should definitely pick one up or make one.

8. Safety goggles
I hadn't ever used goggles before while soldering, but while doing research for this post I saw it mentioned elsewhere and agree that its a good idea. Little molten bits of solder tend to fly out of the soldering joint when you're feeding in the solder, and if it landed in your eye it wouldn't feel too good.

9. The materials that you want to join together
I was just messing around, and mostly soldering for the purpose of this Instructable so my materials didn't necessarily make anything. You can solder wire, electrical components like resistors and capacitors, circuits, breadboards, electrodes, small pieces of metal and whatever else you can think of. Don't know if it can be soldered? Give it a try - you won't blow anything up.

Once I have got my tools and materials rounded up, I like to pretend that I am a pilot and begin my pre-flight/solder checklist.

<p>basic.. just like I need. thank you noahw :)</p>
<p>Why downloads are only for premium members. It would have been a great <br>service for all from u r side if u have removed that restriction for normal members <br>also.</p>
<p>Very good Instructable. </p>
<p>You will not transfer much heat to the wire joint to be soldered by just touching the bare tip to it. Instead, melt a blob of solder onto the hot tip, then touch the joint, and the molten solder will greatly help the heat transfer to heat the joint to soldering temperature. Then touch the joint with the solder wire and it will quickly melt right into the joint and flow well. You will be surprised at how much easier this makes the soldering process!</p>
<p>When exactly does one tin a new iron? Should the solder used to tin the iron be wiped off before its first use?</p>
<p>Can anyone give me some advice on which is the best soldering iron to use?</p><p><a href="http://amzn.to/1WDULoJ" rel="nofollow">This is what I am looking at right now&hellip;</a></p>
<p>I have that iron.. its not bad..but maybe its me.. the numbers on the dial are so tiny I cant figure out what temp it is at. I ended up buying a solder/heat gun station (building drones so needed heat gun as well): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01AO7SH80/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&amp;psc=1 It works very well, allows more precise (and easier to read) control of heat, and has the heat gun too. :)</p>
<p>Should add that the one I bought heats up almost instantly.. which is nice to not have to wait a minute or two.</p>
<p>Requirement list plzzz</p>
<p>nice beginner tutorial. Bookmarked!</p>
<p>Hi, I've added your project to the <em style="">&quot;</em><em style="">Beginners Guide to Soldering</em><em style="">&quot;</em> Collection</p><p>This is the link If you are interested:</p><p><a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/Beginners-Guide-to-Soldering/">https://www.instructables.com/id/Beginners-Guide-to...</a></p>
<p>what do i do when i accidentally soldered my toddler to my chair should i call the police? </p>
<p>take a picture</p>
Make sure your iron is clean, make sure your solder is clean and make sure your work piece is clean and you will have the best opportunity of creating a good solder joint.
I bought a 30W soldering iron from Radio Shack. I'm having a lot of trouble because it takes as long as 90-120 seconds for the solder to heat up. And if I don't touch the solder directly to the iron, it never gets hot enough at all. Plus, the solder doesn't flow well and it turns into balls & blobs. I'm puzzled. What's wrong?
<p>sorry for the late reply</p>
I know this is an old post, but someone may benefit. <br>There's a few possible problems, the obvious one is you're iron isn't hot enough. I prefer a 40W iron over a 30W any day. It seems 30W are the most common, but they just don't cut it for me. <br>Try a cheapo model form ebay etc for $5 or so and see how it works for you. <br>Another fix is to heat the iron up a bit with a torch. I rarely need to do this to boost heat, but I will use a torch as the heat source for the iron if I'm too far from an outlet.. <br> <br>The other problem could be thinking the flux inside the solder is enough. It is not.... At least it has never been for me. You need to flux the surfaces and be sure the surface can be soldered in the first place. <br>The surface could be coated or plated with something that either the solder or the flux doesn't like. It might also be corrosion, a lubricant, protectant, or who knows what. In those cases I clean it with a chemical such as electric contact cleaner aka brake cleaner, or even carb cleaner, but most people use alcohol. If that doesn't work then it's probably some kind of coating you'll need to remove with force, like sandpaper or a Dremel tool to break thru to the good metal. Once you've ground the bad part off, clean it, coat it with flux and try again. <br>If it's still being difficult you can try using sandpaper on it while it's coated in flux. I like 320-400 wet/dry paper, maybe 180-220 if it's really bad. Cut a small piece for sacrifice because you don't want to use it again now that it has flux on it. After you have either roughed it up nicely, or ground thru the problem coating whatever it was, clean it, flux it, and try again. <br>I prefer to coat the problem item in solder first, that way I know it'll work when it's time to attach something. Assuming the iron is hot, clean, and will hold solder (plain old rosin core 60/40 works best for me), put a little on the tip, then apply it to the surface and hold until it flows and coats your surface. If it's a large item and you can't get it hot enough you will need to preheat the item with a torch or whatever, I've used anything from little butane torches to my oven, as long as everything can handle the heat that is. (fyi; preheating also works for welding when the machine can't generate enough heat). Once it's hot enough the solder will flow nicely into the area worked on, and your problem is solved. <br> <br>If you never could get the solder to stick then you might be working with the wrong metal, like aluminum, so use the appropriate method for that metal, or simply try using a screw or bolt as a contact. If you can figure out what the base metal is, then search the net for a bolt material that will not react with it. Example; drill a hole and use an appropriate bolt/nut and torque it down good, then apply solder to the bolt's head which should be a snap. Common steel bolts are usually coated with something which probably needs to be ground off. Grind off just enough area for what you need, and preferably solder it in a way you can still use the tool to remove it if needed. Now flux your spot and apply a little drop of solder like described above. Being a bolt it's probably heavier and may need a little boost with a torch. <br>I flux/solder each piece first so I know they're both good to go, then I put them together and add a drop of solder with the iron until it flows. <br> <br>I hope this helps some people with their soldering problems... <br>
<p>Chevota</p><p>I would probably avoid using brake cleaner then applying heat, because depending on the formulation you can emit phosgene gas:</p><p><a href="http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=488740" rel="nofollow">http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=48...</a></p>
<p>Thanks, something to think about. I don't think you can buy that kind of brake cleaner anymore, plus it evaporates almost instantly when cleaning stuff like that. I do remember spraying the older stuff on something red hot and the smell was horrible. Not sure if it was that particular gas, but omg it was bad! </p><p>Speaking of solder, I lost my old solder and flux in a move so I bought this new solder and flux, some &quot;safer&quot; crap or some bs but it was all I could find. I haven't been able to solder anything but clean copper wire and that barely sticks together and often fails. It's horrible stuff. Maybe that was the original posters problem? I guess I'll have to buy some from china on ebay or something. </p>
<p>Lead free solder melts at 218 deg C where leaded melts at 183 deg C. You may need to get a higher wattage iron to work with it. That thanks to the EU which started this lead free mess.</p>
<p>I've always preferred a higher heat than what most people use, for example I won't use a 30w, only 40w at min. I don't know the exact temp but to get the same effect from the adjustable solder station at work I need 800F/426C. Others at work used 700-750F and they struggled. This was back when we used real lead and flux btw. So I don't think 218C would work at all, but whatever the case I'm well above it. I've even tried boosting the temp by heating my iron with a propane torch, but it doesn't help. My latest project needed tabs soldered to rechargeable AA batteries to renew a cordless tool batt pack. I've done this in the past with lead 60/40 and acid flux no problem, but the new stuff refuses to stick to the batts. It's like trying to solder to glass... Very frustrating. My flux might be part of the problem so I will look for a different type. I may have to spot weld the tabs like the factory does, but it doesn't help me with other stuff. </p>
<p>sand the battery contacts, and make sure the battery is getting hot enough. it's a very difficult thing to do, getting something like that hot enough without getting it too hot. also, reheating it over and over, trying to get it right, will probably negatively affect the battery life and capacity. practice on one set to know exactly what you need to do, before moving on and doing it right on all the rest.</p>
<p>Yes, I have done this many times for decades on all kinds of projects with no problems. Then I lose my old 60/40 lead and &quot;good&quot; acid flux and have not been able to solder a single battery since. I plan on trying spot welding next, unless I get lucky and find my old solder &amp; flux. This new solder makes everything much harder btw, but it made the battery thing impossible. </p>
<p>A soldering iron is nowhere near hot enough to convert a chlorinated solvent to phosgene. Think arc welding or oxyacetylene temperatures.</p>
<p>Someone brought that part up because I said I used brake cleaner to clean parts that have grease/oil on them, then if the part is too big for the iron to heat you can preheat it with a propane torch. Not so much about the part getting too hot, but putting a torch on a the surface still wet with cleaner. Not a common circumstance, nor do I believe most cleaners sold today are an issue, but something to consider. Plus if you do manage to create the gas, which I think I might have once or twice, it's too nasty to breathe anyway. </p>
<p>great instructable. thanks!</p>
<p>can i make friends on here? im a black belt at soldering </p>
<p>i will be your friend :)</p>
Thanks, I needed this for my Home Economics class!
<p>you'll fail </p>
<p>Hello! Thank you for your post. Can you comment on the use of soldering flux-types, dangers or relative importance.</p><p>Thanks.</p>
<p>Thanks for explaining things so clearly! The whole article has given me a great insight and also explained where I had been going wrong in the past.</p><p>I will leave the desert island survival tips alone for a while, but its good to know just incase!</p>
<p>Thanks for the guide! I also wouldn't recommend stripping wire using teeth. Some plastic wire insulation can contain lead. Here's a CDC account of someone getting lead poisoning from chewing the plastic: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00020984.htm</p>
<p>More of a problem with biting the insulation would be chipping your teeth, as I have done over the years of removing insulation that way.</p>
<p>He chewed the plastic wire coating for 20 years and has a slight lead poisoning in the article. That's a huge difference from biting off the tips and spitting them out. </p><p>Lets not go overboard comparing apples to planets.</p>
<p>You shouldn't twist the wire. You don't need to and its amateurish. You should just position the two wires parallel and solder them that way. That way you can make a nice tight joint and can easily fit heatshrink sleaves over the joint. Regardless of what people might think.. twisting the wires together does NOT make for a better joint. The solder is more than enough to take any stress from the wire being pulled or twisted afterwards. It does not need to be twisted together beforehand. </p>
<p>Hi I've just finished a little soldering project but unfortunately its not working, I've just read your comment about not reheating solder, which I think I did a few times, how crucial is this and could this be the reason my circuit won't work? do you think I should start again? Thank you</p>
<p>@<a href="https://www.instructables.com/member/sjones98/" rel="nofollow">sjones98</a> Hey there. Fixing that wouldn't be a problem. I've reheated solder many, many, many times on the same project while I was learning and I never had an issue. It cleans easily, remelts cleanly and often looks 10x better when I'm finished. The best advice I could give with regards to fixing your soldering is to do one small area at a time. Reheat the solder and wick most of it away, make sure you are using the right kind of solder. Find some that is specific to electronics. It will have mostly a silver base as opposed to lead and is very thin. A thin point tip on your soldering iron will help as well. It keeps the solder neat and reduces the solders habit of spreading to other holes.</p><p>When you are ready to resolder your board, only use a very tiny amount of solder. It takes barely any to make a nice solid connection. It's human nature to want to gob it in, because more is better right? In most cases, no. Just a dab will suffice. The right amount will surround the pin and be barely larger than the hole.</p><p>I hope this helps! Cheers.</p>
<p>I see that this is a bit late but the problem seems to be the soldering done on the board. There are a few areas where leads seem to overlap, which, of course, causes short circuits. I'm not the greatest at soldering myself, and I've done worse quite a few times; sometimes involving unpleasant explosions. </p>
<p>FLUX...the secret of flow</p>
<p>One very undersold product at the Shack was the Velleman kits. I've done a couple of them, and they seem more like useful items than the Arduinos and Bone stuff. For example, Velleman had a USB breakout kit you could build that gave a variety of real world contact closures and sensors out... and in. I have a couple of them going in a remote control project or two where you can uVNC to a PC somewhere, and turn things on and off, take readings, and so forth for equipment nearly a hundred miles away. I didn't have to learn an entire micro-language or buy/build complex processors, masks, and all that like it appears i would have to with Arduino. I dunno about the rob you clean bit... I'm old enough to think of names like Heathkit, Archer, Optimus, Uniden and the like in Radio Shack stores. Yes, sometimes expensive... but nearly always rebuildable and nearly all that stuff I've bought over the years is *still* running.</p><p>Like my Optimus 100X6 Tuner Amp. yup. 6 big transformers in it and it drives 15&quot; drivers to about 128dB @ 35 - 12k frequencies.</p>
<p>RadioShack may rob you clean most of the time but I've had a pretty good experience with them about a year ago. We were writing business letters in my English class, and we could send them to a business of our choosing. Running out of ideas I chose to send to RadioShack. About a month latter my English teacher told me that a package from RadioShack was sent to the school to me. So I got the package, and inside it was a letter saying how they appreciated a young person being interested in electronics and DIY. Also inside was an Arduino Mega 2560, Skull Candy earbuds and a radioshack T shirt that isn't available in stores. The letter was handwritten, and signed by about 1/4th of the mail dept. Ever since then I've had respect for the store.</p>
<p>As a soldering instructor, the one thing I see often is people not knowing about the importance of FLUX. If your solder is balling up, not flowing where you want it, not gripping the wire, pad, or component, its because you did not use flux. The rule is that &quot;solder follows flux&quot;. When flux is applied, and heated with the soldering iron before applying the solder, it does several things. It creates a thermal coupling to transfer heat quickly to the area you will be soldering, it removes and impurities and oxides that are on the metal surface, and it prepares the metal to bond with the solder. If you apply solder without flux, it can be easily removed by chipping it off or by vibration. If you apply flux first, your solder joint permanently bonds with the metal. It cannot be chipped off and even heating it again and wicking the solder off will leave the surface coated with solder because the solder is permanently bonded with the with the metal. For electronics, the recommended flux to use is RMA, which is a mildly active acid flux. It becomes active only when heated and the acid etches the metal allowing the solder to bond to the etching. Be sure to quickly clean the flux residue off and clean the solder joint.</p>
<p>Nice work! Very detailed.</p>
Hi, this &quot;through hole component&quot; soldering is exactly what I've been trying to do. The DC jack on my laptop is broken, and I've been attempting to fix it. But for the life of me, I can't get the solder to behave the way yours does in the video, where you get the &quot;ant-hill&quot; shape. <br><br>When I do it, the solder either balls up on the end of the solder wire, or bunches up into a little blob around the lead, which is only a good enough joint to last for a week or so before I start losing the connection again. (I had the exact same problem while I was soldering the pickups in my guitar as well, although that was soldering a wire to a plate so it was quite different.)<br><br>So can somebody please tell me....WHAT am I doing wrong??
<p>I would check that you have a soldering iron that will heat up high enough first. It sounds like the components you are attempting to solder never get to the proper heat to allow the solder to flow. Heat is crucial. To much and the solder is not controlled and to little it will not stick to the components. Make sure you are applying heat to the component you are trying to solder and not the solder itself.</p>
Ive had this problem myself and have found it to be that the contacts you are trying to connect are dirty and you probably need to flux them. <br> <br>Hope this helps
Just a guess but you may be trying to solder lead devices with lead free solder and equipment. I don't have any experience with the lead free stuff myself but I hear it is hard to work with. Maybe someone else can shed some light on this?<br> <br> I cannot see what you are doing but it sounds to me like your iron tip is not tinned properly, or it was, and it is dirty now. Something like that. Take a paper towel fold it into a little square and soak it with clean water, then wipe your hot iron tip on it with a rolling motion a few times see if you can make it shiny bright.<br> <br> You should be able to get a droplet of solder to stick right to your iron tip. If you can't do that you can't solder. Well, not you can't solder, just you can't solder with that iron tip.<br> <br> When you solder to a metal plate it is helpful if you sand the smooth metal with emery or sand paper to put some scratches in it that the solder can grip to. Solder won't stick to all metals either. Like you can't solder aluminum. Well you can solder aluminum, just not with regular solder.<br> <br> Confused yet? Good! I think that is how they want us to be.<br> <br> Insist on genuine lead solder!<br> <br> <a href="http://i.imgur.com/l1z0g.jpg">http://i.imgur.com/l1z0g.jpg</a><br>
<p>Great guide for beginners. Thank you for doing this</p>

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