Step 2: Getting ready

Picture of Getting ready
Once I get my tools rounded up I like to plug in my soldering iron and let it heat up while prepping my materials.

First things first, the tip of the soldering gets hot - up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit, so don't touch it. I know this seems obvious, but many people seem to burn themselves at some point while soldering.

If you're using a new soldering iron you will want to put a small amount of solder on the tip of the hot iron before you start working. This is called tinning the iron and you only have to do it with a new iron. Once you start using it will usually have some solder on it already and be ready to go.

Once the iron reaches temperature (some irons take minutes to do this and some irons take seconds), I like to clean the tip of my iron on a wet sponge. You can wet the sponge on your soldering base if you have one, or you can just use a damp sponge or steel wool. Gently touch the tip of the soldering iron to the sponge and clean off any old bits of solder that might be stuck to it. It will sizzle a bit; this is normal.

I asked Mitch, a soldering expert who works at the control tower by day and is numberandom by night, for some tips. Mitch showed me a good idea for how to hold solder wire: he cuts a piece of it off the roll, and then makes a coil at one end with a short lead at the other. This helps him hold it steady and apply just the right amount of solder. This is a way better idea than trying to hold the whole spool of solder or grab onto just one thin strand.

Next it's time to pay some attention to the material you're soldering. If you're soldering wire, you'll need to strip back about 1/2" of insulation to expose the bare wire. If your joints are going to be wire-to-wire or wire-to-lead, you can twist them together tightly before soldering. Electrical components placed on a circuit board don't need much prep work; just seat them where you want them and find a way to hold them in place with clips or by bending the leads outward slightly so they stay put when you turn the circuit board over.

Finally, place what you want to solder into the clips on the helping hand, or on a surface you don't mind getting a little burn mark on - scrap wood works well. Basically you just don't want the components moving around on you when you go to solder them. There are lots of ways to orient the wires/components so you don't have to hold them in place while you solder them. Find what works best for you.

Hopefully your soldering iron has reached temperature by now, because you're ready to solder!
motomaster5 years ago
Old sponge , can be a wet or dry ?
Wet works best. The purpose is to lightly clean off the tip without using anything abrasive, so a few quick swipes over a damp (not neccisarily dripping wet) spounge works great. When it comes to how wet the spounge should be, I should be able press it with my thumb about a centimetre - it should be wet, but I shouldn't see any water pooling around my thumb. That said, if the spounge is too dry, you'll burn it (and clearly see scortch marks).

Also, if you're using a spounge that wasn't made for soldering (or one that came with a kit), I'd *really* recommend against using any 'no soap' kitchen spounge (the ones that come with cleaning products 'built in', rather than you adding them yourself) - not only is that likely toxic, but who know's what's in them (reactive, flamible when exposed to extreme heat, and etc) - so play safe!

My favourite DIY spounge is small, possible old, and usually made from poly rather than natural. When dry, they should be almost a solid with very little yield - when wet, you should be able to contort them to your hearts content... Their super cheap too, and easy to cut to size or replace if needed. You can buy them by the dozen at most supermarkets for a buck or two, and (at least in Canada, the US, and Australia) typically come in blue, yellow, or pink.
kingmii5 years ago
One time I was soldering and i knocked my soldering iron out of it's stand and then i grabbed it by the hot rod. That was the only time I've had good reaction timing

sorry, lol. i just have to comment. i've burnt myself quite a few times and i've got a friend who recently done it for the first time. i felt bad for him. . no offense
but i laughed at your comment. i'm sure you did as well looking back on it. sorry if i offended u. but i know how hot those are and i can almost see it happening!
Its fine lol I laughed at myself just after it happened although I couldn't bring myself to solder for a while after that
Pozole5 years ago
My Weller Digital instructions say to use DISTILLED WATER on the sponge.
yorgos5 years ago
howdy i am new to all this but i would like to learn to solder. what i would like to know is.... my hobby is making jewellery, i do not use precious metals such as gold etc. i would like to learn to solder so i can join certain components together. can anyone help?......cheers to all!!
I'm confused, do we need solder or can we just solder two wires together?