Introduction: Track Soldering

Picture of Track Soldering

Making a PCB (Printed Circuit Board) is not very difficult. Its fun if you're making it for the first time. But after making couple of PCBs one may get bored.

Like in my case, for the first time I was very excited. Then eventually PCB making was so boring. Everytime I had to design the schematic using CAD tools. Then check for errors, netlist, PCB image. Etch the PCB,drill it....
All these things take lot of time.

When you have the schematic ready on paper or on your PC. Why to again redraw it in CAD and then print PCBs?
Why not go for an alternative method which is as effective as a PCB?

Most of the times CAD tools don't have the parts required. Like if I'm using some industrial purpose IC, it is not available in the library of the tool. Then you have to create the part.

So all these things make a small project big, in terms of time.

Step 1: What Is Track/trace Soldering

Picture of What Is Track/trace Soldering

Track soldering is a method of soldering through hole components on a normal perfboard. The soldering tracks look similar to the PCB traces. But here the tracks are designed by you and not the CAD tool.

Normal perfboard can be used to get high quality soldering like PCBs using this method.

First place all the parts on the perfboard and solder them in place. Then one by one start connecting them together according to the circuit diagram(schematic).

I will explain how to do track soldering in detail with pictures in the next steps.

Step 2: Parts Needed

Picture of Parts Needed

1. Soldering Iron

2. Perfboard

3. A few parts like resistors,capacitors,transistors,IC,etc

4. Soldering wire

5. DMM(Digital Multimeter)

Step 3: Lets Start Soldering

Picture of Lets Start Soldering

Place the parts on the perfboard according to your circuit diagram(schematic).

Once parts are placed, solder the leads to the perfboard so that they remain in position.

You can also place one component and solder and then place another component and solder, or place all the components first and then solder. Whichever is convenient for you.

Now start with any one component. I would prefer to start with an IC or a transistor first(If they exist in your schematic). Start by making tracks of solder from the pin of the IC or transistor to the part which needs to be connected.

How to do that?

Touch the tip of soldering iron to the pin of the component. Apply solder, move towards next hole on the perfboard again apply solder go on tracing the holes towards the components from the IC or transistor and connect each hole.

This will give you a clean solder track.

Finally check with a DMM if connection is done properly or not. Use the continuity option in your DMM.


shivakumar1995 (author)2016-05-09

hey can what software can i use to design a perfboard? I usually scan the perfboard and take a print of it. and then end up drawing the components on it to find the best placement. it gets tedious for complicated circuits. please suggest

TropicalSpeed made it! (author)shivakumar19952017-09-23

I layout the board first on graph paper. When done, I scan, print, and label it "component side". Then, I bring the scanned image into a photo editor, flip the image horizontally, label it "wiring side", and print it out too. hope this helps.

wow! u took quite some efforts to reply. Thanks for that! i will keep it in mind

TropicalSpeed made it! (author)2017-09-23

I use the perf boards with the square clad holes which makes the track soldering easier. I add a small amount to each of the pads that I want to connect. After all the pads have solder, I then lay the soldering tip in between two of the pads and add more solder to bridge the pads. I haven't tried the drag and solder technique yet, but I will on my next project. I'm concerned about the dwell time on each pad and the amount of heat that will be applied to each pad with this technique.

I first layout the board on graph paper to scale and make my adjustments so that tracks line up with the pins of the components. I keep the traces short - usually less than an inch. The power rails are an exception. Anything over an inch is interconnected with 30ga. solid wire-wrap wire.
I prototype and debug on the same board. I mount most components in breakaway board socket strips. This way, I can make changes to component values as well as changing the wiring without heating the components. When I'm satisfied with the design, I then sweat-solder the component leads into the sockets for a permanent connection.

Hope this helps.

rjawale (author)TropicalSpeed2017-09-23

Nice work. Looks really clean. However, I have stopped using this method now.

I make printed circuit boards now.

seppev3 (author)2017-03-22

Hey, great instructable!

I am plannig to use this technique to build a high frequency curcuit. I will only do the power lines this way, and for the signal wires I will use wire wrap wire. Do I need to be worried about interferance when using this techniqie ? Because the fat traces seem like quite good antennas to pick up interferance...

rjawale (author)seppev32017-03-23

This is not suitable for High freq. circuits.

TropicalSpeed (author)rjawale2017-09-23

Why not?

seppev3 (author)rjawale2017-03-23

Even if I only do the power lines this way ?

smandal13 (author)2015-08-22

nice work

DangerousTim (author)2015-08-08


rjawale (author)DangerousTim2015-08-08


braytonlarson (author)2015-07-23

I use strip board instead of perfboard for my projects. I just cut the traces where I need with a razor blade, i find it much more economical and less messy with wiring.

chelseabun (author)braytonlarson2015-07-24

I think it has some advantage as well as disadvantage too. It is really hard to cut the strip if the IC's leg is on the same line because trace line is both vertical and horizontal

braytonlarson (author)chelseabun2015-07-24

Not sure I quite understand what you mean by "horizontal and vertical", stripboard only runs one way or the other...?

chelseabun (author)braytonlarson2015-07-25

As you can see in the photo below, the 7809's pin is stay in same (horizontal) line. I met this case before and it is very painful to keep its leg not shorted.

braytonlarson (author)chelseabun2015-07-25

Ah I understand now. To solve this I just constantly check for shorts throughout my project, if there is one I pull a little solder off the pin and resolder. Then I take a razor blade and slice between the pins to make sure they are separate. I realize that this may seem like too much work for some people and they would rather just use perfboard, for me I feel stripboard makes a cleaner project being able to connect things simply through the strips rather than making solder traces or using jumper wire.

chelseabun (author)braytonlarson2015-07-25

I like strip board but I cut the strip very deep but can't break the strip somehow. When it cut, it's still high chance to connect 2 legs accidently (this is what I hate). Scroll down and read more

braytonlarson (author)chelseabun2015-07-30

I understand your frustration. I suppose it is every hobbiest / engineer 's choice!

grayl (author)chelseabun2015-07-26

Isn't this the case where you should turn the 7809 ninety degrees? Have the three pins on three different tracks, not the same track?

chelseabun (author)grayl2015-07-27

It's just an example to show you what you might meet in reality. I'm showing you stripboard's disadvantage. You can move the IC to better position but where to put other components, bla bla bla ...

rjawale (author)grayl2015-07-26

Anyway you have to make cuts on the board. You don't want +9V on the whole track!

rjawale (author)braytonlarson2015-07-24

Strip boards are old now. Even I had used strip boards for some projects. There is a nice tool for drawing strip board called strip board magic.
The problem with strip board is that you need to cut tracks and install jumpers in the circuit. Sometimes the cut is not proper and IC pins get short circuited.
I go for PCBs if its a college project which I have to submit or perf boards for hobby projects.

chelseabun (author)rjawale2015-07-27


braytonlarson (author)rjawale2015-07-24

I don't understand "stripboards are old now". I think they are plenty beneficial for hobby projects. When you say you have to "install jumpers' I suppose that is true but its a lot less than on a perfboard which requires a jumper for each pin to pin connection (even if you are making it using the solder trace method. I suppose it is really each hobbiest / student to decide which works best for them.

chelseabun (author)braytonlarson2015-07-25

This is an example of a layout using stripboard. The only option is follow the strip and it obviously not the best layout. But it also has huge advantage if you use it wisely.

Benadski (author)2015-07-28

One big disadvantage is that solder does not conduct that well. And it is ugly. When you bend the component wires with care you have a tidier prototype and it's a bit faster too!

demonic477. (author)2015-07-26

If you have a problem cutting stripboard just use a drillbit to cut the traces I took a old screwdriver handle and inserted a wood bit in it cuts tracks first time every time and makes for a clean looking board

grayl (author)2015-07-26

Why did you extend the solder row to one row inside on each side of the IC sockets? That really increases the odds for an accidental bridge.

rjawale (author)grayl2015-07-26

I must say you're a good observer.
Actually I had shorted the pins accidentally. I was thinking about something else while soldering. And then I realised I have soldered wrong pins :P

twong10 (author)2015-07-24

Glad I found someone that does the same thing. I find this method the most elegant way to make quick circuits. I use a soldering station for soldering and I would suggest lowering the temp of the station when making solder tracks, the lower temp makes joining solder bridges much easier. I use 300°C for general soldering and ~250°C for making solder tracks.
Keep up the good work, these soldering instructables are eye candy for soldering nerds like me xD

rjawale (author)twong102015-07-24

Yes. This is the easiest way and gives good results. Just like a PCB.
I don't own a soldering station. I'm an undergrad student Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering.
Thanks for the suggestion. I will try soldering bridges with lower temp. once I get a soldering station.

chelseabun made it! (author)2015-07-23

I often use component's leg to make track solder. It's similar like this. I use it as a way to recycle part. It also because I plan all layout in my head when I'm soldering

rjawale (author)chelseabun2015-07-24

Yes. I used to bend component leads and make connections using them. But it makes the circuit look somewhat untidy. The solder tracks look nice.
The leads which are cut off, I use as small jumpers on breadboard.

chelseabun (author)rjawale2015-07-24

You can add more solder to make it look just like a solder track. I personally hate to see that thick line on my board (I want more space for protection case, bla bla bla ...). It also much easier to fix if I soldered it wrong. I only reuse LEDs' leg because they are tought

RangerJ (author)2015-07-24

Makes me want to build something. Thanks

rjawale (author)RangerJ2015-07-24

Try it and do tell me how it works!

About This Instructable




Bio: A passionate Electronics and telecommunication engineer. Interested in RF, analog, Embedded Systems and IoT.
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