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Beginners Soldering Iron Answered

I am new to soldering and am looking to buy an iron. Any suggestions on beginner irons would be great. I plan on mostly using it for soldering small electronics. Also I would like to buy at a store and not over the internet. Again, any advice is greatly appreciated.


As LasVegas says, you can get a soldering iron kit at Radio Shack or an electronics store. I have even seen pencil irons at Walmart. There are some caveats. Number one, you have to have the right type of iron for the project. You indicate that you are using it for small electronics. But, there are small and there are smaller and there are extremely small and delicate electronic parts. If your project uses parts such as one-eighth watt or larger resistors with leads, caps with leads, transistors, scrs and such, a regular twenty-five watt pencil iron will do although you should use heat sink clips on your leads while soldering. If you want to solder microcircuits, you should look for a temperature regulated soldering iron and the appropriate heat sinks. Microcircuits are extremely sensitive to heat. They are also sensitive to static electricity, so you need to ground your soldering iron, your person and your work surface so you don't zap them. You can do this just by using a sheet of aluminum foil as a work surface, and clip leads to ground your soldering iron if it is not internally grounded. Clip two leads on a 1 meg resistor use it to connect the foil to a known ground like a grounded piece of equipment. The resistor keeps YOU from getting zapped by a shorted soldering iron or some defective piece of test equipment. While you are soldering, touch the foil frequently so you don't build up a static charge on your person and damage your microcircuits. If you are using surface mount components,....stop. You need a lot of skill and some special tools for surface mount. Practice your basic soldering first before using parts that can be as tiny a grain of rice. If you are soldering with rosin core electronic solder and you want your device to last, you need to clean your connections with flux remover. Otherwise, the flux in the solder will gradually cause corrosion. The other option would be to use a no wash solder with an organic flux. Don't forget to get the right gauge of solder for the parts you are soldering. Small joints need a small solder. If you would like to learn how to solder, ask a ham radio operator to show you the ropes. They like to build gadgets and they usually like to share their knowledge. I learned to solder well by practice, practice, practice.

. Excellent answer! But I have a few questions. . Is rosin flux really that bad? Or is it something about the modern packages? It's been decades since I did any soldering (transistors came in TO-5 cans), but we _never_ cleaned off rosin flux. . Does the 1M resistor help to keep from zapping components that may have a charge when placed on the mat? Or is it strictly for personal protection?

I suppose that with most vacuum tube sockets, the connections were fairly sturdy and if you were soldering electrical wires of a substantial gauge together, cleaning isn't quite as important. But, on a circuit board, the corrosion can cause the solder joint to become resistive or possibly fail altogether. It can also creep up the legs of microcircuits and eventually cause them to fail. Then, you have to figure out where the bad connection is. That can get complicated. Even TO-5 cans usually came with a spacer on the bottom so the boards could be washed after wave soldering. It's always been considered to be a good practice to clean the flux off after building or repairing electronic circuits. That's why I like the solder with the organic flux core for making repairs. ( I believe that one brand is called Xersin solder.) It doesn't have to be washed off which saves a little time and mess. But, it's really not that hard to clean the solder joints with some spray flux remover and a small brush. The flux remover evaporates without leaving any residue and it is safe to use around electronic components. The 1M resistor is for your protection so you don't make a direct connection between a voltage and ground. Some soldering kits come an ESD wrist strap with the resistor built into the cord. The wrist strap is handy if you frequently work on electronic devices because you don't have to remember to touch ground before touching the device. Even metal film resisters can be degraded by static discharge. So, it's good idea to ground yourself when working on any electronic devices.

. Thanks. If I ever do any more soldering, I'll get some cleaner.

get a weller one for like 18.99 at home depot cause radioshack ones freak up the tip fast and corrode it and the weller comes with a safety light and three tips and some solder and i've seen at instructables the one thats orange

RadioShack and any electronics supply store will have a basic soldering kit including an iron (look for dual temperature), rosin core solder, a stand and instruction booklet to get you started.

You should also purchase solder wick and/or a solder sucker to clean up errors and removal of parts.