pygmy_giant
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Help ! I hate soldering.

Wed Aug 01, 2012 10:21 pm

Hi - I hate soldering.

I always burn my fingures and the solder takes ages to melt and then it goes everywhere except where its supposed to and it takes me forever to just solder a few joints, and then they look really messy.

Am I an idiot or is there a secret no ones told me?

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redhawk
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Re: Help ! I hate soldering.

Wed Aug 01, 2012 10:57 pm

I guess it depends on what kind of soldering iron you use and what is it you're soldering i.e. small components or heavy duty.
I have an Antex (M12) 12watt soldering iron and its great for vero board and small PCBs work but not for thick wires and components that absorb heat quickly i.e. the metallic cage shield that sits at the back of a CRT monitor. :)
If you're unable to get the iron hot enough to solder then you need a higher wattage soldering iron.
Also avoid using the flat ended tip unless you're tinning wire the cone shape tips are better for soldering components.
You should periodically clean the tip this removes and oxidised solder which can cause dry joints, some irons come with wet sponges however I find rubbing it off with crumpled bog roll paper just as effective.
If you're accident prone to burning yourself I would have a glass of water on hand to dig your fingers in as well as a bottle of lavender oil (it's very effective treatment for skin burns).

Richard S.

syndicate
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Re: Help ! I hate soldering.

Wed Aug 01, 2012 11:20 pm

Thin solder wire has a faster melting point than thicker solder wire. I use flux wax to my advantage. I apply flux on where I want the solder to flow. Use the wire to grab one ball of solder or however much you need and apply the ball of solder onto the two parts that you want soldered together. Make sure the parts have some flux on them as you shouldn't need very much. A good point to keep in mind is that solder flows towards heat, flux, and metal and in that order of priority usually. If you are soldering smds with small pads use solder paste. Apply solder paste to the pads you want soldered first. Then you can use a soldering iron or reflow gun to heat the paste and have the solder flow onto the pads. Takes a bit of trial and error and practice to get the hang of the nature of solder. At work I use a microscope to solder parts as small as 0805, 0603 or 0402.

tech_monkey
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Re: Help ! I hate soldering.

Wed Aug 01, 2012 11:39 pm

What type of iron do you have, and what type of solder are you using.
If the solder takes ages to melt then your iron is probably not up to the job or it hasn't reached its operating temp. Or it could be the solder itself. I use a temperature adjustable iron. This works wonders, as I can set the temp depending on what I need to do. Which also means I don't end up cooking a vital component by leaving the iron in place for a long time.
I would get some stripboard and practice soldering bits of wire on this. When at technical college we had to to solder various lengths of wire on to a strip board. We had ten coloured wires, which we had to cut,strip and place on the board. The colours followed the resistor colour code so also had to be in the correct order. so not only did it help with your soldering but it helped you remember the colour codes for resistors.
Also are you right or left handed. If you hold the iron in your right hand try it in your left and see what happens.
I would also make sure the area around you is very well lit. Good lighting is very important.
One last thing what type of tip do you have on the iron.
http://www.casatech.eu

pygmy_giant
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Re: Help ! I hate soldering.

Thu Aug 02, 2012 12:03 am

Thanks for the replies.

umm - I have no tip - just the point. It came with a tip but it fell off and I lost it.

I think it needs a clean. I think I will:

1) scrub the iron with wire wool
2) buy some thinner solder wire
3) get a fine tip
4) buy some solder paste / flux (whats the difference please?)

Also, should I use alcohol to clean joints first?

and

Are there different solder compositions?

My iron says its 30w - that should be hot enough right?

I'm a little depressed because I bought a rinky dinky microcontroller board but didn't realise I have to solder the header pins on myself until it came in the post - I'm paranoid about messing it up :?

Perhaps I should practice.
Last edited by pygmy_giant on Thu Aug 02, 2012 12:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

syndicate
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Re: Help ! I hate soldering.

Thu Aug 02, 2012 12:04 am

also tinning your iron tip is good practice before you begin soldering anything. Look up tinning on the internet.

syndicate
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Re: Help ! I hate soldering.

Thu Aug 02, 2012 12:11 am

Hold off on a getting a smaller tip. A smaller tip means it takes longer to heat the solder. Lots of people think that smaller tips are an easier solution to soldering smaller parts. I disagree with them. Any regular sized tip has worked for me with even soldering 0805 SMDs or even QFN-44 packages. Solder paste are tiny balls of solder with flux in it already. From the naked eye it looks like a light grey paste. With solder paste you don't need flux. Some solder wire has flux in it already too, but a little pack of flux won't hurt. Tomorrow if you want I'll make a video on soldering some .1" pitch male headers at my work and I'll post it on youtube. I have to do this anyways because of the new development board prototype I'm making for my company.

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mahjongg
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Re: Help ! I hate soldering.

Thu Aug 02, 2012 2:03 am

pygmy_giant wrote: 1) scrub the iron with wire wool
2) buy some thinner solder wire
3) get a fine tip
4) buy some solder paste / flux (whats the difference please?)
Solder paste contains flux, but also tiny balls of actual solder, flux only contains a resin disolved in some organic solvent.
Also, should I use alcohol to clean joints first?
No need for that, the flux should do that job, unless you got your fingerprints all over the PCB, in that case, yes clean it with a suitable material, that should be "solder cleaner", it comes in spray cans, bit if you don't have it medial alcohol will do.
Are there different solder compositions?
Yes, specifically there are "no lead" solders out there for ROHS, compliant fabrication, but you can use standard 60/40 solders (or even better 63/37 solder) as ROHS rues do not apply to you, so do not used "lead-free" solders, as they will only make your work much harder.
My iron says its 30w - that should be hot enough right?
Quite enough, its more how suitable the solder tip is of your iron, if you ever used real iron mesh "sponge" ("steel", not "brass" wire wool) on it or even worse a file, you might have ruined it, solder tips normally consist of a copper core coated with different other metals, removing these will ruin the point. Only clean the tip with a specific "real" sponge (not a "plastic sponge"), or wet paper, or even better the special brass curls designed for cleaning solder tips. If the solder doesn't melt (even with flux applied) its almost always a tip that doesn't transfer heat to the things you want to solder, because the tip is oxidized, or there is a thin layer of cruft on it (if the tip ever melts plastic, the tip will become instantly unusable, unless cleaned with a special ammonia based cleaner)
I'm a little depressed because I bought a rinky dinky microcontroller board but didn't realise I have to solder the header pins on myself until it came in the post - I'm paranoid about messing it up :?
Maybe I'm missing something, but to my knowledge all PI's come with pre soldered GPIO pinheaders, just as in all the pictures of PI's you will find.
Perhaps I should practice.
It never hurts....

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Burngate
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Re: Help ! I hate soldering.

Thu Aug 02, 2012 9:40 am

pygmy_giant wrote:Hi - I hate soldering.

I always burn my fingures ...
Hold the other end of the iron :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
Sorry - I couldn't resist that one

Cheap irons are a waste of money in my opinion.
In the old days, if you wanted a hotter iron, you bought a higher-powered one. Now you can get temperature-controlled ones, so I've got an old 48W Weller. If it's being used on something heavy, it uses all 48 watts, otherwise it just uses what's needed. But the temperature is always just right to melt the solder and no more.
But there's more to it than that. When you first put the tip on the joint and apply solder, what does the job is the heat stored in the mass of the tip. So for a big job, you need a massive tip, but for small jobs a small tip backed by lots of metal - a cone - is needed.

Copper being a good heat conductor, that's what bits are made of. But they're coated with iron. So for best long-term use, don't clean it with wire wool - that'll scratch off the iron. Wetted sponge or (dry or wet) loo roll or kitchen towell works for me - though use it folded several times otherwise you could burn your fingers :(
And treat tips as throw-away items. If you end up doing lots of soldering, you'll go through them quite quickly.

Various people give different instructions as to the best way to solder. To me it makes sense that
(a) make everything stay where they're put before soldering. If you need two hands to hold the components together plus one hand for the iron and another for the solder you're going to burn your fingers :cry:
(b) apply the iron to the joint. You're heating the copper, so a small bit of pressure, but not too much, to get good thermal contact
(c) touch the solder on. It should melt quickly onto the iron and the joint.

And practice.

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RaTTuS
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Re: Help ! I hate soldering.

Thu Aug 02, 2012 9:44 am

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pygmy_giant
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Re: Help ! I hate soldering.

Thu Aug 02, 2012 4:53 pm

Thank you all for your considered advice.

I think my main problem is that the heat is not being transferred to the joint efficiently, so I will invest in a good tip.

I will also use flux and thinner solder wire and practice and make sure that I am holding the plastice end of the iron.

- wish me luck!

syndicate
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Re: Help ! I hate soldering.

Thu Aug 02, 2012 11:06 pm

Made a quick tutorial on soldering .1" male headers.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oE6wqacTlTA

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mahjongg
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Re: Help ! I hate soldering.

Thu Aug 02, 2012 11:19 pm

Did you use lead-free solder in this video? Its seems the solder goes trough a long solidifying state when it cools down, and the joints look a bit, how to put it "crumbly and rough", :roll:

For the rest, nice video, although it could use some dialog/sound.

Its amazing (well almost to me) how such a video can be helpful!

pygmy_giant
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Re: Help ! I hate soldering.

Thu Aug 02, 2012 11:26 pm

Thanks syndicate - that has removed some of my fear!

Its actually quite mesmerising to watch...

pygmy_giant
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Re: Help ! I hate soldering.

Mon Aug 06, 2012 10:52 pm

Got a new solder tip but still struggling... if I made a video and posted it on youtube it would have to be soudtracked with a kazoo.

syndicate makes it look so easy - he heats the joint for a few seconds, touches the solder on and hey presto! It flows around the joint in an instant and ends up exactly where it needs to be.

When I try this the solder just does not melt.

I heat the joint for what seems like ages, touch the solder on the joint and nothing happens. The only place it melts on my (new) tip is about 7mm + from the point. I have to drip or wipe the solder on, and thats messy!

I have ordered some lead based solder in the hope that it melts more easily than this silver stuff - I believe there is about 20 C difference.

Is it me or the equipment I'm using?

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mahjongg
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Re: Help ! I hate soldering.

Mon Aug 06, 2012 11:00 pm

can you post a link to the youtube video?

If the base of the point gets hot enough, but not the point itself, the point isn't conducting heat well enough to its tip, or you are pushing the tip to something that is connected to a large piece of metal, (copper area on the board) drawing heat away. It could also mean that the point is contaminated with something that prevents it to transfer heat effectively to what you are trying to solder. This can happen for example if you have tried melting plastic with that point. Cleaning the point very thoroughly with a suitable and wet sponge, or brass solder point cleaner, might help. The point should be shiny clean, and when you toch the hot point with solder it should melt immediately, and flow over the point. If it only melts a "ball" on the end of the solder wire, its a sure sign of a unclean point.

In any case, using non ROHS (lead free) solder should certainly help.

pygmy_giant
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Re: Help ! I hate soldering.

Mon Aug 06, 2012 11:09 pm

no way - that video will never get made - its too embarassing - and I don't own a kazoo...

what I dont understand is why the solder wont melt at the tip of the bit - why only further up the shank?

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mahjongg
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Re: Help ! I hate soldering.

Mon Aug 06, 2012 11:12 pm

probably simply because the point is much cooler than the shank, and not hot enough to melt the solder, again, use simple 60/40 leaded solder, with a flux core.

xtramural
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Re: Help ! I hate soldering.

Mon Aug 06, 2012 11:12 pm

pygmy_giant wrote:no way - that video will never get made - its too embarassing - and I don't own a kazoo...

what I dont understand is why the solder wont melt at the tip of the bit - why only further up the shank?
Perhaps the tip has not been fully pressed home and the heating element is only managing to heat the local area and not transfer the heat further down the tip?

pygmy_giant
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Re: Help ! I hate soldering.

Mon Aug 06, 2012 11:20 pm

mmm - may get a longer tip so that it makes more contact inside the element...

syndicate
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Re: Help ! I hate soldering.

Mon Aug 06, 2012 11:58 pm

Notice in the video, how much faster the solder melts when I use the upper part of the point of the soldering iron. This is why I don't believe in soldering irons with smaller tips.

secretreeve
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Re: Help ! I hate soldering.

Tue Aug 07, 2012 1:51 am

one thing i havent seen mentioned.

dont under-estimate the great help that is called "helping hands"

they're basicaly crocodile clips under a magnifying glass.

the mag glass is optional and in most cases removable, but the clips do help in keeping things where you want them so you can apply the solder and heat.

in my case, i lost the damn thing, now i resort to blutak lol.

it couldnt hurt to post a video on youtube of yourself soldering, a few close ups of the equipment, solder melting on the tip, you actually soldering with it, that way we can "see" your technique and give pointers to it.

soldering is like ballet, a fine balance of skill, technique and general ballseyness lol

PaulCheffus
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Re: Help ! I hate soldering.

Tue Aug 07, 2012 9:52 am

pygmy_giant wrote:mmm - may get a longer tip so that it makes more contact inside the element...
Hi

If this is a new tip you did tin it first didn't you?

To tin the tip - as the soldering iron is heating up keep touching the solder on the tip until it melts then wipe it off until you have a shiny solder covering on the tip.

Sorry if I am teaching Granny to Suck eggs.

Cheers

Paul
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Re: Help ! I hate soldering.

Tue Aug 07, 2012 9:59 am

mahjongg wrote:probably simply because the point is much cooler than the shank, and not hot enough to melt the solder, again, use simple 60/40 leaded solder, with a flux core.
Hmmm still possible to get but in EU or countries building products to sell in EU 60/40 Lead/Tin has been banned except for certain usages (Military/Medical/Transport...) Under ROHS for over 6 years.

Not saying I agree with it, but that is the situation.
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mahjongg
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Re: Help ! I hate soldering.

Tue Aug 07, 2012 12:59 pm

techpaul wrote:
mahjongg wrote:probably simply because the point is much cooler than the shank, and not hot enough to melt the solder, again, use simple 60/40 leaded solder, with a flux core.
Hmmm still possible to get but in EU or countries building products to sell in EU 60/40 Lead/Tin has been banned except for certain usages (Military/Medical/Transport...) Under ROHS for over 6 years.

Not saying I agree with it, but that is the situation.
Only banned for industrial use, for home use, or even for repairs in an industrial setting, it is still allowed, and you can still buy lead based solder just fine.

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