Electronics: Solder Is Easy - A One-Page Comic
Posted on 2011-01-15 @ 11:05:01 by r00t

On another list I am on, someone pointed out this handy little guide on how to solder, written in a one-page "comic book" format. I thought others might find it useful, though I have a few extra points to add.

The comic can be found here (also, you can download as an attachment to this article):

The only additional tips I would add to this comic:

1. Rosin-core solder only for electronic parts!

2. Soldering is a process where you are working with hot molten metal, and the flux core (in the solder) can quickly boil as you solder, causing the solder to "pop", leading to splatters. One should be prepared for this, and wear eye protection at a minimum (safety glasses or goggles - ordinary glasses can work, provided you mind them getting "pitted", and they cover your eyes adequately - if you wear thin designer glasses, cover them with goggles); ideally, one should wear eye protection, possibly a face shield, long sleeves, pants, and shoes with socks. In other words, similar to what you wear for welding. Then again, I've seen people weld using none of that...

3. The iron should be tinned before first use, and kept clean (and well tinned). A handy thing to have (but not completely necessary) is a container of paste or liquid rosin flux to clean the iron tip with. Also, for tip cleaning, some people like to use a real brass or copper scrub pad (the kind made of real copper or brass - not plastic - and without any soap - and never, ever use steel wool!); using a damp sponge (as illustrated in the comic) cools down your tip, which the iron has to compensate for (if temperature controlled) or which you have to wait for it to come back up to temperature - otherwise your joints could be made "cold" if you solder immediately after cleaning it on the damp sponge. If you use such a scrub pad, put it in a steel, copper, or ABS pipe end cap (about a 2" end cap or so) to keep it steady on the workbench.

4. One should always use a good spring soldering iron stand with a heavy base to place the iron in when not actively soldering. There also needs mentioning about the fact that one should never leave an iron running without adequate supervision (fire and burn safety - especially when small children or animals are around; in fact, small children and animals should be kept away from the work area). Something else to keep in mind (and very difficult to learn, actually) is the fact that should the soldering iron fall, don't attempt to catch it; you'll invariably catch it by the wrong end. Just get out of the way and let it fall.

5. Know about the difference between a clean and solid solder joint, and one which is formed "cold"; knowing the difference can mean the difference between a successful project and one with problems.

6. Use an alligator clip and/or a pair of hemostats as a heatsink for sensitive parts (like transistors and diodes, and other semiconductors) as you solder to prevent damage.

7. Don't solder DIP ICs directly to the PCB - instead, solder DIP sockets to the PCB, then install the DIP IC afterward; doing so will make it easier to fix the board should the IC fail, as well as protect the IC from the excess heat of soldering.

8. Finally, one should always solder low profile parts first, then progress to taller parts. It makes it easier to assemble kits (some kits say this in the instructions, or tell you which parts to solder first which are generally the low-profile ones progressing to the taller components - but if your kit doesn't have these instructions, or you are assembling something custom, knowing this can save a lot of frustration.

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