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Easy tips and tricks to teach you how to use a soldering iron

Easy tips and tricks to teach you how to use a soldering iron
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Last Updated: 24 November 2019

Soldering iron is a versatile equipment. Beyond using it for mounting components on a PCB or carrying out assemblies in electronics, there is so much more than you can do with this one. If you plan to buy the best soldering iron in the market, it will help to learn how to use a soldering iron. Even if you are an absolute beginner who has never handled one of these devices, then these soldering iron tips will answer all your questions and allow you to use the tool like a pro.

So, what is soldering? Soldering is the process of using a special tool to melt lead and create contact between two components. It is an essential tool that can generate a tremendous amount of heat enough to melt solder, which is then used to join two or more surfaces. What is the solder? It is an alloy of tin and copper used to fuse two or more metal surfaces. Sometimes lead is also used to create this alloy.

It is a handy technique that anyone with a little patience and steady hands can learn. You would be surprised at the many exciting applications of this tool. You might find several configurations of this equipment in the market. Most of them are wired and can be powered on by connecting an electrical socket. If you are using portable wireless tools like say popular ColdHeat, then you can break free of the tangles of cables. These run on batteries. Learn cold heat soldering iron tips for using these devices.

How do you use solder? A step by step guide

How do you use solder
  • Start with cleaning the tip of the iron for obtaining a cleaner and more efficient contact. Most people use a wet sponge to do this.
  • Know the right way of holding a soldering rod. Hold it like a pen at its grip, which is a heat insulation material.
  • Place rod tip close against the surface where you would be creating a contact. Keeping its tip as close as possible, bring the solder close and touch the rod.
  • The proximity of rod with connecting surfaces should be such that molten alloy quickly touches the joint.
  • Once you find a nice amount of molten alloy at the joint, remove rod first and then solder.
  • If there is excess alloy at the joint, you can easily remove it with a cutter.

How do you solder safely?

  • Some essential soldering tips are about how to handle the soldering iron safely. Given that temperatures are incredibly high (it can reach around 400°C), you must exercise precision and do your soldering project without any distractions. Here are some tips and tricks for safety.
  • How do you solder safely
  • Do not turn an iron without its stand. Always place your rod in its stand when you turn it on and let it rest in the position even after use, till it completely cools down. Also, if you are handling multiple points continuously, you should always place a rod in its stand and not keep holding it.
  • Choose an open area for your project. Keeping the windows and doors open will help. If you have a lot of work, then place a small fume extractor nearby for alleviating the effects of smoke.
  • Wear safety goggles if possible for protecting your eyes from smoke and lead.
  • Keep rod tip away from contact with other appliances, wires, or even electrical outlets.

What can you solder?

There is one big question that comes up when talking about this technique, and that is — what can I solder? By knowing this, you can make the most of soldering tips for beginners.

What can you solder
  • Copper, brass, gold and a variety of other metals can be soldered
  • Learning solder tips and techniques can also be useful for those involved in computer and other electrical and electronic hardware design and assembly.
  • There are plenty of places in the plumbing industry where soldering can be helpful, especially with copper pipes.
  • Automobile components also have metal joints in them where this technique can be used.
  • It can be extensively used in various ways in jewelry making.
  • There is a variety of small home DIY projects that you can take up if you know how to practice soldering.

Using a solder on the jewelry

Before you learn how to solder jewelry, you should be aware that there is other equipment so that you might need for this process.

  • Clean your workpieces. Use tweezers with pointy edges for precisely holding the pieces. Place them on a brick before you start your work.
  • For a neat finish start with cutting tiny bits of solder for a nearly invisible finish.
  • Use a flux when you work on jewelry
  • Solder cut pieces in place. Then use a torch for setting its joint.
  • Dunk joined metal immediately in a bowl of cold water and allow the metal to solidify instantly.

Learn how to solder electronics

Using this versatile tool for assembling electronic components on a printed circuit board is one of the most common applications of the instrument.

  • For surface mounted devices (SMD), place the component on respective pads. Ensure that all the leads are touching the respective contact.
  • For the through-hole components, insert the leads into the drilled holes on the PCB. Bend leads on the other side for a tighter mounting. Ensure that you do no end up shorting your circuit by touching other contact points.
  • Once you have placed a component in its position, bring iron close to the pad and then melt some alloy on it. Take smaller bits of this alloy for SMDs to avoid adding excess solder, which can lead to shorting of consecutive leads.

Soldering glasses

Broken glasses can easily be fixed with this tool. If you do not know what kind of metal has been used on the rim of your glasses, here is a neat trick you can try.

Choose a thin copper wire. Use it for wrapping broken pieces together tightly. This creates a base copper surface, which is easy for working on using this tool. Once you have a tightly wound copper wire surface apply flux and alloy as you would usually solder a copper joint.

Soldering metal

For soldering metal, ensure that its surface is free from dust and rust. You can use a ball of abrasive steel wool to smoothen its surface before you start your project. This helps create a more uniform finish and a reliable bond. Use a flux on an area where you need contact for improving the precision of this process.

How do you practice soldering?

How do you practice soldering

Whether it is for practice or for carrying out a serious project, make sure that you choose a well-ventilated safe work area. Remove all the clutter and allow enough room for your hands to move around freely.

Here are some products that you should purchase before you start your practice-

  • Solder iron
  • Solder station with a cleaning sponge at the base
  • Solder wire
  • The flux that helps improve the efficiency of the process
  • Fume extractor to place in your work area to extract and eliminate fumes

What is tinning, and why is it important?

Whether you already own a soldering iron or plan to buy one soon, you should first know the answer to one big question — What is tinning, and why is it important? The tips of the soldering rod are prone to oxidation and wear like any other metal surface. Tinning is where you use the solder to create a thin protective layer on the tip. This helps extend the life of the rod tip. If the tip has gone beyond restoration, you can find replacement solder tips for your rod.

Using the solder flux

Using the solder flux

You should learn how to use solder flux if you wish to fine-tune your techniques. This is an optional material that some might avoid in their projects. Remember that if you need a clean finish and a long-lasting contact, then using a solder flux might be critical. It comes in the form of a paste, which is easy to apply on the contact surface. It can help remove any traces of oxides left on the joints that you are working on.

There are several soldering wires these days that come with a flux embedded in the core to eliminate the need for using flux separately. Besides this, there is rosin flux as well as inorganic and organic acid flux.

Cleaning your soldering iron

It is essential to learn how to clean a soldering iron to maintain it in the best condition and to prevent clumsy finishes. Cleaning the iron is a straightforward task. This is also the only step that is often required to maintain the iron in good condition so that you can go back to it even after not using it for days.

  • Let iron cool down thoroughly before cleaning it.
  • Use a piece of steel wool to scrub off depositions on the tip.
  • Coat the tip with flux and then heat the rod.
  • Use a wet sponge to wipe off the work surface along with the flux. Flux here is used for preventing oxidation and making cleaning simpler.

Desoldering is a technique you should learn

To learn to use the soldering iron is a skill that cannot be complete without learning how to desolder. Invest in a good quality desolder pump, which comes handy in extracting removed metal and lead at the joints.

Desoldering is a technique you should learn
  • Prepare the joint that you would be desoldering by dabbing some isopropyl alcohol to clean the surface deeply.
  • Place a heat sink to ensure that the heat that your iron emanates doesn’t damage the component being removed or even the others nearby.
  • Accurately place the tip at the previously done solder point and use the pump to remove the molten solder quickly.
  • Clean the surface again with isopropyl alcohol once your desoldering process is over.

A final word

Once you get the knack of holding the soldering rod correctly and the amount of lead to use, you would soon get better at this technique. All it takes is the choice of the right tools and a little patience and practice. Do not ignore the essential but overlooked steps like cleaning the iron after each use and using flux for each soldering project. With this in mind, you can quickly try your hands at soldering projects big and small.

Visit our site HomeMakerGuide, where you’ll get to know more tips on how to use tools like a pro.

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