Soldering rules

To successfully solder anything you will need a soldering iron. Unless you still live in the stone age (like Great Uncle David who heats his on a gas ring) it will plug in to the mains electricity supply. Always check with the bill payer before doing this. Once it is plugged in it will get very hot at the sharp end – that is VERY HOT – so handle it by the em, handle.

You must always keep your soldering iron in its stand when you are not actually using it to solder a component. Never lay it down on the table or work bench as it will probably cause your house to burn down. Don’t wave it around while you read instructions or drink tea, and never ever point it at your little sister even if she annoys you.

There are two methods of cleaning your soldering iron when the tip gets clogged up with old solder. A brass wool pad, or a sponge. I prefer the sponge as it can also be used when you accidentally burn your fingers by holding onto a wire for too long. Keep it well moistened with water and remember to shout ‘feck’ if you need to use it.

Solder is vital to the soldering experience. Buy lead free solder designed for electronics not acid cored solder which is used for plumbing.

How to solder

Start by pushing the component leads through the circuit board. Double check that you have the component in the correct holes, it is easier to do this than to unsolder an incorrectly placed item. Then bend the leads to hold it firmly in place while you solder it.

Then heat the lead and the circuit board pad for a couple of seconds before applying the solder. If the pads are very small and close together you can apply the heat and the solder at the same time.

The solder should flow round the lead and form neat round joint. Don’t hold the soldering iron on the component for more that 3 seconds. If the joint looks dodgy wait for 10 seconds for the component and solder to cool down then try again. Check that your joint has not made a bridge to its neighbour before cutting off the excess wire with sharp side cutters.

To unsolder a component slide a thin bladed screwdriver between the component and the circuit board. Then heat the solder joints and prise the component free. Sounds easy, but its not – that’s why you check before you solder it!

Photographs by Makerspaces.com