Everyone can learn how to solder, and it is a crucial skill to know if you are building electronic circuits. And basic soldering is easy. All you need is a soldering iron and some solder. When my dad taught me as a teenager, I remember picking it up quite fast.
This tutorial teaches you how to solder.
Prepare your workspace. Find your soldering iron and your solder wire and start heating the iron. You can read about soldering tools and how to choose a soldering iron here.
Clean the tip
When the iron hot, start with cleaning the tip to remove old solder from it. You can use a wet sponge, a copper scouring pad or something similar.
Tinning the tip
Before you start soldering, you should tin the tip of the soldering iron. This makes the tip transfer heat faster and thereby making the soldering easier and faster. If you get any droplets of tin on your tip, use a sponge, a copper scouring pad or just shake it off.
TIPS: If you tin the tip before you put down the soldering iron for the day, it is said that the tip should last longer.
How to solder two wires
Start with tinning the two wires. It is useful to have something to hold one wire for you. Place the tip of the iron on the wire and let it heat for a second or three. Then add some solder until the wire is soaked with solder. If it is a thick wire, you should turn up the heat on your iron (if possible) to make the wire heat up faster. Repeat the tinning process on the other wire.
Now place the two tinned wires together and hold still while heating them with the soldering iron so that the tin on both of the wires melt together.
Soldering on a PCB
How to solder through-hole components on a PCB starts by placing the part in its hole. Bend the leads of the part so that it stays in its place.
Put the tip of the iron on the pad so that it heats both the lead of the part and the pad of the circuit board. Heat them for a second or so before you apply solder. Remove the iron and the solder wire and inspect your solder joint to see if it looks okay.
Note: If you are soldering IC’s, it is smart to use an IC socket. Some ICs will break if the heat from the soldering iron is too hot.
A good solder joint has kind of a cone shape.
If you are happy with your soldering, cut off the component lead from above the solder joint.
Edit: One of my readers commented on this and explained that you should always cut the leads before you solder for best result. I have to admit that I don’t usually do that, but it’s worth mentioning :)
Watch out for “cold solder joints”
Always make sure that you apply enough heat, otherwise you might end up with a “cold solder joint”. Such a solder joint might look okay without actually providing the connection you want. This can lead to some serious frustration when your circuit doesn’t work and you are trying to figure out why ;) When you look at a cold solder joint up close, you’ll see that it has a small gap between the solder and the pin.
More On Soldering
If you feel you are ready to take the next step in soldering, check out these articles:
- What is the RIGHT soldering temperature?
- SMD Soldering Using a Soldering Iron
- Reflow Soldering
- How to desolder
- 3 Soldering Techniques Everybody Ought To Know