Learning to solder...slowly
Old 16th April 2010
  #1
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Thread Starter
Learning to solder...slowly

Hey guys,

Basically i baught a 30w soldering iron with some led free solder and a few accessories like a stand and the magnifying glass etc.

Now i have collected every lead that has broke for years now so eventually im going to try and repair some of them, i also have a planet waves tuner which isnt working at the moment, and a trace elliot combo in which ive been told all that needs doing is to solder the wires to the speaker frame.(dont worry im not going at them yet haha)

Now i'd love to be able to confidently fix my own equipment so im going to start somwhere, at the verrry bottom.

Anyone got any absolute beginner advice? maybe a good way to practice? or an excellent source of knowledge on it?

Thanks
Craig
Old 16th April 2010
  #2
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Old 16th April 2010
  #3
Old 16th April 2010
  #4
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When soldering wires and connectors (I would start with Connectors - TS, TRS, XLR (easiest IMO), 1/8" TRS) - get good at those.

XLR is the easiest. Start with that. Get your Iron hot. Put a little solder on the tip of your iron. Now "tin" the bare wire (which honestly shouldnt be a whole lot of bare wire - small, simple, quick is the name of the game. You dont need and dont want a whole lot of exposed and you dont need a whole lot of solder). Once you get a little solder on the wire, put a little solder on the connector "cups". Then QUICKLY just solder the wire to the connector's cup. It should take about 1 second. Hold it for a few seconds to let it cool in place.

XLRs, then TS, then TRS, then Mini, then RCA - I would practice in that order. It takes a minute to get good, but it's invaluable so kudos for jumping into it!

I would suggest also getting a Vise Grip tool. I use that to hold the connector in place. Well worth the money IMO. I used to do a lot of soldering for work, now it's just for maintenance purposes. Or fun.

Once you get handy on the cables then you can start on the PCBs.

Good luck!
Old 16th April 2010
  #5
3 + infractions, forum membership suspended.
Quote:
Originally Posted by craig9045 View Post
led free solder
a Zep fan.....
Old 16th April 2010
  #6
pan
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Get lead/tin solder for starters - it is easier to use and flows better with already tinned connectors.

Oh, and you can never have enough adaptors XLR/TRS/RCA and vice-versa...
Old 16th April 2010
  #7
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Old 16th April 2010
  #8
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The best lesson I learned in electronics, and very therapeutic.

Some may do it differently, but this technique has served me well.

Prep your Iron:

1. Make sure your soldering tip is nice and clean.
2. Wet then wring out the little sponge on your iron holder so it's damp (get
one if you haven't already)
2. Wait until your iron is nice and hot.
3. Tin the tip: touch your solder to the tip to cover it.
4. Wipe away excess solder from the tip on the little sponge.

Tinning wires:

1. Cut back the sleaving to desired length.
(strip fine wires a little under length as the iron's heat will shrink back
the sleaving somewhat)
2. Twist the strands to keep them together.
3. Clamp or secure the cable so you can use both hands if possible.
4. Touch the iron tip AND the solder to the wire at the SAME time, and run
both from the base of the wire to the tip of the wire in an even motion.
Capillary action will to the rest as the hot solder flows between the
strands.

Touching the hot tip and the solder to the wire at the same time will let the flux
work and bind the solder to the wire. No more trying to smear a bobble of solder onto the wire.

Preparing the connector

1. Touch the iron tip to the connector surface long enough to heat it up but
not damage the surrounding housing - most likely plastic.

2. Feed the solder into / onto where the iron tip touches the connector.
The solder should flow and bind to the connector.

Making the connection.

1. Place the tinned wire into / onto the prepped connector.
2. Press the iron tip where the wire and connector touch.
Depending on the size of the wire / connector and amount of solder
already present this may be enough to secure the wire in temporary
position.
3. Now feed solder onto where the wire, connector and iron tip touch until
you've got what looks like a good connection.



Al
Old 16th April 2010
  #9
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My only advise would be, patience. I did my old analogue studio 25 years ago, made up every lead in the room, to patchbays, board, tape machine... saved a lot of dough but required patience. Put some nice music on and enjoy the experience!

Stef
Old 17th April 2010
  #10
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ddageek's Avatar
 

I always liked using a set of panel mounted conectors when soldering.
Old 18th April 2010
  #11
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Thread Starter
cheers guys, the suns out over here for a change so im going to sit in the garden and practice on my ancient leads tomorrow.

plus i really like the idea of building my own pedal.

thanks again!
Old 18th April 2010
  #12
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Two critical rules.

Unless the surface you are soldering/tinning is hot enough to melt solder, the solder won't take properly. Always melt the solder directly to the article being tinned - don't try to flow from the iron onto the article. A little glob of solder on the iron's tip to bridge the gap is fine - but don't feed the solder wire into this glob - feed it directly onto the metal next to it. If it won't melt and feed the metal isn't hot enough.

Cleanliness is golden. Get everything super clean. Even the solder itself should be clean and gleaming. Simple tissues dipped in isopropyl alcohol work well. When you make a joint there will be some flux left from the core of the solder. That flux residue should be as close to clear as possible. Its job is to help remove contaminents from the joint - yellow or brown flux residue means you didn't get it really clean before. Keep the iron tip geaming - never solder with a dirty tip.

Tips. Get a pile of heat shrink tubing in different diameters. Use it when building connectors.

Practise lots.
Old 18th April 2010
  #13
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30W may be a bit low for working with led free solder... I would recommend switching to 60/40. Later if you feel the need, get a temp regulated soldering station with a bit more umph.
Old 19th April 2010
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by craig9045 View Post

Now i'd love to be able to confidently fix my own equipment so im going to start somwhere, at the verrry bottom.

Anyone got any absolute beginner advice? maybe a good way to practice? or an excellent source of knowledge on it?

Thanks
Craig
The best piece of advice is to buy a really good soldering station. Its one of the tools you will use all of the time as a tech. Don't skimp on it. Trust me the better the gun, the faster and pleasurable the work will be. Also tips have a certain life that you will maximize. The more use you get out of them in their life span the better.

That your meter and your oscilloscope are the most important tools of the trade.
Old 19th April 2010
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scanner View Post
The best lesson I learned in electronics, and very therapeutic.

Some may do it differently, but this technique has served me well.

Prep your Iron:

1. Make sure your soldering tip is nice and clean.
2. Wet then wring out the little sponge on your iron holder so it's damp (get
one if you haven't already)
2. Wait until your iron is nice and hot.
3. Tin the tip: touch your solder to the tip to cover it.
4. Wipe away excess solder from the tip on the little sponge.

Tinning wires:

1. Cut back the sleaving to desired length.
(strip fine wires a little under length as the iron's heat will shrink back
the sleaving somewhat)
2. Twist the strands to keep them together.
3. Clamp or secure the cable so you can use both hands if possible.
4. Touch the iron tip AND the solder to the wire at the SAME time, and run
both from the base of the wire to the tip of the wire in an even motion.
Capillary action will to the rest as the hot solder flows between the
strands.

Touching the hot tip and the solder to the wire at the same time will let the flux
work and bind the solder to the wire. No more trying to smear a bobble of solder onto the wire.

Preparing the connector

1. Touch the iron tip to the connector surface long enough to heat it up but
not damage the surrounding housing - most likely plastic.

2. Feed the solder into / onto where the iron tip touches the connector.
The solder should flow and bind to the connector.

Making the connection.

1. Place the tinned wire into / onto the prepped connector.
2. Press the iron tip where the wire and connector touch.
Depending on the size of the wire / connector and amount of solder
already present this may be enough to secure the wire in temporary
position.
3. Now feed solder onto where the wire, connector and iron tip touch until
you've got what looks like a good connection.



Al
Great advice! I'm going to print this out as a reminder guide next to my soldering station.

One problem though.... although I've got a good Hakko temp controlled iron, I never seem to have enough hands to hold every thing steady while I solder. I have one of those Exacto ball joint double alligator clip vises but it's always tipping over on the bench. Is there a good vise or gadget to use when making connectors? .
Old 19th April 2010
  #16
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I use a wide-stance Panavise when soldering.

I also declare total BS on lead-free soldering, especially since the Europeans have declared Lead-Acid batteries and CRT's "off limits" for their idiotic "ROHS" lunacy.

Put this another way....which is going into a landfill??...a $20,00k Fairchild, or a $50 TV set, or a $100 automobile car battery?

Oh...the Walmart TV set and the auto car battery are exempted from ROHS, yet they contain many pounds of lead.

But not the Fairchild (as an example), which has a tiny amount (grams) of lead in the soldered wiring, and is nevertheless a "toxic hazard", as are the many XLRs soldered onto wires that we use every day.

Boys, send your 1176's and vintage API modules and LA-2's and Neves to the Hazardous Waste sites!

Ignore the multiple of tons of waste lead in CRTs and auto batteries, since the makers of those have clout with the governments.

Ignore the fact that the military has also exempted themselves from lead-free solder as well. At least the military will stay with a proven soldering alloy, so we won't have missles randomly firing, or satellites falling from the skies.


Bri
Old 19th April 2010
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mslim View Post
I have one of those Exacto ball joint double alligator clip vises but it's always tipping over on the bench.
Yep, that's my experience too.

I've had a bit more luck with small worktop vices. I've got one with a suction cup on the bottom and is ball-jointed
for easy change of angle, mine's generic but looks very much like the Panavise 301, Bri.

Another thing you can do to free up a hand, especially when tinning the wires is make a little solder "cobra"

ie. loop a length of solder into a circle to make a base, then pull the solder up and over to make the snake neck.
This can sit on the desktop and you can bring your wire and iron to touch it without contorting yourself.

I've included a photo in case that didn't make sense.

I find when doing XLRs for example the first connection is the trickiest even when the connector is clamped.
So while putting the wire in position and holding the iron in the other I feed the solder in by holding a length
between my teeth.

EDIT: Only do this with Lead Free Solder.

Not elegant, but gets the job done.

Once the first joint is made you can place the other wires into the pins' solder cups. If they've been tinned
properly they usually sit in place under their own tension freeing up your hand again to feed the solder.

Al
Attached Thumbnails
Learning to solder...slowly-solder-cobra.jpg  
Old 20th April 2010
  #18
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Gentlemen,

Please forgive my last rant, but I am now regularly seeing "lead free" soldering failures within practically new equipment, both pro and consumer.

As for holding the "work" when soldering:

PanaVise Products, Inc.

Best,

Bri
Old 20th April 2010
  #19
pan
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Ahh, the solder cobra!

Thanks for that synonym.
Old 20th April 2010
  #20
Gear maniac
 

+1 on lead solder. it could save you a lot of frustration, especially when learning to solder.
Old 20th April 2010
  #21
+2 on the good stuff. get the 60/40 really thin wire. Melts really quick.
Old 20th April 2010
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scanner View Post
So while putting the wire in position and holding the iron in the other I feed the solder in by holding a length
between my teeth.

Not elegant, but gets the job done.
You might want to reconsider the part where you hold the lead-based solder in your mouth. Seriously. Really, really bad idea.

Old 20th April 2010
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mobius.media View Post
You might want to reconsider the part where you hold the lead-based solder in your mouth. Seriously. Really, really bad idea.

You just added "lead based"

My explanation didn't mention lead at all.

I also didn't recommend sucking it like a lollipop.

But hey, walking around polluted this planet, being bombarded with WiFi and living close to tetra masts... what's another pollutant to add to the list?

Personally I've had a lead pellet lodged in my foot since childhood and it hasn't done me any harm (yet ) so I'm kind of exempt.

But as a disclaimer:

Kids - don't eat lead
Old 20th April 2010
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mobius.media View Post
You might want to reconsider the part where you hold the lead-based solder in your mouth. Seriously. Really, really bad idea.

Second thoughts -

I'll update my post.

I'd hate to have somebody's death on my conscience.
Old 20th April 2010
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soundsundergroun View Post
+2 on the good stuff. get the 60/40 really thin wire. Melts really quick.
Actually, 63/37 is a better alloy. It melts at a lower temperature than 60/40, and "snaps" from a liquid to solid due to its eutectic properties. By avoiding the "pasty" stage, a poor solder joint is much less likely.

solder

In addition, there is the (more difficult to find) tin/lead/silver solder mentioned in the above link, which also is eutectic

Best,

Bri
Old 21st April 2010
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brianroth View Post
I use a wide-stance Panavise when soldering.
Bri
Which one Brian? 312 or 308 ??
Old 21st April 2010
  #27
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Dear Mslim,

For whatever reason, I have used the 380 for eons:

PanaVise Products, Inc.

Much of my work is "in the field", and hopefully I find a work surface acceptable to the vacuum. Otherwise, it has a wide enough stance/enough weight to act standalone. Example:

http://www.brianroth.com/projects/hanson/IMG_1201.JPG

You can definitely save some bucks with the model 305, 308, or 312 bases. It's the vise "head" that is soooo cool, IMHO.

Best,

Bri
Old 21st April 2010
  #29
pan
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Blueheaven - what a great vibe working with a lathe in the back...

- Brian, do you bring your own magnifiers, or are they supplied in the wild/field

When working with eutectic solder: Is it unproblematic using it on older joints that use different alloys? Do you have to remove the old solder, or is it ok to reflow with eutectic?
Old 21st April 2010
  #30
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Just practice a lot, making guitar leads etc. is a pretty good place to start, then maybe try making midi leads/xlr.

Don't take my word for it though, I am a shitty solderer.
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