D Cube – Guide To Excellent Soldering
Building a Soldering Toolkit
If you are just getting started in Electronics, Electronics Toolkit (pictured above) is a great kit full of quality tools – including everything you need to make great solder joints. If you would rather build your toolkit piece-by-piece.
Choosing a Soldering Iron
There are many types of soldering irons. you will want a pencil-style soldering iron with 25 watts or more. An under-powered iron is a poor investment. It will end up costing you more in ruined kits and damaged components.
It will take longer to heat the joint, allowing heat to spread to the component being soldered – potentially overheating and damaging the component.
Longer heating times will also give more time for oxides to form on the surfaces being soldered. This will prevent the solder from flowing and result in a poor joint.
Longer recovery times between joints can result in frustration, ‘cold joints’ or both.
There are many basic pencil style irons that are suitable for hobbiest use. But you will need one that is capable of heating the joints quickly enough. Choose an iron with 25 watts at a minimum.
An adjustable temperature iron with a little more power will give you a bit more control and allow you to work faster.
A professional-style temperature-controlled iron with interchangeable tips and 50 watts or more of power is a joy to work with. Feedback control keeps the tip temperature at precisely the level you set.
Irons to avoid
For emergencies only:
These irons are handy for occasions when you have no place to plug in a regular soldering iron. But they are not the best choice for a primary soldering tool:
These tools are the bare-minimum essentials required for soldering:
If your soldering iron does not have a built-in stand, you will need a safe place to rest the hot iron between uses. A Soldering Iron Stand will keep your iron from rolling around and protect both you and your work surface from burns.
Most stand holders come with a sponge and tray for cleaning your soldering iron.
Standard 60/40 lead/tin Rosin Core Solder is the easiest type to work with.
Other Soldering Handy Tools
These are some other tools you might find useful when working on soldering projects.
A vise holds your work steady as you solder. This is important for both safety and sound joints. This is an ideal size for most D Cube kits and projects.
A Helping Third Hand Tool is a good for smaller boards, or to hold things in place while terminating or splicing wires.
A Solder Sucker is a very helpful tools for removing excess solder or when you need to de-solder a joint. As the name implies, this device literally sucks the solder out of the joint.
Solder Wick is another way to clean excess solder from a joint. Unlike the solder sucker, the wick soaks up the molten solder.
Making a good solder joint
Once you have prepared the your tools and the joint to be soldered, making a good solder joint requires just a few simple steps.
Heat the joint
Heat the joint with the tip of the iron. Be sure to heat both the solder pad and the component lead or pin. A small drop of solder on the tip will help to transfer the heat to the joint quickly.
Apply the solder
Touch the end of the solder to the joint so that it contacts both the solder pad and the component lead or pin. It should melt and flow smoothly onto both the pin and the pad. If the solder does not flow, heat the joint for another second or two and try again.
Let It Flow
Keep heating the solder and allow it to flow into the joint. It should fill the hole and flow smoothly onto both the solder pad and the pin or component lead.
Trim the Lead
Use your diagonal cutters to trim the lead close to the board.
In theory, it’s simple. You put the components through the circuit board, flip it over, solder the piece in, and that’s that. There’s some skill to it, as you have to apply the soldering iron to both the wire and the joint to get enough solder to melt, and you need to leave the iron for a couple of seconds on the wire before removing it so the solder doesn’t harden prematurely. But it appears to be just about as simple as in the diagram.
Common Soldering Problems
The Ideal Solder Joint
The ideal solder joint for through-hole components should resemble the diagram left.
Good and bad joints
If soldering components onto a board, make sure the joint is a ‘volcano shape’ see below and not a dry joint where the two metals being joined may come apart easily.
Good and bad joints
When soldering, you need to keep applying the solder until it covers the junction, and the pads. Apply just enough solder so that the solder forms a concave shaped meniscus around the edges. It should be very shiny.
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