If you want to get started with electronics, electronics for you need to learn how to solder. It would be wise to learn a little more about electricity and electronics. Does the thought of red-hot iron and molten metal scare you a little? No problem — we’ll show you how.

Safety First

You are working with hot metal so there are some obvious safety concerns. Make sure you have a safe place to set up your soldering iron. Soldering stations with iron holders are inexpensive and worth having. Check out the best soldering irons for beginners to get the right one for you.

You’ll also want to make sure you’re working on a flat, hard surface. or your home writing works, but you can put something on top of it to prevent burn marks. There are special soldering boards, or a piece of cheap plywood works well.

Heat Resistant Soldering Board
Heat Resistant Soldering Board

Speaking of splashes, you need to wear goggles — you can get them for just a few dollars. If you wear prescription glasses, you can buy a good pair of prescription glasses. There are some really cute ones these days, not just the Buddy Holly style your dad might have.

deWalt Safety Goggles

All these things will help prevent burns for you and your surroundings.

But there is another danger: solder and flux can release harmful fumes when heated. Most fluxes smell pretty bad anyway, but it’s a good idea to use a fume hood when soldering. It’s essentially a charcoal filter fan that draws harmful fumes away from you and filters out most odors. The video below shows how the Xytronic 426DLX hood works.

Once all this is in place, it’s time to solder.

Soldering Tips Pro

tin

Soldering irons don’t transfer heat to things as well as you might think. But when the tip of the iron is tinned, the heat transfer will be much more uniform and efficient. Plus, it’s easy to do. Once the tip of the soldering iron is warm enough to melt the solder, touch the tip to the solder wire. It will melt and spread all over the tip, giving it a nice smooth and shiny finish. Any excess solder can be wiped off with a damp soldering sponge. Do not use a regular cleaning sponge as it will melt. The soldering sponges are made from cellulose which is more heat resistant than your standard plastic sponge.

Get a helping hand

Soldering requires at least four things: a soldering iron, solder, and two things you want to solder together. But you only have two hands. There is a device called «helping hands» that is worth getting. This is a small stand with two alligator clips and sometimes with a magnifying glass. Another handy holder is a mini vise.

Helping hands with magnifying glass

start soldering

When you solder two things together, you do it in such a way that they connect tightly and conduct electricity easily.

The biggest beginner mistake is putting the iron directly on top of the solder: it just breaks and creates a mess. If you first heat the part to be soldered and then touch the solder, the solder will flow over the surface of the part. Because it flows, it makes it so smooth and into every little nook and cranny.

Remember soldering iron? If you tin wire wires or components, this helps the solder flow even better. As a bonus, if you’re using stranded wires, it holds the strands together as it pushes them through the PCB. To make this all work really well, use thin solder wire (about 1/32 inch) with a polymer or flux core. This resin, or flux, helps the solder flow even better and also cleans the metal surface for better adhesion.

Rosin core solder
Rosin in the middle

Once you’ve routed your component’s leads through the circuit board, bend them slightly. This will help keep the component in place and closer to the board. This not only prevents accidental damage to components, but also makes the package look more professional.

Bend slightly out

When you are going to solder the component wire to the board, place the soldering iron tip where the wire and board meet, at a 45 degree angle. This heats up the lead and the pad on the board. Gently push the solder wire to the same point — it will melt and flow around the wire like in the picture below.

Pull out the solder before pulling the iron out — this will prevent small spikes of solder from protruding from your joint. These peaks can lead to short circuits between components and they don’t look good.

Soldering technology

If you’re having a hard time being accurate with your soldering iron, try setting up your work so that the side of your soldering hand can rest on something solid, like in the picture above. It will be much easier for you to be accurate.

This video from Adafruit is a great introduction to soldering PCB components. This is not rocket science. Okay, sort of, but the really easy part of rocket science.

Signs of a hard solder joint

With practice, you will be able to avoid mistakes most of the time. Prior to that, check each seam after soldering and before moving on to the next. A good solder joint will be smooth, shiny, and make full contact between the two parts. If the solder is dull, rough, clumpy, or there are gaps between it and any part, your joint will collapse.

Common Soldering Problems

Don’t worry, most soldering problems are easily solved. You can re-heat the solder and remove it with a suction cup.

Solder Sucker

Some Starter Soldering Projects

You may have broken electronics around the house. It’s not a bad place to start if it’s something as simple as fixing broken headphones. fix broken headphones. fix Or maybe you want to clean up some parts from an old laptop. or other parts from other gadgets about the future project. This is good practice when using a soldering iron and a suction cup.

Or you could finally do something!

3D LED Christmas Tree

The holiday spirit should be with us every day, so why not a Christmas tree project? This is a fun project that sharpens your soldering skills, teaches you a thing or two about LEDs, and is a great DIY project to make with kids too. It comes with colorful LEDs and flashes! Who doesn’t love flashing LEDs? The tree is attached to the same 9-volt battery that powers it.

Velleman 3D LED Christmas Tree Kit

Too easy? Try the next set.

Minty Boost Kit

For a beginner project, this is great! It’s simple and very practical. You will make your own smartphone charger that you can charge with regular AA batteries. Fewer details than a Christmas tree, but a little harder to solder. It’s convenient to keep in the car as you can buy AA batteries at gas stations and stores anywhere.

Adafruit Minty Boost Kit

Not tough enough for you? How about radio?

FM radio kit

This is what is being said. Create yourself a beautiful single speaker FM radio that can tune into radio stations from 88 to 108 FM. With lots of soldering parts, new components to explore, you’ll also learn a thing or two about radio technology.

Radio set FM Elenco

If you can build a radio, you can’t build anything. Put it in a nice clear case and be the envy of friends and family.

Final result

Soldering is a basic skill required for DIYers, whether you want to build your own electronics or just do simple repairs. It is an inexpensive and easy skill to learn. There are many electronics kits to practice with and you can start designing your own electronics projects soon.

Be safe, be smart and have fun!

Just getting into DIY electronics? How do you like the article? Are you already a bit of a pro? Share your tips and tricks with others. Know some really fun kits to help a beginner learn? Feel free to mention them in the comments.

Image Credits: Solder via Shutterstock, 3D LED Christmas Tree, Minty Boost Kit, FM Radio Kit, Soldering Board, DeWalt Goggles, Helping Hands with Magnifier via Amazon, Common Soldering Issues via Adafruit, Solder, Suction Cup, Solder in Rosin core via Wikimedia, Soldering LEDs, Jeff Keizer, Soldering with Morgan elements, via Flickr.

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