An introduction to soldering

June 08, 2021

An introduction to soldering

Today we’re going through the basics of soldering, because so many projects use soldering at one point or another. At Elmwood we have a variety of soldering equipment, you can start with a simple low cost soldering iron and stand or if you’re looking at doing a lot of soldering you can check out our more complex soldering stations for more control. For this we’ll be using a simple set up and some lead-free soldering

green cutting mat with a soldering iron and a spool of solder on it

Soldering is a good skill to learn and improve throughout your making and DIY-ing, there’s quite a few situations where it will be the best option for a more permanent build. It allows you to join two or more electronic pieces by melting the solder on top to make a connection. The first thing to consider is the space you’re soldering in, you want to be in a well-ventilated area and ideally have a fume extractor if possible. 

Soldering irons generally have the ability to go up to 462C/865F so definitely do not touch the tip of your iron. You can also interchange the tips if you need something a bit more precise like a conical tip or if you have a bigger area to cover and need a flat tip. You’ll notice that today we’re using a conical tip, this is the one this soldering iron came with as well. 

Before you start soldering be sure to tin your solder tip. To do this, turn on your soldering iron, wait for it to heat up, wipe the tip on a wet sponge to be sure it’s clean and then touch the tip to your solder to be sure it flows evenly around the tip.

Once that is done it’s time to solder! 

soldering stand with a disconnected joint at top

In a funny turn of fate my soldering iron stand got slightly damaged and separated at the top so I’ll be fixing it to show how to solder. Now that my iron is tinned and ready to go I’ve got the solder in one hand and the iron in the other. As you can see below I’m just carefully melting the solder onto the spot that has broken and now I let it harden to seal it.

Now here I’m soldering some wire because there is always a lot of wire involved when you’re making. One thing to note: this is a perfect situation for the helping hand, it can be tricky to solder wires with only your human hands. First be sure that all the wire strands are twisted together into one piece. Now bring the fully heated soldering iron to the wire and hold it for a few seconds. Bring the solder to the wire and tap it to the iron, be sure to leave the iron in place as it coats the wire. Do this to the second wire and then put the wires on top of each other and hold the iron to the wires. Wait until the solder evenly coats both wires until they look like one wire. Take the iron away and let it cool to harden. 

open hand holding two wires soldered together at the middle

So there you have it! Soldering is pretty simple despite how intimidating it may seem at first. Start slow, be careful and don’t rush the process for best results. It might seem annoying to have to pause a project to learn to solder but it will work out better if you take the time instead of rushing through.

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