If the screwdriver is your bread and butter tool, then the soldering iron is its high powered, electric cousin. But don’t get intimidated. It’s easy to use once you get the hang of it, and by the end of this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the basics of a soldering iron.
What Is a Soldering Iron?
A soldering iron is a hand-held tool with an insulated handle and a metal tip that gets hot. They’re commonly used for repairs or other assembly work in electronics. What it does is heat up things like wires or transistor leads onto printed circuit boards (PCB’s), after which, solder is applied to hold everything together.
Solder is a thin fusible metal used to make a permanent bond between your metal and your other workpieces. Your usual solder is ordinarily composed of about 60% tin and 40% lead. There are lead-free variants that are more environment-friendly, but it does require a more powerful soldering iron. Either way, most types of solder function in the same way. The most important thing to note about types of solder is that you want a rosin-flux solder as opposed to acid-flux solder as the latter may damage more sensitive components when you’re working.
Soldering Iron Safety Precautions
As with any tool, safety should be your number one priority. Heat is the most dangerous part of a soldering iron, and while the handle is sufficiently insulated, it is in your best interest to always wear protective gloves.
Safety goggles are also a MUST. Keep any loose hair tucked away and loose clothing tucked in tight to minimize fire hazards.
Lastly, since you’re dealing with heat, it’s important to work in a well-ventilated area to make sure you’re not inhaling any dangerous fumes from soldering. Make sure to always wash your hands after working if you’ve been using solder that contains lead. Other than that, make sure to follow all other workshop safety precautions.
Having Fun with your Soldering Iron
Now to the exciting part — putting your soldering iron to use!
After taking all safety precautions and making sure that your soldering iron is working fine, you can follow these next steps:
- Hold the tool with your dominant hand, and in the other, hold a long piece of solder.
- When you have the right amount of solder, pull the solder away, but keep the iron there for another second to allow the solder to melt and join the parts.
- Once you remove the iron, wait a few seconds and let the solder cool, but do not blow on it or move the joint at all because it will mess up the solder. You’ll know it’s done right if the solder is smooth and uniform in texture, and concave rather than convex.
If the solder looks dull and grainy, it may not have cooled properly and oxidized, so you may need to redo it. You can try practicing on spare parts to get a good feel on how much solder to use and how long to leave it to cool. Keep at it and you will master the basic techniques pretty quickly.
Maintaining the Tip of your Soldering Iron
You’ll want to make sure that your soldering iron is performing in tip-top shape every time. To do this, you have to clean it to make sure no old solder elements get built up on the tip. If you let this happen, the old solder oxidizes and inhibits some of the heat being transferred. That means you’ll have to work longer and harder to do what you need to do, and could risk damage to your tools or the PCB.
If you’re cleaning after work, you can wipe the tip gently to get rid of any residue. If there’s too much residue left, you can heat the iron to soften the solder left on the tip. Once it’s fully heated, dab it gently on a wet sponge and scrape off the old solder. You can also buy a tip cleaner to help with the process. It’s a good investment to ensure longevity for your soldering iron.
If you’re looking for the best soldering kit in the market, check out Chandler Tool’s Soldering Kit! The kit includes a soldering iron, lead-free solder wire, hot knife adapter with a replaceable blade, stand, and five nickel-plated bronze tips. Indeed, a top-quality, single-heat iron that will last for years to come! Order yours today!
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