The following soldering tips will prove useful for any projects that requires soldering. Here we are assuming that you know what soldering is all about as well as how to go about it. For basic on soldering, check out the following links.
1. The selection of the soldering iron is important. Irons of the 15W to 30W range are good for most electronics/printed circuit board work. Higher wattage than this might damage either the component or the board. It is best to select an iron specifically intended for electronics. Use also the correct tip size.
2. All parts (including the iron tip itself) must be clean and free from dirt and grease. Dirt is the enemy of a good quality soldered joint.
3. A good mechanical connection is necessary before you solder. Make sure the parts are not able to move in relation to each other.
Soldering Tips - Soldering
1. When using your soldering iron for the first time, you need to "tin" the tip. This is also true after you replace the tip. Just heat up the iron and apply a thin coat of solder to the tip. This helps to achieve good heat transfer to the item you are soldering.
2. Avoid scratching and scraping the tip. You need to keep the tip clean always. When soldering, keep a wet sponge beside you and use it to clean the tip periodically while soldering. When you have finished soldering, put a blob of solder on the tip as it cools, this seals it, helping to prevent oxidation.
3. Both parts of the joint to be made must be at the same temperature before applying solder. The solder will flow evenly and make a good electrical and mechanical joint only if both parts of the joint are at an equal high temperature.
4. Apply an appropriate amount of solder. Too much solder is an unnecessary waste and may cause short circuits with adjacent joints. If it is too little, it may not support the component properly, or may not fully form a working joint. You will know how much to apply through practice.
5. Should you need to redo a solder joint, always start from scratch. Remove the solder you just put on, and clean the surface before you start the process again.
6. If you need to clean solder off a circuit board, use a solder wick. Place the wick on the joint or track you want to clean up, and apply your soldering iron on top. The solder will melt and gets drawn into the wick. If there is a lot of solder the wick will fill up, so gently pull the wick through the joint and your iron, and the solder will flow into it as it passes.
7. Don't move the joints until the solder has cooled.
Soldering Tips - Safety
1. You should always work in a well ventilated area as the fumes from the soldering could be harmful to your eyes and lungs.
2. Always wear eye protection to protect you from possible solder splashes as well as the solder fumes.
3. Solder on a fire resistant surface.
4. Never leave your iron plugged in and unattended.
5. Never set your hot iron down on anything other than an iron stand. This is to prevent it from burning things in your work area.
6. Replace the cord of your iron if it becomes worn or gets burnt.
7. To prevent burning your fingers, use needle nose pliers or heat resistant gloves to hold small pieces.
Soldering Tips - Common mistakes
1. Most beginners tend to use too much solder and heat the joint for too long.
2. The parts being soldered is dirty or greasy, as such the solder won't take (or 'stick') to it.
3. The joints were not mechanically secured and moved during soldering.