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Best solder for RC builds?

rcspaceflight

creator of virtual planes
#21
If I could find my solder I would tell you what I use, but I'm guessing it's this.

And assuming that Radio Shack knows anything about soldering electronics, and that it's a best seller for a reason, it looks like you want a 60/40 mix at a .032" diameter with a rosin core. I don't use any other flux than the rosin that is in the core of the Radio Shack solder and it works great.

I use a cheap Radio Shack "pencil" soldering iron (I think 40 watt, can't find it) and it works perfectly fine. I just have to wait 5-10 minutes before I can start soldering.
 

rcspaceflight

creator of virtual planes
#22
Really the thinner the solder the better because it melts easier quicker. Rosin core is better, in my opinion, than using outside flux because you need either flux or the rosin core and rosin core is much easier to use and works perfectly fine.

"Lead-free" is only best with plumbing due to safety concerns.

This has all ^ been previously stated in this thread.


I don't see how brand is going to matter.
 

pressalltheknobs

Posted a thousand or more times
#23
Back on topic

I was asking about solder, not soldering stations!

What mix rosin/tin?

What diameter?

What brand?

With flux pen?
guess you didn't actually bother reading the replies before issuing your demands... ;) as I said...

"On solder, rosin core lead based is the easiest to use. The "best" is supposed to be 63% tin, 37% Lead but I don't know off hand why it is better than 60/40.

Lead based solder is not used commercially any more because lead is toxic, accumulates in the body and causes brain damage. Basically not something we want long term exposure to or dumped into the environment from obsolete electronics.

For occasional RC use though it's much easier to use. Just be careful not to breath in the fumes any more than you have to and wash your hands after handling it particularly if you have young children in the house."

Turns out 63% tin, 37% lead is better because it turns from liquid to solid faster than 60/40. It's a bit more expensive and you may not notice the difference. As to brands, the problem with Chinese brands is that you are never quite sure what you are getting. If you want to be sure, get a name brand like Kester. Probably 0.031 inch is a good general size for electronics. You might want some larger stuff for big wires and some finer stuff if you need to do any fiddly work.

Flux pens can use useful but are not essential. They allow you to flux pads before you solder which can help the solder flow better than just the rosin core. Make sure the flux is pH neutral like rosin.
 
#24
@str

I know you want specific recommendations.
Solder: http://www.all-spec.com/products/KW4405.html
Flux Pen: http://www.all-spec.com/products/KF233115.html

But for the rest of you reading this thread who want some generalized information on soldering, I'm going to continue this rather longish post.

First, as an intro, I do a lot of PCB board design. I send the gerber files out to OSHPark and get the raw PCB board back. Then I solder on the surface mount components. The smallest I go is 0603 but I could do 0402 in a pinch. I've bought a lot of good hobby grade equipment, so hopefully I can pass on some advice on how to proceed.

For the typical RC hobbiest, 90% of the time you are just soldering thick wires to ESC/Motor Bullet Connectors, Lipo Battery power wires to connectors, Power Wires to FCB boards, and finally, 2.54 mm header pins on FCB's. If that is the case, you can get away with a cheaper soldering iron setup.

But ultimately, you get what you pay for...
For the best results you need a good brand of solder, a quality soldering station with decent wattage and an adjustable heat control, and a good flux pen. One of the most important choices is getting solder of the proper diameter. The mistake beginners make is to get too big a diameter. I recommend the .025 inch diameter size. For a large job...just double, triple, or quadruple the solder wire back on itself and twist it into a rope. Any thing wider than 0.25 inch makes smaller jobs impossible.

Here's my recommendation for specific equipment. I'm going to link to items available from ALL-SPEC.com. They have probably the most complete selection of soldering supplies on the Internet. The prices are darn good...and the shipping costs are reasonable.

Soldering Iron:
If you are willing to pay a few dollars more than the typical Chinese crap...this is probably the #1 choice.
You can see and feel the quality of this Hakko FX-888D made in Japan.
http://www.all-spec.com/products/FX-888D.html

Soldering Iron Tips:
You really only need 3 tips:
The Hakko Iron I recommended comes with a #T18-D16 chisel tip which is 1.6mm wide.
http://www.all-spec.com/products/T18-D16.html
If you have small jobs get a #T18-D08 chisel tip which is 0.8mm wide.
http://www.all-spec.com/products/T18-D08.html
For larger jobs get a #T18-D08 chisel tip which is 3.2mm wide.
http://www.all-spec.com/products/T18-D32.html

Solder:
Use lead solder which contains an embedded Rosin Flux...and wash your hands after using it.
Always solder in a well ventialted area and try to have the fumes blow away from you.
Contrary to popular belief, the smoke created by soldering with lead solder does not contain a lot of lead.
The smoke is caused by the heated embedded rosin...and over time, breathing those fumes is not good.
Leadfree solder is acutally worse in this regard since it takes higher temperatures to melt...and more smoke from the rosin flux is created.
Lead solder comes in 63%-tin/37%-lead...or...60%-tin/40%-lead formulations(among others).
Get the 63%/37%...it's better and costs a few pennies more.
A pound of this recommended solder will last forever.
Here's the Solder...Kester 44 RA .025in. diameter Sn63Pb37:
http://www.all-spec.com/products/KW4405.html

Soldering Temperature:
For fine work I set the temperature around 325C(617F).
For most work I set the temperature around 350C(662F).
For big jobs I bump it up to 375C(707F).

Flux Pen:
Yes, use a Flux pen. After using one, you'll never go back. They look like a magic marker. Depress the spring loaded felt tip to wet it, and paint on the flux like painting with a yellow magic marker...only this watery liquid is clear. Afterwards, for flux residue clean-up, get a box of generic Q-Tips and 91% Isopropal Rubbing Alcohol. Pour a small amount of alcohol into a cofee cup, and store the alcohol bottle across the room with the lid on tight. Alcohol is flammable...so you don't want to jostle your work table and have the bottle tip over and engulf everything in flames. Just dip one end of the Q-tip into the alcohol and clean the flux residue, and then dry the area with the dry end tip...throw the Q-Tip away...and repeat.
I've tried both the Kester 2331-ZX Flux Pen and the Kester 951 No-Clean Flux Pen.
The 2231-ZX pen is the best product hands down. The pen has a yellow cap...(the picture on the linked purchase page is wrong, showing the 951 pen by mistake).
The shelf life on these flux pens is limited...so only purchase one pen at a time. They last a very, very long time.
http://www.all-spec.com/products/KF233115.html

The re-work hot air guns off of E-Bay have lousy quality of electrical components...so be careful.
Always unplug it from the wall when not in use...that goes for the soldering station too.
But if you want a hot air rework gun...buy one that is a standalone without the soldering iron.
Here's a very inexpensive one with free shipping from a US EBay vendor.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/858D-Rework...278391?hash=item3d0b669977:g:YKwAAOSwwE5WaPpq

In conclusion...stick with a quality soldering station...and if needed...a separate hot air station.
Don't go for the combo package...the soldering iron portion just doesn't stack up the the Hakko's power and temperature control.

Also, don't buy the $17.00 Hobby King sand-alone soldering station.
If you don't believe me, just view the following video from RCModelReviews and watch Bruce Simpson's teardown of one.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSl1aCh45bo
It's complete garbage. It's so cheaply made that I believe you are risking electrocution or burning down your house.
Bruce just seems to shrug it off, and says "it's made to a price"...but I'd never risk it.
 
Last edited:
#25
I'm glad I looked at this thread. Like many, I've been struggling a bit with soldering. I don't do it enough to get good skills.

Looks like my biggest mistake is using too thick of solder and I've been using silver (lead free) for ever. My dad had a bunch of it, so that is what I have used and haven't had to buy solder, ever. But I'm going to order some of the stuff mentioned in this thread. Thanks for the links.

I do have a decent soldering pen that is 60W and is adjustable beween 200C and 450C

Never mind on the temp....I just needed to keep reading! LOL
 
Last edited:
#26
To all contributors to this thread -
Thanks for the info about solder and irons, flux etc. etc. I've learned a lot, and others will too. It is a package deal.

I'm really cheap... I inherited a 20 watt Weller pencil for small stuff like USB plug connection, a 40 watt Radio Shack for bigger stuff like PCB board, wires and larger connections and a mongo 100 watt chisel iron used for stain glass that I love on the XT60 and 3.5 mm bullet connectors. I use two solders, a silver based and 60/40 rosin core (again, inherited) and these have worked great. Sounds like I've got to try the rosin pen. I bet that will help.

Like it was said above, you definitely get what you pay for. I'm looking into getting a soldering station because of all the soldering I do in this hobby. Worth the investment.
 
Last edited:

str

Junior Member
#27
guess you didn't actually bother reading the replies before issuing your demands... ;) as I said...

"On solder, rosin core lead based is the easiest to use. The "best" is supposed to be 63% tin, 37% Lead but I don't know off hand why it is better than 60/40.

Lead based solder is not used commercially any more because lead is toxic, accumulates in the body and causes brain damage. Basically not something we want long term exposure to or dumped into the environment from obsolete electronics.

For occasional RC use though it's much easier to use. Just be careful not to breath in the fumes any more than you have to and wash your hands after handling it particularly if you have young children in the house."

Turns out 63% tin, 37% lead is better because it turns from liquid to solid faster than 60/40. It's a bit more expensive and you may not notice the difference. As to brands, the problem with Chinese brands is that you are never quite sure what you are getting. If you want to be sure, get a name brand like Kester. Probably 0.031 inch is a good general size for electronics. You might want some larger stuff for big wires and some finer stuff if you need to do any fiddly work.

Flux pens can use useful but are not essential. They allow you to flux pads before you solder which can help the solder flow better than just the rosin core. Make sure the flux is pH neutral like rosin.
The majority of the replies were devolving into "get a good solder station", which is advice that has been endlessly reiterated on countless forum threads, and advice I have already taken to heart! I have the Hakko 888 of course, now I just want to know what solder to use with it :)

I appreciate the recommendation of Kester as a reliable solder brand, I'll grab a spool of their 63/37 0.031.


@str

I know you want specific recommendations.
Solder: http://www.all-spec.com/products/KW4405.html
Flux Pen: http://www.all-spec.com/products/KF233115.html

But for the rest of you reading this thread who want some generalized information on soldering, I'm going to continue this rather longish post.

First, as an intro, I do a lot of PCB board design. I send the gerber files out to OSHPark and get the raw PCB board back. Then I solder on the surface mount components. The smallest I go is 0603 but I could do 0402 in a pinch. I've bought a lot of good hobby grade equipment, so hopefully I can pass on some advice on how to proceed.

For the typical RC hobbiest, 90% of the time you are just soldering thick wires to ESC/Motor Bullet Connectors, Lipo Battery power wires to connectors, Power Wires to FCB boards, and finally, 2.54 mm header pins on FCB's. If that is the case, you can get away with a cheaper soldering iron setup.

But ultimately, you get what you pay for...
For the best results you need a good brand of solder, a quality soldering station with decent wattage and an adjustable heat control, and a good flux pen. One of the most important choices is getting solder of the proper diameter. The mistake beginners make is to get too big a diameter. I recommend the .025 inch diameter size. For a large job...just double, triple, or quadruple the solder wire back on itself and twist it into a rope. Any thing wider than 0.25 inch makes smaller jobs impossible.

Here's my recommendation for specific equipment. I'm going to link to items available from ALL-SPEC.com. They have probably the most complete selection of soldering supplies on the Internet. The prices are darn good...and the shipping costs are reasonable.

Soldering Iron:
If you are willing to pay a few dollars more than the typical Chinese crap...this is probably the #1 choice.
You can see and feel the quality of this Hakko FX-888D made in Japan.
http://www.all-spec.com/products/FX-888D.html

Soldering Iron Tips:
You really only need 3 tips:
The Hakko Iron I recommended comes with a #T18-D16 chisel tip which is 1.6mm wide.
http://www.all-spec.com/products/T18-D16.html
If you have small jobs get a #T18-D08 chisel tip which is 0.8mm wide.
http://www.all-spec.com/products/T18-D08.html
For larger jobs get a #T18-D08 chisel tip which is 3.2mm wide.
http://www.all-spec.com/products/T18-D32.html

Solder:
Use lead solder which contains an embedded Rosin Flux...and wash your hands after using it.
Always solder in a well ventialted area and try to have the fumes blow away from you.
Contrary to popular belief, the smoke created by soldering with lead solder does not contain a lot of lead.
The smoke is caused by the heated embedded rosin...and over time, breathing those fumes is not good.
Leadfree solder is acutally worse in this regard since it takes higher temperatures to melt...and more smoke from the rosin flux is created.
Lead solder comes in 63%-tin/37%-lead...or...60%-tin/40%-lead formulations(among others).
Get the 63%/37%...it's better and costs a few pennies more.
A pound of this recommended solder will last forever.
Here's the Solder...Kester 44 RA .025in. diameter Sn63Pb37:
http://www.all-spec.com/products/KW4405.html

Soldering Temperature:
For fine work I set the temperature around 325C(617F).
For most work I set the temperature around 350C(662F).
For big jobs I bump it up to 375C(707F).

Flux Pen:
Yes, use a Flux pen. After using one, you'll never go back. They look like a magic marker. Depress the spring loaded felt tip to wet it, and paint on the flux like painting with a yellow magic marker...only this watery liquid is clear. Afterwards, for flux residue clean-up, get a box of generic Q-Tips and 91% Isopropal Rubbing Alcohol. Pour a small amount of alcohol into a cofee cup, and store the alcohol bottle across the room with the lid on tight. Alcohol is flammable...so you don't want to jostle your work table and have the bottle tip over and engulf everything in flames. Just dip one end of the Q-tip into the alcohol and clean the flux residue, and then dry the area with the dry end tip...throw the Q-Tip away...and repeat.
I've tried both the Kester 2331-ZX Flux Pen and the Kester 951 No-Clean Flux Pen.
The 2231-ZX pen is the best product hands down. The pen has a yellow cap...(the picture on the linked purchase page is wrong, showing the 951 pen by mistake).
The shelf life on these flux pens is limited...so only purchase by one pen at a time. They last a very, very long time.
http://www.all-spec.com/products/KF233115.html

The re-work hot air guns off of E-Bay have lousy quality of electrical components...so be careful.
Always unplug it from the wall when not in use...that goes for the soldering station too.
But if you want a hot air rework gun...buy one that is a standalone without the soldering iron.
Here's a very inexpensive one with free shipping from a US EBay vendor.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/858D-Rework...278391?hash=item3d0b669977:g:YKwAAOSwwE5WaPpq

In conclusion...stick with a quality soldering station...and if needed...a separate hot air station.
Don't go for the combo package...the soldering iron portion just doesn't stack up the the Hakko's power and temperature control.

Also, don't buy the $17.00 Hobby King sand-alone soldering station.
If you don't believe me, just view the following video from RCModelReviews and watch Bruce Simpson's teardown of one.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSl1aCh45bo
It's complete garbage. It's so cheaply made that I believe you are risking electrocution or burning down your house.
Bruce just seems to shrug it off, and says "it's made to a price"...but I'd never risk it.
Thank you for the very detailed and informative reply! And thank you for all the links :) I will grab some Kester 63/37 0.025 solder. A few questions from your reply:

  • Interesting that you suggest chisel tips. I bought the pointed tips because I assumed they would allow for more precision in tight spots, but I'm assuming the chisel tips make for easier soldering with faster heating from the larger surface area?
  • What is the difference between the solder flux core, or "rosin", and the liquid flux in the pen? Are they the same?

Thanks to all who have provided recommendations!
 
#28
@str

I know you want specific recommendations.
Solder: http://www.all-spec.com/products/KW4405.html
Flux Pen: http://www.all-spec.com/products/KF233115.html

But for the rest of you reading this thread who want some generalized information on soldering, I'm going to continue this rather longish post.

First, as an intro, I do a lot of PCB board design. I send the gerber files out to OSHPark and get the raw PCB board back. Then I solder on the surface mount components. The smallest I go is 0603 but I could do 0402 in a pinch. I've bought a lot of good hobby grade equipment, so hopefully I can pass on some advice on how to proceed.

For the typical RC hobbiest, 90% of the time you are just soldering thick wires to ESC/Motor Bullet Connectors, Lipo Battery power wires to connectors, Power Wires to FCB boards, and finally, 2.54 mm header pins on FCB's. If that is the case, you can get away with a cheaper soldering iron setup.

But ultimately, you get what you pay for...
For the best results you need a good brand of solder, a quality soldering station with decent wattage and an adjustable heat control, and a good flux pen. One of the most important choices is getting solder of the proper diameter. The mistake beginners make is to get too big a diameter. I recommend the .025 inch diameter size. For a large job...just double, triple, or quadruple the solder wire back on itself and twist it into a rope. Any thing wider than 0.25 inch makes smaller jobs impossible.

Here's my recommendation for specific equipment. I'm going to link to items available from ALL-SPEC.com. They have probably the most complete selection of soldering supplies on the Internet. The prices are darn good...and the shipping costs are reasonable.

Soldering Iron:
If you are willing to pay a few dollars more than the typical Chinese crap...this is probably the #1 choice.
You can see and feel the quality of this Hakko FX-888D made in Japan.
http://www.all-spec.com/products/FX-888D.html

Soldering Iron Tips:
You really only need 3 tips:
The Hakko Iron I recommended comes with a #T18-D16 chisel tip which is 1.6mm wide.
http://www.all-spec.com/products/T18-D16.html
If you have small jobs get a #T18-D08 chisel tip which is 0.8mm wide.
http://www.all-spec.com/products/T18-D08.html
For larger jobs get a #T18-D08 chisel tip which is 3.2mm wide.
http://www.all-spec.com/products/T18-D32.html

Solder:
Use lead solder which contains an embedded Rosin Flux...and wash your hands after using it.
Always solder in a well ventialted area and try to have the fumes blow away from you.
Contrary to popular belief, the smoke created by soldering with lead solder does not contain a lot of lead.
The smoke is caused by the heated embedded rosin...and over time, breathing those fumes is not good.
Leadfree solder is acutally worse in this regard since it takes higher temperatures to melt...and more smoke from the rosin flux is created.
Lead solder comes in 63%-tin/37%-lead...or...60%-tin/40%-lead formulations(among others).
Get the 63%/37%...it's better and costs a few pennies more.
A pound of this recommended solder will last forever.
Here's the Solder...Kester 44 RA .025in. diameter Sn63Pb37:
http://www.all-spec.com/products/KW4405.html

Soldering Temperature:
For fine work I set the temperature around 325C(617F).
For most work I set the temperature around 350C(662F).
For big jobs I bump it up to 375C(707F).

Flux Pen:
Yes, use a Flux pen. After using one, you'll never go back. They look like a magic marker. Depress the spring loaded felt tip to wet it, and paint on the flux like painting with a yellow magic marker...only this watery liquid is clear. Afterwards, for flux residue clean-up, get a box of generic Q-Tips and 91% Isopropal Rubbing Alcohol. Pour a small amount of alcohol into a cofee cup, and store the alcohol bottle across the room with the lid on tight. Alcohol is flammable...so you don't want to jostle your work table and have the bottle tip over and engulf everything in flames. Just dip one end of the Q-tip into the alcohol and clean the flux residue, and then dry the area with the dry end tip...throw the Q-Tip away...and repeat.
I've tried both the Kester 2331-ZX Flux Pen and the Kester 951 No-Clean Flux Pen.
The 2231-ZX pen is the best product hands down. The pen has a yellow cap...(the picture on the linked purchase page is wrong, showing the 951 pen by mistake).
The shelf life on these flux pens is limited...so only purchase one pen at a time. They last a very, very long time.
http://www.all-spec.com/products/KF233115.html

The re-work hot air guns off of E-Bay have lousy quality of electrical components...so be careful.
Always unplug it from the wall when not in use...that goes for the soldering station too.
But if you want a hot air rework gun...buy one that is a standalone without the soldering iron.
Here's a very inexpensive one with free shipping from a US EBay vendor.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/858D-Rework...278391?hash=item3d0b669977:g:YKwAAOSwwE5WaPpq

In conclusion...stick with a quality soldering station...and if needed...a separate hot air station.
Don't go for the combo package...the soldering iron portion just doesn't stack up the the Hakko's power and temperature control.

Also, don't buy the $17.00 Hobby King sand-alone soldering station.
If you don't believe me, just view the following video from RCModelReviews and watch Bruce Simpson's teardown of one.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSl1aCh45bo
It's complete garbage. It's so cheaply made that I believe you are risking electrocution or burning down your house.
Bruce just seems to shrug it off, and says "it's made to a price"...but I'd never risk it.
Thanks for such a detailed answer! You should get a commission from All Spec as I just ordered everything you had linked! Even though I "thought" I had a good soldering pen, seeing the response to other people using good equipment made me think I should buy something of better quality and get better soldering experiences.

I've watched a few soldering videos, and some guys make it look so easy. Of course, all of them are using nice equipment. I assumed my issues were mostly my skills and lack of experience. I'm sure that is still the case, but it looks like the equipment played a much bigger role than I thought.
 
#30
A few questions from your reply:
  • Interesting that you suggest chisel tips. I bought the pointed tips because I assumed they would allow for more precision in tight spots, but I'm assuming the chisel tips make for easier soldering with faster heating from the larger surface area?
  • What is the difference between the solder flux core, or "rosin", and the liquid flux in the pen? Are they the same?

Thanks to all who have provided recommendations!
The chisel tips are a bit of a misnomer. They don't look like a hand tool chisel with a sharpened bevel. they are actually round at the end with a wide dimension and a narrow dimension. They're ideal for holding and transferring heat.

For fine work I recommended the 0.8mm chisel. It's dimensions are 0.8mm by 0.6mm. In its place you could use a "round tip" 0.5mm and do the same thing. The naked eye can't tell the difference between the two. For everything larger, I'd just go with the aforementioned two chisel tips.

As far a the rosin core flux embedded in the solder...it gets you part of the way there. But adding the additional liquid flux from the flux pen makes things way, way better from a solder spreading and smoothing prospective. Don't be stingy with it. You actually need to see the wetting. As I stated before...once you try it...you'll never do without.

For guys interested in getting into soldering SMT(Surface Mount Technology) electrical components on bare PCB's...I'll throw in a few more must-haves.

Get a good set of tweezers...and they don't have to be expensive.
Like a dummy I went out and bought about 5 different shapes...and only use one.
I really think spending more on this particular item isn't worth it.
Spend the money on the soldering station instead.
http://www.all-spec.com/products/All-Spec/Tools|General_Hand_Tools|TOL-7D/7-SA-P.html

Get some Solder Braid, which is used for removing excess solder in all sorts of situations. Get the kind with embedded Rosin Flux. A 10' spool will last a long long long time.
Small size...width 0.8inches:
http://www.all-spec.com/products/80-3-10.html
Medium size... width = 0.110 inches:
http://www.all-spec.com/products/80-4-10.html

Helping hands is good for soldering wires. But when soldering SMT components on PCB Boards, I invert a pyrex glass pie pan on the table and set the PCB on top of it. This gives me a raised platform to work off of that I know will stand the heat of a soldering iron, and I can rest my palms against the inclined sides for support. If you're having trouble with the PCB board sliding on top of the pyrex surface, just scotch tape the PCB board down at the corners.

If you are soldering on Microcontrollers with little legs...holding it with tweezers is impossible.
You need to tape it down with 1/4inch Kapton tape which is a special high temp tape used in electronics.
Once one row of legs is soldered, remove the tape and solder the other 3 rows:
http://www.all-spec.com/products/Tapes_and_Adhesives|Adhesive_Tape|TAP-01/1656-12.html

For small components you need both magnification and light. Forget the little cheap magnifiers that sometime come on helping hands. I recommend a decent magnifier with florescent bulb. There are ones with LED's as illumination...but these are more expensive and do not provide the same amount of light as the fluorescent bulb ones. The circular replacement bulbs are available in Lowes type hardware locations. Typically these bulbs are used in bathroom fixtures.

One big consideration in choosing a magnifier is getting the proper magnification. As you get higher magnification the focal length becomes shorter. Magnification is measured in diopters. To calculate the focal length you divide one meter by the diopter value. Rounding a meter up to 40 inches...a 5 diopter magnification would have an 8 inch focal length. (40 inches/5 diopters = an 8 inch focal length) So 8 inches would be the length between the magnifying glass and the PCB board you wish to solder on. This gives you enough room to maneuver a soldering iron. If you double the magnification to 10 diopters, that would mean you only have 4 inches of room to solder. So 5 diopters (which is 2.25x magnification) is the max magnification to shoot for.

Here is the Magnifier:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...nifier lamp&qid=1453321388&ref_=sr_1_5&sr=8-5
The price is really good. The description says 240 volts...but I think that is wrong...it's the same lamp I bought before.
If you are an Amazon Prime customer you can send it back free with no questions asked.

Using what amounts to 2.25X magnification may not sound like much...but, it's plenty. 0603 parts are very easy to solder, and 0805 parts look like concrete blocks. I started out designing with 0805 parts, but quickly transitioned to smaller 0603 parts to get some space savings. And 0402 parts should be no problem either. Most of the small parts you see on a FCB are usually 0603 or 0402 in size. The first two numbers represent the length in hundredths of an inch. The last two numbers is the width in hundredths of an inch. So and 0603 part is 0.06 inches by 0.03 inches.

Finally...here are some soldering videos.
First is a play list from the EEVBlog:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2862BF3631A5C1AA

Here's a really good video that shows the soldering of MCU chips with many legs.
It may look like trick photography...but it isn't.
He uses a different tip than I do...I use a chisel tip.
I put the solder on the tip just like he does...and then drag it across the legs.
The whole trick is bathing the feet in a pool of flux from the flux pen.
You can see the pool of wetness in the videos...he just never shows it being applied.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uiroWBkdFY

Yep...it just flows on that easy...

I think that about covers it...I don't have anything else I use in the way of equipment.
 
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#32
Thanks for such a detailed answer! You should get a commission from All Spec as I just ordered everything you had linked! Even though I "thought" I had a good soldering pen, seeing the response to other people using good equipment made me think I should buy something of better quality and get better soldering experiences.

I've watched a few soldering videos, and some guys make it look so easy. Of course, all of them are using nice equipment. I assumed my issues were mostly my skills and lack of experience. I'm sure that is still the case, but it looks like the equipment played a much bigger role than I thought.
Truth be told...there isn't really that much skill involved.
It's 97%-98% in the equipment being used.

Oh...if your doing fine work...don't drink that cup of morning coffee.
The coffee can wait until you're done...LOL...
 
#33
Another soldering tool I love -
(solder sucker)

View attachment 62060



Best regards,
PCH
Yep, I forgot that one.
They are a little crude...good for a bulk first pass...
Mainly used to extract solder from holes...
I have one and never use it.
I find soldering braid does a much more complete job.
You can start with the braid on top and suck up as much as you can...reverse the board...and do the braid on that side.
Then you can put the board on a piece of braid...put another piece on top...heat it up...and the capillary action will pull the solder into the braid on either side.
The suction gun in many cases leaves residue solder on the sides of the hole.

In the days of thru-hole components, the suction guns were indispensable.
Also useful if you are using a hot air gun to remove jelly bean SMT components you don't wish to save.
 
Last edited:
#35
The chisel tips are a bit of a misnomer. They don't look like a hand tool chisel with a sharpened bevel. they are actually round at the end with a wide dimension and a narrow dimension. They're ideal for holding and transferring heat.

For fine work I recommended the 0.8mm chisel. It's dimensions are 0.8mm by 0.6mm. In its place you could use a "round tip" 0.5mm and do the same thing. The naked eye can't tell the difference between the two. For everything larger, I'd just go with the aforementioned two chisel tips.

As far a the rosin core flux embedded in the solder...it gets you part of the way there. But adding the additional liquid flux from the flux pen makes things way, way better from a solder spreading and smoothing prospective. Don't be stingy with it. You actually need to see the wetting. As I stated before...once you try it...you'll never do without.

For guys interested in getting into soldering SMT(Surface Mount Technology) electrical components on bare PCB's...I'll throw in a few more must-haves.

Get a good set of tweezers...and they don't have to be expensive.
Like a dummy I went out and bought about 5 different shapes...and only use one.
I really think spending more on this particular item isn't worth it.
Spend the money on the soldering station instead.
http://www.all-spec.com/products/All-Spec/Tools|General_Hand_Tools|TOL-7D/7-SA-P.html

Get some Solder Braid, which is used for removing excess solder in all sorts of situations. Get the kind with embedded Rosin Flux. A 10' spool will last a long long long time.
Small size...width 0.8inches:
http://www.all-spec.com/products/80-3-10.html
Medium size... width = 0.110 inches:
http://www.all-spec.com/products/80-4-10.html

Helping hands is good for soldering wires. But when soldering SMT components on PCB Boards, I invert a pyrex glass pie pan on the table and set the PCB on top of it. This gives me a raised platform to work off of that I know will stand the heat of a soldering iron, and I can rest my palms against the inclined sides for support. If you're having trouble with the PCB board sliding on top of the pyrex surface, just scotch tape the PCB board down at the corners.

If you are soldering on Microcontrollers with little legs...holding it with tweezers is impossible.
You need to tape it down with 1/4inch Kapton tape which is a special high temp tape used in electronics.
Once one row of legs is soldered, remove the tape and solder the other 3 rows:
http://www.all-spec.com/products/Tapes_and_Adhesives|Adhesive_Tape|TAP-01/1656-12.html

For small components you need both magnification and light. Forget the little cheap magnifiers that sometime come on helping hands. I recommend a decent magnifier with florescent bulb. There are ones with LED's as illumination...but these are more expensive and do not provide the same amount of light as the fluorescent bulb ones. The circular replacement bulbs are available in Lowes type hardware locations. Typically these bulbs are used in bathroom fixtures.

One big consideration in choosing a magnifier is getting the proper magnification. As you get higher magnification the focal length becomes shorter. Magnification is measured in diopters. To calculate the focal length you divide one meter by the diopter value. Rounding a meter up to 40 inches...a 5 diopter magnification would have an 8 inch focal length. (40 inches/5 diopters = an 8 inch focal length) So 8 inches would be the length between the magnifying glass and the PCB board you wish to solder on. This gives you enough room to maneuver a soldering iron. If you double the magnification to 10 diopters, that would mean you only have 4 inches of room to solder. So 5 diopters (which is 2.25x magnification) is the max magnification to shoot for.

Here is the Magnifier:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0010B9HJI?keywords=5 diopter magnifier lamp&qid=1453321388&ref_=sr_1_5&sr=8-5
The price is really good. The description says 240 volts...but I think that is wrong...it's the same lamp I bought before.
If you are an Amazon Prime customer you can send it back free with no questions asked.

Using what amounts to 2.25X magnification may not sound like much...but, it's plenty. 0603 parts are very easy to solder, and 0805 parts look like concrete blocks. I started out designing with 0805 parts, but quickly transitioned to smaller 0603 parts to get some space savings. And 0402 parts should be no problem either. Most of the small parts you see on a FCB are usually 0603 or 0402 in size. The first two numbers represent the length in hundredths of an inch. The last two numbers is the width in hundredths of an inch. So and 0603 part is 0.06 inches by 0.03 inches.

Finally...here are some soldering videos.
First is a play list from the EEVBlog:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2862BF3631A5C1AA

Here's a really good video that shows the soldering of MCU chips with many legs.
It may look like trick photography...but it isn't.
He uses a different tip than I do...I use a chisel tip.
I put the solder on the tip just like he does...and then drag it across the legs.
The whole trick is bathing the feet in a pool of flux from the flux pen.
You can see the pool of wetness in the videos...he just never shows it being applied.

Yep...it just flows on that easy...

I think that about covers it...I don't have anything else I use in the way of equipment.
Yep, I forgot that one.
They are a little crude...good for a bulk first pass...
Mainly used to extract solder from holes...
I have one and never use it.
I find soldering braid does a much more complete job.
You can start with the braid on top and suck up as much as you can...reverse the board...and do the braid on that side.
Then you can put the board on a piece of braid...put another piece on top...heat it up...and the capillary action will pull the solder into the braid on either side.
The suction gun in many cases leaves residue solder on the sides of the hole.

In the days of thru-hole components, the suction guns were indispensable.
Also useful if you are using a hot air gun to remove jelly bean SMT components you don't wish to save.
The chisel tips are a bit of a misnomer. They don't look like a hand tool chisel with a sharpened bevel. they are actually round at the end with a wide dimension and a narrow dimension. They're ideal for holding and transferring heat.

For fine work I recommended the 0.8mm chisel. It's dimensions are 0.8mm by 0.6mm. In its place you could use a "round tip" 0.5mm and do the same thing. The naked eye can't tell the difference between the two. For everything larger, I'd just go with the aforementioned two chisel tips.

As far a the rosin core flux embedded in the solder...it gets you part of the way there. But adding the additional liquid flux from the flux pen makes things way, way better from a solder spreading and smoothing prospective. Don't be stingy with it. You actually need to see the wetting. As I stated before...once you try it...you'll never do without.

For guys interested in getting into soldering SMT(Surface Mount Technology) electrical components on bare PCB's...I'll throw in a few more must-haves.

Get a good set of tweezers...and they don't have to be expensive.
Like a dummy I went out and bought about 5 different shapes...and only use one.
I really think spending more on this particular item isn't worth it.
Spend the money on the soldering station instead.
http://www.all-spec.com/products/All-Spec/Tools|General_Hand_Tools|TOL-7D/7-SA-P.html

Get some Solder Braid, which is used for removing excess solder in all sorts of situations. Get the kind with embedded Rosin Flux. A 10' spool will last a long long long time.
Small size...width 0.8inches:
http://www.all-spec.com/products/80-3-10.html
Medium size... width = 0.110 inches:
http://www.all-spec.com/products/80-4-10.html

Helping hands is good for soldering wires. But when soldering SMT components on PCB Boards, I invert a pyrex glass pie pan on the table and set the PCB on top of it. This gives me a raised platform to work off of that I know will stand the heat of a soldering iron, and I can rest my palms against the inclined sides for support. If you're having trouble with the PCB board sliding on top of the pyrex surface, just scotch tape the PCB board down at the corners.

If you are soldering on Microcontrollers with little legs...holding it with tweezers is impossible.
You need to tape it down with 1/4inch Kapton tape which is a special high temp tape used in electronics.
Once one row of legs is soldered, remove the tape and solder the other 3 rows:
http://www.all-spec.com/products/Tapes_and_Adhesives|Adhesive_Tape|TAP-01/1656-12.html

For small components you need both magnification and light. Forget the little cheap magnifiers that sometime come on helping hands. I recommend a decent magnifier with florescent bulb. There are ones with LED's as illumination...but these are more expensive and do not provide the same amount of light as the fluorescent bulb ones. The circular replacement bulbs are available in Lowes type hardware locations. Typically these bulbs are used in bathroom fixtures.

One big consideration in choosing a magnifier is getting the proper magnification. As you get higher magnification the focal length becomes shorter. Magnification is measured in diopters. To calculate the focal length you divide one meter by the diopter value. Rounding a meter up to 40 inches...a 5 diopter magnification would have an 8 inch focal length. (40 inches/5 diopters = an 8 inch focal length) So 8 inches would be the length between the magnifying glass and the PCB board you wish to solder on. This gives you enough room to maneuver a soldering iron. If you double the magnification to 10 diopters, that would mean you only have 4 inches of room to solder. So 5 diopters (which is 2.25x magnification) is the max magnification to shoot for.

Here is the Magnifier:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0010B9HJI?keywords=5 diopter magnifier lamp&qid=1453321388&ref_=sr_1_5&sr=8-5
The price is really good. The description says 240 volts...but I think that is wrong...it's the same lamp I bought before.
If you are an Amazon Prime customer you can send it back free with no questions asked.

Using what amounts to 2.25X magnification may not sound like much...but, it's plenty. 0603 parts are very easy to solder, and 0805 parts look like concrete blocks. I started out designing with 0805 parts, but quickly transitioned to smaller 0603 parts to get some space savings. And 0402 parts should be no problem either. Most of the small parts you see on a FCB are usually 0603 or 0402 in size. The first two numbers represent the length in hundredths of an inch. The last two numbers is the width in hundredths of an inch. So and 0603 part is 0.06 inches by 0.03 inches.

Finally...here are some soldering videos.
First is a play list from the EEVBlog:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2862BF3631A5C1AA

Here's a really good video that shows the soldering of MCU chips with many legs.
It may look like trick photography...but it isn't.
He uses a different tip than I do...I use a chisel tip.
I put the solder on the tip just like he does...and then drag it across the legs.
The whole trick is bathing the feet in a pool of flux from the flux pen.
You can see the pool of wetness in the videos...he just never shows it being applied.

Yep...it just flows on that easy...

I think that about covers it...I don't have anything else I use in the way of equipment.
That was great information! I like it. Thanks you so much. Tools Guardian
 

Merv

Well-known member
#36
Yes as others have said, use: 60/40 solder, flux, temp controled iron, an assortment of tips, a solder sucker, wire braid, an a rework station. All of these will improve your soldering.

Solder with lead is much easier to use than lead free. Flux is essential. Temperature is EVERYTHING. You’ll need small tips for small stuff and large tips for larger stuff like battery connectors. Likewise thin solder for small things, easier to add just a little solder, and thick solder for larger things that take a lot.
 
#37
If you're on a budget, $60 for a full station. (Not knocking the Hakko's, they're excellent units.)

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07D35TKQF/?tag=lstir-20

I have 2 - one at home and one at work, that get used for HOURS every day. The third generation actually works... :)

then add a pack of tips - tips are the most important thing.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CTLZBHQ/?tag=lstir-20

We have a couple Hakko's around the office (I work in semiconductors, we solder - a lot, especially since my team builds motor control systems so we're always working on something) and of course, the $500 wellers. For home work - the little F2C is perfectly fine. And you will come to love having a hot-air gun.

Solder - as others - just use the leaded stuff. And get 2 sizes. Also get a metallic type tip cleaner (looks like a brass brillo pad)

Flux pen helps, but is really for surface mount. I never use it doing connectors.

And - most important - NEVER, ever ever ever, use your GOOD soldering iron for cutting, channeling or whatever'ing foam. Buy a cheap 20W soldering pencil (or, the $8 harbor freight woodburinig kit) for that. The wood kit is great - it also comes with an exacto blade holder, so now you have a hot-knife!
 
#38
I just saw Burly's post - correct on everything - but if you're doing a lot of SMT soldering, there are specialty tips that make life a helluva lot easier.

Desoldering / Soldering Tweezers - only way to do R&C (2 lead) components

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BFK99LQ/?tag=lstir-20

Quad Flat Pack soldering tip
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000PDOTR2/?tag=lstir-20

You can also use a toaster oven for SMT. Flux the board, solder paste, place the component, then stick it in the oven for a couple minutes. (solder paste should say the reflow temperature)


"Fresh" solder melts at a lower temperature than stuff already on a board if you are doing re-work.
 

Merv

Well-known member
#39
NEVER, ever ever ever, use your GOOD soldering iron for cutting, channeling or whatever'ing foam.
I agree to a point. I use my good soldering iron for this kind of stuff all the time, controlling the heat is very important here also. I use a dedicated set of tips for this kind of work and a separate set of tips for soldering. I agree, never mix the two.

I agree with @Brett_N, my cheap solder/rework station works great. I think mine was about $70, its been many years now & still going strong. I use the rework as much or more that the solder station, control temp hot air has countless uses in my shop. Most are with plastics and a few involve solder.
 
#40
60/40 solder is OK, but 63/37 is much better. It has a shorter plastic phase, which means it transitions from liquid to solid faster and is less likely to deform as your hand shakes trying to hold stuff still. Kester #186 flux works great with that solder. I prefer to use thinner stuff, .8mm usually.