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Old 07-22-2010, 09:46 PM   #1
Sylvario [OP] Sylvario is offline
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Soldering 101

I know this is gonna get long winded but I will try and make it brief. I have seen several posts where people are soldering. Some seem pretty knowledgeable and others are grabbing the $9 walmart soldering iron and going to town. I wanted to give some quick tips and explanations to help make your projects clean, secure and safer... and save some headaches.

1) Clean your surface. Dirt and grease can ruin a solder joint. Home improvement scotch brite pads are great at this, but do not use kitchen pads as they have soap built into them. Rub them down and spray them with compressed air.
2) Secure your work. Even slight wiggling can lead to poor solder connections which can lead to shorts or lost current. (Think creatively with vise grips and fishing forceps).
3) Before you use your iron, heat it thoroughly, then apply solder to the tip. This is called "Tinning" and it helps conduct the heat and burns off the chemical coating that comes on your iron from the store. Also a good tip is to keep a DAMP sponge handy when you solder. If you get any dirt or solder buildup on the tip of your iron wipe it on the sponge.
4) Heat the wires or joint for a few seconds before adding the solder. You want the metal to bond with the solder. But don't leave it so long you burn the wire coating. Practice on scrap wire can help get you a feel for heating time.
5) Don't add too much solder. You don't want a gunky joint.
6) It only takes a few seconds to solder a joint.
7) Do not move parts until solder has set.


Important note that many people do not know about. FLUX. Flux is a compound that prevents oxidizing. Flux is added to many electronic solders. Have you ever gotten spikes on your solder where it tries to stick to the iron? Lack of Flux can cause this. A problem many people encounter is heating the joint too long and burning off the flux that is in the solder. Flux is sold in electronic stores and craft stores with stain glass area. Adding a little of this Vaseline like stuff (usually with an included brush) can quickly give you an easy to work with, smooth surface. Thus, making your work look clean and neat. Some solders do not come with flux embedded and can cause headaches for the worker from the get go. For electronic work look for solder with a "Rosin Core." This is Flux. Buy separate flux also in case you do burn the embedded stuff off. It will save you many headaches. I prefer to work with non-cored solder. But I have done this for a while. When you are done be sure to use rubbing alcohol, wood alcohol or antifreeze to clean off any white residue. This is left over flux. If left on wires it can absorb moisture (and many types contain low amounts of acid) and will eventually erode your wires. Solder has lots of chemicals in it so be sure to work in good ventilation.



Shrink tubing is also a bit tricky in that there are different types. There are adhesive lined and non-adhesive lined. Non-adhesive forms a barrier only and is good for wires with no exposure to moisture, chemicals or dirt. Adhesive lined has heat sensitive adhesive that melts to seal the joint and should be used for areas exposed to the elements... ie... most anything in a car. Inside or out. Use shrink tubes 1.5-2 times bigger than the wires. Shrink tubing should hang over the joint by about half an inch. Use a heat gun or hair dryer to shrink it. In a pinch a lighter will work but isn't recommended.

Troubleshooting Guide


Solder won't "stick" = dirty surface, use iron and a desolder wick (something else to buy) to clear the solder and clean the surface. The surface might not bond to solder... aluminum.

Gray grainy bond = either the joint was not heated enough or the joint was moved before completely cool. Some "cheap" irons may not get hot enough for big wire jobs. Lots of metal to bond creates a makeshift heat sink that is harder to heat.

You get "Spikes" = overheated and burned off your flux. Add more Flux.

All you pros out there feel free to add bits of learned wisdom. The best way to learn to solder is to get a vise, some scrap wire and start experimenting. Also Youtube probably has a ton of how-to clips. Have fun and sorry if nobody gives a shit about this.

P.S. Most of my knowledge comes for years of doing
stained glass. If you can find a local class its actually
a great skill set. You learn to cut glass (yes there
are tricks to that too) and solder... plus you can make
lots of badass cheap Christmas presents.







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Old 07-22-2010, 10:01 PM   #3
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Nice post +1

Just curious, I always heat the wires on one side and apply the solder on the other which ensures the wires are hot enough since the solder never touches the iron. I also sometimes tin the wires themselves then just melt them together. Am I doing it right?
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Old 07-22-2010, 10:04 PM   #5
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Nice post, i just take for granted that I can solder since I have been doing it for 10+ years now. LOL.

Soldering wire is quick, cheap and efficient when you can do it, so I am sure your post will help out a ton of people, esp with the troubleshooting.

The worst is sweating copper pipe, its large scale soldering
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Old 07-22-2010, 10:05 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by lookylookitzadam View Post

The worst is sweating copper pipe, its large scale soldering
this is true
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Old 07-22-2010, 10:18 PM   #7
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Nice write up
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Old 07-23-2010, 02:34 AM   #8
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Felt I should add a few things to this...

For heat shrink, remember to put the heat shrink on before you connect the wires. It can kinda be added after if you cut two pieces length wise and put the cuts opposite each other.

For combining two wires, there's a few ways to do it.
First is the worst, but probably the most commonly used. It is just twisting the wires together like you would with a wire nut. Fairly weak and bulky.
Second is a method that used to be taught, but I think is no longer the popular method. It is to separate the wires in half and twist each half with a half on the other wire so you end up with two pig tails. Bend each pig tail in different directions. Tends to be quite strong since there's two separate twists, but can be pretty bulky as well.
Third, which I believe is the current preferred method, is called a Lineman's joint. Basically, put the wires in an X and wrap each end around so you end up with pretty much a straight line. This method does end up looking the cleanest and takes up the least amount of space. I feel #2 is stronger though.

For adding one wire to another where you only have one open end, I know of two methods.
First, is the way most people do it, is just wrap the child wire around the parent and solder away. Solder is the only thing holding things together, so pretty weak.
Second is a lot stronger. Separate the parent wire so there's a hole in the middle. Stick the child in the hole and separate it in half. Twist one half one way and the other half the other way around the parent, kinda like the Lineman's joint.


I've heard people say not to solder wires in a vehicle with an electric soldering gun due to the wires being charged/live. Probably a good idea. I've always either had the wire disconnected from the vehicle or had the battery unplugged when I've soldered a wire, so cant comment on what can happen, but I'm sure sparks can be involved. There are flame based soldering guns for doing live wires, if you have no other choice.


If you're even the slightest bit serious about doing some wiring, get rid of that $2 radio shack special wire crimper and get a real tool. The quality is night and day difference.
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Old 07-23-2010, 05:23 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steve o 77 View Post
Nice post +1

Just curious, I always heat the wires on one side and apply the solder on the other which ensures the wires are hot enough since the solder never touches the iron. I also sometimes tin the wires themselves then just melt them together. Am I doing it right?
Yes, I have used that method frequently.
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Old 07-23-2010, 05:30 AM   #11
Sylvario [OP] Sylvario is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steve o 77 View Post
Nice post +1

Just curious, I always heat the wires on one side and apply the solder on the other which ensures the wires are hot enough since the solder never touches the iron. I also sometimes tin the wires themselves then just melt them together. Am I doing it right?
This is a good method for rosin core solder since you won't burn off the flux. The key is not over heating the wire and melting your coating. A good temp is represented when the solder seems to be pulled into the wire.

As stated this was just a quick "things that can cause headaches" for people new to the iron. This thread could get huge with technical talk if we would like. Example. There are guns called cold solder irons which use electricity to quickly heat and cool the tip on demand. Some people dislike this type for work on electronics do to some cases of static build up and frying circuits. On a similar note, try and use a soldering iron with a grounded plug. This will prevent static build up at the tip. Propane irons are said to be pretty handy due to no cords but I have no experience with them.

...I started rambling again...
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