November 19, 2011

Soldering 101

Amateur radio is a wonderful hobby with so many different facets to explore.  One of the skills that most ham develop at some point is soldering.  This is because soldering is fun, useful, and arguably necessary.  Here are just a few things you can do with soldering:
  • Solder a power cable (see our article Project: Car power adapter to Anderson Powerpole)
  • Solder ends on coaxial cable
  • Build a commercial kit (radio, power supply, gadget, ...)
  • Make a home-brew device
  • Splice wires together
  • Repair or modify electrical equipment

If you would like to improve your soldering skill, spend the next 7 minutes with this excellent tutorial on the basics of soldering.  It will help you solder like a pro in no time.

A few safety precautions:
  • Never touch the element or tip of the soldering iron. They are very hot (about 400°C) and will give you a nasty burn.
  • Return the soldering iron to its stand when not in use. Never put it down on your workbench, even for a moment!
  • Work in a well-ventilated area. The smoke formed as you melt solder is mostly from the flux and quite irritating. Avoid breathing it by keeping you head to the side of, not above, your work.
  • Wash your hands after using solder.  Solder contains lead which is a toxic metal.
Now that you have learned how to solder it is time to practice.  A great way to start is to buy a simple electronic kit from Radio Shack, Fry's Electronics, Vectronics, or other electronic kit retailers

Elenco sells a nice Elenco Learn To Solder Kit that comes complete with a soldering iron, solder, circuit board, and components.

Alternatively, check out our simple, useful, and easy-to-build project, Project: Car power adapter to Anderson Powerpole.

Elecraft offers a useful Q&A on soldering called, "Ask Dr. Solder".  It is definitely worth reading.

We learned desoldering in our youth tearing apart old gear and salvaging parts. It turns out that desoldering is a common pattern among hams as a path to successful mastery of soldering technique.  In other words, desoldering an old piece of equipment and salvaging parts is a great way to learn how to handle a solder iron.   This is likely because the risk of damaging the circuit is ZERO (since it is already broken) which gives the freedom to make mistakes and learn.  Desoldering old equipment is also nearly free!  Be sure to check out our NJ2X.COM article, "Desoldering 101"

See our related articles:
Project: Wheel Of Fortune Kit (Velleman)
3D Xmas Tree Kit - Velleman
KN-Q7A Single Band SSB Transceiver Kit - New Arrival