Do you have something that needs soldering? If you do, then you might need to know how to use a soldering iron. This simple yet effective piece of tech has been around for a while, and it’s been helping people repair electronics or make other similar items for a long time. If you don’t know what you’re doing with a soldering iron, be careful. This isn’t something you should jump straight into. That being said, learning how to use one could open up a world of possibilities for you and your workshop.
In this article, we’re going to look at how to use a soldering iron. Keep reading if you want to find out.
How to use a soldering iron
Before you can start using a soldering iron, you need to understand the process a bit more. What exactly is soldering, and what does a soldering iron do? Let’s have a closer look…
Understanding how a soldering iron works and what it does
Soldering is a process that uses a soldering iron. A soldering iron is the main tool in soldering, and it uses a tip (metal) that gets up to temperatures of over 800 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s really hot. This temperature can be adjusted on some irons, but not all of them. If you want one with adjustable temperatures, you might have to pay a bit more for your equipment.
The main purpose of a soldering iron is to apply the heat from the metal tip to different things, normally electronics. Things like wires, transistors, pads and other things will get heated by the tip, and then solder is applied by the iron. This is used to join parts of metal and electronic components on circuits, to either repair them or make them in the first place.
You’ll obviously need to have a good idea of what you’re doing when using a soldering iron. Experience with circuitry and electronic components is a must. This article is mainly for how to use the actual iron and do the soldering, rather than what electronic components can be joined to others and how to repair a circuit properly. If you need help with that, you might want to look elsewhere.
It might be a good idea to spend a bit more on a soldering iron rather than going for the cheapest option. You don’t have to spend much more to get a much better quality soldering iron. The sort of tool that you buy cheaply simply won’t last as long. A longer lasting soldering iron might only cost $20 more, and it will be well worth it. These higher-quality soldering irons will also have proper heat controls so you can alter the temperature of the iron, which is useful sometimes. Don’t limit yourself with a cheap soldering iron when a more expensive one will be more useful for a wider range of tasks.
You might also want to consider a soldering gun, but these are only to be used on thick cables and should never be used on PCBs. That’s because the tips can damage sensitive electronic parts due to have live voltage running through them.
If you’re wondering what solder even is, it’s a thin tube of spools that’s made of metal alloys. It holds various metal components in place and together. The alloy mix can vary depending on exactly what you’re using, but electronic components generally are made up of a mix of tin and lead. You can also get lead-free solder although this has a higher melting point and you will need a better soldering iron to use it. Removing lead-free solder can also be much harder. However, it is better for the environment.
Inside this tube there’s a fluid substance that gets rid of oxidation and helps keep things clean while working. This fluid is called flux. You need to have the right sort of flux for the job you’re doing, as some fluxes can again damage sensitive components. Acid-flux should only be used on plumbing and roisin flux should be used on electronics.
Using a soldering iron safely
Soldering irons shouldn’t be used if you don’t know what you’re doing. They can be dangerous. They obviously get really hot, as solder is like liquid metal. That means you need to wear safety goggles and maybe even gloves. Working with gloves can be harder, but you at least need to take extra care to keep your fingers away from the tip at all times. Make sure you wash your hands very hard after soldering to get rid of any lead.
Ventilation is also important. Open windows and make sure you’ve got a good flow of fresh air. Fumes from soldering can be harmful to your health. Make sure you work carefully and slowly at all times.
Preparation and looking after your soldering iron
Before you use your soldering iron on the components you want to join, make sure the tip is clean of any solder. Older bits of solder will oxidize and insulate the iron. You want to clear dirty tips as they’ll make the soldering process harder and require you to hold the tip to electronics for longer (which can be damaging to electronics). Use a wet sponge to softly scrape against a fully heated iron. Make sure the tip looks clean and shiny.
You can then tin the tip by applying a small amount of fresh solder and making sure it’s still shiny. Make sure you start soldering straight after doing this as a delay could cause the over-oxidization we already talked about. Clean and re-tin after every few joins to keep things working well. Clean the iron before putting it away as well, to make it easier next time.
When joining parts, hold the iron in your main hand and touch the area where parts join with the iron. Hold it in place for about one second. Push the solder under the tip with your other hand and hold for another few seconds. You’ll get a feel for how much solder is needed as you get more practice, but this will depend on the specific project as well.
Make sure you pull the solder away while still holding the iron in place. This makes sure the solder melts correctly and makes a good join. Don’t touch the solder while it’s cooling, but this shouldn’t take long. Now you know how to use a soldering iron!