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Soldering 101

In this article Igor Yermak teaches the basics of soldering. Igor is 13 years old and already an avid electronics hobbyist. His soldering tutorial is clear and to the point. Igor will receive a giveaway item of his choice from the hobby parts for articles project here at uCHobby. Leave encouraging comments for Igor, he will be a great electronics engineer soon.

DSC 0177This tutorial will teach you the basics of how to solder. Soldering is a useful skill if you ever want to make permanent circuits. Learning how to solder is not rocket science, it is a relatively simple skill to acquire. After this tutorial you will know everything you need to solder a basic circuit board.

Soldering uses a material called solder in order to attach components to a circuit board and make an electronic connection. Solder is usually 60 percent tin and 40 percent lead; you should also try to look for solder with a rosin flux. You can buy solder online or at any Radio Shack/other store. Lead is toxic so when you are soldering work in a well ventilated environment and try not to smell the fumes. The fumes you see when you are soldering are from the flux and not from the solder.

In order to solder you need a few materials first.

Here are the materials you NEED:

  • Soldering iron (try to get one around 30 watts, the higher the wattage of the iron the faster the solder will melt.)
  • It should be 60 percent tin and 40 percent lead.
  • Tweezers for putting the components onto the board.
  • Pliers for bending the leads of components into the board
  • A de-soldering pump or braid to take away solder and “erase” your mistakes. There are many types available. The de-soldering pump sucks up the solder.
  • The braid attracts solder better then the copper in the board so you just heat up the solder, put the braid on it and pull.
  • Lead cutters to cut off the ends of component leads.
  • Wire Strippers to cut off wire insulation.

[uCHobby: There are two related articles here at uCHobby. Surface Mount Soldering Aids and $15 Soldering Station Review.]

You do not need many tools in order to get started soldering as you can see from the mandatory materials. Here are some tools that will make soldering easier:

  • 3rd hand tool (pair of alligator clips attached to a base and that sometimes have a loupe attached.) They will help you keep your board steady while you are soldering components.
  • Soldering stand to put your soldering iron on.
  • A damp sponge.
  • Anti static mat to prevent static sensitive parts such as IC’s from being damaged.
  • Enclosures for your project.


Soldering Steps:

  1. Step 1 of soldering is to get all your tools together and have everything ready; you can do this while your soldering iron is heating up.
  2. First tin the tip of the soldering iron. Tinning the tip is when you heat up solder on the iron tip.
  3. After you have tinned the tip wipe off the excess solder on a damp (not soaking) sponge.
  4. Now stick in a resistor or any other component you are soldering into the board.
  5. Bend both leads of the resistor flush against the board so it stays in place.
  6. Heat up the leads of the component. (Do not heat the component too long or you may damage the part, a couple of seconds should be enough.)
  7. Feed the solder to the heated part. NOTE: Do NOT apply the solder to the pointy part of the tip but to the sides of the iron. If you apply it to the tip the solder will not melt, since the sides have more surface area more heat will be applied to the solder and it will melt.
  8. Now wait for the solder to cool, it should not take long. Do NOT blow on it to try to make it cool down faster, you make bad joints (bad connection and/or not reliable) that way. Make sure you do not move the board or component while it is cooling.
  9. Cut off the leads of the components that are sticking out.
  10. Survey your work; the joint should look like a volcano with the lead of the component in the middle. It should also be smooth and glossy looking.
  11. If it looks like a good joint and it stays in place you have succeeded in soldering, congratulate yourself and pat yourself on the back like a lunatic.

Posted in Development Tools, Discovering, Workshop Tips, Workshop Tools.

13 Responses

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  1. says

    This is a great guide! Lots of good subtle points, like the part about heat coming through the larger surface area of the sides of the tip rather than the pointy tip. The “volcano” word is a great way to describe the ideal shape, also.

    Steve: for step 7, the reason solder doesn’t “cling” to the parts is either because they’re dirty / oxidized, or they’re not hot enough (more likely). If there’s no solder between the iron tip and the parts, little heat will transfer, so resting the tip against the parts may not do anything. Usually the “tinning” step will provide a film of solder on the tip that helps to transfer heat to the part, but not if the iron tip is older and the solder balls up on it rather than coating it. I usually start by putting a very small amount of solder in between the parts and iron tip to form a “heat bridge,” then I apply small amounts of solder to the opposite side of the part. Smaller size solder can help a lot to prevent adding too much on. Hope this helps and isn’t stuff you already know!

    Someone mentioned a video for soldering basics. We’ve got a fairly short one with lots of close-up shots of good and bad technique here:

  2. Garbonzo says

    Did he do it for the lulz? Because this is lulwortheh.

  3. dfowler says

    Happy Birthday Igor!

  4. Igor Yermak says

    It’s my birthday!

  5. Norman says

    There should be some explanation for how solder ‘wets’, specifically that heat should be applied to both the pad and the lead until the heat present on the pad/lead can melt the solder, otherwise a dry/cold joint will result (pictures should be taken).

    Also with the solder wick, place the wick over the joint, apply heat until the solder gets sucked into the wick and without removing the soldering iron from the wick, pull the wick carefully. If the wick cools and the solder solidifies it will stick to the board, forcefully removing the wick at this point will likely lift pads and damage the board.

  6. Anthony says

    Very well done Igor. When I was your age I too had some experience with soldering, it’s great to see the skill being picked up at a young age! One suggestion – some people (myself especially lately, not as much years back) have difficulty keeping their hands steady and end up moving the component or board while solder is cooling… I started using 63/37 (63% tin/37% lead) and notice it seems to help, the solder solidifies at one temperature uniformly and quickly rather then over a wider temperature range.

  7. Steve Chamberlin says

    One other thought: I know a few people who have what I’d call “solder phobia”. They’re convinced they can’t solder, maybe they tried it once or twice and it didn’t go too well, so they just avoid any project that requires soldering. My advice is to just jump in and give it your best shot, follow the instructions of this tutorial and others. Maybe you’ll fry a couple of parts, but consider it part of the cost of education!

  8. Steve Chamberlin says

    Step 7 is where I always seem to run into problems. You have four different things to bring together: the first component, the second component, the solder, and the iron. I’ve seen it suggested that you apply the iron to the two components for a moment to heat them, then apply solder to one of the components. I’ve also seen it suggested that you bring the components and solder together, then attempt to heat all three simultaneously with the iron. In my case, half the time I get too little solder, or solder the pools on the iron but not the components, or a huge ball of solder that bridges together a bunch of stuff that shouldn’t be connected. Doh!!

  9. ryanisawesome says

    Awesome tutorial Igor, keep it up, now we just need a video version! grrr..

  10. Sup-homie says

    Hey, great Tut man.

  11. follower says

    > pat yourself on the back like a lunatic.

    LOL. 🙂


  12. Joseph Yumul says

    That’s nice 😀 we are same i’m 14 from Philippines

  13. Igor Yermak says

    Thanks for publishing my tutorial.