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Soldering 101

Soldering

While soldering isn’t exactly welding, it is an important and very relevant skill to have and master if you’re a welder or interested in welding techniques. 

Soldering is the technique used to join two metals or other materials such as plastic to one another.  The materials are joined together by using an alloy of lead and tin that is called “solder.”  This solder material acts like the glue that holds the materials together.  The solder material is melted and applied to the materials and a strong bond is formed. 

Think a hot glue gun – When the glue is solid it doesn’t do anything, but when melted and re-hardened it forms a tight bond between whatever materials it was applied to.  This is what solder does, just a million times stronger than glue-gun glue.

You may think a lot of heat is needed to melt the solder material, but because of the light alloys (lead and tin) that make up the solder, the melting point is actually very low.   

Here are some important soldering tips and instructions that you should always keep in mind:

  • Never touch the tip of the soldering iron. 
    They are very hot (about 400°C) and will give you a pretty bad burn.
  • Always 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 can be very irritating to your eyes and lungs.
  • Wash your hands after using solder. 
    Solder contains lead which is a poisonous metal to humans.
  • Before starting, melt a little solder on the tip of the iron. 
    This is called 'tinning' and it will help the heat to flow from the iron's tip to the joint.  Do this in the beginning of each soldering project.
  • Hold the soldering iron like a pen, near the base of the handle. 
    Imagine you are going to write your name with the iron.
  • Touch the soldering iron onto the joint to be made. 
    Make sure it touches both the component lead and the track. Hold the tip there for a few seconds to ensure enough heat is made.
  • Feed a little solder onto the joint area. 
    The solder should flow smoothly onto the lead and track to form a small volcano shape.  
  • Remove the solder, then remove the iron while making sure you keep the joint still. 
    Allow the joint to cool and harden for a few seconds before moving it in any way.
  • Inspect the joint. 
    It should look shiny and have the shape of a small volcano.  If the joint is dull and flat, you did not have enough heat.

Soldering is a fun and easy way to do mini-welds on smaller projects and is very easy to master.  Always remember to take precautions to avoid getting any serious burns.

Ed

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