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How-To: Soldering Basics
March 23, 2006
Author: Geno Manufacturer: N/A
Department: Modding Model: N/A
Article Type: How-To Time Spent: N/A
 
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Introduction




Lately, I have been getting a lot of people asking for help with soldering issues--so it looks like it's time for another How-To article. What follows, is a simple tutorial on the basics of soldering that covers the tools, materials, and techniques of common soldering situations with instruction, pictures, and even a few videos.

As modding is already pretty expensive and we are all trying to make every dollar count, I am going to stick with inexpensive and easily available tools and materials. Translation: the discount bin at Radio Shack =). For the vast majority of the work we do related to PC modding, expensive soldering stations and exotic solders and fluxes simply are not needed.


Disclaimer


Though you would have to try VERY hard to kill yourself this time out, you can easily hurt yourself. Here is a clue—soldering irons are HOT—but you knew that already, of course. What most guys sometimes forget (myself included sadly) is that recently soldered connections, etc. are also hot. Also, keep in mind that solder drips and splatters are hot too, so work on a flat surface like a table as opposed to your lap. If that table belongs to your GF, wife, or mother, some sort of non-flammable surface protector is a great idea as is some sort of soldering iron holder.

The fumes/smoke from soldering can also be an issue--a small fan or other ventilation isn't a bad idea if you have a lot of joints to solder--and no, holding your breath does not count as proper ventilation--though we do appreciate it. Be mindful of other people, children, and pets also—don't leave a hot iron unattended. The last item is the one I am most often guilty. TURN THE IRON OFF/UNPLUG IT WHEN YOU'RE DONE!!!


Tools You Should Have


As I said earlier, there are all types of expensive soldering guns and digital soldering stations—save your money as all you really need for modding “grunt work” is a simple 30 watt Pencil style soldering iron like this one While you're at it, avoid the “As Seen On T.V.” battery powered cold soldering irons as well.

The iron in that link comes with a cheapo little folded metal stand that you will hate, and will hopefully replace with a slightly less cheap iron stand like this one. Yeah, I know it's only .20 cents less then the soldering iron, but hey—it comes with a SPONGE =) and will keep you from burning yourself, the table, the drapes, etc.—and it has a sponge to keep your tip nice and clean. You can also kill two birds with 12 bucks and get the combo iron holder--helping hands shown here.

I have yet to try that particular item personally, but it looks like it might be pretty handy. I have several of these, which are hard to beat at $3.95 USD. I also see them for a buck at the Dollar Store all the time.



 
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