Soldering Tips (what you need)

Of all the skills I can teach about assembling the TouchDRO, soldering is probably where I am the weakest. So I’m going to start there. There’s a method to the madness. Sometimes when someone is new at a skill they are can actually do a better job teaching it because the learning is fresh in their mind. Ever have a master try and teach you something and all they can say is “just do it, it’s not that difficult” because it is just too easy for them?

Anyway, here goes, soldering tips from a somewhat decent solderer.

Starting with the basics, you probably want to buy a “soldering station” as opposed to just a soldering iron. The advantages of a soldering station are mainly that it includes a stand to rest the soldering iron in when you are not using it and the temperature can be adjusted. It’s the latter that is the most important, but the former is very useful too. I’ve got the Weller WLC100, you’ll find it online anywhere from $35 to $55. It is adjustable from 5 to 40 watts and has interchangeable tips.

Weller WLC100
Weller WLC100

You can buy much higher cost soldering stations with more features, some that let you set the exact temperature of the tip but for this job I think the Weller does just fine. You could do it with a cheaper one as well but for the money I think that the WLC100 makes the job easier. Here’s two sources to buy one online:

MCM Electronics

You’ll notice that Amazon is significantly cheaper, however, MCM is convenient because they have all the replacement tips indexed. You’ll need to buy at lease one replacement tip for the soldering iron and it’s pretty difficult to make sure you are buying the right one on Amazon.

If you are in the Eugene, OR area (where I am). You should probably just drop by Oregon Electronics as you can get everything you need in one trip. I’m not sure if they carry the Weller but they have something that looks similar and is actually cheaper …. plus it comes with spare tips. Speaking of spare tips, for soldering to the circuit board your going to need something other than the chisel or screwdriver tip that most soldering irons come with. With the Weller I have above, I’ve used both the ST1 and the ST7 and both work but I think I prefer the ST1 because it gets things up to temperature faster.

Now that you have your soldering station worked out you are going to need a tip tinner/cleaner. Most soldering stations will come with a sponge to clean the tip of the soldering iron. I was never successful using one as it cooled the iron down too much and the temperature fluctuations, I believe, caused the tips too wear out prematurely. Since I switched over to a tip tinner/cleaner I haven’t worn out a tip. Lastly there are two other little tools that will make things easier on you. A third hand tool and heat sink clips. You’ll see in the following post  how handy these can be.

That is going to be it for this post. I’m trying to keep this brief and only give you the information you need. If you want more information, there is a ton of it on the web. The Maker community is super active out there and soldering is one of the fundamental skills of making things. Do some searches and see what you find. In the next post I’ll have some pictures and videos of exactly how I did the soldering on the TouchDRO quadrature board.


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