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.


What Makes IronPunk (videos) Different?

I’ve been trolling the web looking for free resources for training manufacturing concepts. I’ve found a lot of really good stuff, more than I expected really. There are a number of “YouTube machinists” out there taking their time and energy to pass on their hard earned tips which is a really great thing and very useful for people who have the time and inclination to watch and learn. I’ve also found a some videos prepared at various schools. You can see what I’ve come up with in the links table below. Seems most of these videos hover around the 30+ minute mark for a few reasons.

  • They cover a wide variety of topics, including viewer feedback, tool reviews and commentary.
  • They show lengthy segments of chips being made
  • The video is of a class lecture which, due to the environment, must be paced so that they entire class can keep up in the lecture environment, with many pauses to allow student’s to process the material

I have absolutely no problem with any of these formats and they all have their place. I myself have learned a lot from the likes of Abom79, Joe Pi and others. I enjoy their personalities and banter. What I’m trying to do with Ironpunk, however, is different. I’d like to keep the topics focused so that the videos can be short and to the point. Arbitrarily, I’ve set the limit at 10-13 minutes as a feasible amount of time. Rather than make the videos slow paced or repeat concepts to reinforce a point, I’ll rely on the viewer to pause the video as necessary and/or replay the video to understand the concepts or techniques. A good example of the format I like is the Hass Tip of the Day.

Web Development

Somehow when I started this project I didn’t think I would be doing as much web development as I have been doing. It’s my nature, though. I am highly process oriented. If I have to do something multiple times I want to put in the work to make things go as efficiently as possible. It’s why, in my shop, I often find myself spending more time making the tooling and fixturing to get a job done than it takes to actually do the job. I get satisfaction in having things go smoothly and efficiently. Few things frustrate me more than having to repeatedly do something in an inefficient manner just to “get it done”.

When I started working on this site, I decided it would be a small modification to the site I had already developed for myself As it turns out I ended up making a bunch of changes to add to it’s readability and maintainability. It’s hard to see the changes as my own site has kept pace. In reality they are both served from the same WordPress instance and it serves out or based on the URL it is reached by. Eventually my hope is that the IronPunk site will need to scale up to it’s own server but for now this is the cheap solution. It isn’t the fastest server but it will have to do for now.

The latest addition to the site is the dynamically generated tables that display the IronPunk parts list and the list of Online Resource Links. The nice thing about the way these are implemented is that it allows the user to interact with the data and, because of the way that the data is stored, it can be reused in different ways and maintained easily. I won’t bore you with the details in this post. If you are interested however, you can check out this post over in the Details section. I’ve used a lot of opensource code in creating this site and that post gives credit where credit is due.

IronPunk Projects

These are the projects that will be completed for the first round of Ironpunk.

Procedural Projects (those which do not make an object)- These will have a listing of online resources and a short demonstration video.

  • Speeds – SFPM, RPM, how to calculate, resources for determining SFPM for different materials and tools, adjustment due to cutting conditions
  • Feed rate using chip load calculator – Explain chip load, feed rate and how they relate and are calculated with simple math. Reference on-line and Android calculators for determining feed rate based on chip load. Use chip load calculator in TouchDRO to tune autofeed and hand feed. Get familiar with proper feed and how it feels. (possible feature for TouchDRO, use graphic to show difference from ideal chip load during feeding)
  • Indicating a vise
  • Tramming the mill head
  • Edge finding

Part Projects – Each of these will contain:

  • Videos – At least an introduction, probably step by step instructions of anything complicated.
  • Written instructions
  • Prints utilizing proper GD&T
  • Images of each fixturing setup
  • 3D rendering of the completed part
  • Links to outside useful information.
  • Drill Gauge Project
    • DRO use in milling stock to length
    • Do not cover scribing, refer to resources
    • Edge find origin – separate video
    • spot drill holes using standard DRO techniques
    • drill holes using preset points in TouchDRO
    • Ream holes using “closest point” feature in TouchDRO
    • chamfer holes on near side with “closest point feature”
    • flip part, adjust work offset and chamfer holes on backside
  • Squaring a block – Start with raw stock. Discuss methods for squaring. Discuss how square is a spectrum and that you need to make it square enough for the application and tolerances. Methodologies for different types of stock (bar stock, cut from plate etc.) Use incremental coordinate presets with the DRO to square stock to a specific size.
  • Making the case for the Touch DRO
    • Start with a squared block (from first project).
    • Edge find a corner for the origin and set the workspace origin.
    • Add points to TouchDRO from the drawing
      • 5 drilled and tapped holes
      • Add point for center clearance hole
    • Drill and tap five holes to mount the top of the case
    • Drill the center hole
    • Add the 4 corner points to the TouchDRO
    • Using “Mill to Zero” methodology to hollow out the block.
    • Add the four points for the board mount holes to the TouchDRO
    • Drill and tap the four board mount holes

Buying Components

One of the first hurdles to getting the TouchDRO hooked up was buying all the connectors, terminals and wiring I needed. There aren’t many stores that sell these type of connectors, certainly nowhere in Eugene I assumed (more on that later). I started searching for good sites on the web and found the following along with many others:

  • – wide selection, expensive in small quantities and you really need to know what you are looking for.
  • – kind of Arduino and kit specific. Sometimes hard to tell whether what they sell will work with other devices, user friendly however
  • – like Adafruit, better for kits and gadgets rather than individual connectors.
  • – Super wide selection and good prices. Good customer support, can actually talk to people on the phone. Confusing website with pictures and descriptions that don’t always match the item.

I ended up buying most of my parts from MCM Electronics and it was quite the learning experience. It took 4 orders and $32 in shipping expenses to get what I needed. That’s the problem with having to buy things that you can’t hold in your hands to see if it fits and does what you expect it to do. As I wrote in the list above, their website is confusing and misleading. The pictures often don’t match the item they are displayed with and neither do the descriptions.  After my 2nd order they sent me a catalog which made things incredibly easier. I would suggest calling them up and requesting a catalog right off the bat if you are planning on ordering from them as it will likely save you time and shipping costs in the long run. I’ll post a complete parts list in the resources section of what I bought from them which should also make things easier.

A funny thing happened after all my ordering and re-ordering from MCM. I was soldering some connectors and realized I didn’t have the right size shrink fit tubing. I rode out to Home Depot to get what I needed and came across Shangri-La, otherwise known an Oregon Electronics. I have a hard time understanding how with all my web searches I did not find this place. It is right at Conger and 11th and I believe that they have everything I needed. Not only that they have knowledgeable staff to answer questions and everything is right there to touch and feel. The prices seem comparable to MCM and probably cheaper once you figure in shipping with the small quantities I was ordering (and re-ordering 🙂 . I’ll post a parts list for Oregon Electronics for anybody close enough to drop in. They have a website but I haven’t  spent much time on it. One of the things I am quite excited about is that they have a selection of tips for soldering irons. I’ve always had a difficult time finding tips in the style I want that fit my soldering iron. I am going to take it down there so I can test fit them and get what I need.

Electric Beginning

It’s a bit funny. I’ve welded professionally for 4 years; I’m pretty good at brazing and
fabrication in general. I’ve also soldered and repaired various electrical things from appliances
to automobiles. With that experience I entered into making the TouchDRO with a few assumptions.

  • My various skills would make board level soldering easy (partially true)
  • Because I bought the premade board from Yuri, hooking it up to my linear encoders would be
    easy. (partially true)
  • I would not have to buy the specialty crimpers and such because I am skilled with needle nose
    pliers (totally false)

I decided to buy the premade board from Yuri for the first Touch DRO install. Part of the
reasoning for that was to make the install easier but part of it was that it came with a faster
processor than the MSP430 Launchpad. I couldn’t use the Arduino board because it doesn’t support
Quadrature Encoders and one of my encoders has 1 micron resolution.

A 1 micron encoder counts 25,400 times per inch. It is possible that a slower processor might not
be able to keep up with the scale during rapid traversal. It is also quite possible that the slower
processor would have been fine but for the $40 price difference, I decided to go with the faster
processor and cooler looking board because I’m just that kind of a geek.

So I set about hooking up the TouchDRO board to the encoders on my mill. In general that means connecting power to the board and the board to the scales. Overall a pretty simple process but as usual there were a few complications. The DRO that I am replacing is an old Acu-Rite II  DRO. It uses military grade connectors that, while, not hard to find are quite expensive. I decided to standardize on DSub-9 connectors as they are common, inexpensive and come standard on many encoders. I also decided to solder headers to the DRO board and make wiring harnesses to connect the DSub-9 connectors to the board. This would allow me to easily adapt the DRO to fit a variety of scales which should be useful as this is kind of my “development rig”. So, at a high level, the process is:

  1. Modify encoders to use DSub-9 connectors instead of milspec
  2. Make DSub9->milspec adapters so that I can still use the old DRO
  3. Solder headers to TouchDRO board
  4. Make wiring harnesses to connect DSub9 sockets to board headers

I’ll cover the details of these and more in a following post.




The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a Sensei as a teacher or master, especially of Japanese martial arts. A more nuanced definition is: “One Who Has Gone Before”. I like that phrase as it disposes of the concept of mastery, a Sensei is someone who has traveled a path and attempts to lead others along that path.

What does this have to do with IronPunk?

Primarily that this site attempts to document a path in the hopes that others can follow it more easily. Much like martial arts, many of the skills necessary to accomplish the tasks can only be learned experimentally. You must try, and sometimes fail, to learn new skills. While I am not a master of any of the skills I present on this site, if I am a master of anything it is failing.

Sometimes it seems that I have to exhaust all of the wrong ways to accomplish something before finding the right way. It is by failing that we learn best and if we only did what we knew how to do, we would never do anything new.  It is my hope with this site to assist readers to fail more productively to succeed faster than me by avoiding the pitfalls and obstacles I have encountered and still get the benefit of those mistakes by learning from mine.

So now on to some housekeeping. The section of the site that you are now reading, the Timeline, is exactly what you would expect from an informal blog. Organized chronologically it documents the process of making an IronPunk DRO and any thoughts that process inspires. It may be somewhat meandering at times but hopefully will stay primarily on topic. The Development section contains essentially rough drafts of documents.  The section is organized by topic so that you don’t have to read though months of chit chat to figure out what terminal connector to buy or how to square a vise. The Resources section is much the same only the documents are considered reasonably complete. Complete enough at least to get a version number.

My expectation is that ideas will start in the Timeline. I’ll use that as fodder for more structured documents that will be developed in the Development section and later graduate to the Resources section. As more multimedia and other resources are created/discovered and projects are created, I’ll add sections but for now these will do.

Thanks for reading

This post is a seed
The site, possibility
With work it will grow