questionsany advice for someone learning to solder…

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Always remember to preheat the "landing area" then heat the solder to drop on it. That's all I have.

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Soldering is really a quite simple procedure. Sounds like you have done your research and have all the proper tools you'll need. I'm sure you could search YouTube for "how to" videos if you need some instruction. Good Luck!

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@robingraves: Thanks for the advice
@dealseekerdude: Thanks, I've been poking around youtube a bit for some good videos
@zuiquan: Wow, MAKE is really cool. I hadn't heard of it before, thanks for posting that link. Not only will this help me get started but it looks like there are plenty of projects on here to keep me busy for a while.

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I spend all week repairing electronics and the only thing I disagree with in the video is his mention of solder balls. "Solder balls" are what electronics technicians call "blob jobs". These are not good. A good solder joint should have the appearance of a Stratovolcano (whether you are soldering through hole or SMT) -

He also does not mention tinning the tip of the soldering iron. Apply a little solder to the tip of the iron before cleaning, it makes for better heat transfer.

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@retorak: It's one of my favorite places around the internet. They publish a great magazine too. Some of the projects are waaaaaaayyy beyond me but there's plenty of stuff to keep a person busy.

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All I have to add is keep a steady hand.

When I try to solder for some reason I turn into Parkinson's man.

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The Spouse has been doing a lot of learning (and proudly bringing in for show-off the damndest, tiniest little LED blinky toys I've ever seen), and he suggested you might want to check these sites out:

www.ladyada.net/learn/soldering
www.sparkfun.com/tutorials/354

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What they said, plus one thing:

Have burn stuff on hand.

Water Jel is good, and you'll need something to cover burns to keep them clean. Expect small burns, so band-aids will usually work. Do not break burn blisters.

Hey, if you start doing it regularly, the question changes from "if" to "when". Might as well be ready.

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Using old PCBs you have on hand to practice is a good idea. Once you can make a good joint, start on the actual item you want to solder.

Don't forget to work on/above a large piece of cardboard to catch any drippings/mistakes.

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I used to solder all the time and building small electronic projects was my hobby (3-years of electronics school).

Haven't been in the hobby in a couple decades and noticed recently that they finally came out with lead-free solder. I was always worried about the old solder with lead because when you're melting it, fumes go straight up your nose. Probably is the flux fumes but it's still bothersome knowing it contains lead and is generating some sort of smoke.

So if I were to get back into the hobby, I would get the lead-free solder just for the health of it. The solder joints are not as shiny when you're done and actually look crusty but they are perfectly fine.

Am I the only person that ever worried about this? Maybe too many years of soldering with lead is what made me go crazy.

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@cengland0: No, you're not the only one. That's why I use a fume extractor. Who wants to suck lead fumes all day long?

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Search SE Magnifier/Third Hand on amazon
and
Get thin .02 solder, melts at lower temps.

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Get a Solder Sucker. They're useful and also fun to play with.

Don't touch hot stuff. You'd think this would be a no-brainer, but... :-)

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I like Caffiene's suggestion of a magnifier. If you have a Michael's craft store in your area, they always have a 40% or 50% off any one item in the store... use it for one of their desktop magnifiers with a light. With the discount, you'll have a hard time beating the price anywhere.

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@brandie346: I tried to use one, it made things worse. When you would you use one?
You are talking the bulb thing right?

Do not forget the alligator clips they are so awesome, I did see one with a light, but I use a desk lamp.

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@caffeine_dude This is the one that I have: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aw4lZGk90i4

Not the best video, you can't really see him suck up the solder, or actually how the tool works. But it's basically a pump-action vacuum. The small yellow button is the trigger. Heat up the solder, put the sucker over it, press the button and zip! It's gone.

Looks neat. Makes a funny noise. Sucks up solder. What's not to like? :)

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@cengland0: lead-free solder is crap, it tends to be brittle and break down the road.

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watch temp. keep things clean. heat area not solder. use as little as possible while covering contact area. practice.

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@brandie346:
cool I have:

But I used it to try to pick up a drip and it spread out the solder.
I had to use solder braid.

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All the paint and body guys of yesteryear never worried about the lead fumes, in fact so much lead was being melted, shaved, filed, sanded & remelted it just was part of the daily routine of generations ago in United States industry. Whether a person assembled munitions, was actively employed in auto body repair using lead fillers, an electronic circuit board assembler using lead based solders or employed at a petrochemical refinery making stabilized condensate, lead was used in multiple areas in American industry. Lead is still widely used in many areas in industry, but where ever possible lead has been replaced with other healthier options, after learning how detrimental its byproducts are to humans and the environment.