I took the opportunity to redesign using SMT components so I could shrink the board.
I'm still working on my technique for hand soldering SMT. Here are some things that seem to work so far:
- Push components out of their tape using the point of a small nail
- Tin the pads then suck off the solder with solder braid
- Use a flux pen on all the pads
- Use a really small tip and a decent iron
- Use 0.015" solder; I use Radio Shack silver bearing solder
- Use non-magnetic pliers/tweezers to pick and place parts
- Use the nail tip to gently nudge them around on the board
- Hold the parts down with the head of the nail while you solder
- Tack down one side of the component, add solder if needed
- Then add solder to the opposite side while holding it
Hopefully the new board will hold up better to the rigors of testing and competition than the home fabricated board. Plus, I'll have spare boards in case something goes awry.