Friday, November 16, 2012

Soldering Accessories

Here's my recommendations on what to use when you solder.

Solder

I really like Radio Shack 0.015" silver bearing solder (64-035) for detail work. It flows well and it's really thin diameter so you can carefully control the amount of solder applied to small surface mount components. I've used it to solder 0.5mm pitch TQFP and larger/coarser parts, 0603 passives, SOT23 packages, and similar.

I've been using Radio Shack 0.032" 60/40 rosin core solder for bigger parts, particularly pin headers and it works ok, but mine is pretty old so it probably doesn't work as well as it used to.

As much electronics work as I do, it still takes forever to get through a spool of solder. Best to buy in small quantities so it stays fresh.

Solder Braid

The last two rolls of solder braid were Radio Shack (64-2090) 5' rolls and it worked ok for removing a number of parts from junk electronics or for cleaning up solder bridges on fine pitch QFP parts. It worked even better if you apply a flux pen to it just before use.

I've recently tried Stanley Supply Services 0.100" x 10 ft. rosin solder wick (410-115). It's wider, with finer braid, quicker action, more thorough wicking, and it's cheaper. You get twice as much braid for about half the total cost.

Flux

I discovered the magic of flux when I first started using Radio Shack (64-022) rosin flux paste. It works well to improve solder flow but it is really messy and hard to clean. It gets gooey and liquidy in hot garages in summer and hard as a rock in cool garages in winter.

Then I tried a flux pen. It happened to be a Kester #2331-zx pen. I found it easy to apply, relatively clean, and solder flow was out of this world. This is my go-to flux pen.

For giggles I recently tried a Kester no-clean flux pen, #951, and found it to be clean at the cost of slightly decreased flow. When you first apply it, it appears to dry out, then wets up again when you apply heat and solder. Weird. I notice that if I let it sit on the board too long it doesn't work as well. Best to apply it as you go.

Tip Cleaner

For awhile I was using the sponge on my Weller WES51 station. Keeping the sponge wet was kind of a pain, kind of messy.

I thought I'd try a brass wool tip cleaner so I picked up one from Aoyue. It works brilliantly! A few quick dips of the tip and it comes out shiny as a mirror. No mess, no fuss. I can't say enough good things about this.

Your Turn

What are your favorite accessories, solder, flux, etc?


4 comments:

  1. When you use rosin core solder would the flux pen be useful or is the flux just for the non-core solder? Thanks for the advice!

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  2. @Ralph: you can do both. It helps with my old solder. Newer, better rosin core might not benefit as much. Also helps if you have to hit a spot more than a couple times; by then the rosin isn't very effective so I put the pen to it to get good flow.

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  3. Over the years, the standard tools on my workbench for soldering have changed as my skills and projects have changed. But these things have become mainstays:

    Soldering Irons: Two separate variable temperature controlled iron power supplies. One runs a pencil iron, and the other hot tweezers. The pencil iron has 3 interchangeable screwdriver style tips of different sizes. The tweezers have 2 interchangeable sets of tips: one small set perfect for smt res or cap, the second set two blades great for removing soic's.

    Solder: Tend to stick with an old standby 60-40 leaded solder. (Tin whiskers keep me awake at night.)

    Solder flux: either pen or liquid type.

    Tip Cleaner: Brass wool. One for each iron.

    Solder Braid: One wide 0.1" and one skinny ~0.05" for SMT

    Light: The more the better! One fluorescent close to bench-top, one table-clamp magnifying workbench light (good for smt soldering), and one bright flashlight or halogen lamp for inspecting small things.

    Aluminum Plate: a simple rectangular scrap of aluminum ~0.030" or ~0.060" thick, and ~3"x~6", sanded to be nice to hands. Useful for lots of things: a cutting board for your exacto, a scraper for scraping the crap that accumulates on your desk in to the trash, improvised throwing star, massive solder-drip catcher, palette for loctite, etc.

    Other Tools used in soldering type jobs: Metal Tweezers, hand magnifying glass, alcohol for cleaning, cotton swabs for cleaning, needle nose pliers, diagonal cutters, screwdriver, solder-sucker, paper towels, anti-static mat and strap, mountain-dew, Computer for reference materials, surface to tape schematics or layouts for easy reference, fume-sucker fan, a set of helping-hands alligator clip thing, a clamp/stand for holding boards steady while I perform science!


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  4. I use the Radio Shack .022 Rosin Core Silver Bearing Solder (64-013) It's really thin like your .015, but it has rosin! I didn't know about the .015, might have to try it where I don't need or want rosin.

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