Soldering is used in nearly every phase of electronic construction so you’ll need soldering tools. A soldering tool must be hot enough to do the job and lightweight enough for agility and comfort.

A temperature controlled iron works well, although the cost is not justified for occasional projects. Get an iron with a small conical or chisel tip.

Soldering is not like gluing; solder does more than bind metal together and provide an electrically conductive path between them. Soldered metals and the solder combine to form an alloy.

You may need an assortment of soldering irons to do a wide variety of soldering tasks. They range in size from a small 25-watt iron for delicate printed-circuit work to larger 100 to 300-watt sizes used to solder large surfaces.

If you could only afford a single soldering tool when initially setting up your electronics workbench than, an inexpensive to moderately priced pencil-type soldering iron with between 25 and 40-watt capacity is the best for PC board electronics work.

A 100-watt soldering gun is overkill for printed-circuit work, since it often gets too hot, cooking solder into a brittle mess or damaging small parts of a circuit. Soldering guns are best used for point-to-point soldering jobs, for large mass soldering joints or large components.

Small “pencil” butane torches are also available, with optional soldering-iron tips. Butane soldering irons are
ideal for field service problems and will allow you to solder where there is no 110 volt power source.

Keep soldering tools in good condition by keeping the tips well tinned with solder. Do not run them at full
temperature for long periods when not in use. After each period of use, remove the tip and clean off any scale that may have accumulated.

Clean an oxidized tip by dipping the hot tip in sal ammoniac (ammonium chloride) and then wiping it clean with a rag. Sal ammoniac is somewhat corrosive, so if you don’t wipe the tip thoroughly, it can contaminate electronic soldering.

Place the tip of the soldering iron into the “Tip Tinner” after every few solder joints. If a copper tip becomes pitted, file it smooth and bright and then tin it immediately with solder.

Modern soldering iron tips are nickel or iron clad and should not be filed. The secret of good soldering is to use the right amount of heat.

Many people who will have not soldered before use too little heat dabbing at the joint to be soldered and making little solder blobs that cause unintended short circuits.

Always use caution when soldering. A hot soldering iron can burn your hand badly or ruin a tabletop. It’s a good idea to buy or make a soldering iron holder.

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