Author Topic: How important is soldering technique to you?  (Read 1749 times)

alanp

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How important is soldering technique to you?
« on: June 13, 2019, 09:49:40 PM »
Something I see across all electronics DIY forums of all stripes are "What iron should I buy?" threads.

There are always helpful responses on various brands and models of soldering iron, usually listing the pros (and, sometimes, the cons) of the replier's preferred iron.

Something quite a bit rarer is a reply stating that, as long as your iron has enough oomph behind it and a tip that can physically transfer heat to the particular size part you have, technique is something that the person should work on.

I'm curious as to you guyses thoughts on the matter.
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fair.child

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Re: How important is soldering technique to you?
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2019, 11:13:05 PM »
Very important. In my working environment where RoHS, tinker whisker, and ESD products lay around the shop floor, it's really important to have certified soldering skills. From BGA, SMD, etc, I'd say yes. It is important and crucial for us to make a great product/service.

juansolo

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Re: How important is soldering technique to you?
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2019, 01:17:16 AM »
Looks over at triggers broom, an iron that's had every component other than the shell swapped at least once over the years. A 15w Antec plug in and go with it's stock tip (not particularly small)...

A decent iron would probably make life easier... God knows it took me so many years to buy a proper solder sucker and it's an utter revelation. That said, I do alright with the most basic iron out there still, so while it still works, there's no real drive for me to change.
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somnif

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Re: How important is soldering technique to you?
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2019, 02:58:28 AM »
My first iron was a cheap "plug and play" iron from Home Depot, 40W. Simple as could be.

And it worked, but it was... frustrating. It was hot enough to work bloody quick, but it would build up this nasty scale of oxidized solder very quickly, and would burn through tips in no time.

I learned with that beast of a pencil. Work quick, know where you're gonna poke, get in and get out. And a hundred little quirks of that that I still catch myself doing these days.

Then my local electronics store had the Hakko fx888 on sale for 70$, I'd just gotten my first real paycheck, and I never looked back. I love the thing (other than its ridiculous 2 button interface). Heats up in under 2 minutes rather than the 10+ the old beast would take. Set it at any temp you feel. No need to worry about the tip cooling from working on a chunky component, it can handle it. Plus a wide range of cheap and readily available tips.

I'm still relatively picky about my personal technique. I want my joints to be smooth and shiny and damn any component that won't cooperate. That said my recent forays into SMD have humbled me immensely. Good lord I suck at SMD work.

alanp

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Re: How important is soldering technique to you?
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2019, 03:04:00 AM »
I will admit that that is one area that you lot are spanking me in.

I plug the iron in, and get back to it in five or ten minutes.
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WormBoy

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Re: How important is soldering technique to you?
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2019, 03:21:58 AM »
I would say: tools are tools. It is often possible to get the job done with simple tools and good technique, but better tools may allow a less smooth technique and will make the job more fun (it is a hobby to most, after all). Whether people should buy better tools or work on their technique is up to them, though it is good to point out that it can be done with a simple tool. Same goes for guitars and pedals ;D.

That said my recent forays into SMD have humbled me immensely. Good lord I suck at SMD work.
Very recognisable ... I thought I was pretty decent at soldering until I tried SMD stuff. I will get back to it, but I just need to build up some mental strength to face more failure before I finally (and hopefully) get the hang of it, eventually.

Edit: if there was a 50 Euro tool that would make SMD soldering easier, I would be highly tempted to buy it to avoid the frustrations of having to work on my soldering skills  :).
« Last Edit: June 14, 2019, 04:20:34 AM by WormBoy »

Willybomb

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Re: How important is soldering technique to you?
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2019, 04:42:36 AM »
I've had my 25? 30? 40w? iron for ever.  I don't even clean the tip properly I'm sure....  It's a jaycar cheapie.  I'm no gun solder monkey, but I'm not doing it for a living either...

TFZ

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Re: How important is soldering technique to you?
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2019, 05:33:24 AM »
Something quite a bit rarer is a reply stating that, as long as your iron has enough oomph behind it and a tip that can physically transfer heat to the particular size part you have, technique is something that the person should work on.

It's really all that matters. I recently had to go back to my very first iron for a couple of days when my current JBC refused to work. It has temperature control via a simple thyristor adjusting the mains voltage. When I started out with electronics it was all I had, and I sucked, and I thought at least part of it was to blame on the iron. Now going back, I can work absolutely fine with it, really nothing to complain about its operation. Besides the 2-3min heatup time. The JBC is hot within less than a second, and I never want to use anything else again if I can avoid it. The slim handle, the vast choice of tips available and their durability are far superior of course as well. I have used the same three tips for over 7 years now.

pickdropper

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Re: How important is soldering technique to you?
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2019, 06:35:33 AM »
Technique is the most important thing, but a good iron will make things much easier and avoid some of the pitfalls you can see with lower quality irons.

I've used some low quality cheap irons in my life and some of there were hard to work with, even with good technique.  I had an old Radio Shack iron that just ate up soldering tips.  The window of having a properly functioning tip was fairly short.  With better irons, the tips tend to last much longer, except when RoHS solder is used, which has a tendency to cause premature wear on tips.
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thesmokingman

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Re: How important is soldering technique to you?
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2019, 06:41:44 AM »
technique all day long. I've seen guys work with one of those wood burning irons before but they had a light hand and did quick work. there were certain revelatory pieces of gear that made things better but in the end, it is the technique that gets the job done.
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jjjimi84

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Re: How important is soldering technique to you?
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2019, 07:23:50 AM »
I agree with all of you that technique is the most important. I learned on a crappy pencil soldering iron and would probably still have it except that it had a cord that was stiffer than the weight of the iron so it would move and fall out of the holder. My wife saw it happen once and demanded I upgrade for fear the house burning down. I bought the Hakko FX-888D and I love it, heats and cools quickly and makes thing generally easier.

I feel like there may even be a correlation to soldering technique and iron to playing technique and gear..............

Maybe I should practice more.

cooder

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Re: How important is soldering technique to you?
« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2019, 04:36:16 PM »
Technique is the most important thing, but a good iron will make things much easier and avoid some of the pitfalls you can see with lower quality irons.

I've used some low quality cheap irons in my life and some of there were hard to work with, even with good technique.  I had an old Radio Shack iron that just ate up soldering tips.  The window of having a properly functioning tip was fairly short.  With better irons, the tips tend to last much longer, except when RoHS solder is used, which has a tendency to cause premature wear on tips.
I'd fully agree on this, same experience here. Only difference is that the equivalent of Radio Shack was called Dick Smith down here. They also are non-existent any more.
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Willybomb

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Re: How important is soldering technique to you?
« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2019, 04:42:54 PM »
Jaycar try to cover the Dick Smith experience these days.

cooder

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Re: How important is soldering technique to you?
« Reply #13 on: June 14, 2019, 05:08:19 PM »
Jaycar try to cover the Dick Smith experience these days.
Yeah, Jaycar, that's when I go and marvel at the display when I want to have a real experience or epiphany... :o
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ahiddentableau

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Re: How important is soldering technique to you?
« Reply #14 on: June 14, 2019, 05:46:58 PM »
It's important to me because an intermittent solder joint is probably the single worst thing to troubleshoot in our hobby.  If good solder technique can keep me from going there, then I'm a fan.

I was wondering how often you guys change the tip on your irons.  Because I've been using the same one for a long time now--counting age in years--and it's still going strong.  Leaded solder on a good quality station (I have a Hakko but it's the older one with the dial for temperature control), and I'm a hobbiest so it's not like I'm using it for hours every day.  But it's surely got hundreds of hours on it.  I bought a new tip a few months ago out of a sense of obligation, but I haven't installed it yet.