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  1. #1
    Romeo Delight Tank2000's Avatar
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    12.15.17 @ 02:32 PM
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    Default How to practice soldering

    Hey guys,

    I'm finishing up my first build and had a hell of a time wiring it up. In the future I may want to change pickups at push pull pots throw in a mini switch and of course build more guitars. Until my financial situation improves where I can get the supplies for a new guitar I was wondering what I can buy and do to practice my soldering skills so I don't run into as much trouble in the future.

    Thanks guys
    Earn this...

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  3. #2
    Little Dreamer
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    12.15.17 @ 03:31 AM
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    The key to soldering is to use solder flux. I prefer a paste flux, which may be old school, but is tried and true. Also, remember to heat the joint first, then flow the solder (60/40 lead/tin rosin core combo) into the joint. Keep the iron on the joint as this is done and you'll see the best results

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  5. #3
    Good Enough Kevin Dodds's Avatar
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    09.15.17 @ 08:03 AM
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    With all of my builds, I've become adept at soldering over the past few years. I have a few tips for sure, but first a funny story. One of my first builds was super noisy no matter what I did. I wired it correctly, no doubt, but it was a real WTF thing. I took it to a shop and a guy looked at it and goes, "Well, usually, umm, you want to use less solder than that." I was pretty embarrassed, but he taught me the iron clad soldering rule: Use as little as possible. The more solder, the more resistance -- you don't want that (I've done it). Plus too much solder fries pots -- trust me.

    I use a basic soldering iron and basic solder. The first key to good soldering to me is to keep the solder tip clean. You can use sand paper for sure to get the excess solder and residue off, but I have found that a Dremmel makes it like brand spanking new. A dirty soldering iron is no good -- super irregular temps, just a mess (I've done it). Second tip is to just use a low-stick tape or something to set your wires in place before you solder. I saved myself a lot of hassle once I figured this out. Just get everything set just perfect BEFORE you even turn on the iron. The main reason for this each time you eff up, you have to start over, and starting over usually means you're adding more solder to the situation and that goes against the main rule.

    Another key the tech taught me was to score the bottom of the pot with a screwdriver or something -- makes the solder adhere much easier than to a smooth backing surface (in fact, I can't believe they're not made to be more solder-friendly). Pre-heating the surface is a good idea with most electronics and is standard practice -- but I would caution against that on your guitar. You can easily fry a pot (I've done it) or a switch by heating it up just a bit too much in just the wrong spot.

    Let the iron heat up for a solid two minutes before using it -- it sure sucks for the temp of the iron to change while using it. Then it should be a pretty clean endeavor -- just get right up on it and quickly put a drop or two (or three) of solder and stop. Let it cool off for at least 20-30 seconds first -- so you don't burn your fingers (I've done it) and so you don't knock the connections off before they cool off (I've done it).

    As far as the actual physical mechanics working with solder -- there's no shortcut. I'm in a weird position to give feedback because I've built and/or rewired about 15 guitars over the past two years -- a few multiple times over. The last soldering job I did was the best I've done. The one before that was the best. I'm thinking the next time I'll do it will be even better. In fact, it's a part of guitar work, building, and maintenance that I've come to enjoy, even though I've got a scar or two on my hand and maybe a burn spot on my desk.

    Hope this helps.

    KBD3
    Last edited by Kevin Dodds; 10.25.15 at 06:57 PM.

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  7. #4
    Atomic Punk RRvh1's Avatar
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    12.15.17 @ 11:34 PM
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Dodds View Post
    With all of my builds, I've become adept at soldering over the past few years. I have a few tips for sure, but first a funny story. One of my first builds was super noisy no matter what I did. I wired it correctly, no doubt, but it was a real WTF thing. I took it to a shop and a guy looked at it and goes, "Well, usually, umm, you want to use less solder than that." I was pretty embarrassed, but he taught me the iron clad soldering rule: Use as little as possible. The more solder, the more resistance -- you don't want that (I've done it). Plus too much solder fries pots -- trust me.

    I use a basic soldering iron and basic solder. The first key to good soldering to me is to keep the solder tip clean. You can use sand paper for sure to get the excess solder and residue off, but I have found that a Dremmel makes it like brand spanking new. A dirty soldering iron is no good -- super irregular temps, just a mess (I've done it). Second tip is to just use a low-stick tape or something to set your wires in place before you solder. I saved myself a lot of hassle once I figured this out. Just get everything set just perfect BEFORE you even turn on the iron. The main reason for this each time you eff up, you have to start over, and starting over usually means you're adding more solder to the situation and that goes against the main rule.

    Another key the tech taught me was to score the bottom of the pot with a screwdriver or something -- makes the solder adhere much easier than to a smooth backing surface (in fact, I can't believe they're not made to be more solder-friendly). Pre-heating the surface is a good idea with most electronics and is standard practice -- but I would caution against that on your guitar. You can easily fry a pot (I've done it) or a switch by heating it up just a bit too much in just the wrong spot.

    Let the iron heat up for a solid two minutes before using it -- it sure sucks for the temp of the iron to change while using it. Then it should be a pretty clean endeavor -- just get right up on it and quickly put a drop or two (or three) of solder and stop. Let it cool off for at least 20-30 seconds first -- so you don't burn your fingers (I've done it) and so you don't knock the connections off before they cool off (I've done it).

    As far as the actual physical mechanics working with solder -- there's no shortcut. I'm in a weird position to give feedback because I've built and/or rewired about 15 guitars over the past two years -- a few multiple times over. The last soldering job I did was the best I've done. The one before that was the best. I'm thinking the next time I'll do it will be even better. In fact, it's a part of guitar work, building, and maintenance that I've come to enjoy, even though I've got a scar or two on my hand and maybe a burn spot on my desk.

    Hope this helps.

    KBD3
    Great post!
    Full of insider info and tips, for sure. Very helpful.

    Without getting too wishy washy..., things like this^^^ are a big part of why I love this site so much. The stuff I've learned from fellow enthusiasts like you (and several others), has made all the difference.
    "There's too many people on this basketball that's floating around the sun, who are too afraid to allow themselves to FEEL" - Edward Van Halen
    "Van Halen was never about the singer..." - a very wise fan.
    "Embrace the past. Live in the moment but keep your eyes on the future, and keep on moving forward..." - Richie Sambora

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  9. #5
    Good Enough nobozos's Avatar
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    12.15.17 @ 07:40 PM
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    Doing a professional solder job is not difficult, once you learn the method. The trick is that it's not cheap if you want to do it right. You have to have either a couple different soldering irons, or one that you can swap tips out on. You also want to have a soldering iron that you can control the temperature on. I will elaborate on tips and temps in a moment.

    The best way to achieve professional results is to use Flux and tin your components first. If you are unfamiliar with that this means, I will explain. Tinning is applying a thin coat of solder over the surface of the material you wish to connect to another surface. You do this by applying flux to the surface first. You put a little flux on the tip of your soldering iron and then melt a bit of solder to the tip of the iron. The flux will basically suck the solder onto the heated surface. The bit of solder on the tip of the soldering iron will transfer the heat better than a dry iron.

    So, let's go through a practical soldering experience. Let's say soldering in a pickup. Get your soldering iron hot first. Use an Acid Brush to apply a thin coat of flux onto the lug of the switch or pot you are going to solder to. Dip the tip of the soldering iron in flux and touch the solder to the tip of the iron to get a bit of solder on the tip. Touch the tip of the soldering iron to the lug, then touch the solder to the lug. When the lug gets hot, the solder will wick onto the areas where the flux is, and you will have coated the lug with a thin coat of solder.

    Next, you want to do the same thing to the wire. Expose only a small bit of the wire. Only enough to put into the lug. Tin the exposed wire by putting flux on the wire, touching the soldering iron to the wire to heat it, then touching the solder to it. The solder will wick into the wire and be tinned.

    Now that the lug and the wire are tinned, get a small bit of solder melted to the tip of the soldering iron. Place the tinned wire against the tinned lug, and touch the soldering iron to the lug. You should see the solder on the wire and the solder on the lug melt into each other. At this point, remove the heat and make sure you hold the wire in place until you see the solder go from a silvery color to a more dull color, which indicates it is cool.

    Now, let's talk about tips and temps. The key to good soldering is to be able to get good effective transfer of heat to the object you are soldering, without overheating the object. If you use too low of a heat, it will take a long time to get the object hot enough to melt the solder, so by the time it gets hot enough, you've left the soldering iron on the object for so long that it has transferred heat further than the point you are trying to solder. If you used a higher heat, you will heat the area more quickly at the point of soldering, and transfer less heat over the entire component because the higher heat will get you in and out more quickly.

    Along the same vein, the type of tip you use is also as important as the temp. Remember, the key is effective heat transfer. So, let's talk about soldering the ground on the back of a pot. If you rough up the back of the pot and put flux on it, you have to get the area on the back of the pot hot enough to pull the solder onto it. Because the pot has such a large surface area, it will take longer to get to the temp needed to pull the solder on. If you use the same small tip that you use on terminal lugs, it will take a long time to heat the back of the pot, and you will heat the whole pot up before you get the one spot you want to solder hot enough to take it. For this, you would want to use a large, flat tip soldering iron. This will give you a larger surface area of heat to compensate for the larger surface area of the pot. It will transfer the heat more quickly and effectively, and get you on and off the pot quicker.

    A proper solder joint should look like the wire laying up against the pot or lug with a silver coating over it. If can't see the wire through the glob, it's too much solder.

    Now, even though I know all of this, I've done some pretty shitty soldering jobs myself. Mainly because I didn't have access to flux, or a decent soldering iron. When you are using a crap soldering iron and acid core solder alone to get the job done, you tend to get crappy results.
    "Having an opinion that people disagree with doesn't make you a Douche, arguing with the people who disagree with your opinion and calling them stupid does!" -Me.

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