As with any job, having the right tools, including the know-how to use them and to take advantage of things you may not consider to be tools for the job certainly makes life easier. Also, learning the tips, tricks and techniques to not only do the job right but to do it in ways that are faster and easier is well worth the effort you'll make to figure them out. With soldering, there are tools you'll need, tools you'll want and tips and tricks that not only make life easier but will help you do your job faster.
In this first article, we'll go over the tools you'll want to have on hand:
- First, you'll want a very good temperature controlled soldering iron. For instance, a Hakko ESD-Safe Dual port station with at least one iron is a good choice. If you fix electronics for a living, this will be your bread and butter so don't skimp.
- Another tool you'll want to have is a desoldering pump. Desoldering wick is fine but can be tricky to use. A desoldering pump makes life much easier when it comes to parts removal and cleaning up messes.
- One set of tools you'll definitely appreciate is a set of flat heat resistant plastic or ceramic flat blades, These are good when you need to apply a little bit of torque when desoldering components such as blown resistors or capacitors. Slim, thin blades like these are also great for leveraging chips such as 74LS series which can be stubborn to remove.
- If you work on a lot of high tech gear, one indispensable item will be ESD pads, mats such as a 3M Static Dissipative workstation mat and wrist straps. ESD stands for Electro-Static Discharge which is the electro-static buildup on your body and on surfaces. A low voltage electronic device such as a microprocessor can be easily damaged by ESD and having a strap on your wrist to ground or grounded pads will help prevent this. It may be a bit of a hassle but having one can save a $300 processor from getting smoked.
- Another tool that's great to have is what's known as a set of "helping hands". This is a board holding vice with an adjustable set of arms on the ends on a heavy base that's designed to hold up a board so you can have your hands free to control the solder and your iron.
There are several other things you'll want to have such as a sponge pad station or brass wire sponge to keep your iron's tip clean, plenty of solder such as Kester Rosin-Core or Kester Lead-Free, desoldering wick, solder flux and cleaners such as degreasers and flux removal chemicals. This gives you a quick overview of some tools you'll need and some you'll definitely want when it comes to working on electronics on a daily basis, or if you just work on electronics as a hobby.