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Soldering 101

Soldering 101

To begin this article on soldering, let's review a few key terms that are important when it comes to soldering.  First we’ll start with a quick definition of what soldering is.

  • Soldering: to join electrical parts together to form an electrical connection, using a molten tin (also known as solder) with a soldering iron

From here we can go in to several other terms that are important to know

  • Voltage: Almost all soldering irons are around 240V. However, lower voltage types) such as 12V or 24V_ typically are a part of a “soldering station” or are made to be used with a special controller designed by the same manufacturer
  • Wattage: Most soldering irons have a power rating between 15 and 25 Watts. A higher wattage does not necessarily mean that the iron will run hotter; it just means that there is more power in reserve for coping with larger joints. It is important to remember that this also in part depends on the make (or design) of the “bit” (the tip of the iron.) Think of a higher wattage iron as less resistant when it comes to heavier-duty work since it takes longer to cool down.
  • Temperature Control: Lower grade soldering irons do not use any type of temperature regulation. They simply plug in and switch on. These irons are ideal for general use, and they generally work well on printed circuit board soldering as well as general inter-wiring. They will not, however, be of much use when attempting to solder larger joints (very large terminals, thicker wires, etc.) due to the fact that the component being soldered will “sink” heat away from the tip of the iron, cooling it down too quickly. A temperature controlled soldering iron will be a bit pricier, but will guarantee a fixed level of temperature.
  • Soldering Stations: These are stations that consist of a complete bench-top control unit into which a particular “love voltage” soldering iron (that is usually sold separately) can be plugged in. Some also consist of a built in digital temperature read out with a control dial to allow you to change the temperature. These are a great tool for mulch-purpose soldering, from larger joints to solders with higher melting points (harder solders.) These are typically used by professionals. Key elements to keep an eye out for on a great iron include a well balanced iron with a comfort able grip that remains cool all day; usually a thermocouple will be built into the tip or shaft, which will monitor the temperature.