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soldering help

Posted: 25 Jul 2009, 12:21
by tsttm
hi, sorry if my need for rudimentary basic help isn't what this forum section was intended for.

If you've seen my other posts, you'll know that i'm a bit of a newbie when it comes to tinkering, electrical & soldering stuff.

I tried soldering today, & i'm having a hell of a time. I watched a few basic soldering videos on youtube...seemed simple enough. But i think i need some tips.

first of all, i picked up a battery operated soldering iron with two settings (850F & 950F). However, are wired irons better? i'm asking because in the youtube videos, they refer to tinning the iron before starting by touching the solder to the iron & it melts & smokes right away. When i try this, i'll hold the solder on it for a while 30-40 sec & then it may or may not melt. and when i'm trying to solder, i understand you're suppose to heat the two things you want to solder & just touch the solder to those things (no the iron tip). But for me, it's like it's never hot enough, so i end up touching the iron tip...& even then, the solder doesn't immediately melt.

i've been trying to solder wire tips to the battery casing & all i can get is a round ball of solder around the wire but it won't make a connection to the casing. Even though this 'ball' of solder seems 'stuck' to the metal part of the casing, it's not conducting.

It's gotten pretty bad, i've managed to start melting the plastic of the battery casing & the insulated part of my wire has fused into the plastic casing. So I'm not sure i can rip the wire out, cut a new free end & start again.

Anyway, any ideas what i'm doing wrong? Could it be the solder i'm using? I'm just using the small coil of solder that came packaged with my soldering iron.

Again, the biggest issue is, it seems like i can heat the wire hot enough to melt solder around it...but the metal contacts of battery casing doesn't seem to get hot enough to melt the solder to it.

Honestly, i wonder if i'm better off just taping/glue gunning the wires.


Re: soldering help

Posted: 25 Jul 2009, 13:15
by daniel_reetz
hi, sorry if my need for rudimentary basic help isn't what this forum section was intended for.
I think we're all happy to help, but you should really start your own "Build thread" instead of making each new question a new thread. That way, we can watch your progress all in one place. It will be sweet to see the day when you get your scanner working, having gone from basic questions to a working book scanner is no small task!

Your battery powered iron is the wrong tool for the job. I really dislike those things. They are no good for beginners, and they are really no good for experienced users. If it's like the one I had, it can be dangerous for static-sensitive electronics. I looked up the right type of iron (and a cheap one, too) at Princess Auto, following Karyudo's advice. Pick from this one or this one, and you'll be able to start soldering as you see in the videos.

Right now, it sounds like the contacts of your battery case are sucking out all the heat and preventing you from making a good connection, or any connection. You need an iron with some thermal mass. The iron you have is designed to instantly heat up, melt some solder, and be cooled back down. But what you want is a plug-in iron, 20-25 watt, with a big metal tip. The tip stays hot even after melting some solder, and the heating element is on more or less constantly. Unfortunately, this is another one of those "right tools for the job" kinda things. I'm sure the iron is where all your problems are coming from, not your technique.

Re: soldering help

Posted: 25 Jul 2009, 13:36
by tsttm
Thanks very much Daniel. I'm learning so much with this project.

I'm not surprised to hear the soldering iron i have is not the best for the job- it just didn't seem as simple as it should be in the youtube vids. Plus i was making a mess of everything, melting everything but the solder & wires.

Well, i did take a break..walked away from a bit & tried again. Nothing is pretty, but i am getting connections with solder now. Hopefully it will last. In any case, i've mangled all my parts so much, that if it breaks down..i'll probably have to buy new parts & then i'll look into getting an appropriate soldering iron then.

Ok, i will start a build thread...makes more sense that way. if you want/can merge my threads into it, that'd be fine.

But, i'm pretty much done my scanner now!!! So hopefully no more questions...just posting up the final product. Just a little cosmetic cleaning up to do. Well, i'm sure i will have questions on the actually scanner & transferring & converting/editing part...but that may fall in the software category...

thanks for all the help!

Re: soldering help

Posted: 26 Jul 2009, 01:12
by you1
I've seen similar soldering iron in RadioShack for the same price; in fact, I got mine from there.

tsttm, I want to commend you on your courage to try new things. Even if a task is difficult to do, there is no reason not to try. The worse thing is that it wont work, and you will eventually figure it (maybe with a little help; but it's all you). My only exceptions to this rule are: 1) it's too expensive for it not too work, 2) there is a high degree of danger associated with the unknown (i.e. gas line, electricity, etc)

Otherwise, we're here to help

Re: soldering help

Posted: 26 Jul 2009, 02:49
by tsttm
Thanks man! I have to admit, as i'm putting the finishing touches on my scanner, i'm pretty much gleaming with satisfaction having never welded acrylic, soldered, used a multimeter (or tried to)'s been a good learning experience. Not only that, I've also learned that the super in my building has tools i can borrow & will cut pieces of wood for me, and i've become quite familiar with all the nearby renovation/hardware stores!

Now...i need to figure out how to use this thing...;)

Re: soldering help

Posted: 26 Jul 2009, 07:48
by daniel_reetz
Great work, tsttm. Now you're about to learn a lot about software... ;)

I think this is one of the best soldering videos on youtube.

Re: soldering help

Posted: 26 Jul 2009, 11:01
by tsttm
that vid was really good- much more info than the few i saw. I suspect my joints won't last too long as i was running into alot of the problems they described.

If that does happen, like i said before, i'll probably have to get new parts & start from scratch with a proper soldering iron. I might buy a proper soldering iron anyway..seems like it might come in handy to repair stuff in the future.

Thanks for all the help again.

Re: soldering help

Posted: 27 Jul 2009, 20:24
by Karyudo
On July 27, 1996 (i.e. exactly 13 years ago), I moved to Japan for a few years to teach English in a public high school. One of the English teachers gave me a phone, because he said it was kinda broken. He was right: the audio was crackly and intermittent. To me that was indicative of a failed solder joint to some component, so I opened up the phone, and, sure enough, there was a crack running around one of the joints soldering on an audio connector. After borrowing a soldering iron from the school janitor and plugging it in in the school office while a bit of a curious crowd gathered to see what The Foreigner was doing, I fixed the joint and made the phone as good as new. My fellow teachers were mightily impressed.

Moral of the story: having a soldering iron around can be pretty handy!

Re: soldering help

Posted: 28 Jul 2009, 12:09
by daniel_reetz
That is a fantastic story.