How to get a good clean solder joint!

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Issue 186 March 14, 2013

The three basics to keep in mind if you want your work to be as good or better than the guitar's original wiring. -- Erick Coleman

In this Trade Secrets video:
  • New to soldering? The most important points, quick and easy.
  • Keeping the iron clean and tinned: that's half the battle.
  • What if the solder won't stick to the soldering iron?

Video Transcription

[Erick Coleman - Stewart-MacDonald]

Erick Coleman: Here's the perfect example of a bad soldering job. Check it out. Globs of solder, dull gray joints. See this mess right here? This is the kind of thing that can go bad over time and cause your circuit to cut out.

To get clean solder joints, you have to keep three things in mind.

Tin your iron

First, you have to tin your iron. That means melting a little bit of solder onto the tip to coat it. This seals it from corrosion and helps it transmit heat better.

Wipe the tip

Clean off any excess solder that's already on there [on-screen text reads: pro-quality soldering setup - Solomon SL-30 Soldering Station from StewMac] , you just want a thin coating. And don't let it sit and heat without solder. If your iron won't take solder, it just balls up and falls off the tip, chances are you might have left it on too long. It might be time to replace that tip.

Pre-tin your parts

Pre-tin all your parts. Applying a small amount of solder to your connections helps the solder flow better when you touch it with the soldering iron. Heat the lug first and then let the solder flow over it. When wiring in delicate parts like a capacitor, you want to take precautions not to damage the parts [on-screen text reads: Find Capacitors at]. This small copper alligator clip is acting as a sink. It's going to absorb the heat before it has a chance to reach the cap.

Now I'm going to ground this braided shield to the casing. I'll usually use a Helping Hands to keep the wires in place, but if you don't have something like that, a cell phone screwdriver, a book, anything will work. A properly heated solder joint looks nice and shiny, not dull, gray and lumpy. Remember to tin your iron, keep the tip clean and pre-tin your lugs in order to get a good solder joint.



Erick Coleman

StewMac Senior Technical Advisor

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