What is Soldering?
Soldering. To beginners, this may seem like a very intimidating word. Truth is….it is. Just kidding! Learning the basics of soldering isn’t very hard, which is why I created this guide to help the beginners out there.
So what is soldering? Here’s a boring but useful definition: Soldering is the process in which you join two (or more) pieces of material together by melting solder (aka low melting point metal) into the joint (the part where the two pieces are touching each other).
When building or repairing your RC vehicle, it’s crucial to know basic soldering. Let me give you some examples of where soldering is useful. You break a part of your drone? Solder. Are you looking to connect some wires and what not? Solder. Bored at home and don’t know what to do? Solder. If there’s a problem, soldering is your solution (Well…maybe not always).
Getting a Soldering Iron
“Ok, so I read your boring definition and understand what soldering is, now what?” Great question! What you need, my friend, is a quality soldering iron. A soldering iron is a tool used for…well…soldering. Surprise! More specifically, the soldering iron supplies heat used to melt solder, allowing you to use the melted solder to connect joints (Reminder: joints are where the different pieces join…t. See what I did there?!). Having a good soldering iron will make the entire process of building or repairing your RC vehicle much easier for you.
Here’s an example of what a soldering iron looks like:
What a babe…..Ok where was I? Oh right!
What makes a good soldering iron?
A soldering iron is great if it can do two main things: heat up quickly, and maintain a consistent temperature. If price isn’t an issue, I would highly recommend the Hakko FX888D. For a cheaper option, the Weller WLC-100 is another good choice.
Getting the Right Solder
Another important thing to know is which solder you should use. Different types of solder are used for different materials and scenarios. For example, acid flux solder is commonly used in plumbing. You do not want to use acid flux solder! Because of the acidic properties, the acid flux has a chance of eating away the boards and the components of your RC vehicle. For anything related to RC vehicles, most people in the hobby tend to use a rosin core solder. As a beginner, this is what you want to use.
Also, what you’ll find when looking at the different types of solder is that there are different sizes. Stick with the .80mm thickness solder for now.
Believe it or not, solder has a sidekick! His name? Flux! Flux is great because it helps you get cleaner joints when soldering by removing any impurities and oxides from the metals you’re working on. It also helps with heat distribution, which will make melting solder much easier. There is usually some already in the rosin core solder, but it won’t be enough.
There’s two different types of flux: paste and liquid. They each have their own benefits. Paste flux is not very messy, and is easy to clean. Liquid flux, although messier, is much easier to apply. If you think you will be soldering a fair amount, I would recommend going with the liquid flux. Thank me later.
Using the Right Tip
Figuring out the proper tip to use for soldering is fairly straightforward. Larger tips are better for larger surface areas, and smaller tips are better for smaller surface areas.
Let’s say you wanted to solder wires. In this scenario, you would want a tip that is about the same width as the wire you’ll be working on.
When in doubt, go for a slightly bigger tip instead of a slightly smaller tip. The reason I say that is because if the tip is too small, you might have issues heating up the material you’re soldering.
Secure the Parts
Before you begin to solder, make sure that your parts are secure. You do not want anything to move around while soldering, since that will make it that much harder. I would highly recommend getting a tool that can help secure the parts. Here is one for less than ten bucks.
Before You Solder…
Make sure that you wet the tip. What that means is that you need to form a small glob of melted solder at the tip. This allows the heat from the iron to transfer more efficiently than if the tip were dry.
What Temperature Should I Use?
When soldering, I personally like to start at 600 degrees Fahrenheit and adjust the temperature from there. If you’re above 750 degrees, I would suggest trying a larger tip to see if the heat will transfer more easily.
Clean the tip!
One of the most important steps of soldering is making sure the tip is always clean. As you use the tip for soldering, over time it will get dirty. Using a dirty tip will make it difficult to solder since the heat will not transfer as well. This means that it will take longer for the solder to melt.
You want to use either a sponge cleaner or a wire type cleaner after each use to make sure the tip is at peak performance. The wire type cleaner is a better option in my opinion because it will not lower the temperature of the tip when you are cleaning it.
I was going to write an entire step-by-step process on actually soldering, but I think it would be much more entertaining and helpful if you learned it by reading a comic book! Check it out here!
If you prefer watching a video to reading a comic, check out the video below!
If you’re a visual learner like me, I would recommend taking a look at the video below to get a quick run down of the soldering process.
I hope this guide helped give you a basic understanding of what soldering is, and how to do it. Like anything else, the more you solder, the better you’ll be at it. Let me know if this was helpful, or if I’m missing any information!