For electronics projects, breadboards are often used to create a working prototype. This is the stage where it is okay to have many wires coming from the breadboard, as the main challenge is to see that the prototype does indeed work. After this, you probably want a more tidy layout with perhaps a custom-built PCB (printed circuit board). To add the components such as LEDs or sensors, you will need to be able to melt and apply solder precisely to join parts together. This soldering guide shows you how to solder and solder well, for use in your electronics projects.
Note: if you are soldering parts to your Raspberry Pi, you will need to get the right case to accommodate your add-ons.
What Basic Equipment Do You Need for Soldering?
Let’s say you have a Raspberry Pi board that needs header pins soldered to it. For this, you will primarily need a soldering iron, solder (the coil), and preferably some flux.
Alright, let us look at each of the soldering tools one by one.
The soldering iron is the main piece of equipment you will need. Sometimes they come in a kit with other equipment but not always. The first thing to check before buying a soldering iron is what kind of a plug it has. Some are portable and can be charged via USB-C but most plug into the wall.
Next, check the power of the soldering iron, which generally ranges from 20W to 60W. For example, you may struggle to melt the solder in some instances with a soldering iron with a low wattage. It is important to also check the efficiency of the soldering iron to transfer heat to melt the solder. A simple or hobbyist 20W soldering iron may lose heat when it is being used and will not have a temperature control to compensate for that loss.
Some soldering irons are more advanced and allow for the power or the temperature to be controlled. These are usually part of a soldering station and not a soldering iron with a plug attached. Soldering stations allow for more accurate soldering with a higher degree of temperature control.
Other items to check that are related to the soldering iron include:
- The price – varies depending on whether it is a simple soldering iron or a soldering station and how well made it is.
- Added extras – includes any extra tips for the soldering iron and, optionally, a stand or holder.
- Aesthetics – can include color and style, which depends on your preferences.
- Materials – includes the grip and how well made it is, which is important, as it gives you good control while soldering for a long time.
- Warranties and build quality.
This second most important piece of equipment is the solder wire. Solder comes as a coiled wire and is made up of metal alloys, which are melted by the soldering iron. When it cools later, it joins together the parts or components. The most obvious difference between solder is the diameter of the solder. If you have small and delicate components to solder, you may need the smaller diameter solder of 1mm or less. A larger solder would be about 1.5mm in diameter.