T3W7: Introduction to Soldering

Starting this week we have a new project - electronic soldering and project building! Soldering is the process of making electrical connections between circuit components by melting bits of metal solder. it is a useful lifetime skill that will allow you to fix things around the house and opens up the hobby and career of electronics. The soldering iron used to melt the solder is very hot but can be handled safely with a bit of caution and awareness.

This week we will learn soldering safety and practices and join two wires together. The following weeks we will build an electronic project, an analog style wall clock with color-changing LEDs that we can control from a phone app over WiFi.

Soldering Safety

Because the tip of the soldering iron is maintained around 700 degrees F (hotter than your oven at the hottest setting!) care must be taken to follow some simple safety practices:

  1. Wear safety glasses. Drops of solder or especially cut ends of wire can go flying - avoid getting them in your eyes!

  2. Work on a heat-proof mat. We have silicone baking sheets to avoid melting or burning the table top during soldering or from a slip of the iron.

  3. Keep hair and clothes away from working area. Pull long hair back if possible and avoid long sleeves or dangling jewelry.

  4. Keep your hands away from the metal tip of the iron. Keep the fingers on the hand holding the iron behind the plastic grip, and keep your other hand away from the iron completely (maybe in your lap or behind your back) until you are ready to solder.

  5. Keep the soldering iron in the stand when not actively soldering something. Get everything ready before taking the iron out of the stand, then put it back as soon as you are done - don't hold it while talking or pointing or reaching for something! Also don't leave or rest the soldering iron on a table top or work surface even for a moment.

  6. Don't get distracted. When the iron is out of its stand, stay focused on the task and avoid chatting or looking at phones or screens.

  7. Don't touch the work piece during or after soldering. The rest of the board or wires will get very hot so place the item to be soldered on a heat-proof surface or use a vise or third-hand tool to hold the board or wires - don't hold them with your hands! After soldering, let the parts cool off for a minute before touching them.

  8. Turn the iron off as soon as you are done - don't leave the table with the iron on. The iron comes up to temperature pretty fast so turn it off as soon as you are done soldering or whenever you need to step away. This will give it time to cool and will also extend the life of the iron and tip.

  9. Don't eat or drink when soldering and wash your hands when done. We aren't using leaded solder but residue from the rosin and circuit boards can get on your hands, so wash them when you are done.