Soldering 101 - Preparation

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1.  Workspace

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This sounds un-important, but it is very important. Solder Joints need to be created quickly and neatly otherwise damage to components and/or faulty joints can occur.  The workspace should be flat at a comfortable height and large enough to hold your components and tools.   I have a foldable table for my electronics projects but the kitchen table works well if you can sell the idea to your significant other.

 


Workspace

2.  Stripping the Wire

Obviously you need to strip the wire to prepare it for soldering.  The small guage wire (18 and higher) used for electronics is easily damaged.  So be careful.  You can buy a heated wire stripper which strips insulation off without damaging the wire.  They normally cost more than a soldering iron and are not needed for amature soldering jobs.  If you plan to build any electronics projects make the investment.  Otherwise,  A pair of wire strippers, used carefully, can provide satisfactory results. 

   Start the wire strippers about 3/8 to 1/2 inch from the end of the wire then pull gently to slide the insulation off the wire.   Give stranded wire a twist once the insulation is stripped off

 

Stripping Wire

3.  Tinning the Iron - IMPORTANT

The act of Tinning the Iron (Also called wetting) is to put a thin layer of solder on the Iron tip.  This assists greatly in transfer of heat to the solder joints.  Without doing it you will never get good joints.  All Iron Tips must be tinned.  

To tin the iron perform the following steps:

  • Ensure the Iron is unplugged and cool

  • Clean the tip with alcohol

  • Plug the iron in and let it come up to temperature.

  • Use rosin core solder and coat the tip completely with a thin layer of solder.

  • Use a rag to get the surface clean.  Wipe the tip on your sponge.

  • A wetted/tinned tip.  Should be shiny with solder at temperature

Tinning the Iron

4.  Surface Preparation

To make a great soldering joint, component preparation is a must.  Clean the leads and wires and contact surfaces prior to soldering with denatured alcohol (isopropyl alcohol works in a pinch).   Wires should be Tinned.  Tinning wires is to apply a very thin layer of solder to the stripped ends of the wire using the Iron.  For stranded wires you should still be able to see the outline of the strands after tinning. 

You can also pre-tin some non-heat sensitive components like switch terminals and cup type wire connectors.    

Tinning the wires and components will make the actual soldering of the joint quick and efficient.

 

Surface Preparation

 

5.  Preparing the Joint

This kind of depends on what you are trying to solder.  Joining 2 pieces of wire together is a great way to practice soldering prior to actually performing the work.

I will try and address a few common methods for forming a solder joint prior to soldering.

 

 

 
   

Wire to Wire  - Most people use crimp type wire connectors for this job.  This can lead to Joints with high resistance and even open connections.  Soldering is the only way to ensure you have a perfect joint.

  • Slip a piece of shrink wrap onto one of the wires and push it out of the way.

  • Bend the stripped/tinned ends of each wire to be joined back on itself so it the wire looks like a "J".

  • Next interlock the two bent wires and squeeze them together.

  • Solder the joint.

  • Once the joint is cool, clean it up with alcohol.

  • Slide the shrink wrap onto the joint and shrink it.  Voila!! two wires become One.

I had to do this to my most of the main wiring harness on my last bike after I threw the chain and it severed the wiring harness.

 

 

Wire to Post  - This would be to solder wire to the post of the TRE switch

  • Slip a piece of shrink wrap onto the wires and push it out of the way.

  • Bend the stripped/tinned wire in a "J" shape (See above)

  • Use a vice or something suitable to hold the switch.

  • Insert the "J" through the hole on the post.  If there is no hole wrap the "J" around the post.

  • Hold tension on the wire using an elastic band or other suitable device.

  • Determine the angle which you want the wire to come off the switch. (I chose 90 degrees at right) then squeeze the "J" of the wire tight around the post.

  • Solder the joint.

  • Once the joint is cool, clean it up with alcohol

  • Slide the shrink wrap onto the joint and shrink it.