Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Secret to pot soldering

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by Dr.TeleD, Dec 28, 2008.

  1. Dr.TeleD

    Dr.TeleD Banned

    Aug 29, 2008
    I've tried to find an answer to this soldering skill, but it's probably so basic that it is taken for granted. I'm having a time trying to solder mulitiple wires to the back of pots. Is there a secret to this? When I try one at a time the previous wire disconnects as I add another. If I try multiple wires at the same time I end up burning my wife's hand as she tries to hold the wires in place. Help save my sanity and marriage!

  2. robt57

    robt57 Telefied Ad Free Member

    Feb 29, 2004
    Portland, OR
    Use flux, and tin the back of the pot, tin the ends of the wires. clean your tip and tin it, and do not hold the wires with tweezers or plyers close to the tinned ends as it will disperse the heat. best to hold the wire 1" back or even more, and even good to twist the wires in question together before tinning them together. Concentrate a little more heat on the metal of the pot than the wires, liek 5 seconds on the pot 2 seconds on the wire, then shorten that to 3 and 1 second as the heat gets close to the temp of the solder...
    skypeace likes this.

  3. Alnico Sunburst

    Alnico Sunburst Tele-Meister

    Feb 3, 2008
    Victoria, BC, Canada
    This is a good reason solid core as opposed to stranded core wire can be easier to work with. This way, multiple wires can be pushed through the eye of the lug, and then using needlenose pliers, you can loop the end of each wire around the lug to hold it in place. This then means you can solder them yourself, and your wife can then fetch a cold beer (to cool down her burned hand, of course).
    skypeace likes this.

  4. boneyguy

    boneyguy Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 31, 2007
    victoria b.c. CANADA
    If humans had been meant to solder we would have been given three arms.

    Soldering multiple wires to the back of a pot can be really frustrating. I personally don't know of any completely foolproof method. If there is one I'd love to know it. Just follow the guidelines that Robt57 has laid out for you and it will increase your odds of not going absolutely out of your mind and taking hostages because the wires keep unsoldering from the back of the pot.
    skypeace likes this.

  5. Dr.TeleD

    Dr.TeleD Banned

    Aug 29, 2008
    Thanks all.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2008

  6. Hank Nagle

    Hank Nagle TDPRI Member

    Sep 30, 2007
    Santa Rosa, CA
    I battled this recently. Two conclusions. (1) I got a 40 watt iron (chisel tip), and that made all the difference in the world. (2) The wires don't need to all be soldered into the same clump. They could be soldered in different places on the back of the same pot. This would help to avoid one wire popping loose while trying to fix another to the pot.

    and, one more thing... If you've got your tip loaded with solder, you can use needle nose pliers to hold two or more wires together and hold them to the pot until the solder freezes. It takes a steady hand to get a decent joint, but it works for me.

  7. voided3

    voided3 Tele-Afflicted

    May 6, 2005
    I tried a trick on a recent project of mine, a les paul copy. I'm sick of dealing with this as well, especially if you have to connect six grounds to the pot (two from the bridge pickup, one from the neck, one from the tailpiece, one from the switch, one from the jack). Those little alligator clip stands ("helping hands") help a lot, but I wanted to try something different. In this one, I soldered a single wire to the back of the pot and used it as a pigtail to twist all of the other wires to and soldered them together in that fashion. Not pretty to look at, but easier. Considering the variety of gauges of wire though, next time if I have to clump together that many grounds, I might use something like a tiny terminal strip and screw it into the side of the guitar's cavity.

  8. robt57

    robt57 Telefied Ad Free Member

    Feb 29, 2004
    Portland, OR

    That is where shrink tubing comes in, to cover the ugly up....

  9. Nick JD

    Nick JD Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    The other option is to disregard the convention of using the backs of the pots as a common ground... :D

    But if we must stick with convention; I've found a 25W iron is plenty so long as the wires are pre-tinned and the big dollop of solder is already dolloped onto an area that's been sanded lightly with 180grit.

    Most importantly, go out and get little electronics kits and build them - because this stuff is all about technique, not tools. Australia's equivalent of Radioshack sells great little distortion kits for ten bucks. After dealing with those little capicitors and resistors and doohickey transistor chips ... a guitar's wiring seems like Lego. :D

  10. driprail

    driprail TDPRI Member

    Jan 8, 2006
    twist the wires together and tin them as a group before soldering to the back of the pot.

  11. charlie chitlin

    charlie chitlin Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Mar 17, 2003
    Spring City, Pa
    Just before you cook the pot....stop.

  12. 6x47

    6x47 Tele-Holic

    Mar 28, 2007
    Northern ON
    Soldering Commercial Guitar and Amp Pot Bodies

    This chore does not require sanding or a huge iron, and it can be done without unduly heating the pot. I did use a Weller SP-23 25W iron and sometimes still do, but my favorite is a 30W NexxTech I got at Radio Shack; not because of the extra 5W, but because of the coated tip which works better than the copper tip on the Weller. There are probably better irons out there, I'm just showing the size.

    I prepare the pot before trying to solder a wire to the body. The preparation consists of getting a thin layer of solder in the target area, really just tinning a spot, using a slightly different method than that often recommended. When building an amp, I'll prepare all the pots on the bench before hand.

    The iron tip is applied briefly to the target area to preheat it, a miniscule drop of solder flux is applied to the target area and then the iron returned to that postion. The solder is touched to the iron tip so the smallest amount of solder possible is on the tip, barely 'tinning' the tip and then the tip is moved slightly about the heated area until the solder spreads out on the pot forming a thin layer as the iron is moved. Once there is a thin layer of solder bond to the pot body, an appropriately sized puddle of solder can be applied and left to harden.

    The object is to get a small amount of solder to bind to the pot, when this is done, it is easy to get solder to bind to solder.

    Where I differ with some people (for this particular application) is in the application of solder to the iron instead of the work piece, the reverse of how electrical soldering is commonly done.

    This is an application of techniques learned in grade school where we made projects such as storage tins and cookie cutters with galvanized iron joined using old fashioned irons heated in a forge and bar solder with paste flux. It is more akin to sheet metal soldering than the making of electrical joints.

    The process takes longer to explain than to do.

    When the pot is in place ready for the solder, the iron is placed against the hardened puddle of solder. When the puddle is softened the wire is pressed into place with a tool and then the iron is used to briefly heat the wire, the tool then returned to the wire to hold it in place while the puddle hardens. More solder could be applied at this stage if necessary, but with solder, just use what you need to form the joint, no extra.

    Because the job is done in steps of 10 or less seconds, the pot doesn't get as hot as it would if I tried to do it in one step.

    In the case of pots such as CTS which have a lot of information stamped on the back, you might want to consider soldering to the edge of the pot so the information of the back remains available for future reference.

    When there a lot of grounds to go to one spot, I'll make a ground tab out of copper flashing. Before soldering it to the pot, I'll drill a small hole for each wire plus a couple extra just in case. This tab allows the wires to be attached one at a time with just a touch of the iron so the there is no chance of over heating the pot.

  13. Mightyaxeman

    Mightyaxeman Tele-Afflicted

    May 12, 2007
    I find that a larger iron does the trick. If you prep everything correctly and use clips to hold your wiring in place you will not overheat your pots or pickups. That's how the mass produced guitars are put together. They don't waste their time with a 25 watt iron. 25 watts is enough for switches and pot tabs but not for grounds.

  14. imwjl

    imwjl Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 21, 2007
    My mom's basement.
    The Terry Downs video might help, and I was glad to buy it because he's contributed good info here and his site has good info.

  15. Papa Joe

    Papa Joe Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Jun 30, 2007
    Swanton Ohio
    Good advice here.I'll add this tip that works for me.I use an assortment of wooden dowls to hold wires in place.They are also handy for poking around in a circuit.....PJ.....

  16. aman

    aman Tele-Meister

    Aug 28, 2007
    KL, Malaysia
    I use cellophane tape to hold the wires temporarily. I wire the switch off the guitar first before moving it onto the control plate to solder up the pickup wires. Shrink tubing and needle nose pliers are good things to have.

  17. Dave_Strat

    Dave_Strat TDPRI Member

    Sep 30, 2008
    Georgia, USA
    I agree with 6x47. Clean and tin the pot case prior to soldering and twist the wires together and solder them together as a group. Heat the solder on the pot case and the bundle of wires at the same time. As soon as the solder flows, stop and hold for 10 seconds. Done.

    If you go to and look at Seymour's videos, you'll see that he uses a Weller 100/150 watt gun. This gun is the staple of electronics techs. With a little practice, you can develop a technique to solder small parts as well as large grounds and pot cases with no damage. While a 40 watt iron will do the job on pots, the Weller will do it quicker, localized, and with less heating of the entire pot. You just have to practice to be able to use it in cramped areas without melting everything in the pickup cavity.

    I installed CS Texas Specials this weekend in my Squire Tele using a 40 watt iron. Good tinning on the tip, use of a wet sponge to keep the tip clean and shiny, and mechanically twisting the wires together n and pre-soldering them helped in soldering the bundle of ground wires to the pot case.

  18. photoweborama

    photoweborama Friend of Leo's

    Dec 16, 2003
    Sacramento, CA
    I usually tin the wire and the back of the pot.

    But I usually only solder one wire to the back, then solder the rest of the wires to that single wire and then shrink tube the batch.

  19. boneyguy

    boneyguy Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 31, 2007
    victoria b.c. CANADA
    The only problem I have with twisting a group of wires together and then soldering them to the pot is if you ever want to remove a pickup for example you gotta take the whole clump of wires off in the process. Not a big deal I guess but it's nice to be able to just pull off the one wire you need. Of course you can always just snip off the wire that needs to be removed right at the solder joint as well but after a few pickup swaps you will wind up with a big ugly mess.

    So how is it done so neatly at the 'factory'. I've never seen a factory job where multiple wires are twisted together and then soldered. Not that I recall at least.

  20. chucksmi

    chucksmi Tele-Meister

    Jul 23, 2003
    New York
    Big secret - use silver solder. It melts at a much lower temperature. Makes working with pots a breeze. It does require flux, so just wipe and rinse after you're done.

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