Just ordered my first soldering iron, what now?

JamesFlames714

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The technical electronics course I wanted to take at the local CC isn't being offered right now and it seems unwise or even dangerous to open up one of my broken amps art start monkeying around. How did you all get started with amps/electronics? Is there a book ? Should I start buying little AM/FM radio kits off Amazon? I know there's got to be trial an error but where can I get a solid footing on the materials I need and the basic knowledge that will keep me from frying myself? Seems like youtube can only take you so far.
 

thechad

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I’d suggest watching some uncle Doug videos on YouTube. Check out robrobs website. The best way to learn is by opening up one of your broken amps and fixing it! But don’t do it mindlessly. Open it up, look what is there, learn what it is you are looking at. See what us broken. If it isn’t obvious, learn how to troubleshoot. You have a great resource here if people willing to help. Don’t be afraid to ask here first before you do something you’re unsure of.
 

Tuneup

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The technical electronics course I wanted to take at the local CC isn't being offered right now and it seems unwise or even dangerous to open up one of my broken amps art start monkeying around. How did you all get started with amps/electronics? Is there a book ? Should I start buying little AM/FM radio kits off Amazon? I know there's got to be trial an error but where can I get a solid footing on the materials I need and the basic knowledge that will keep me from frying myself? Seems like youtube can only take you so far.
Pay attention when you set it down.
 

JamesFlames714

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I’d suggest watching some uncle Doug videos on YouTube. Check out robrobs website. The best way to learn is by opening up one of your broken amps and fixing it! But don’t do it mindlessly. Open it up, look what is there, learn what it is you are looking at. See what us broken. If it isn’t obvious, learn how to troubleshoot. You have a great resource here if people willing to help. Don’t be afraid to ask here first before you do something you’re unsure of.
LOVE Uncle Doug ! Checking out the rob site looks great too
 

monkeybanana

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I noticed you are in SoCal. Brad from Creepy Fingers Effects offers courses from time to time. Look him up on IG under creepyfingerseffects and his class under classdismissedeffects.

That’s the technical side.

Do you know basic electronics like what a resistor, capacitor, diode, etc do?

You can get very far with simple electronics and make yourself a nice pedal.
 

telemnemonics

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Amps I can fix when broken parts are obviously burnt or filter caps blew up.
If you're troubleshooting amps, the soldering iron is the last thing you need after multimeter and study.
Soldering should be practiced a bit on other stuff first, especially if you're working on consumer pcb amps.
Got heat sinks and a solder sucker?
 

Blue Bill

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My advice: stop by a Goodwill and spend 5 bucks a radio or VCR or something, the older the better. Make sure you have some solder, (skinny Kester 60/40 is best), a solder sucker, some de-soldering braid, and some paste flux. The best way to learn soldering is to practice de-soldering components and wires from switches, jacks, pots, resistors, etc. Learn to get them cleaned off from old solder, then re-solder them, practicing making nice neat and shiny solder joints. Do a few dozen at least.

Building a pedal or small amp from a kit is a good way to learn, so shoot for that later. Most of the frustration you will face is when you make a mistake, and need to de-solder and re-solder things; much more challenging than new stuff, also much more useful. Keep in mind almost all mods and electronics repairs will involve de-soldering and removing things, so this is the skill to learn. Welcome to the burnt fingers club!

Besides burning your fingers, the dangers to watch for include: make sure everything is un-plugged before you go poking around, and learn how to make sure big capacitors are discharged before working on them.
 

JamesFlames714

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My advice: stop by a Goodwill and spend 5 bucks a radio or VCR or something, the older the better. Make sure you have some solder, (skinny Kester 60/40 is best), a solder sucker, some de-soldering braid, and some paste flux. The best way to learn soldering is to practice de-soldering components and wires from switches, jacks, pots, resistors, etc. Learn to get them cleaned off from old solder, then re-solder them, practicing making nice neat and shiny solder joints. Do a few dozen at least.

Building a pedal or small amp from a kit is a good way to learn, so shoot for that later. Most of the frustration you will face is when you make a mistake, and need to de-solder and re-solder things; much more challenging than new stuff, also much more useful. Keep in mind almost all mods and electronics repairs will involve de-soldering and removing things, so this is the skill to learn. Welcome to the burnt fingers club!

Besides burning your fingers, the dangers to watch for include: make sure everything is un-plugged before you go poking around, and learn how to make sure big capacitors are discharged before working on them.
This is what I gotta do yeah
 

The Ballzz

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You just got a soldering iron! Read below:

Ya know, to me it's hilarious that many guitarists can sit and work/practice on a specific lick for hours on end, yet refuse to get a good soldering tool and spend an hour "practicing" how to "PROPERLY" use it! The main trick to good soldering is the proper and simple maintenance of the iron! Following is a novel I wrote in another thread:

First, whenever soldering to the back of a pot that has never seen solder before, it really helps to either scrape, file or sand a portion of the surface to get to "clean" metal, as there may be oils, glaze, release agents and/or other contaminants or finish on the metal to reduce corrosion or aid the manufacturing process. Cleaning this area "before" applying solder will enhance the heat transfer of your iron AND the adhesion of some fresh solder.

Next, read, digest and follow my verbose suggestions below and amaze/impress your friends with the quality of your new soldering skills!


Proper care, etiquette and maintenance are as important, if not more so, than the iron itself!

A) Get a soldering iron/station that has the option of various tip sizes, along with a small assortment (2-4) of sizes of tips. Use the smaller for "fine" work and the larger for heavy stuff, like the back of pots, larger audio speaker connectors, etc. Right tool for the job. A stand is also good to have, if you don't get a station with one built in.
B) Get a small sponge. The ones made specifically for soldering iron use are best and keep it damp to wet while soldering. Clean it by running under water and squeezing it out a few times before each soldering session. And, oh yeah, have a trash can handy!
C) Before first use, heat iron up and wipe it on the sponge, then liberally apply solder to the tip and shake the excess off into the trash can. I call it the rattlesnake shake! Wipe tip off on the sponge and reapply solder. The iron is now ready to either be turned off/stored or sit there heated up and ready for use. "NEVER" let a soldering iron sit, while on or in storage without having had a fresh cleaning and coating of solder! The coating protects and seals the tip from oxidation and that oxidation (as well as a dirty tip) is the enemy of good, efficient heat transfer.
D) Now that your iron is heated, prepped and sitting happily in it's stand, get you wires/work arranged the way you want them. Pull the iron from it's stand and do the rattlesnake shake into the trash can, wipe tip on sponge, and dab a touch of solder onto the part of the tip that you want to use, apply that tip to the joint and then apply solder to the joint.
E) When a suitable amount of solder has flowed into the joint, pull the solder away and then pull the iron away, "WITHOUT" disturbing or jostling the wires.
F) If more joints need to be soldered, repeat "D" & "E". If done or more prep is needed for the next joint, do step "C"!
G)
When you're done, do step "C" and store your iron/station, ready for it's next adventure.
H) FWIW, each wire should get "pre-tinned" before use. This is simply heating the wire enough to apply a bit of solder and then shaking off the excess. If ya can't shake it (not enough length or room to do so), just a little dab of solder will do.
I realize this sounds like a lot of details, but religious adherence to these steps will get you well on your way to successful soldering that you can be proud of, as well as good longevity of your soldering iron! Once you develop it as a "HABIT" it's not as complicated as it sounds, though the details and sequence of events is fairly important!

Oh yeah, a couple more points. Once your tip no longer likes to accept solder and provide (when wiped) a nice shiny coating, has a lot of black deposits on the working surface or becomes heavily oxidized, its time to replace it. And most tips won't give much satisfaction from "sanding" to a fresh surface, especially the more "high-tech" temperature sensing/controlled units!

This is the one I've been using almost daily for over 10 years, for multiple repairs and amplifier builds, and a wide variety of tips are easily available:

https://www.amazon.com/Weller-WES51...9143216&sr=8-2&keywords=weller+soldering+iron


This one saves a few bucks, but is just "so-so" and if you think you will use it more than a couple times a year, bite the bullet and get a good one:

https://www.amazon.com/Weller-WLC10...9143216&sr=8-1&keywords=weller+soldering+iron

And while free standing "pencil on a cord" units can be handy for a "quick, mobile" toolbox, they just don't have the quality to make them a good value.


Just My $.02 & Likely Worth Even Less!
Gene
 

telemnemonics

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I forgot to emphasize (until I saw @Blue Bill mentioned it) that an unplugged tube amp has big filter caps that retain charges of 250-500volts depending on the amp.
An electrolytic filtering capacitor is kind of like a slingshot waiting to shoot you dead if you touch a lead and ground.
Find them and discharge them!
Study up first of course.
 

corliss1

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My advice? Solder is not a replacement for a good mechanical connection.

I hate sponges and use brass wool instead for tip cleaning.

Like anything, practice.
 

kbold

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#1 soldering practice

Make sure you get 63/37 solder (63% tin 37% lead). 60/40 solder is also OK. These solder rolls will have a flux core.

Don't get lead free solder. It is more difficult to use (more difficult to achieve a good solder joint).
Also, the flux is more aggressive and will have to be removed completely by washing or use of solvents.
Clean the tip often, and 'wet' with solder to avoid oxidizing.
Always 'wet' a new tip on first heatup, otherwise it won't take solder (surface will oxidize).

A good join will see the solder flow onto the surface, and be smooth and shiny. Too much heat will cause 'tails' as you remove the tip, or the solder will look dull.

When soldering, feed the solder onto the surface/component, not onto the tip.
I prefer tips with one or two flat surfaces (a pin tip is not recommended unless you're soldering very small things).
If possible, lay the flat surface of the tip onto the larger component (which will require more heating).
Limit heating time to 3 seconds (unless you're soldering big things like pot cases, where you'll need a longer time).
1 second: heating, 2 second: feed solder, 3 second: remove tip. Always remove the tip as soon as you see the solder 'release'.
 

radiocaster

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Mentally train yourself to not even consider touching the metal parts, even after you unplugged it for several minutes.
 




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