View Full Version : I wanna learn to solder. Help me.

Number Of The Priest
12-03-2003, 04:02 PM
Yes, I've looked at some tutorials on the internet, but I've got a few questions that they didn't cover.

How many times can you solder pickups, wires, and control pots together before they're "bad", if there's such a thing? I want to be able to try out different pickup combinations and different boosters. The EMGs I have don't have the quick connect things. Every pickup nowadays ideally should have these... what a dream world that would be!

Do I really need to bring my guitars outside to work on them to prevent excessive inhalation?

What can I practice soldering on before commencing my pickup roasting fest? Should I just try soldering wires to scrap pieces of metal?

How do you clean old solder off control pots? Melt it and wipe away with a cold wet sponge? Is the sponge and debris safe to throw in the garbage when I'm finished?

Alright, I think I'm finished for now. Thanks for your help! images/icons/smile.gif

12-03-2003, 04:19 PM
Well, I'm sure you'll get lots of responses, but here's mine.

How many times can you solder pickups, wires, and control pots together before they're "bad", if there's such a thing? <font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">If you're doing it right, many, many times. If you do it wrong and get the components too hot, you can ruin them very quickly (mostly the pots, but you'll also see the wiring insulation degrade badly when they get too hot.)

Do I really need to bring my guitars outside to work on them to prevent excessive inhalation?
<font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">No. Unless you're spending several hours every single day doing nothing but soldering, there's not much to worry about. The vapors from the molten solder and flux can be hazardous, and you want to try not to breathe them directly in, but the once in a while exposure isn't an issue IMHO.

What can I practice soldering on before commencing my pickup roasting fest? Should I just try soldering wires to scrap pieces of metal?
<font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">You pretty much answered that one yourself. If you can get ahold of some old pots and some wire, that would be great, otherwise you can start practicing on your guitar. Nothing will teach you to solder like actual practice will.

How do you clean old solder off control pots? <font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Buy some solder wick or a solder sucker. With the wick, when you heat the solder and the wick, the liquid solder will soak into the wick and when you pull it away, it will cool and harden. Then you cut the end of the wick off and you have some new ready to go. The solder sucker (de-soldering suction tool) is like a spring loaded syringe. You heat up the solder and the release the trigger on the sucker and it literally sucks the molten solder into the syringe where you can empty it out later.

Is the sponge and debris safe to throw in the garbage when I'm finished?
<font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">yes.

Some more tips:

Keep the tip of your iron very clean at all times. The wet sponge is very effective for this.

Always use Flux. This helps keep the tip and the solder joint clean and also helps prevent excess solder from "pulling away' from the joint when you removed the iron. A lot of people don't use it, but it will improve your soldering and your joints a ton.

Learn to "tin" (apply solder to before you actually solder them together) your tip and any leads or other work you will be soldering. This will also help provide you with good clean joints and makes the soldering a little easier.

Learn how hot is "too hot" as quickly as possible. This will save you many headaches in the future.

Soldering is as much an art form as it is a science. Soldering is easy and anyone can learn to do it, but not everyone can do it right.

Good Luck images/icons/smile.gif

Number Of The Priest
12-03-2003, 04:35 PM
Thanks! What's this "flux" you are referring to? I don't think I remember coming across that term.

Infernal Death
12-03-2003, 04:35 PM
Well if you are careful with the cables you should have no problems with soldering your pickups many times.

Outside ? No not that i know. I solder all my things (which are quite some projects) in my room. I just try not to inhale the smoke. Just open the window after soldering that the smoke can get out. And i make some breaks in between soldering. But i think this won't be necessary with pickups soldering since you normally are finished within a minute. With the projects i do i often need to solder things for 3-4 hours so breaks are quite important.

Yes you can also try to solder two wires together for practice. Soldering really is very easy. Some tips on soldering (in case you haven't seen them in your tutorials):
- Always try to heat the point where you want to apply the solder a little bit by touching with the solder iron. If the point is hot the solder will run better around.
- While touching the solder point with the solder iron apply the solder. A bad move is to touch the solder wire with the solder iron and then go to the solder point with the solder iron. I don't know what's the english name for it but with the solder iron there is some special liquid which makes the solder flow better. If you first touch the solder wire with the solder iron all the liquid is gone til you arrive at the solder point since it can't resist the heat of the solder iron for too long (uh i hope you get what i want to say, it's kinda difficult for me to explain in english images/icons/wink.gif )
So always make sure the solder iron is at the solder point, heating it a bit and then applying the solder. It should run smoothly around your solder point and after getting cold it should shine.
For soldering guitar pickups a standard solder iron should be ok. Only when you get into pcb's and small electronic devices like IC's you should pay attention since a too big solder iron can damage the ic's through it's too big heat.

Oh some advice on soldering cable. Before applying the cable to the solder point you should take away the isolation on one end of the cable and heating it with the solder iron. Then applying solder iron and let it run through all copper strings on the inside of the cable (or whatever material it is). This way you avoid just to "clue" the cable on one side to the solder point since there is already enough solder through the whole cable.

For cleaning old solder i use a solder sucker. It's a very useful tool and not really expensive and can save you many times images/icons/smile.gif

I guess that's it.


Infernal Death
12-03-2003, 04:56 PM
Don't know if that helps but here are 3 pics of things i soldered.
I hope they are clear enough to see something.





Number Of The Priest
12-03-2003, 04:59 PM
Nice, thanks!! images/icons/grin.gif

12-03-2003, 05:15 PM
What's this "flux" you are referring to? I don't think I remember coming across that term. <font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Flux helps in a couple ways.
First, it cleans the surfaces and tip and second, it helps the solder to flow correctly. It also helps protect against oxidation. There are different types and forms of flux, I use rosin flux paste, (it is the easiest for the applications I use). I just dip the leads to be soldered or in some cases, the solder itself in the paste and solder as normal. There is solder with flux in the core, but I still feel it is better to use actual flux. You will see a difference and over several solder sessions, you will notice a difference. Most classes or training you take will also recommend the same thing. You can find more and probably more technical information online, but here is just one link I found. Try searching for solder flux or something to that effect.

Flux info (http://www.ccis.com/home/hn/page26.htm)

12-03-2003, 10:52 PM
Hotrod pretty much cleared it up, but I'll reiterate that flux is your best friend. Tinning everything first also improves the appearance of your connections.

12-03-2003, 11:56 PM
here's another tip for guitar wiring...
Wire pots, caps, switches outside the guitar cavity first. I line 'em up in the correct configuration on a scrap of wood or cardboard solder it up and then put it in the guitar and solder the pickups and output. Its alot easier than trying to solder everything in a cramped cavity.

12-04-2003, 12:59 AM
DON'T PULL APART WIRES THAT YOU ARE DESOLDERING!! That shit will fling everywhere and it hurts!!

See above...

Use a heat sink around delicate components. In other words, put something metal between what you are soldering and anything that can be cooked, like a resistor. Hemostats(forceps/roach clip) work great.

12-04-2003, 07:13 AM
Great advice for beginner solderers in this thread! graemlins/toast.gif

Just thought I'd add one thing:

Soldering outside or with an open window can be somewhat problematic in some cases. If you have a weak soldering iron, even the slightest wind can cool it down enough that you'll be unable to get the ground wires properly soldered to the pot casings - especially if it's somewhat chilly outside.

Just avoid inhaling the smoke or getting it into your eyes (the lead absorbs quickly into exposed "wet" areas (don't know the proper english word, sry)). Keep the sessions short and ventilate the room in between sessions and you should be ok.

If you start doing a lot of soldering, it would be a good idea to invest in some sort of fan-driven ventilation device that can suck the fumes out of the room, but if you just do occational work on your own guitars, this will be a non-issue.

Ok, one more thing:
Protective goggles! Like Ace said, you should be careful when desoldering wires - but sometimes careful isn't enough. Wear glasses (not sunshades images/icons/grin.gif ) or a set of lexan goggles to eliminate the risk of getting stray tin into your eyes. Better safe than sorry.


12-04-2003, 07:27 AM
As for soldering irons, I would recommend those with a minimum effect of 25W for this type or work. These heat up more quickly than say, a 15W iron, and also heat the components up more quickly - and this is a good thing.

With a weak 15W iron, you'll have to spend a ridiculuos amount of time just heating up the pot casings. The heat will then have time to spread to the entire pot and any connected components and potentially causing damage. A more efficiant iron will heat the pot casing up quickly to the appropriate temperature, let you do the soldering and be done before the other components get too hot. It saves you a lot of frustration and is gentler on wire insulations etc.


12-04-2003, 08:44 AM
In America you cannot easily find lead-based solder anymore, but you can find it (not sure about Canada and the rest of the world, though). We usually have solder marked as "99.9% lead-free" because it's so deadly.
Anyhoo, I use lead-free silver bearing solder in a .032" diameter, or lead-free rosin core solder. Both can be found at Radio Shack.

As for practicing different wiring schemes, I always use jumper leads (also at Radio Shack) - they come in a bag of assorted colors (green, red, yellow, white, black) and have alligator clips at each end of a thin long wire. These are perfect for testing connections before you solder, especially on something like a complicated switching layout (splits, pairs, phasing, etc) or if you've got a switch you've never soldered before (like the Jackson Special 5-way).

You can also use them to see where you might need another ground wire without actually soldering one and then finding you shoulda put it someplace else images/icons/grin.gif

Another handy item is this little thing that you might find at a hobby shop or Radio Shack (again) - it's a "3rd hand" with a pair of 'roach clip' arms with a magnifying glass in the middle of a crossbar and a metal stand. You can make the clips hold whatever you wanna solder while you hold the solder and iron.


12-04-2003, 09:14 AM
For general purpose soldering you need:
A GOOD iron with a stand that has a sponge for cleaning your tip. Wattage depends on the iron, the tip size and what you are soldering.
A solder sucker. IMHO, solderwick takes too long to work and can cause you to melt plastic parts.
60/40 .031 rosin core (flux core) solder
A vise (basically it is a metal base with an arm and an alligator clip on the ent to hold wires or components you are soldering. It is like a third hand.
There are irons that have a turbo button on them that increases the wattage for 15w to 60w for a brief period. It is a great feature for busting through large factory solder joints on the tops of pots.

12-05-2003, 01:05 AM
i got a gas soldering iron last month. runs on butane like a crack torch lighter. i dont think i can / will use an electric ever again.

12-05-2003, 01:13 AM
By the way, "tinning" the tip of your soldering iron (coating it with solder) will greatly increase its life-span, as well. If you don't tin the tip, it will quickly oxidize (rust) and turn into garbage.