Makers today design, build and recycle their Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs). Needless to say, if you are soldering inside, it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of your family and everyone around you. The following is a list of must-have items for indoor soldering that focus on safety and organization.
A good trait that every Maker should have is the ability to keep track of your parts, tools, and equipment. Especially, if you want to repair old circuit boards or old phones where the manufacturer stops making replacement parts. A tidy work area will also allow you to produce quality images for your product pages.
The list of items below will be rated by their importance regarding our focus on safety and organization.
One of the most overlooked, must-have items for an indoor soldering station is a fume extractor. The fume extractor is responsible for sucking the air around the soldering area and filtering the air. This requires a large fan to provide a sufficient level of airflow. You can also set the fume extractor over the top of the working area, taking advantage of the fact that smoke, like heat, flows upwards.
Most fume extractors are quite loud, however. This is due to the volume of the airflow that is needed to be drawn through the filter. That sound level is outweighed by the mitigation of the potentially toxic soldering smoke that would be circulating indoors for hours after a soldering job.
I know this sounds like an obvious one, however, a reliable and durable soldering station is not something to overlook. One of the common ways to rate a soldering station is how fast it heats up and how the soldering iron’s temperature varies over the soldering duration. Another `Must-Have’ in a soldering station is a digital display. This feature will provide users the ability to read what the temperature is that they are working with to aid in preventing cold solder joints.
I have been using the CSI Premier 75W for the last three years and I have no complaints. The unit has three memory settings for temperature which is very useful when I find a perfect temperature that I am comfortable working with.
Investing in a reliable and durable soldering station is something to think about. A reliable soldering station will save you time repairing cold solder joints, burn projects, and questioning yourself if the soldering iron is hot enough (all from personal experiences 🙂
This is something new that I’ve tried and am very excited to share my opinion since I have been using the legendary green cutting mat for years. This silicone work mat is different from common work mats. This mat comes with cut-out areas for your tools, accessories, screws, and a cutout area for a circuit board.
Furthermore, the screw areas have numbers to keep track of the screw position and order of the screws for a more delicate repair project.
4. Hot air gun
A hot air gun is a must-have for any surface mount project where users are required to remove small delicate components that cannot be removed directly with a soldering iron. Furthermore, the hot air gun can be used to reflow the replacement component to the circuit board
Using hot air is very similar to traditional soldering, therefore, we can use the same ratings as a soldering iron for a hot air gun, which is how quick it heats up and how the temperature maintains during use. I truly believe a picture is worth a thousand words and I will attach a short clip below to show how fast a hot air gun heats up.
As a technician myself, I can vouch for this equipment’s ability to greatly improve working conditions. The operator will not have to squint to try to see if the component makes good contact during and after reflow. The LED lamp can also act as a barrier between the operator and solder fumes. This will help the operator to get closer to the soldering area if needed.
When you start to work with delicate but yet high-temperature components, you will need to learn how to use tweezers, another bot of advice based on my own personal experience. Tweezers are not just helpful during the reflow process, they can also get the wire around corners.
Tweezers are especially useful when the operator needs to use a desoldering wire in a tight area. These soldering wires usually need to get sufficiently hot before the solder will seep up the wire.
Let’s talk about getting the right soldering tip for the right soldering job. Choosing a soldering tip is all about personal preference and you will often need to try it out yourself to gain the needed experience. The topic of finding the correct soldering tip for a given soldering job has been a good debate topic here on Instructable.
I personally like the T-I and T-B from the Ten Tips Set, since I can do most of my repair work with them. Soldering a small sensor module to my Arduino project, however, depends on the soldering temperature and soldering area. For instance, you cannot use the T-B under 300 degrees Celsius for a ten gauge wire and expect a good solder joint.
As a Maker myself, I feel that it is my responsibility to keep the air in my house clean and keep my family members healthy. It doesn’t matter if it is a quick solder job or an hour-long project, I will make sure my fume extractor turns on before I turn on the soldering station without exception. I will make sure that my passion for my projects will not cause any negative effect on my family’s health, especially during this pandemic.
Furthermore, I will make sure the working environment is comfortable and organized since these projects in Maker Pit could take weeks to complete. You do not want to buy ten replacement screws for one missing one as they often don’t sell just one M2x4 screw. I urge you to practice the same safety protocols to ensure a safe environment for everyone.