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Soldering Aids

Once you’ve learned to solder you should consider investing in some tools and accessories that make soldering easier. The first thing you should consider is a soldering station: a cheap soldering iron may get the job done, but a good soldering station won’t break the bank and it will make soldering effortless.

A soldering station gives you a place to keep your hot soldering iron (most stations include soldering stands), enables you to control the temperature, and includes a sponge for easily cleaning the tip of your soldering iron.

Another useful item to have is a desoldering tool, i.e. desoldering braid or solder sucker. If you solder with any regularity you’ll eventually need to desolder something. Desoldering braid and solder sucker bulbs cost next to nothing and you won’t realize how helpful they are until you need one. If you do a lot of disassembly you should look into a desoldering iron, which is a powered solder sucker that both heats and removes the solder. 

Improved visibility makes soldering much easier, given that when you’re working on electronics the components are typically small, which is why you should consider investing in a magnifying glass and/or light. There are specialized magnifying glasses and lights designed specifically for soldering, but a decent desk lamp and reading glasses will get you most of the way there. When you’re trying to work with precision with a hot soldering iron in your hand you need to see what you’re doing.

Flux allows solder to flow easily, and the majority of solder for electronics has flux included in its core. Because most solder has rosin flux in the core, you won’t always need rosin or paste flux but, when you do, it’s good to have on hand and will make for smoother soldering.

You should also think about investing in helping hands. I have two hands, but when I’m soldering I inevitably need more — one hand is already holding the soldering iron and the other is occupied by the solder. Helping hands allow you to hold everything in position as you apply the soldering iron and the solder to the project.

Wire strippers are always convenient when soldering — so are screwdrivers, socket wrenches, (needle nose) pliers, and other common hand tools.

A digital multimeter with continuity check capability is quite handy when working with electronics. It allows you to check that the signal is flowing properly; in addition it enables you to test for shorts and lets you know when something needs to be resoldered.

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