Soldering Basics – What to Buy for Success

As you get into hardware programming on your Raspberry Pis, you’re going to be tasked with soldering on header strips. Header strips on your PICOs. Header strips on your Zeros. Even a couple of pins on the little sensors so you can attach the jumpers to connect to your GPIO pins.

Here’s a little shopping list to help you arm yourself for successful solder joints:

A good hot iron. And one that heats up fast too! I like the Weller WE1010NA Digital Soldering Station. You can dial in your working temperature and this thing will be ready to solder in less than 30 seconds! This model features a stand with a well for a wet sponge.

Next up is a lighted magnifier! I’ve got a Super Bright 5-Diopter Magnifying Glass with Light and Stand. It is LED so it doesn’t get hot. The magnifying glass has a hinged cover to keep it clean. The clamp and spring arm are well-balanced so it stays put, hovering over my work surface.

While I’m working, I feel like my tip gets oxidized quickly and need to give it a scrub in between joints. A couple of plunges in a Hakko 599B-02 Wire-type soldering iron tip cleaner and then into my little can of Lead Free Tip Tinner gives my tip a great shine for efficient heating of the parts.

Of course, I’m not the best solderer. I make mistakes. If there’s a little too much solder, I like to remove it with Solder Wick. Just unreel a little wick, put it between the blob of solder, heat it with the iron, and the offending solder gets sucked up into the wick! Neat!

If there’s a LOT of solder, or I’m salvaging parts from old boards, a solder sucker is the tool to have. Fitted with a heavy internal spring, this sucker can be cocked and then plunged into a pool of molten solder. Hit the button and the solder is gone! Well, actually just sucked into the body of this little gem, where it can be easily dumped out when cool.

Some people like to use clamp stands to hold pieces in place for soldering. I prefer to mount them on a breadboard. Push the appropriate length of header strip into a breadboard. Drop the part onto the header strip and solder away!

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