Soldering Techniques

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Soldering Components to a Circuit Board

The components on a guitar amp circuit board are generally mounted by soldering the legs of components in place. Soldering requires a steady hand and a little technique. With a little practice anyone can do it.

Component Mounting

When I'm soldering components to a circuit board I try to get most components in place first - then solder all at once. Most vintage tube guitar amps use point to point wiring for their circuits. Components are soldered to turrets or eyelets which are secured to the circuit board. Before I start soldering I physically set each component in place and wrap just enough the wire lead around a turret so as the component will not move. It's kind of hard to solder a component that keeps moving around on you.

Soldering Irons

A pencil soldering iron is the most common used type of soldering tool. Usually a 25 watt iron will be sufficient for all soldering applications. It is also very handy to have a heavy soldering iron holder - one that wont fall over. Of course there are many different brands and types of soldering equipment available, but a basic iron will do just fine. More experienced technicians or people that solder all the time may find it an advantage to purchase a regulated temperature soldering station. The soldering station will also come with a heftier price tag though.

Solder Varieties

Solder is available in many different varieties. I prefer using a rosin core type solder. Rosin is what cleans the surface to be soldered - a very important step. With out the rosin core, soldering would be very difficult. My preference is Kester RA rosin core solder with a 63/37 tin/lead mix. For dealing with small components I like to use solder that is .020 to .031 inches in diameter. Solder that is physically too big will just end up getting in your way.

Soldering Safety

Before plugging in the iron, it is highly recommended that you put on your safety goggles. Solder can and will splatter which could damage your eyes and or cause a loss of vision. Use caution when soldering and wear safety goggles!

How To Solder

First and foremost, you must have a clean soldering tip and it must be tinned properly. Tin the soldering iron tip by wetting it with solder. Don't be afraid to put too much solder on it because you can't. Just be careful of excess solder falling off the tip - IT WILL BURN YOU! Once the tip is wetted with solder, carefully clean the tip by pulling and rotating the iron on a wet sponge. The tip should be nice and shiny at this point. immediately following the cleaning, apply enough solder to the tip to allow for contact between the component and the tip of the soldering iron. Once contact has been made between the component and the soldering iron tip apply more solder to the joint. Let the solder flow evenly between the components and the tip. Immediately after the solder flows and forms a nice uniform contact between all components being soldered, remove the tip and let the solder cool for a few seconds. Note: there is fine line between letting solder flow and removing the soldering iron tip from the joint. If you keep heat on a joint too long you may damage components and/or circuit board material. On the other hand, if you don't keep heat on long enough, you solder joint will be unsatisfactory and could possibly break apart prematurely. This is commonly called a "cold solder joint". Practice will make perfect!

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