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Hi gents, I was wondering if anyone had a recommendation for soldering kits to deal with the electronics?

There are a whole lot of choices out there.
 

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Iron:

Cheap but decent Iron: Stahl tools either the basic regulated model ("Stahl Tools TCSS Temp Controlled Soldering Iron Station ESD Safe" from www.parts-express.com! : they have 2 lesser models that are not regulated - those are nonstarters) or the slightly more expensive digital one ("Stahl Tools DDSS Digital Display Soldering Iron Station" from www.parts-express.com!). I have the former, which frequently goes on sale for like US$30. It's my spare iron that lives at the studio for emergency repairs during jams, changing speakers/cab wiring, and also used it to wire up my outboard gear patchbays (took 2 full days of constant use, so it's had a decent workout); had it for a few years now (3ish, don't remember) no complaints, especially at that price.

If you want better than that: Anything Hakko. My primary iron is a 936 (discontinued, but you still see them on ebay; used, maybe some NOS) but it's fabulous. I hear good things about the replacement model(s) (digital:FX-951 or analog: FX-950 ) but haven`t used them personally and they look like clown cars due to the bright yellow and blue paint job. Weller is overpriced and their range sucks until you get to the top of it (gone a bit downhill since their heyday). Hakko is just as good and cheaper.


Solder:
- stay away from silver (non-leaded) solder unless you specifically need it (harder to work with, more expensive; may not mix well with leaded solder rework)
- Eutectic solder (Eutectic system - Wikipedia) aka Sn63Pb37 (that`s lead to tin ratio) vs regular 60:40 which is harder to work with (especially if trying to solder difficult things that need a lot of heat like pancake jacks or pot casings). I get 1lb spools of Kester brand and they last me a while.

Flux/soldering paste:
- recommend liquid kind but that`s hard to find in CA sometimes (and US suppliers usually won't ship it) so you will likely end up with a paste
- the rock hard kind (you find this everywhere; usually of Asian origin) works well enough but limited in use - can't dip parts in it for example.
- currently I have a tub of Craig brand - good and usable (paste vs liquid)

desoldering pump:
- expect to go through a few of these; even the brand name ones break. vintage solder (e.g. whatever Traynor used) clogs these up real bad; clean it regularly
- stay away from 'mini' ones - bigger is better (more suction)
 

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Hakko 888
 
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Needs depend on what you plan on soldering. The 30W soldering pens that are great for working on pedals are going to be near useless for working on tube amps. For that you'll want something heftier and hotter. If I'm going to solder stuff in a tube amp, I'll use one of those old school soldering "guns", that you hold like a pistol. They heat up quick. Just don't use them with anything small, because they are pretty non-specific in how they apply heat.

I use liquid flux, frequently. A $12 bottle from Active/Future Electronics or some other distributor will last you for the rest of your life. It doesn't cure all ills, but can be very helpful for some tasks. Note that components which have sat around for a long time, either before or after you got them, can tarnish/oxidize, and that impedes soldering. Liquid flux will not overcome that, so an adjunct is to have an X-acto or other utility blade handy that allows you to scrape away the dull and restore the shine, which WILL be more easily soldered to.

Desolder pumps can be handy, but as an avid pedal builder, I find them not often specific enough for my needs, are able to get in close enough to where I need to remove solder from. In those instances, solder wick is your friend. Solder wick with a bit of liquid flux applied using a Q-tip is an especially good friend.

I also keep some methyl hydrate on hand. One of the things that solder flux can do is form a shiny surface between adjacent joints that can make it harder to spot unintentional solder bridges. So if the board doesn't have tons of big open spaces, I like to take an old toothbrush with a bit of methyl hydrate and scrub the solder side of the board. It will dissolve the flux and allow spaces between solder joints and traces to be easily visible, and more amenable to visual trouble-shooting.
 

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Soldering iron: I have the Hakko FX-888D. A 25W (and non-adjustable) Weller goes for more than $60 these days. If you plan to solder both circuit components and things like pots and switches, a station will serve better. For tip cleaning, I use a metallic container that looks like R2D2, with a copper sponge in it. I stopped using a wet sponge for iron tip cleaning long time ago.

Solder: As Granny suggested, leaded 63/37 solder is great for electronics. I typically use 0.8mm gauge. Kester is a good brand, but my most recent reel is by MG Chemicals.

Flux: Great for soldering connections/terminals that have been used previously. MG Chemical Rosin Flux is available in Canada. I don't use it too often on new parts. I also have the paste (Goot BS-10) in my toolbox if I need it.

Desolder pump and solder wick. Both are useful.

As Mark suggested, methyl hydrate is great for cleaning up the flux residues. I always use it to wipe the tip of my solder flux needle applicator when I am done soldering for the day. Saves the needle from getting sticky, which could make removing the needle tip cover difficult next time around.

A helping hand would be a good accessory for soldering, too.
 

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I almost forgot. Go to the dollar store and get a package of those copper or brass curly pads for scrubbing pots. Many soldering stations will come with sponges that one is supposed to keep damp and use to wipe off grime from the soldering tip. I did that, and found myself needing to buy a new tip about every 6-8 months, as the old one was gradually eaten away. Someone mentioned using one of those curly pads as a better solution, so I followed up. Been using the same tip for the last decade and it looks brand new, even though my soldering activity has ramped up considerably. They will try and sell you a comparable product for $8-10 at the electronics place. The $1 version from Dollarama works every bit as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Wow...if there was ever a more helpful group I have never seen it. You guys are great, and I mean that. Many thanks. Need a little time to sort through and digest it all, but it is all there. Fortunately I am only going to be working on guitars. But to you guys who work on amps and pedals...respect.
 
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Needs depend on what you plan on soldering. The 30W soldering pens that are great for working on pedals
My experience is otherwise. Soldering pencils suck for everything - the tips are usually too chunky for Pedal PCB work. A proper station is the way to go. The only place I'd have a pencil is in a gig emergency kit because a station is too big/clunky. And those guns are horrible too (for the reason you mentioned - not very accurate as to solder placement or heating area).

Desolder pumps can be handy, but as an avid pedal builder, I find them not often specific enough for my needs, are able to get in close enough to where I need to remove solder from. In those instances, solder wick is your friend. Solder wick with a bit of liquid flux applied using a Q-tip is an especially good friend.
I use desoldering pumps on pedal PCBs, vero/tagboard, and P2P all the time; works great and quick. You don't have to be that close - clean it out for better suction or get a bigger one (more air volume = greater suction - that's why I said that above). Wick is a dick (so annoying to use - I threw mine out or used it for a ground wire or something).

I also keep some methyl hydrate on hand. One of the things that solder flux can do is form a shiny surface between adjacent joints that can make it harder to spot unintentional solder bridges. So if the board doesn't have tons of big open spaces, I like to take an old toothbrush with a bit of methyl hydrate and scrub the solder side of the board. It will dissolve the flux and allow spaces between solder joints and traces to be easily visible, and more amenable to visual trouble-shooting.
99% isopropyl alcohol also works and is easier to find/cheaper and what I use (get at any pharmacy; may have to ask for it at the counter - also good for cleaning electronics, tape heads, bongs, removing sticker residue etc). Phosphoric acid is another option (sold at garden centres as a ph adjuster for growers).

Very good points made by you and @Boogieman re solder cleaning sponges/brass thinger. Forgot to mention that. My life has been so much easier since I switched.
 

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I had/still have a cheap Radio Scrap pencil unit and burned more wires with that screw to hold the tip in, that's a pita.

I picked up a Weller WES51 station and couldn't be happier with the difference.
 

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This will interest you...

My son-in-law has a Hakko 888 (75 watts) and really likes it.
I have an old Weller (45 watts) that he used recently while visiting and
was quite frustrated with it...he admitted to being spoiled by his new Hakko.

Let us know what you decide to get.
 

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What a great response!
But what I'm learning is I need to step it up a notch or two! I've been using my wife's 60W stained glass iron, with a giant wedge tip, for everything inside guitars. Blobs on the back of pots melt almost instantly (unless you use a 12 gage copper wire for a ground, then nothing ever heats up! Lesson learned).
But I guess if I'm going to solder ICs and transistors and other delicate stuff I better get something good.
 

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View attachment 228144 I picked up one of these on amazon, so far so good.
That is a knockoff (or generic rebrand) of a lower end Stahl (the better of 2 models lower in the range than the analog one I recomended in my first post above). You can get the actual legit stahl for cheaper (<USD$20 at PartsExpress: "Stahl Tools STSSVT Variable Temperature Soldering Iron Station" from www.parts-express.com!).

Get the regulated model - that one is a pencil in a glorified holder. I paid the same price as that knockoff for the legit better model on sale.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
OK, decision made. I was thinking if the Stahl was good enough for Granny it would obviously be good enough for me. But the cheapest I could find it for shipped was $102.89 CAD. I found the Hakko on Amazon from the Canadian distributor for $140.00 shipped. So I figured for $40.00 difference, go big or go home. I will be an electronics hack with a Hakko...seems appropriate.

Thanks for all the input gentlemen and please continue the sidebar discussions. It is now painfully obvious, I have a SL to learn.

https://www.amazon.ca/FX888D-29BY-D...D=41jJ%2B-bRM2L&preST=_SX300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch
 

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It is now painfully obvious, I have a SL to learn.
Once you get you soldering station and all associated stuff for soldering, let us know how you are doing with actually trying to solder components together. Soldering ground wires to the back of a potentiometer is something worth practicing.

Watching a few of these will be helpful: soldering guitar electronics - YouTube
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Once you get you soldering station and all associated stuff for soldering, let us know how you are doing with actually trying to solder components together. Soldering ground wires to the back of a potentiometer is something worth practicing.

Watching a few of these will be helpful: soldering guitar electronics - YouTube
Many thanks greco. I could use all the help I can get.
 

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Aren't there some irons to avoid if working near magnets in pickups, for worry of demagnetizing them? Or is that not a thing?
That's what I've heard on youtube and read here:
Here’s a useful tip: DO NOT USE SOLDERING GUNS AROUND PICKUPS. Soldering Guns are so powerful that you can degauss, or de-mag your magnets in your pickups. We never use these – we always make sure we use a Soldering Pencil.​

Get Better At Soldering: 6 Tips & Tricks - Lindy Fralin Pickups
 

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I wouldn't use a soldering gun on a guitar if only because the high heat can result in big hot solder blobs at the end of the tip that can fall down like a droplet on the guitar and wreck the finish. As I noted earlier, as well, they're just not that specific. For work inside the control cavity, your soldering station will be best.

Note that the lead-free RoHS standard requires higher temperatures to melt solder. If you're making something for yourself, with 63/37 solder, then 30W may be just fine. If trying to repair something intended for international distribution, you'll need a hotter temperature, hence more wattage.

Also, it can often help to distribute heat more efficiently if you melt a bit of solder on the end of the tip before applying the tip to wherever you are trying to solder. It's like telling the unmelted solder "Hey, c'mon in. The water's fine!".
 

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