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Give me a solder gun, and I can produce ...

Displaying poll results.
Nothing useful, to a first order approximation.
  2222 votes / 8%
Clumsy but workable solder joins.
  7254 votes / 28%
Competent, clean, but not beautiful joins.
  7460 votes / 29%
Prettier joins than I see in my OEM equipment.
  2750 votes / 10%
I solder BGA connections for fun, blindfolded.
  676 votes / 2%
An elaborate series of burns (on self/furniture).
  5175 votes / 20%
25537 total votes.
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Give me a solder gun, and I can produce ...

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @11:08AM (#40385497)

    third degree burns

    • I burn myself every time I solder. I tried to repair a mouse I had where the wires came loose on the inside and I burnt myself about 4 times and probably ruined the board so I just threw it all out lol.
      • by petes_PoV (912422) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @12:52PM (#40386973)

        I burn myself every time I solder.

        Quick tip: try grabbing the other end of the soldering iron - the end that the power cable comes out of.

    • by The Grim Reefer (1162755) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @12:47PM (#40386895)

      third degree burns

      It's the last choice:"An elaborate series of burns (on self/furniture)."

      Unless you're some kind of nut job and meant third degree burns on other people.

  • It's Art! (Score:4, Funny)

    by alphabet26 (534873) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @11:09AM (#40385501)
    You call it slag, I call it art!
    • Re:It's Art! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by HappyHead (11389) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @02:16PM (#40388039)

      Back in highschool, I got an A on an art project that was composed entirely of solder melted and shaped with a soldering iron, and then polished up nice and shiney and sprayed with varnish. It was a . . . you know, I _made_ it, and even I'm not sure what it was, but the teacher liked it. It happened because I had a giant pile of solder, and after I fixed the circuit board for a toy gun that was supposed to make "Zzzap!" noises, but was only making "click" noises instead, I got bored and started seeing how high I could get the pile of molten drops to stick together. Then I made more little towers, linked them together, added cross-bridges, and before I knew it, I had to go out and buy my father a new roll of solder, which he still has, unopened.

  • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @11:12AM (#40385551)
    Steve Ciarcia, (of Circuit Cellar [circuitcellar.com] fame) when asked what his favorite programming language was, replied "solder".
  • I've never been a really good solderer, but there are a few of them around our office. I did improve quite a bit when one guy showed me a few things, and now I can usually do decent joins for large/medium wires and connections. I'm still blown away by some of our peoples' ability to solder surface-mount components and those little ICs with a bazillion connections per millimeter without making a huge mess and cross-connecting everything.

    • by kaladorn (514293) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @11:18AM (#40385629) Homepage Journal

      You can do much better work with a high quality soldering station. Good temperature range, temperature control, and a fine point on your iron will compliment good technique.

      Soldering surface mount stuff is a bit more finicky.

      I always liked wave soldering as a neat scientific application.

      • You can do much better work with a high quality soldering station.

        ... with a binocular microscope as a must. You can do amazing things with the right iron and microscope.

        • by solidraven (1633185) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @03:29PM (#40389431)
          After a while you don't need a microscope any more. And most EE students end up having to solder a few PCBs per week.
          By the end of the first semester I was capable of soldering 176 pin TQFPs without any magnification easily. Smaller SMD components require a few tricks. If you're lazy you can always resort to soldering paste combined with a hot air soldering iron. You need to learn two things: that you should always use leaded solder (seriously, the new lead-free stuff is useless) and how to do fine movements with a large soldering iron.
          Soldering a BGA without a reflow oven is rather tricky though, done it a few times for small ones. You need to drill holes through the board where the pads are, add solder paste and tape the IC on the board in the correct position. Next attach a fine copper wire to the soldering iron (or gun) and prod it through the small holes you drilled. It tends to do the jobs pretty well if you're careful enough. But forget about doing more than 20 pins that way :(
          • by Zordak (123132) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @05:15PM (#40390993) Homepage Journal

            And most EE students end up having to solder a few PCBs per week. By the end of the first semester I was capable of soldering 176 pin TQFPs without any magnification easily.

            What EE program were you in where you soldered several PCBs per week, starting your first semester? My first semester was Physics/Calculus/GE throwaway classes and a one-hour "Intro to Engineering" class. Most of the rest of my classes were math, more math, and yet more math. Even in our labs we mostly used bread boards so we could re-use parts. The only time we soldered anything was big semester-end projects and Senior Design.

      • by mhajicek (1582795)
        Surface mount stuff is tricky, but with a little practice not too bad. I did several for some prototype boards which turned out well.
        • SMD is easier than through hole I'd say. You just need to put the components on in the right order :)
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @12:42PM (#40386849)

        You can do much better work with a high quality soldering station. Good temperature range, temperature control, and a fine point on your iron will compliment good technique.

        And soldering stations are much cheaper than they used to be. Gone are the days when a hot air rework station cost $500. If you're willing to compromise a bit on principle, Chinese knock-offs can be had Stateside through reputable channels for $200 or so, and will contain everything you need to work with through-hole or surface mount technologies. (OK, so the BGA would be pushing it, but just about everything else is doable.)

        My advice for anyone unsatisfied with their solder skills - practice on expendable gear. There's spare electronic junk everywhere. Next time, before you throw out that old radio, CD player, or PC, take some parts off, and put them back on. See if it still works. If it works, try another part or two, maybe a chip. If it lets the magic smoke out, you've lost nothing, because it was going to Calculator Heaven anyways.

        Spend a weekend or two at it, and you'll have as good a parts selection of basic resistors and capacitors as Radio Shack. Utterly uneconomical ROI for the time you'd put into it vs. what a grab-bag of parts would cost to order, but absolutely worth it if you want to build your skills for the time when you need to fix something.

        Most of the time, electronic faults are caused by crappy soldering at the factory, or by solder joints that have broken due to rough handling (like that iPod that landed on its headphone jack while it was plugged in.) A $20-30 iron with a clean sharp tip, and you're up and running in 30 minutes - 20 to open the thing without scratching or breaking it, 5 to resolder the broken connector, and 5 to put it back together again.

        • by mk1004 (2488060) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @01:34PM (#40387503)

          Most of the time, electronic faults are caused by crappy soldering at the factory, or by solder joints that have broken due to rough handling (like that iPod that landed on its headphone jack while it was plugged in.) A $20-30 iron with a clean sharp tip, and you're up and running in 30 minutes - 20 to open the thing without scratching or breaking it, 5 to resolder the broken connector, and 5 to put it back together again.

          Absolutely. I just fixed a friend's TV. It looked like a power supply problem, opened the back of the TV, and there was a large electrolytic cap with two ugly solder blobs on the terminals. Hit them with a soldering iron and the TV was back in operation. A few years back I repaired the power connector on a laptop--repeated pressure on the connector from the power adapter's plug had broken the solder joints. A guy I worked with some years back said he had repaired three items, a garage door opener and a couple of other items I don't remember. All he did was reflow the solder joints on each PCB.

          I still think that we haven't seen the tip of the iceberg as far as failures resulting from the switch to lead-free solder is concerned. Getting good solder joints when you run a batch of boards through IR reflow is as much art as science, and the switch shook things up a lot more than most people know.

    • by Ruie (30480) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @07:30PM (#40392183) Homepage
      There is a trick for soldering fine pitch cases like MSOP or TQFP: just soak it all nice in solder without worrying too much about bridges. You want to make sure that enough solder gets between the pins and pads. Then use copper braid to soak all the extra solder off. In a way, you are just giving your part a localized solder bath. Make sure to use large tip for your iron - at least a few mm or a knife.
  • I built a 4 band ham radio that fits in an altoids tin. All surface mount parts. All soldered one by one. Requires: A good iron with a good tip (appropriately sized). Quality solder. A steady hand. Good vision (and magnification). Patience
  • Welding! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @11:42AM (#40385979)

    Puny solderites! I connect things with REAL heat!

    captcha: weakness. Lol.

  • Metcal - the way to go. Hakko if you don't have the money.
    • Re:Metcal (Score:5, Informative)

      by CaptainLard (1902452) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @02:59PM (#40388829)
      Gahh, give me a weller any day. Have you seen the WD2000M? You can hot swap tips with no tools or gloves. It knows when you're holding the iron and when its in the cradle and cools it when its not in use. It even has a password function to keep people from using it!

      But the best part are the fine tip tweezers. They let you pick up 0402's (even 0201's if you're careful) and place them down and they're soldered just like that! Maybe metcal has something similar nowadays but I tend to stay away from the black monolith.

  • by Lumpy (12016)

    Hot air rework station... The badge of a real Hardware hacker.... anyone else is just a n00b.

    • by Verdatum (1257828)
      Being a software guy by day, I hadn't heard of this until now....Now I really want one.
      • by Lumpy (12016)

        You can find them on the used market for reasonable prices. Watch Ebay. I got mine for around $350 and was like new after a couple of cheap replacement parts.

        And once you use one, you will NEVER go back to the old ways..

        Also get yourself a set of hot tweezers.... Suddenly old PC motherboards are a parts smorgasboard.

  • by Xerxes314 (585536) <clebsch_gordan@yahoo.com> on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @12:22PM (#40386563)
    Back in my grad student days, we saved the early hardware for our supercomputer (a BlueGene precursor) by programming and soldering an EEPROM to every daughterboard. On a massively parallel machine, that was quite an undertaking, and given that we were all *theoretical* physicists, it was kind of a miracle that the thing worked when we were done.
    • by OzPeter (195038)

      Back in my grad student days ...

      Back further in the days we used wire-wrap. None of that fancy solder stuff for us.

      • by Cosgrach (1737088)

        Yeah, I've done a bunch of wire wrap as well. Oh the joy of it all.

        • by rah1420 (234198)

          Wire wrap is okay until you're doing a logic board and find flakeys as the little end pieces break off and make intermittent shorts across the pins. Double plus unfun to tweeze those bastards out of there.

  • by Prune (557140) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @12:57PM (#40387047)
    You can get a hot air soldering station with a few attachments for around $120 on eBay. Fantastic for surface mount stuff. A preheater makes rework even easier and you can find one for under $100 on eBay (keeps the board temp around 80*C or so which makes the hot air tool achieve melt faster). Of course, if you're starting with an empty unpopulated PCB, the toaster oven method is the hobbyist's best friend.
  • by ackthpt (218170) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @01:08PM (#40387177) Homepage Journal

    So many times in my youth I'd be so fixated on the work I was doing, following the schematic, routing leads, busses and cables. Often late into the night .. to the point I really should have set things aside for a good examination in the morning, with a well rested brain. Usually this would become clear when I'd miss the soldering pen rest and use my own hand for it. I have the scars, some really big ones, to show for it.

    Also, don't fling solder blobs, you never know where they'll land, particularly when wearing flip-flops.

  • by Cosgrach (1737088) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @01:19PM (#40387293)

    My soldering is quite good - nearly up to MIL Spec. Good tools, steady hands, good magnification (on the small stuff) and good solder. It's amazing just how much the solder alloy and flux makes a huge difference when soldering.

    For the most part, I say 'Stuff the RoHS compliance" on crap like use only lead-free solder and components. Solder without lead is totally CRAP. There is a good article on the lead free solder issues: http://www.sigcon.com/Pubs/news/10_01.htm [sigcon.com]

    • by strikethree (811449) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @03:26PM (#40389377) Journal

      You are correct: a soldering iron that has consistent and controllable heat is super important. So is the type of solder and so is the quality of the flux. Those three items, with a generic magnifying/light lens is all that is needed for a skilled person to do a magnificent job of soldering.

      Personal anecdote: I used to work at a company called SCI who were contracted by Apple to build some of their computers. Boards that had a failed CPU on them would need to have a new CPU hand soldered on. IIRC the powerpc 601 had 300+ pins (360 I think) and I could do a perfect hand solder in under 30 seconds. Under microscope inspection, each joint was perfect without excess solder or bridging between legs.

      Was it all skill? Hell no. It was having the right equipment: highest quality soldering iron, flux, and solder. There was some skill involved because some people could not do it, but it was all about the tools.

    • by AbRASiON (589899) *

      Slashdot is full of nerds and gamers - and those of us who are gamers are well aware how shitty RoHS lead free solder is, you need only ask Microsoft. - god only knows how much having to be compliant cost them with the 360.

  • In school for a project we needed to use a chip that was only available in QFP packaging. 144 pins, 0.5mm pitch. One of my teammates soldered the chip free hand and checked the connections with a microscope. We had to build two boards and impressively both chips worked perfectly.
  • When I was a lad ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SpinyNorman (33776) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @02:10PM (#40387935)

    .. when I bought my first home computer in 1978 (a 1MHz Z80-based NASCOM 1) it came as a bare motherboard and a bag of chips (ICs, not potato) and you had to build it yourself.

    Then we memorized the Z80 assembler op codes and wrote programs directly in hex, poking those codes into the chips we'd just soldered in.

    And we liked it like that.

    • by Rinnon (1474161) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @03:53PM (#40389867)

      .. when I bought my first home computer in 1978 (a 1MHz Z80-based NASCOM 1) it came as a bare motherboard and a bag of chips (ICs, not potato) and you had to build it yourself.

      Then we memorized the Z80 assembler op codes and wrote programs directly in hex, poking those codes into the chips we'd just soldered in.

      And we liked it like that.

      So it was "Some assembly required" then, eh?

    • by BlueStrat (756137)

      .. when I bought my first home computer in 1978 (a 1MHz Z80-based NASCOM 1) it came as a bare motherboard and a bag of chips (ICs, not potato) and you had to build it yourself.

      Mine was an Altair 8800 kit.

      Ah, the glory days, eh? :)

      Strat

    • by rah1420 (234198)

      When I was a kid we used to carve our own ICs out of wood.

  • Solder "gun"? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by John Hasler (414242) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @02:22PM (#40388143) Homepage

    I've been soldering for nearly 60 years, but "passable" is the best I can manage with one of those horrid things. Give me a fine-tipped temperature-controlled soldering iron, on the other hand...

  • I'll produce prettier joins than I see in my OEM equipment - but only because I'll use real solder (with lead in) and the OEMs don't any more.
    • by treeves (963993) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @06:31PM (#40391815) Homepage Journal

      PB = peanut butter , Pb = lead. I avoid solder with peanut butter in it.

      • PB = peanut butter , Pb = lead. I avoid solder with peanut butter in it.

        But I'm sure it tastes better! Given that I always solder in my kitchen (mostly for lack of a suitable non-crammed surface otherwise), I guess I should try the peanut butter variant some day...

    • by Fishead (658061)

      At a previous job we had some custom build night navigation camera equipment that was supposedly high end. I had to open a controller once because it was acting up and I nearly died at the poor quality of construction. For wires, they had used a piece of ribbon cable plugged into a PCB, then split the individual conductors off the ribbon and connected them where necessary. The solder "blobs" were almost all cold joints or had spikes protruding from the sides. I was appalled that I was supposed to integr

  • Seriously? Solder GUN? Like telling a dentist to do a root canal with a machete...

  • Cowboy Neal!

  • by OzPeter (195038) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @04:48PM (#40390617)

    For some reason Americans like mangling the pronunciation of good old fashioned, decent words (like how herb is pronounced erb) .
     
    Generally there is a reason for this (although sometimes the choice seems arbitrary - Grand Prix vs Coupe - both french derived, yet pronounced in different manners), so I am looking to be educated as to why Americans pronounce "Solder" as "Sodder". Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] doesn't give much help on the subject.

  • Pick two? (Score:5, Funny)

    by tompaulco (629533) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @04:52PM (#40390661) Homepage Journal
    My response would fit two categories:
    Clumsy but workable solder joins. and
    Prettier joins than I see in my OEM equipment.
  • by BorgAssimilator (1167391) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @05:52PM (#40391469)
    I once soldered a molex connector on a hard drive using a lighter. It worked, I just singed the board a bit....

    Because of this, I selected "Clumsy but workable solder joins." otherwise I would have put "Nothing useful"
  • a pool of solder on the table/circuit board, completely detached from the items attempting to be soldered.

  • A long time ago ... I soldered together most of four IMASI 8080 kits for the computer lab at school. We added resistors to the S100 backplanes to cut down on signal reflection. Processor boards, memory cards. I/O cards. It was the last days of TTL on earth.
  • by BlueStrat (756137) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @07:26PM (#40392165)

    ...To build my own vacuum tube guitar amps like this one?

    http://i62.photobucket.com/albums/h103/stratman_el84/Testament%2030/pict0002.jpg [photobucket.com]

    http://i62.photobucket.com/albums/h103/stratman_el84/Testament%2030/pict0005.jpg [photobucket.com]

    http://i62.photobucket.com/albums/h103/stratman_el84/Testament%2030/pict0016.jpg [photobucket.com]

    http://i62.photobucket.com/albums/h103/stratman_el84/Testament%2030/cabhead02.jpg [photobucket.com]

    It produces about 30 watts from a pair of cathode-biased KT66s operating at about 430VDC plate voltage, that are driven by a parallel-triode preamp stage and a long-tailed-pair type phase inverter/driver. Sounds better than most production amps until you get into the high-dollar "boutique" stuff. Cost was about $500 total including the pine speaker cab and Celestion G12T-75 speakers.

    Just to keep my geek card current, in that last pic, on the floor to the left, is a fully operational SGI monitor and SGI Octane hiding behind the collapsible foot stool. I pull them out and fire the Octane up every once in a while.

    Strat

  • Actually, I was one of those weird folks who preferred a ColdHeat iron and could do art with it.

    Not so great with a hot iron, oddly.
    • by Osgeld (1900440)

      I always pointed out in the commercial that the stupid thing would arch when they were soldering a piece of jewelry, I am not an ESD freak normally, but I dont want to arch weld sensitive components either. The powered tip is the worst thing ever devised for electronic work.

  • by EdIII (1114411) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @02:04AM (#40394979)

    I did give myself and elaborate series of burns on one occasion.

    When I was 19 I messed around with a soldering gun in my garage and happened to be naked. Don't ask me why, it's not like it was the first or last time, or that I am the only person to constantly find himself naked after getting stoned. Yeah.. I'm one of those people at the party that loses their pants.

    Anyways....

    I'm sitting there and just soldering crap to other crap and become absolutely fascinated with the molten solder. The way it shines and pools around on the table.. so beautiful.. so memorizing... so holy-fucking-shit-thats-hot.

    The solder ran down off the table, and because I was jammed super close to the table, down my chest, down my stomach, across my penis, over my balls, down my legs, etc.

    Obviously anywhere the solder touched became hairless (instantly) and left these wonderful bright bright pink lines on my body. It was a not-so-temporary-but-no-permanent tattoo.

    Always solder while sober kids.

  • Or with a screw driver

    The three major threats to a system are:
    3) A programmer with a screwdriver
    2) A technician with a patch
    1) A user with an idea.

  • by ArhcAngel (247594) on Friday June 22, 2012 @11:52AM (#40412439)
    I worked for a shop that remanufactured Electronic Control Units (ECM) for GM. They had just switched from the old PCB's to the new at the time SMT. The design engineers crafted a PCB that fit snugly into as small an aluminum box as they could to save material cost. Once a PCB was completed it was dipped in a specially designed type of rubber cement as a waterproofing agent. This film also added several mm to the overall size of the PCB which meant the PCB became a little too snug when shoved into the now too small aluminum box. This meant the PCB was always slightly flexed. Put a flexed SMT PCB in a moving object prone to vibration and viola...it's a cold solder joint party. I got so good at soldering J-Hook IC's that year I seriously could have done it blindfolded. There were some unhappy Corvette and Iroc-Z owners that year for sure.

"A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." -- William James

 



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