Soldering is Easy – comic

We’re in Reykjavík this week, and met up on our arrival with some of the guys from HakkavéIin (The Hack Machine), who spent the evening demonstrating just how great Icelanders are. Board games in an independent cinema foyer, very large langoustines, microbrew and debates about the command line: what could be better?

I spent a lot of the evening talking to the most excellent Andie Nordgren. Andie is a technical producer at CCP games, and she’s also one of the team behind a very handy instructional comic about soldering. Click the image to download a pdf of the whole seven pages. It’s a great visual reference and a cool thing to put on the wall; you can also use it as an educational tool, encouraging kids to colour in resistors…and to do some soldering. Thanks Andie!


RaTTuS avatar

I hope you did not have too much rotted shark.

liz avatar

I tried some hakarl a few years ago, when my little bro brought it back from a trip to Iceland. I’m avoiding it like the plague this time.

Chris avatar

That’s really cool! Despite soldering regularly for the last few years, I never realised that it was the lead-free solder that was eating through my soldering iron tips!

krowki avatar

Wow! Thanks for great resource :) I’m thinking about to start my adventure with soldering :)

David Kindred avatar

Very nicely done! I will share this with my sons.

Tony avatar

Brilliant cartoon, so very thorough! , I spent over 15 years soldering for a living. The only things I would add is that a small piece of solder left on the iron helps keep to clean between soldering items. Also after wiping on the damp sponge, add a tiny bit of solder to the tip before putting the iron on the pad and lead.
If you want to solder more than one thing at a time you can hold them (and other fiddly things) onto the PCB with a silicone (A high temperature) sponge pressed against the components. I found a suitable one in a DIY store general section. As long as you don’t keep the iron for too long it will not damage the sponge.
If you are doing any volume of soldering I can’t stress how much better a temperature controlled iron is, especially if are soldering in things which are very small / very large or delicate.
A small desk fan on lowest speed can be very useful to gently blow the fumes away from your eyes and lungs and try and have a window open.

Smári McCarthy avatar

“Hakkavélin” means “The Hack Machine”, but also “The Mincer”… we mince ideas and make new ones. Copymixing is a sacred kind of copying. :-)

Thanks for a fun night out, hope the rest of your stay is excellent.

usver avatar

Parents – prepare to buy new motherboards for your home PCs in case your kids take this comic too seriously ;)

Neil avatar

Not a bad start, but a number of errors or omissions that could have been avoided.

– Long-nose pliers are essential for safely bending component leads. if you don’t support the lead before the body you can stress the lead-component joint to the point where it could fail. Bonus points if you use round-nose pliers to minimise nicking of the leads.

– Leaded solder comes in two versions: the cheaper 60/40 and the slightly better 63/37. The 63/37 is easier to use and achieve more consistent joints as it is truly eutectic, so there is no plastic phase as it cools. The cheaper 60/40 stuff has a plastic phase on cooling, and if the joint moves in that time then you’ll get a cold joint.

– Lead-free solder fluxes are about as dangerous as those for leaded solder, so no need to give such a negative scary message about lead-free solder.

– Banging PCBs on the desk to get rid of excess solder is DANGEROUS and STUPID!!!!! Or perhaps folks like getting molten solder in their eyes/hands/legs??

If you want to learn soldering, try these vintage videos from Pace:


Peter Green avatar

“Banging PCBs on the desk to get rid of excess solder is DANGEROUS and STUPID!!!!! Or perhaps folks like getting molten solder in their eyes/hands/legs??”
In my experiance with banging boards on the desk the solder ends up either splattered accorss the board (bad) or on the desk (good), I certainly can’t see how you’d end up with it in your eye doing that unless you did something really stupid.

Think about momentum and move stuff accordingly and don’t try to forciblly a joint where you are struggling to melt the solder, that can send solder flying in your face when it suddenly melts and seperates (this happened to me once when desoldering some battery clamps from a charger and burnt my eyelid).

Neil avatar

What’s wrong with a desolder pump or braid? Molten solder on my ESD workmat that covers my desk? Umm…no thanks.

Jim Peacock avatar

Great post this, bizarrely one of my favourites – I’d like to see the learning resources of the Raspberry Pi Foundation grow to include stuff like this so I can forget about it now and know I can find it here later…

SN avatar

Good little guide – in my very first job for the long gone ICL they threw me in the wiring school to teach me how to solder chips on and off pcb’s – nearly 30 years later its probably the ONLY skill I learned from back then that I still use on a regular basis – there’s not much call for paper tape reader setup or 2900 Assembler skills these days…. :-(

Jardiamj avatar

Jiss! What a good timing guys. My soldering kit from SparkFun is about to arrive today.
This instructional will be just perfect to get me started on this.

Bryan Crotaz avatar

Top right corner of page 7, snips dotted outline is upside down – you’ll end up with lots of long leads if you do it this way!

psergiu avatar

Safety tip #2 …
It all begins to make sense now :-)

reiuyi avatar

I don’t have a sponge.. I bang my soldering iron on an old piece of wood and the flakes of tin fly off :D

I’m actually serious. I only use €5 soldering irons so I really am not bothered by how oxidized it gets.

Very good tutorial overall. It’s a bit of a pity they didn’t show how you can tape components on your board when you solder it. Soldering components with very short leads (like IC sockets) can be incredibly frustrating if you don’t use like masking tape to hold it tight while you flip over the board

covex avatar

When I started soldering we were using sodering iron like this one to solder components that were 10 times biger than those today and colophonium in the can as a resin. Things are changing…

And for desoldering you may use sucker, to suck of the melted solder. For those with not that good eyes and only two hands, it’s also useful to get the helping hand with magnifiing glass.

Stewart Watkiss avatar

Good, except for a couple of points:

1/ All solder is now lead-free thanks to the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive – which took effect in 2006. If you have old solder that still has lead in it then probably best to dispose of it and buy new (check regulations for disposal process for lead).

2/ I’ve never done the banging a PCB against a table. Personally I’d recommend a desoldering tool which is not particularly expensive.

Still it makes a good job of removing the fear from soldering.

JamesH avatar

1) For hobby use I’d stick with the old solder – easier to use. Not sure anyone is bothered about RoHS at the hobby level.

liz avatar

A lot of us still have a stash of the old leaded solder for hobby use. No way in hell I’m disposing of mine.

pSiMann avatar

Liz, I am coming for your solder….. Thanks for the excellent comic. My son had a giggle fit over safety tip #2.

Nicolas_Ambrose avatar

I’ve still got rolls from 40 years ago–thin solder, thick solder, acid core (yikes!) and everything else under the sun. I use it regularly, so stay away from my stash!

Stewart Watkiss avatar

I prefer leaded solder, but haven’t used it for a long time. Once you get used to the lead-free stuff it’s not too bad. Whilst the European Directive is for commercial uses the reason for it is that lead is obviously toxic, both for whilst handling, but also when disposed of and it enters the eco system through rubbish tips. Whilst hobby electronics enthusiasts do not have the same exposure as in a commercial environment and the amounts are much smaller than when making thousands of products I’d still try and avoid the stuff where you don’t need to.

You can still buy from commercial suppliers (eg. Farnell), but I don’t believe that hobby suppliers sell the stuff anymore (eg. Maplin)

reiuyi avatar

Is this a UK law? I’ve never seen lead-free tin in local electronics stores before. A while back I bought the regular 60/40 stuff as always. If this is really some silly UK law, I’m convinced you can buy the easier solder on ebay from mainland Europe for a couple of euros.

Neil avatar

I think you need to do some more reading. The European directives that the UK turns into RoHS have a variety of exclusions pertaining to the use of leaded solder, mainly to do with high-reliability products (medical, military, telecoms). It is also used in maintaining existing electronics systems since you cannot mix the two types.

You can still buy leaded solder from all the main suppliers (Farnell, RS, Rapid, Maplin, etc) and it is still being manufactured. So no need to panic buy.

What you cannot use leaded solder for is *new* electronics put onto the market (important point…you can still use it for development use) not in the excluded list. So TVs, RasPis, mobile phones, computers, etc.

That said, once you get the hang of it it’s not that bad to solder with, although leaded is definitely easier.

with. Its thwe long-term tin-whisker tliability issue that

Tom avatar

Stewart, lead solder ist still allowed for repairs or your hobby.
There’s no need to dispose your old tin-lead, RoHS is just for the industry and new products.

HangFire avatar

Absolutely superb.

Just the style you are looking for, even if it might need a safety
appendix to satify the points raised here. :-)

Martin avatar

NASA has an excellent guide for soldering:
see section 6

Alan avatar

An excellent comic, though I too take umbrage with the bit about banging the board on the bench to remove excess solder. If you don’t have a solder sucker or wick to hand then turn the board upside down and reheat the joint with the iron and get the excess to run back down onto the iron where you can wipe it off onto the sponge.

I keep an antique typewriter cleaning brush, which has very short dense bristles. After soldering and lead clipping I always give my boards a good stiff brushing with it to remove any flecks of solder or scraps of lead that may have been left behind.

After I had been soldering for about 25 years I finally shelled out for a temperature controlled iron with changeable bits, best thing I ever did. I cannot believe that I put up with the $15 types for so long.

beautifulsmall avatar

soldering needs practice, mine was on tag board , kids now have old mobile phones to hack, soon there will be no leaded resistors or vero, only 0603 , get used to it. buy a 10x stereo microscope and you will never regret it. When you can see at 10x an iron tip like a cows leg can be used .

Nathan avatar

Dave Jones over at EEVblog put together a really good 3 part tutorial on how to solder that covers everything from the tools to soldering SMD components. It’s perfect for someone who has never done any soldering before and needs some guidance on what to buy and the basics.

Part 1 – Tools:
Part 2 – Basic Soldering:
Part 3 – Surface Mount:

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