How to Use a Soldering Iron – A step-by-step guide

Master Appliance Soldering irons are exceptionally handy and indispensible tools. Professionals and hobbyists alike use soldering irons in various industries and applications. Most commonly, soldering irons are used in the electronic industry. Of course, before you begin a project with your soldering iron, you should know how to use a soldering iron properly and safely.

What is Soldering?

Soldering accomplishes a strong bond between two pieces of metal by joining them together. In this procedure, a material called solder, an alloy mixture of tin and lead, flows over two pre-heated pieces of metal and holds them together. The process is similar to welding but differs because when you weld you are fusing and melting two pieces together to make one. When you solder you are essentially ‘gluing’ two parts together with molten metal. Most metals with the exception of aluminum, white metal and porous cast iron can be soldered. Below, you will find instructions and illustrations that show you how to use a soldering iron.

Materials for Soldering 
Master Appliance Soldering Iron
Modeler’s Vise or Frame
Solder
Damp Sponge
Flux to remove oxides

Getting Started:

Soldering is an art form and to master the technique you’ll need to practice. Newcomers should consider practicing on scrap first before they are comfortable and know how to use a soldering iron.

1.     Prepare a work space. Lay down a mat or piece of cardboard that will catch any solder that you drip.

2.     Warm your soldering iron. If your soldering iron is electric, you’ll need to allow it to warm up on its stand. If your soldering iron runs on butane, as Master Appliance soldering irons do, fill it with gas holding the unit firmly with the refill nozzle pointed upwards and press down. Gas will overflow from nozzle when tank is full.

3.     Secure the items you are soldering. It helps to have an extra hand while you are soldering. We suggest using a vise or frame to secure your work.

4.     Clean your soldering iron. Because soldering irons get so hot, they oxidize and become dirty quickly. They key to reliable connections is clean components so make sure that your soldering tip and parts you are joining are clean. To accomplish this, pass the tip of your soldering iron on a wet sponge until it shines.

5.     Apply flux. In soldering it often becomes necessary to use materials called fluxes to help remove oxides and keep them absent while you solder. Flux needs to melt at a temperature lower than solder so that it can do its job prior to the soldering action. There are different methods to apply flux. The method you choose will be dependent on the items you are soldering.

6.     Tin your soldering iron. If you want to know everything there is to know about how to use a soldering iron, you’ll need to know how to tin. Tinning is the process of coating a soldering tip with a thin coat of solder. Melt a thin layer of solder on your iron’s tip. This aids in heat transfer between the tip and the component you are soldering, and also gives the solder a base from which to flow from.  This process may need to be repeated as you solder. You will only touch the tip of the soldering iron to the solder when you tin. Do not touch the tip of the iron to the solder while you are actually soldering.

7.     Start soldering. Hold the soldering iron like you would a pen in the hand you write with and the solder in the other.

8.     Place the tip of the soldering iron tip. The tip needs to touch both the wire lead and the surface so they achieve the same temperature. 

9.     Feed solder onto the joint after you have heated the area for two to three seconds. Touch the solder to the side of the connection opposite the soldering iron. Then, let the solder flow only until the connection is covered.

10.   Remove the solder first. Then, remove the iron. Make sure the joint remains stationary while it cools.

11.   Evaluate. A smooth, shiny and volcano shaped joint is what you are looking for. If this isn’t what you see, you’ll need to reheat and feed in more solder.

12.   Remove leftover flux with a commercial flux cleaner.

Using a heat sink

There are some components (i.e transistors) that can be damaged by the heat that soldering produces. If you are new to soldering, it’s good idea to use a heat sink clipped to the lead between the joint and the component’s body. A cheaper alternative is a standard crocodile clip.

Warnings soldering iron safety

  • DO NOT lay a soldering iron down on any surface. A soldering iron should either be placed on a stand or sealed with a heat resistant cap after every use. Note: Master Appliance's line of soldering irons is butane powered. All of our irons come with heat protective caps.
  • Soldering should be completed in a well ventilated area.
  • Lead is present in most solders. Be sure to wash your hands after your project, or better yet wear gloves.
  • The tip of a soldering iron is very hot. Contact with the tip of a soldering iron would result in a nasty burn.
  • Your soldering iron will perform better if kept clean. A damp sponge can be used to clean residue caused by flux material. A very small skim of flux should be applied to the iron after the cleaning. 

To be well educated on how to use a soldering iron, you will need to practice. Visit our blog often as we will continue to provide educational materials on heat tools and heat tool applications.