Soldering tips for the rest of us - The basics by an HL teacher This post is part of a new series of DIY maker blog posts by Curtis Soldano, a Hacker Lab teacher and community member.

Follow these basic rules to maximize your soldering skills and effectiveness:

1) Clean Your Tip! ...then clean it again. :)
2) Heat your target and count to 5 before applying solder;
3) Remember...You aren't trying to melt the solder directly, you are trying to get the solder to melt on the joint;
4) Less (solder) is More;
5) Avoid cold solder joints;

I teach a basic soldering for electronics class and I can't stress these points enough. Even if you are sure handed and experienced in soldering technique, not observing these  simple rules will prevent even the most skilled makers from achieving strong, effective and long lived solder joints.

1. Cleaning your tip ensures maximum efficiency of heat transfer and reduces impurities introduced into the solder joint, making the solder flow more easily
2. Once you begin heating the target area, wait 3-5 seconds before applying solder
3. Do not apply the solder directly to the tip (the first instinct of the uninitiated), rather heat the target first, then apply solder to the target
4. Slowly and judiciously apply solder until the pad and lead are both sufficiently covered, AVOID large blobs of solder as they can cross traces and short out your circuit
5) "Cold" solder joints are the result of joints not being fully stationary before they cool and harden, this is usually indicated by a matte grey appearance of a cold solder joint vs, a shiny silver appearance of a proper solder joint

Of course as you develop your technique and skill, you'll find these words are easier said than done. If you are finding you are having a particularly difficult solder joint, make sure you are observing these tips. If you want to go further, check out the Soldering for Electronics class at Hacker Lab.

About Curtis Soldano: 
Curtis Soldano is a long time technologist, tinkerer and maker who wants to share his excitement for using cool tech to make cool stuff. He has been with Hacker Lab since before the establishment of the mid-town location and has volunteered his time on many occasions to help grow Hacker Lab by providing elbow grease and skilled electrical maintenance and installations. Curtis’ educational foundation is in Digital Electronics and separately he attained his California State Electrical Contractor license in 2004 after apprenticing for his father in the family business for many years. Curtis’ also worked for over 20 years as producer for top tier tech and entertainment companies like EA, Disney, Atari, Playdom, E*TRADE, GSN and Sega.

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