“Having the right tool for the job,” are certainly seven words of wisdom in any field of work. When it comes to building drones, using the essential soldering tools is key.
Some folks may think, all you need is a good soldering iron… well, think again. There are several essential soldering tools, seven to be exact, to get the job done correctly and safely. In this article I’m covering my top seven essential soldering tools.
Soldering Iron | #1
The first one to cover is a soldering iron. Now when soldering, if you don’t use the proper amount of heat, or if you use the wrong type of tip, this can negatively affect the solder joint. Most “cold” solder joints will hold for while before breaking. This is caused by either not tinning before hand, or soldering wires together by heating one wire through another wire, instead of heating them individually. Cold solder joints will break over time. Depending on how bad the joint is, it can break within days or a few months. It just depends. Now since we work with drones, it’s best that these joints don’t break…ever. We use the X-Tronic 4000 Series soldering station. The main features include:
- Controllable temperature for iron and heat gun.
- Max. temp of 900 degrees F.
- Includes various tips for iron and heat gun.
- Fast heat-up sequence.
Let there be Light | #2
When soldering anything, you always want to be able to see what you’re soldering… makes sense, right? So we tend to use a good amount of lighting on our soldering station. Having significant light helps several things:
- Doesn’t strain your eyes.
- Allows illumination around the area you’re soldering to be sure the solder joint is done correctly.
- Extra light will reveal whether your solder joint was done with the proper amount of heat.
So how do you know when a solder joint was done properly? If the finish of the solder joint has a dull matte finish, then it’s a cold solder joint. If the joint is reflective with a mirror/chrome finish, then it’s a strong solder joint.
We use the Tad Tronics LED light. The main features we enjoy are:
- Three levels of lighting (bright, brighter, brightest).
- It’s an LED so doesn’t generate much heat.
- The light boom can tilt and raise up, so positioning the light in the correct spot is made easy.
Eye Safety | #3
If you enjoy keeping your eye balls in tact, with no molten metal shooting into them, then invest into a decent pair of safety glasses. It has not happened often, but when soldering large battery connectors, I’ve had solder shoot out, buzzing right past my eyes at 900 degrees F. If that solder were to hit your eye… it would be time to invest in an eye patch!
Safety is used everywhere in the aerial cinema industry. Always remember your P.P.E… Personal Protective Equipment!
Breathable Air | #4
Some of you may know, but believe it or not, solder fumes are toxic. There are several different carcinogens in different kinds of solder. Yes, carcinogens can cause cancer. So with that being said, it’s best to filter the fumes. Some guys think a fan on the desk is sufficient. We actually use a solder filter fan. The Aoyue 486 works great for us! Here are the advantages:
- Filters the solder smoke and removes the carcinogens, rather then spreading them around the room like a normal fan.
- The Aoyue fan pulls the smoke away from you, resulting in no smoke in your face. Plus, it won’t cool down your solder iron or solder joint like a normal fan that generates a constant breeze.
Four Arms are Better Than Two | #5
As you should know when soldering, you’re never to hold what you’re soldering, resulting in unburned fingers. You would use a “solder helper” which is a small device with two arms with alligator clips to hold wires or connectors while you solder. Sometimes two arms are not enough, so get a solder helper with more arms. We’ve been really happy with the Quad Hands.
With this solder helper, you’re able to bend the flex arms to various positions to hold a slew of wires or connectors. It really is a nice helper!
Connector Helper | #6
Years ago when I first started soldering, I used a solder helper or vice to hold my XT60 or EC5 connectors as I soldered them. There came several issues with this, first, a vice or alligator clip will not hold the connector well enough. The connectors could slip out which is dangerous. The main issue is the heat from the solder iron would transfer through the connector and into the vice or alligator clip, which would then create a cold solder joint. Bad news!
The guys over at Progressive RC have created a really handy soldering stand. They’ve made it out of a thermoplastic which can take some serious heat without melting it. It can hold a slew of connectors including XT60, XT90, Deans and EC2 – EC5+. Since the stand is made of a thermoplastic, heat will not transfer into it. This keeps all of the heat focused on your connector, preventing a cold solder joint.
Clean Tip | #7
I used to use a damp sponge to keep my solder iron tips clean. Three problems resulted, first I always needed to add more water to the sponge in addition to clearing it several times during long solder sessions. Second, when using a damp sponge, this cools the solder iron tip down considerably, resulting in cold solder joints. Thirdly, when cooling the tip down, the extreme temperature changes will ruin your tips much faster. So what’s the solution?
The final essential solder tool is the Hakko 599B Tip Cleaner. I’ve found that this device cleans the tip better then a sponge, while maintaining the tip’s temp. A win win for sure, and no more water!
I hope you guys have found these listed “essential soldering tools” to be helpful! If any of you have your own soldering tips worth sharing, be sure to comment below. Happy soldering!