How to do manual soldering?

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Introduction to Soldering

Soldering is a process of joining two or more metal components together by melting and applying a filler metal (solder) into the joint. The solder has a lower melting point than the base metals being joined, allowing it to create a strong electrical and mechanical bond without damaging the components. Manual soldering is a valuable skill for anyone involved in electronics, from hobbyists to professionals, as it enables the creation, repair, and modification of electronic circuits.

In this comprehensive Soldering Guide, we will cover the fundamentals of manual soldering, including the tools and materials required, safety precautions, and step-by-step instructions for various soldering techniques.

Essential Tools and Materials for Soldering

To begin your soldering journey, you will need the following tools and materials:

Soldering Iron

A soldering iron is the most essential tool for manual soldering. It consists of a heated metal tip that melts the solder and a handle for holding the tool. Soldering irons come in various wattages, with higher wattage irons heating up faster and maintaining a more consistent temperature. For most electronic soldering tasks, a 30-60 watt soldering iron is sufficient.

Soldering Iron Tips

Soldering iron tips come in different shapes and sizes to accommodate various soldering tasks. Some common tip types include:

Tip Type Description Uses
Conical Pointed tip with a circular cross-section Precise soldering, reaching tight spaces
Chisel Flat, blade-like tip Soldering larger components, desoldering
Bevel Angled, flat tip Drag soldering, SMD soldering


Solder is a metal alloy that typically consists of tin and lead. However, due to health and environmental concerns, lead-free solder alloys are becoming more common. Solder comes in various diameters, with thinner solder (e.g., 0.5mm) being better suited for smaller components and more precise work, while thicker solder (e.g., 1.0mm) is better for larger components and stronger joints.


Flux is a chemical cleaning agent that removes oxidation from metal surfaces and helps the solder flow more easily. Flux comes in paste, liquid, or pen form and can be applied directly to the joint before soldering. Some solder wires have a flux core, which eliminates the need for a separate flux application.

Soldering Iron Stand

A soldering iron stand holds the hot soldering iron safely when not in use, preventing accidental burns and damage to surfaces.

Sponge or Brass Wool

A damp sponge or brass wool is used to clean the soldering iron tip between uses, removing excess solder and oxidation.

Safety Equipment

Soldering involves high temperatures and potential exposure to fumes, so it’s essential to use appropriate safety equipment, such as:

  • Safety glasses to protect your eyes from solder splashes
  • A well-ventilated work area or a fume extractor to minimize exposure to solder fumes
  • Heat-resistant gloves or finger guards to prevent burns

Preparing for Soldering

Before you start soldering, follow these steps to ensure a safe and successful soldering experience:

  1. Set up your work area in a well-ventilated space, away from flammable materials.
  2. Ensure your soldering iron is clean and tinned (coated with a thin layer of solder).
  3. Secure the components to be soldered using helping hands, clamps, or tape to prevent them from moving during the soldering process.
  4. Apply flux to the joint if using separate flux.

Basic Soldering Techniques

Tinning the Soldering Iron Tip

Tinning the soldering iron tip helps improve heat transfer and protects the tip from oxidation. To tin the tip:

  1. Heat the soldering iron to its operating temperature (typically between 300-400°C).
  2. Clean the tip using a damp sponge or brass wool.
  3. Apply a small amount of solder to the tip, allowing it to melt and coat the tip evenly.
  4. Wipe off any excess solder on the sponge or brass wool.

Through-Hole Soldering

Through-hole soldering involves soldering components with leads that pass through holes in a printed circuit board (PCB). To perform through-hole soldering:

  1. Insert the component leads through the appropriate holes in the PCB.
  2. Bend the leads slightly to hold the component in place.
  3. Place the soldering iron tip against the component lead and the pad simultaneously.
  4. Apply solder to the joint, allowing it to melt and flow around the lead and pad.
  5. Remove the solder and the soldering iron, and let the joint cool.
  6. Trim the excess lead as close to the joint as possible.

Surface Mount Soldering

Surface mount soldering involves soldering components directly onto the surface of a PCB without through-holes. Surface mount components (SMDs) are smaller and require more precision than through-hole components. To perform surface mount soldering:

  1. Apply a small amount of solder paste or flux to the pads on the PCB.
  2. Place the SMD component onto the pads using tweezers.
  3. Touch the soldering iron tip to the component lead and the pad simultaneously.
  4. Apply a small amount of solder to the joint, allowing it to melt and flow around the lead and pad.
  5. Remove the solder and the soldering iron, and let the joint cool.


Desoldering is the process of removing solder from a joint to separate components or correct soldering errors. There are two main methods for desoldering:

  1. Desoldering Wick:
  2. Place the desoldering wick (a braided copper wire) over the joint.
  3. Heat the wick with the soldering iron, allowing the solder to melt and be absorbed into the wick.
  4. Remove the soldering iron and the wick, and let the joint cool.

  5. Desoldering Pump (Solder Sucker):

  6. Heat the joint with the soldering iron until the solder melts.
  7. Quickly place the desoldering pump nozzle near the joint and press the release button to suck up the molten solder.
  8. Remove the soldering iron and the desoldering pump, and let the joint cool.

Soldering Safety and Best Practices

To ensure a safe and successful soldering experience, follow these guidelines:

  1. Always wear safety glasses and work in a well-ventilated area.
  2. Keep the soldering iron in its stand when not in use.
  3. Avoid touching the soldering iron tip or the newly soldered joint, as they will be extremely hot.
  4. Clean the soldering iron tip regularly to maintain its performance and longevity.
  5. Use the appropriate solder and flux for your specific application.
  6. Inspect your soldered joints for quality and consistency, looking for a shiny, concave appearance and good coverage of the component leads and pads.

Troubleshooting Common Soldering Issues

Issue Cause Solution
Cold joint Insufficient heat, poor contact, or contaminated surfaces Reheat the joint, ensuring good contact and cleanliness
Bridging Excess solder creating an unintended connection between adjacent pads Use solder wick or a solder sucker to remove the excess solder
Dry joint Insufficient flux or solder, or movement during cooling Reapply flux and solder, and ensure the joint remains still while cooling
Overheated joint Excessive heat or prolonged contact with the soldering iron Use a lower temperature or shorter contact time, and allow the joint to cool before moving the component

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. What is the difference between lead and lead-free solder?

Lead solder contains a mixture of tin and lead, while lead-free solder is typically made of tin, copper, and silver. Lead-free solder has a higher melting point and requires slightly different soldering techniques, but it is safer for human health and the environment.

2. How often should I replace my soldering iron tip?

Soldering iron tips should be replaced when they become worn, pitted, or deformed. The lifespan of a tip depends on factors such as usage frequency, soldering temperature, and the type of solder used. On average, a well-maintained tip can last for several months to a year.

3. Can I use a regular solder for surface mount soldering?

While it is possible to use regular solder wire for surface mount soldering, it is recommended to use solder paste or very thin solder wire (e.g., 0.3mm) for better control and precision. Surface mount components are smaller and more delicate than through-hole components, requiring a more precise soldering approach.

4. How do I know if my soldering joint is good?

A good soldering joint should have a shiny, concave appearance, with the solder evenly covering the component lead and the pad. The joint should be strong and free of cracks, gaps, or excessive solder. To test the mechanical strength of a joint, gently tug on the component lead; a properly soldered joint should withstand moderate force without breaking.

5. Can I solder without flux?

While it is possible to solder without flux, it is not recommended. Flux helps to remove oxidation from the metal surfaces, allowing the solder to flow more easily and create a stronger bond. Soldering without flux can result in poor joint quality, increased difficulty, and a higher risk of damage to the components or PCB.


Manual soldering is a valuable skill for anyone involved in electronics, enabling the creation, repair, and modification of electronic circuits. By understanding the fundamentals of soldering, including the tools, materials, and techniques, you can achieve strong, reliable solder joints and bring your electronic projects to life.

Remember to prioritize safety, use the appropriate tools and materials, and practice regularly to refine your soldering skills. With patience and persistence, you’ll soon be able to tackle a wide range of soldering tasks with confidence and proficiency.