When you have mastered the basics of soldering, you may want to consider building a “soldering tool kit” that will allow you to save time, tackle more complex soldering projects and reduce the risk of accidents and personal injury.
Listed below are a selection of soldering accessories that are not essential but they will help you to become more proficient at soldering. All of the tools can be purchased relatively cheaply online, so you don’t necessarily need to spend a fortune on your soldering accessories.
Magnifying glass / Magnifying Lamp / Magnifying Glasses:
If you take a look at the circuit boards from just a few years ago they are significantly bigger than today’s SMD (surface mount device) boards. Modern technology is shrinking electronics, making them smaller and as a consequence harder to see and more difficult to repair.
A magnifying glass, glasses or lamp will enable you to easily see the components you are working on. The added advantage of using a magnifier is that you can keep your head at a distance from the soldering project, not only protecting you from any solder splatter but also from any toxic fumes that are given off.
Soldering Fume Extractor:
Being in constant contact with solder and flux fumes can cause irritation to the eyes, lungs and throat. A soldering fume extractor will remove the toxic fumes from the work area and leave you free to solder without worrying about any harmful toxins that you may be breathing in. Many smoke absorbers come with a replaceable carbon filter to trap the toxins.
Imagine the situation, soldering iron in one hand solder in the other and your third hand holding the component on the board! Helping hands come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and designs. They are an invaluable tool to hold components, wires or boards, freeing you up to solder without worrying about the component or board moving around. Panavise manufacture a huge array of helping hands to suit every sort of application.
Side cutters, pliers, tweezers and wire strippers:
Side cutters are used for cutting off component leads close to the board and also for cutting wires.
Pliers are used for holding components and bending component leads, the most popular type is the needle or long nosed.
Tweezers can be very useful when placing very small components, they are available in a wide range of styles and most of the ones designed for electronics work are anti-static.
Wire strippers often come as a multi-tool, they can strip wires, cut wire, crimp terminals and act as pliers. They are a great tool to have around.
A good precision screwdriver set is essential and should include Phillips, Slotted, and Star drivers. Kits are available that include many of the essentials listed here and could save you some money by purchasing them together.
If you need to de-solder a component or joint (you eventually will) there are a couple of ways to make a clean job of it. The solder sucker or de-soldering pump is a spring loaded device that sucks hot solder up with the push of a button. The other way of removing solder is to use a soldering wick or de-soldering braid that absorbs the heated solder, removing it from the board.
Fireproof soldering mats are available online in a variety of sizes. They are a great way of protecting the work area from burns.
Anti-static wrist strap and Mat:
Static electricity can kill electronic components, so, by grounding yourself to a metal object you are removing the static from your body and dumping it to earth.
Tip Cleaning Tools:
You may have the best soldering station but if you don’t keep the tip clean you might as well have bought a $5 fire starter iron. Most soldering stations come with a sponge or wire cleaner to clean the tip. Wire cleaners a preferred by many due to the fact that the damp sponge cleaners tend to drop the heat at the tip when used. If the tip becomes badly oxidized and you are finding it increasingly difficult to clean then you should consider using a Sal Ammoniac Tinning Block to clean it or replace the tip completely.
The new generation of Flux is environmentally friendly, non corrosive and non conductive. The Flux is now available in a handy pen applicator for precise application. This type of flux is now becoming the industry standard as it is free of any halides, resin or rosin and residue can be cleaned off with warm water.
Spare Soldering Iron Tips:
Tips are available for most soldering stations or soldering irons in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Make sure to choose tips that are compatible with your iron, and the appropriate size and shape for the components to be soldered.
Solder Spool Holder and Iron Holder:
Most Soldering stations come with an iron base and spool holder, however, if you are using a standard iron you may not have these accessories. Spool holders are easy to load and allows for easy delivery of the solder. Double holders are available, which are great if you regularly use different types of solder. The iron holder has a heavy weighted base to keep it upright when the iron is placed into it. Often, the base comes with, or has space for, a sponge or wire tip cleaning pad.
You probably think I am going over the top when I suggest getting a fire extinguisher, but I once had a nasty experience when a rag with cleaning solution on it caught fire in my workshop, yes, it was carelessness on my part, but if I hadn’t had an extinguisher the whole place would have gone up. I am not talking about a full size extinguisher, rather one of the mini, aerosol types that can be bought for a few dollars online. Better to be safe than sorry.