Let’s Play…Wheel Of Solder!

Solder is solder right? Just spin the wheel and whatever comes up will work fine. Well, not so fast. If you’re new to electronics, or are looking at getting started, there is a bit to learn first. [Mr Carlson] has the info you need with this youtube video you can watch after the break.

He begins with a discussion of solder diameter. For most through hole work, something around 0.03 inch is pretty universal. When your ready to step up to SMD work, we find 0.02″ inch to be a much better match to the smaller pad sizes. [Mr Carlson] goes on to talk about the types of flux used inside the solder. Rosin(R), Rosin-Midly-Activated(RMA) and Rosin Activated(RA) in order of least to most aggressive.

He rounds out the video with information and a warning about using “organic” core solder. If you’re new to the world of solder, this video is a good jumping off point. TLDR; If you’re just starting out, a 0.03″ RMA solder would be a good place to start – but if you want to learn a bit more, the 20 minute video is worth the watch for those of you just getting your feet iron tip wet. It’ll serve you well at least until solderless metal glue becomes affordable.

43 thoughts on “Let’s Play…Wheel Of Solder!

  1. Translation for the sensible parts of the world…

    > For most through hole work, something around 0.8mm is pretty universal. When your ready to step up to SMD work, we find 0.5mm

    Personally, I use 0.4mm for most stuff unless I really need to lay it on thick and fast, at which point the 0.8 or even 1.0mm comes out. Yeah you have to feed it faster, but it’s better control. Currently using a roll of “BEST” from China which I’m fairly happy with actually at the 0.4mm size, the smaller sizes I find can be pretty iffy on the flux content.

    1. My never ending bin of rolls of tin/lead aerospace solder (from the surplussing of materials for the Boeing SST) is labelled in inches and I’m stickin with it! The inches and the lead (And you can make your lead jokes and I appreciate that it might be effecting my watchacallit – judgement — except it’s metallic lead, not organic, not soluble in water or fats.) Besides, who isn’t familiar enough with their 2.54 versus 2.0 hole spacings to not have to think about it?

      By the way. Most indispensable tools in surface mount – curved very pointy forceps, brass sponge to clean your iron, and a flux pen. Run your iron plenty hot and work fast. Do very much and a stereo microscope is mighty nice. Even the surplussed stereo dissecting scopes from high schools. Under $100 I think. The nice big ones on long arms on eBay are OK. Nice optics but they all have eyepieces that give too much magnification.

      1. i honestly doubt that dozenal is truly any better or easier than decimal, most of the structures are direct analogues, those that arent are mostly concerned with everyday use, honestly not where numbers need to be easy to use, there is nothing too complicated to just do in everyday life of most people.
        where one needs to look to find out whether dozenal or decimal will serve society is the most complicated places we use it and there there really is no difference, at all.

        1. If numbers went “8, 9, A, B” then base 12 might make sense. But if we’re gonna use a decimal number base, fingers or not, decimal is the easiest thing to use for measuring units.

          Of course we didn’t always use a base-10 number system. That’s why hours have 60 minutes, and the like. Bizarro hangovers from the past come from places like that, and of course in the past most people couldn’t do much maths anyway. Or read. Before digits were invented and we used letters, or cuneiform pressed onto clay tablets.

          If we’re gonna have a nice, sensible, rational society, where we’re surrounded by science, a system where we can add things up, and multiply, and the rest, without the potential for fuckups where we forgot to do the extra carrying and conversions needed even within one simple sum, then we’re best off not hobbling ourselves with weird, multiple number bases. Imperial weights use base 16 for ounces, base 14 for pounds into stones. Then is it base 20 for cwt? Rather than 10, 10, 10, 10, for everything, lengths, weights, volumes, everything. Units easily interchangable with no conversion factors at all.

          It’s INSANE to think of Imperial as anything less than a bizarre and massively impractical hangover from the past, that should’ve been killed off during the Enlightenment.

          Metric can measure anything, and convert most things, and you can go as small or as large as you like with the SI prefixes, all without having to divide anything by 12. Or 16 then 14. How would scientific notation, 1x10E5 and the like, work in inches / yards / furlongs / poles / chains, in base whatever?

          1. If you know furlongs and the King’s Acre and rods and chains, they all make sense and work together very well. The cup, pint, quart, foot, gallon, pound, etc, all evolved to fit human needs and convenient sizes to drink, carry, measure cloth, doorways, steps, and all that. The French system was to be a convenience for scientists, who knew Greek and Latin and why the prefixes are one or the other. The meter is the distance from equator to the North Pole divided by 10,000,000. Any volunteers to walk that one off?

            If there were some factors of 2 and 5 in the system (like the knobs on your scope and multi-meter) it would be pretty usable. 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 100, 200, 500, 1000 – the way things scale nicely for people. Factors of ten are too big.

          1. Yes 12 would be a good base because it has more common factors than 10. 60 is even better for that reason which is why the Sumerians and Babylonians used it and it is still used—in a modified form—for measuring time, angles, and geographic coordinates why not go all the way and push for base-60 if you consider common factors the most important thing about a common counting base.

          1. You don’t always have a calculator. And being unable to do any slightly-complicated maths without one would be a major handicap to the world’s intellect. It’s also often helpful to know what answer to expect when you use a calculator, so you’ve a clue that you might have entered something in wrongly. Blindly putting your faith into one, with no idea what you’re doing, has caused all sorts of problems in the past.

            And calculators don’t do anything but base 10. That means adding extra stages of division and conversion. How many stages to multiply two lengths in yards, feet, and inches? Then get the resulting area in the same units? It’s 1 stage for anything in metric.

          2. Greenaum said: “And calculators don’t do anything but base 10. That means adding extra stages of division and conversion. How many stages to multiply two lengths in yards, feet, and inches? Then get the resulting area in the same units? It’s 1 stage for anything in metric.”

            What? Do it all in inches of course. What would you do in the French? You can’t multiply meters by centimeters. How many cubic cm in a cube 1 meter, 2 decimeters and 7 centimeters on a side? How many cubic inches in a cube 1 yard, 2 feet, 3 inches on a side? (These are all just addition to get on side length then cube it)

            Of course, who would do that? My meter stick reads in cm and my tape measure reads inches. 2 decimetres is obviously 20 cm. 2 feet is obviously 24 inches. If you can do powers of 2 and know that 16 +16 is 32 without a calculator, you can certainly know 12 + 12 is 24.

          3. “You don’t always have a calculator.”

            That’s what my teachers used to say. They were wrong. I do always have a calculator. There’s at least one built into my computer, and there’s at least one built into my phone. If I have internet access, I can even use wolfram alpha which can solve questions like “mass of 18.2 in^3 of Lead in grams” among other things (3382 grams – http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=mass+of+18.2+in%5E3+of+Lead+in+grams).

  2. Does anyone really care what solder anyone else uses? I use i usually use 0.38mm Multicore. for throug hole i use 0.5mm Sparkfun solder. I’ve also got some “treebranch” Radioshack solder that I use for soldering wires together.


  3. As long as it has lead in. This “lefty save the world a handful of brain cells and make things un-mendable while we are at it” paper pushing attitude is a real killer where solder is concerned.

    1. Lead-free processes are established in industry. There’s no point in using leaded solder for large-scale production.
      For hobbyists, nobody cares. You might be surprised that you can still easily buy European-made leaded solder in Europe and you’ll probably be able to for quite some time.
      Un-mendable electronics are rather a staple of companies pushing aesthetics, using glue, package underfills, non-replaceable batteries &c.–no way it’d be better if they used leaded solder. So please, get your act together and write something sensible next time.

      As for solder, I’m using leaded eutectic solder, but I’m inclined to try out lead-free solder some time. Sn62Pb36Ag2 is a great mixture, but modern top-of-the-line lead-free eutectic solders are supposedly easy to work with, as long as you increase the temperature. They’re quite expensive, though.

      1. A reply from someone that doesn’t mend things I suspect. You should try repairing stuff that is made with lead free solder, plenty of opportunity because it is also way more likely to fail.

      1. Radium dial clocks were made into the seventies: the way workers handled radium paint was changed before WW2. By contrast, after the ‘phossy jaw’ deaths in match manufacture, they changed the materials used more promptly.

  4. Without out a visible cursor I click blindly. The Imperial Force rules. I notice that no comments are about lead free sxxt, where every solder joint looks to my hyper closeup sight like stucco.

  5. im still on the gargantuan roll of old skool lead solder i pilfered from my grandpa’s closet shortly after his death. 10 years later im still not out. i tried using something more modern but i didnt like it. i did solder some tqfp atmegas awhile back and didnt have a problem.

    1. I love to use paste but as I don’t use it very often it dries out after first use. I get it in syringes and store in an airtight bag in a fridge. Do you know how to keep it fresh longer?

        1. Yes, stencils only. If it gets a little dry, it can still be used with a stencil, because you don’t have to squeeze it through a tight needle.

          Of course, the jars have quite a bit of paste, and aren’t exactly cheap, so if you’re just an occasional user, it’s probably not a good idea.

      1. I only use paste from jars and I have never had short life. Keep it in the fridge and sealed, use only what I need each time and do not return used paste to the jar. Having jars last more than a year is routine for me. It may depend on the quality of paste or source as well. I only use Kester (EP256 or NXG1) from authorized distributors and never have issues.

  6. Still on the same huge roll I got from Radio Shack oh about 20 years ago, something like 37/63 with rosen core. I figure I’ve used up about 100 feet on various hobby project and still have a lot left.

    Too bad Radio Shack stopped carrying big bulky rolls, the biggest one my local (and still open) Radio Shack is only like 20 feet and wouldn’t last me a few years.

  7. Ohh! Paul forgot to mention some preferred brands of solder. Kester’s among the best. However I use a Alpha Metals .025 inch diameter (0.635 mm) Type RA. Works really quite nice for all my needs.

  8. I’m fine with the fact of pronouncing the ‘L’ in solder, but whats buggin me is the lack of using the metric systeem.
    Eventually everyone in the world will, because they do so in Startrek.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.