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SO! You think you can't solder?

Postby ef37a » Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:31 am

There have been posts where people have asked about a bit of non-standard kit or cable and the suggestion made that they make it themselves.
This suggestion is often dismissed with, "Oh" I can't solder! I have tried but I really can't do it".

Right. As of a couple of years ago, neither can I, sort of... I soldered for a living for 60yrs. Literally, one job post redundancy was at a bench soldering thousands of RJ45jack to network modules. Before that as a service tech I had to be proficient in al manner of soldering and component changing tasks. In my heyday I could solder spider web to a fly's bum, upside down, in the dark!

Then came ARMD in my left eye which took away central vision* and with it my close, around 300mm, depth perception. I now find it maddeningly difficult to get job, solder and iron tip in the same space. The problem came to a head over the last weekend. I had decided to re arrange some gear in the "studio" and so needed to build a breakout box to facilitate patching a cassette recorder in and out of my NI KA6 and get feeds in and out of a Mdisc recorder and HDD/DVD, recorder.

The job involved soldering two core screened cable to 8 TRS jacks and 4 TRS plugs, a task that a few years ago would have taken me an hour, tops? Not now. With breaks I estimate at least ten hours over two days and with several failures, burned pinkies and LOTS of blue air!

But! I powered through and did it! And so must all you "can't solderers"! Practice is the key and it helps to have a sheet of MDF, light brown as a background in fact I resorted to laying the solder on the MDF and bringing iron and slobber to it. Gave me a sort of "reference". MDF wont burn unless you leave the tip on it for several seconds.

*Had to do a test at Specsavers (got THAT sewn up with the DVLA! bungs?) to keep my license. Very stressful and you are not told the result for some two weeks!

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Re: SO! You think you can't solder?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Aug 15, 2018 9:36 am

ef37a wrote:*Had to do a test at Specsavers (got THAT sewn up with the DVLA! bungs?) to keep my license.

You are such a conspiracy theorist, Dave!

You have have DVLA-acceptable eye tests done at any registered and qualified optician. It doesn't need to be Specsavers -- the visual acuity and field of vision tests are universal and standardised. The Opthalmologist should have told you your results at the end of the tests... but DVLA would probably take a week or two to receive and process the optician's report and to confirm your resulting licence status. Bureaucracy was always thus... but it is quite important that those in supposed control of wheeled death machines can see where they are going, n'est pas?

*(...and, personally, I wouldn't touch them with a barge-pole given my own experiences of the competence of their ophthalmologists!)
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Re: SO! You think you can't solder?

Postby ef37a » Wed Aug 15, 2018 9:57 am

"Just because you are paranoid, don't mean they AIN'T out to get you!"

Not a theory in my situation/experience Hugh. The optician I had the primary check up with (and gave me a letter and said "Go to Eye Casualty TODAY!") said I would need the test done and Specsavers were the ONLY place I could get it. The equipment, a computer screen gizmo, looks quite expensive and they seem to have a lady employed there specially trained for the job. You have to do the test three times and at the end she said she is not allowed to give any indication as to pass or fail.

Yes of course people needs to have acceptable vision to drive! I am not disputing the NEED for the test, simply that I would have thought a general hospital in a very large town would have the facilities?

Oddly, according to the optician, the DVLA have to be informed but there is not requirement to tell my insurer.

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Re: SO! You think you can't solder?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Aug 15, 2018 10:21 am

ef37a wrote:...and Specsavers were the ONLY place I could get it.

Perhaps that was the case in your particular locality, but I struggle to believe that's the case generally. Other high street opticians would be up in arms... ;-)

...and at the end she said she is not allowed to give any indication as to pass or fail.

That makes no sense either unless the results pf the test had to be analysed elsewhere by a specialist othalmologist -- which is plausible.

I would have thought a general hospital in a very large town would have the facilities?


Who knows these days, with the crumbling NHS ? My no1 daughter had a potentially serious eye problem and, like you, was told to go to the eye hospital immediately -- so I had to drive her 30 miles to the Birmingham Midland Eye Centre as there was nowhere nearer.

Oddly, according to the optician, the DVLA have to be informed but there is not requirement to tell my insurer.


I guess if the DVLA accept a medical report that you're fit to drive, it's none of the insurer's business. After all, you don't have to tell the insurer whether you need to wear glasses or not...

H
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Re: SO! You think you can't solder?

Postby Wonks » Wed Aug 15, 2018 10:50 am

It's a shame that budget cutbacks have reduced the amount of UK roads with catseyes on them. You used to be able to drive slowly with the door open and feel your way along the road...
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Re: SO! You think you can't solder?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Aug 15, 2018 10:56 am

:lol:

A few years back they trialled some fantastic active cats-eyes on a rural dual-carriage way near me. They were activated by the car headlights and illuminated the road really well for a few minutes after a car has passed through. Looked very sci-fi!

Sadly, they were removed subsequently and I've not seen them anywhere else, so presumably the test was a failure for some reason.
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Re: SO! You think you can't solder?

Postby ef37a » Wed Aug 15, 2018 11:13 am

The lady at SSavers said she can only forward my test data to the DVLA and their experts will decide my fate. She could not comment.

I now do not drive at night. I am actually fine on well lit roads and even those where I need headlights but it is junctions that defeat me, I cannot see the kerbs very well.

So, never mind the space age cat's eyes! I would settle for a splash of white paint!

I am lucky Hugh to live in a town with a truly excellent eye department. Had many, many visits now and the staff are always brilliant. The right eye is "in remission" now after 5 injections. DON'T SQUIRM folks! It is not NEARLY as bad as you think and definitely painless.

Am I also allowed to praise Punch Opticians in Duston? Super people.

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Re: SO! You think you can't solder?

Postby ManFromGlass » Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:17 pm

Wait - just so I have the image correct in my mind -
They stick a needle in your eye?

How do you not move your eye while this is being done?
Just curious.
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Re: SO! You think you can't solder?

Postby ef37a » Wed Aug 15, 2018 4:27 pm

ManFromGlass wrote:Wait - just so I have the image correct in my mind -
They stick a needle in your eye?

How do you not move your eye while this is being done?
Just curious.

Well, I won't go into the whole process but just take it from me you DON'T move it!

The whole procedure takes maybe 20 minutes. It is always bloody terrifying but the people are SO calm and nice and you really feel very little, certainly no pain. Oh! and you don't SEE "it" going in.

Once done you are immediately free to go but can't drive because the drops make you blurry and you might have some "blue blobs" floating about for an hour or two.

Like many procedures people would rather not think about, especially us men (yup, waterworks have had some serious sorting!) it really is not as bad as you think. The alternative is a white stick or death!

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Re: SO! You think you can't solder?

Postby blinddrew » Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:07 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote::lol:

A few years back they trialled some fantastic active cats-eyes on a rural dual-carriage way near me. They were activated by the car headlights and illuminated the road really well for a few minutes after a car has passed through. Looked very sci-fi!

Sadly, they were removed subsequently and I've not seen them anywhere else, so presumably the test was a failure for some reason.
They had these on the A64 for a while but they too have gone. Not sure what was powering them though?
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Re: SO! You think you can't solder?

Postby CS70 » Wed Aug 15, 2018 9:06 pm

ef37a wrote:There have been posts where people have asked about a bit of non-standard kit or cable and the suggestion made that they make it themselves.

That's real passion, man! You should write a tutorial on how to solder! I for one I'd read it avidly. I have a little 20 years old toy train (the green one from Thomas and friends) that's been given by my big son to my little one, and the latter would really love to see it running.. but it has a wire disconnected.

It's "just" to solder it on. The coming week I'll look to purchase my first iron in like 30 years. :)
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Re: SO! You think you can't solder?

Postby ef37a » Wed Aug 15, 2018 10:05 pm

CS70 wrote:
ef37a wrote:There have been posts where people have asked about a bit of non-standard kit or cable and the suggestion made that they make it themselves.

That's real passion, man! You should write a tutorial on how to solder! I for one I'd read it avidly. I have a little 20 years old toy train (the green one from Thomas and friends) that's been given by my big son to my little one, and the latter would really love to see it running.. but it has a wire disconnected.

It's "just" to solder it on. The coming week I'll look to purchase my first iron in like 30 years. :)

Thank you CS70, kind words indeed. Tutorial? Well I have banged on about soldering in the forum a couple of times before. I am no "expert" but did have charge of around 50 Weller solder stations and they kept me pretty busy with repairs! I also had some "horses mouth" advice from Weller techs when they visited the factory to help with the move from lead to Pb free solder.

Regarding your proposed purchase? I advise a "station" with temperature control. The Weller Magnastat base and pencil is excellent but expensive, the pencil alone is around £100 I think? You can get a very decent station for around £50. Maplin had one (Duratool rings a bell) at about that money, gone now but CPC have something similar.

I strongly suggest you buy a reel of Lead/Tin 60/40 solder because it is easier for the beginner to use and especially if you are working on old kit the lower temperature means less chance of damage to insulation. Lead is of course toxic but so long as you don't eat, drink, smoke AND solder and wash hands after you will be fine ("We" did all four for decades and it ain't the LEAD that's got me!)

I hope my story has shown peeps that soldering is a SKILL and like most skills it comes easier to some than others. I was highly skilled but started at about 13! I am now the beginner but like any skill it IS improving with practice. If a poorly, med ridden 72 yr old with "one" eye can still do it???

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Re: SO! You think you can't solder?

Postby Dave B » Wed Aug 15, 2018 10:14 pm

I really can't solder.

If I even look at another soldering iron, I'm rugby tackled to the floor by Max, held down and forced to look at receipts for the replacement gear after the last time I thought "well ... Max made it look easy so it can't be too hard ... "

:bouncy:
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Re: SO! You think you can't solder?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Aug 15, 2018 10:17 pm

:lol:
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Re: SO! You think you can't solder?

Postby Folderol » Thu Aug 16, 2018 9:20 am

What I find disturbing these days is that in spite of my {cough}maturity{cough} I'm still the person with the steadiest hands at work, and do the neatest soldering - although there is one youngster who is catching up somewhat.
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Re: SO! You think you can't solder?

Postby ef37a » Thu Aug 16, 2018 11:23 am

Folderol wrote:What I find disturbing these days is that in spite of my {cough}maturity{cough} I'm still the person with the steadiest hands at work, and do the neatest soldering - although there is one youngster who is catching up somewhat.

I don't think you necessarily get shaky with age unless there is an underlying problem*.

My HANDS are fine it is just that they hold things rock steady 30mm away from where they orta be! Been putting a shelf up as well and getting screws in place has been a challenge. Odd thing is I can still saw to a straight line!

Still, I am grateful to be as well as I am and still alive.

*Like, you should take more water with it

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Re: SO! You think you can't solder?

Postby Brian M Rose » Thu Aug 16, 2018 12:04 pm

"Old solders never die, they just go open circuit." :headbang:
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Re: SO! You think you can't solder?

Postby Dr R » Thu Aug 16, 2018 6:23 pm

I inherited a soldering station, along with several reels of solder, though I already had a couple of irons. Some of the solders only just seem to melt at 450C, others go liquid in August, and none of them seem to have flux in. What are the actual design differences and intended usage?
I use the hot stuff usually, but it doesn't flow terribly well.
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Re: SO! You think you can't solder?

Postby Folderol » Thu Aug 16, 2018 7:10 pm

Solders without flux are usually intended for plumbing and the like where you would apply a separate flux of a type to suit the job. it is also used in solder baths where pre-fluxed stuff is dipped.

For ordinary work you should always use flux cored solder, and as Dave said, best to at least start out with 60/40 tin-lead solder. It's not really that expensive.
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Re: SO! You think you can't solder?

Postby Dr R » Thu Aug 16, 2018 9:52 pm

This must be for use with dipping flux. I've got a tub of that, but it's with the plumbing toolkit, not the electronics one, and the solder in there is a stick about 1/4" square and 14" long rather than thin wire.
Thankfully I've done all the plumbing I need to on this house, and as I don't intend to move house again I have done hopefully all the plumbing I ever have to. Certainly all the solder jointing.

You're right of course Folderol, I should just ditch all the odds and sods of solder and buy the proper stuff. Hapen'th of tar and all that.
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