cover image

Basic Soldering: an illustrated guide

The breadboard is a good place to get started with basic electronics, but there will come a moment when you will need to use some basic soldering to get around - whether it's for assembling a kit, finishing a prototype or repairing a board / toy / gadget.

The good news is: soldering is not as difficult as it may seem. Good soldering requires practice, so the better way to learn is to get your way around the soldering iron and build something. I definitely recommend buying a kit with lots of LEDs to have enough room for practicing! That is how I learned how to solder.

Soldering 101 - an Illustrated Guide

The following step-by-step guide demonstrates the very basics of soldering:

Soldering Step by Step

  1. Don't be afraid of the soldering iron, but be very careful as it can get really hot.
  2. Use a bit of solder to "test" the iron. When it melts, it's hot enought to get started. Leave a tiny bit of solder at the tip of the iron, this will help.
  3. Heat the surface of the hole where you're going to apply the solder for a few seconds.
  4. Touch the tip of the iron with the tip of the solder. The solder will "run" and fill the area surrounding the hole.
  5. The finished work should resemble a little "volcano".
  6. You can now cut the remaining of the lead / wire.

Another proTip: when it comes to how much solder to use, less is more! Use just enough to fuse the lead / wire into the hole. Using too much solder will create blobs that either don't adhere well to the board or just interfere with other components that are placed nearby.

Now let's see all that in action. The following video shows a simple example of basic soldering with a single LED on a prototyping board:

Next, let's see a more real-life example. In the following video, I'm soldering a row of RGB LEDs on an Arduino shield. This is a common scenario when soldering kits: tight space an loads of components to assemble and solder. Great for practicing!

Additional Resources

If you'd like to learn more about soldering techniques and equipment, I highly recommend checking this Adafruit guide to excellent soldering.

They have a great section explaining about common soldering problems, like cold soldering joints and bridges.

Coming Up Next

Now that we got soldering out of our way, it's time to move to more interesting things. In the next tutorial on this series, we'll start playing with LEDs on Arduino. See you next week!

electronics, hardware, beginners, soldering