Being manually inept, the part I looked forward to the least with my new hobby was soldering. Past attempts usually ended with unsightly results and lots of frustration.
But Hail the Internets!
Dave Jones from the unmistakably Australian EEVBlog recorded a great three part tutorial about soldering. The videos cover everything beginners like me need to know:
Dave explains all steps and choices in a logical, entertaining, and last but not least, very motivating way. He makes it look so easy!
Freshly motivated I splurged on the recommended Hakko FX-888 soldering station (which costs less than $100, my biggest expense for my new hobby so far.) I skimped on the solder wire as I still had some left in my toolbox and found Dave’s recommended size and composition only by the pound. Add two inexpensive hand tools, tweezers and flush cutters, a flux pen, and I’m ready to roll.
How did it turn out?
I can report success!
After a bit of exercising with wires and spare parts I was brave enough to put the solder iron on a real circuit.
The MSP430 LaunchPad comes with headers to connect peripherals. There's a set of female headers to connect wires or stack a shield, and a set of male headers to stick the LaunchPad on a breadboard. Both need to be soldered onto the LaunchPad.
As you can see it went really well and I can confirm that it is as easy as Dave makes it look. It’s even fun!
With success I got cocky and tried out my new skills on my first, somewhat largish SMD component. The LaunchPad comes with a small 32.768kHz crystal (1.5 x 1.5 x 6.7mm) used for real time clock applications.
While the end result is not perfect, I think this one turned out quite usable too :-)
I’m not sure why I failed with soldering in the past. Probably a mix of lack of proper technique and unsuitable soldering tips were to blame.
Now I look forward to my next soldering project with confidence. Thanks Dave!