What is a Soldering Iron?
A soldering iron is the primary piece of hand-held equipment used in the process of soldering, wherein a small quantity of fusible metal alloy - known as solder - is heated to a high temperature with the tip of the iron. Soldering irons are typically plugged into a wall socket in order to deliver their heat electrically via an elongated metal tip containing a heating element.
What is a Soldering Station?
A soldering station forms the basis of a slightly more advanced setup, adding a separate control unit to a standalone soldering iron. This allows users to dial in a range of specific temperatures for different sorts of work, either digitally or via a dial (the former is much more common these days). Various sorts of soldering station accessories can also be purchased, providing a range of additional advanced features, functions and benefits to most base model soldering stations.
What is Solder?
Solder is a metal alloy with a low melting temperature point, used alongside a soldering iron to permanently join together two metals with a higher melting point. The majority of solder comes in the form of a coiled length of wire, or less commonly as pellets, with a range of diameters or gauges available to suit various applications and joints.
Solder pastes are ideal for use on PCBs and for connecting surface mount electronic components - this is a sticky non-drip compound, often applied to a board by printing or painting. Solder granules are also available for specific types of soldering machines and tinning crucibles.
How Do You Keep a Soldering Kit Clean?
There are numerous different types of soldering iron cleaning accessories available online, and these form an important part of any kit - proper, regular cleaning and maintenance of soldering iron tips (both during and between jobs) is key to getting the best results and developing a safer, more efficient soldering technique.
Examples of cleaning products to keep as part of your soldering iron kit include:
- Iron brushes
- Soldering iron cleaning sponges (used damp)
- Metal wool (used dry) - often referred to as a ‘brass sponge’
- More advanced tip-cleaning kits can also leave you with a fine solder layer across the tip as part of the cleaning process, which helps to prevent tool oxidation over time and improves the longevity of replaceable tips
What is Desoldering?
Desoldering is the process of removing hardened solder material from a previously soldered joint, surface or component. With enough care and expertise, this can be done using a regular iron - however, a number of dedicated tools and desoldering accessories exist for making the job much easier and neater. These include: