Simon Says Assembly Guide
Quickstart - Soldering Basics and Advice
There are some basic tips that will help you achieve the best solder connection possible, help keep your soldering iron in good condition and also keep you safe. For starters, it is best to keep your iron unplugged when not using it. Leaving soldering irons on for long periods of time will wear out the tip much quicker. They are also very easy to forget about when left plugged in and can be a potential fire hazard.
With that said, put on your safety glasses and plug your iron in to let it warm up before using it. Allow it to warm up for about 30 seconds - 1 minute. The tip of the iron is normally 700°F, hot enough to melt metal solder. It is normal for the handle of the soldering iron to heat up a bit. Hold it like a pencil and move your hand further away from the tip if the heat is uncomfortable.
There isn't any indicator to let you know when the iron is ready. NEVER TOUCH THE TIP OF THE IRON TO SEE IF IT'S ON. The best way to test if your iron is warmed up and ready is to melt a little solder on the end. If it melts easily, you're good to go. The solder smokes because the rosin inside the solder is burning off - it's not harmful. If you have trouble getting the solder to melt on the tip, let it warm up a little bit longer.
Here's a close up of the solder once the solder is able to melt on the soldering iron tip.
The next bit of advice is always keep your iron in its stand while you're not using it. Setting down your iron on your workspace can be a major hazard. Not only can you burn the other items on your workbench, but you can also set your arm down on it and get a gnarly burn (I speak from experience). Your iron has a home, and we're all better off when you keep it there.
Maintaining Your Soldering Iron
You'll notice that on your stand there is a little pool with a sponge in it. This sponge plays a very important role in soldering. As you solder, old solder tends to clump up and lose its ability to melt and flow properly. It can also build up a nasty residue on your iron tip and corrode it to the point where it won't accept solder any more. That's where the sponge comes in handy.
Dampen it in a sink or using a water bottle. It doesn't need to be soaked, just wet enough to pull solder off your iron. Now, very gently, wipe the excess solder off onto the sponge. Avoid jamming the tip into the sponge or leaving the tip on the sponge for more than a few seconds. Doing so could result in holes in your tip, which ultimately ruins your iron. You should periodically clean your tip as you're soldering. This will make your solder connections look nicer and will increase the life of your iron. To increase the life of your iron even more, we recommend using a brass sponge instead of a regular one. Expansion and contraction of the tip, from the cool water, tends to wear it out over time.
Now that we've covered proper soldering iron handling and care, let's go over how to properly use it. There is a correct way to solder, and it takes lots of practice to master. Getting it right early on will make your soldering experience a lot more fun. Be sure to follow these bits of advice while your putting your kit together.
Soldering Advice: How to Properly Use a Soldering Iron
Below are some tips that show how to properly use the iron.
Soldering Advice: How to Create an Ideal Solder Joint
Below are some tips on creating the best solder connection possible.
If you still have some uncertainties about soldering, check out the tutorial below. There is a video for those of you who are of the visual learning variety.