Guide for soldering tools and skills


So I’m one of those guys who had some “normal” soldering experience and I thought that I might be up for the task to solder a hwfly / picofly onto my Nintendo Switch Lite mainboard.

Well, turned out that “normal” soldering is entirely different to this SMD / flux / microsoldering stuff. Learned the hard way.

Anyway, I’d like to try again with a new Switch, but this time I want to be properly prepared. I am currently using non-lead solder (because that’s all I can find these days), flux and a cheap 60 W soldering iron with an analog temperature dial on it. Bought and tried quite some different tips from very small to big with varying success. During my initial tries I tried to solder at 520 F, ended up at 700 F which worked much better. Isopropyl for cleaning is available as well. That’s where I am standing now.

I’ve watched a few videos, like the ones from Shtetix, where everything looks great and easy, but I am struggling with the fact that with my skills and setup the damn solder just doesn’t “magically” wet the soldering pads like in all those videos. All that happens when I try to recreate what I’m seeing in the videos, is that the flux evaporates and I am left with the sticky, hard to clean mess on the mainboard and that’s about it. No soldering happening at all.

Any advice on good (but economically feasible) equipment and the correct technique would be much appreciated. As said, I want to improve my skills and do it right this time.

It is not a good start at all and far from properly prepared. :frowning:
Non-lead solder, a cheap soldering iron and no experience is good path for the next broken Switch…

Get leaded solder. Something like 60/40 with flux core. This will melt at 180°C (356°F) and not at 210°C (420°F) like the non-lead bs. If you can not purchase it in your country, look at Aliexpress.

My soldering iron is set to 350°C (662°F) and even this is for leaded solder sometimes not enough. If your iron is really reaching the 700°F, I would let the setting there.

Ceep your tip clean and shiny. If burned leftover builds up, the heat transportion will not work.

Try soldering on a broken or test pcb, till your are able to solder and produce shiny and smooth solder joints. It doesn’t makes sense to rush it.

For the flux: make sure it is no-clean flux. So it doesn’t become a problem if you don’t remove it completely after soldering. And don’t inhale the fumes!

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Thanks for the advice!

It’s tough getting leaded solder here, but I’ll give Aliexpress a try. Maybe that was the problem. My tips are always shiny clean, I think I am actually prone to overclean / use up my tips. Better than the other way round?

I am already using no-clean flux and did try to not inhale the fumes, but sometimes it seems unavoidable. I’ll try to improve my setup / workspace.

Regarding the temperature: There’s no way that the indicator sticker on my cheap soldering iron is really reliable, but at least I noticed an improvement in my workflow after increasing the temperature. I just don’t solder enough to invest in a really high quality welding station. As said, I’ve actually completed some other projects and I have at least some experience in soldering regular resistors and stuff on a tinker board, and for that my equipment performed quite great. Shiny joints… that’s a thing of the past with leaded solder only. I think those are no longer an indicator of quality with non-leaded solder? But as said above, I’ll try to find leaded solder at Aliexpress.

What bothers me most is that I prepare my soldering iron, wait for it to get hot, clean the tip, very lightly apply solder to the tip and then try to presolder the fluxed contact pads on the board an… nothing happens. I mean… why!? It seems as if I can’t transfer enough heat onto the pads, neither with small nor with bigger sized tips.

One final question: I am currently using a pretty simple magnifying glass mounted on my desk. Is it worth it to invest in binoculars or microscopes with a screen (but tehreby losing the depth info)?

Try it with leaded solder and you will see that the 30°C difference in melting temp will make a hugh change in handling.

Spending money on a good soldering station or better optical system is up to you.
I’m soldering every day for living, therefore I invested some money in a digital microscope, soldering stations and fume extractor.

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Thank you so much! I was able to get some old leaded solder from my dad and indeed it made a HUGE difference. This was definitely a major improvement!

Unfortunately, my issue is still not fixed. Maybe you want to take a look: Here’re my results from today: (LINK TO FOLLOW)

Regarding the rest of the equipment:
I’ll definitely get a better soldering station one day. A microscope would be great, but as I’ve read here (and also elswhere) binoculars / trinoculars seem to be the way to go and theses setups seem to be beyond my budget - at least for now. I am thinking about adding better lighting and maybe a small vent for the fumes first.

Again, thanks a lot for you help!
I think I really made a setup in the right direction thanks to your guidance.

Unfortunately I am still not allowed to post links.
You can find my post including pictures in the Switch Lite section: