Whether you like to tinker with electronics or do your own plumbing repairs, soldering metal is an essential skill. Plus, it's kinda fun.
: Be extremely careful when working with a soldering iron. Always keep the tip away from your skin, and never set it directly on a work surface.
Step 1: Choose an iron Choose a soldering iron. Irons between 15 and 40 watts work best for circuit-board components and other detailed work, while 60- to 140-watt irons work best for joining thicker materials. For portability, consider a gas or battery powered iron, as opposed to the standard plug-in variety.
Step 2: Pick a tip Pick a tip for your soldering iron. Different shapes are available for different projects. A long, tapered tip with a fine point is good for most types of connections.
Step 3: Put on safety glasses Put on safety glasses.
Step 4: Pick your solder Pick your solder, which will hold together the two pieces of metal you're connecting. Solder comes in wire or bar form; the vast majority of DIY jobs require the wire type. You should always use lead-free solder on plumbing jobs.
TIP: Invest in soldering clamps to hold still the wires you're soldering.
Step 5: Clean the surface Use a chemical agent called a flux to clean oxidation off the surface of the metals you'll be soldering.
Step 6: Heat it up Turn on your soldering iron and let it heat up for a few minutes. When it's hot, apply a thin layer of solder to all sides of the tip. This is known as "tinning."
Step 7: Heat the joint If you're soldering wires, put one in each clamp. If you don't have clamps, place the wires on a surface you don't mind burning, like a flat piece of scrap wood. Hold the iron at a slight angle, and place the tip of the iron under the joint to be soldered to heat it from below. Wait 2 to 5 seconds until the metal from the wires heats up.
Step 8: Feed the solder wire Feed the solder wire to the heated joint from the top until the solder melts into the joint. Add enough solder to cover the wires, but not so much that you create a glob of solder at the bottom of the joint.
TIP: To correct a mistake, lay some solder wick on top of any solder you want to remove and heat with the iron. The joint will dissolve back into two pieces.
Step 9: Remove them Remove the solder, and then remove the soldering iron. Let the soldered joint cool down.
FACT: The word "solder" comes from the Latin solidare, meaning "to make solid."