Sunday, March 10, 2013

Solder On!

After my Maker post folks asked me how I reacquired my soldering skills.  Well they are not totally back but I am making progress using kits.  I first purchased  a learn to solder kit from amazon.  It was really a nice practice kit replete with bare metal pads to simply practice melting solder, really a good starting kit save for one element,  the soldering iron sucks.  I subsequently bought an iron at Radio Shack which was a bit better but my solder iron of choice is a digital soldering station.  It rivls more standard brands at almost half the cost.  The only downside is that the digital temperature you set is in Celsius.

The next kit I built was Conway's game of life kit from adafruit.  This kit rocks not only because it is very cool but also because the baord is well laid out with plenty of space between the soldering pads.  This is important for the novice.  I highly recommend adafruit, excellent service superb tools and kits.

The third kit for soldering tested my meddle.  It was a single board forth (yes forth) computer called the fignition.  Ignore the horribly designed website, it truly is a marvelous board for ~$40.  It has a supporting message board and folks are super helpful.  The challenge of the kit is that although it has a socketed IC (see picture) the soldering pads are rather close.  The fignition folks provide an extensive check list with a multimeter but I rolled the dice and turned mine on once finished and it worked!  One of the down sides is that input is done through chording of buttons on the board (see second picture).  However there is a keyboard kit coming soon.

Several things have changed in thirty years.  The first is the push towards lead free solder.  Although I use it it does not have the same flow behavior as normal solder and I do prefer leaded solder.  However I am trying to be environmentally responsible.  The second change is my eyes!  I dearly need magnification and so far what I found most helpful was this lamp.  It really helps and I find it more comfortable than head based magnifiers.

I hope you find some use to this post.  Please let me know what kits and equipment you found useful.  My next kit has some surface mount devices on it.  I will let you know how that goes in a few weeks.


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