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What to practice soldering on?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by fourstringdrums, Dec 22, 2005.

  1. fourstringdrums

    fourstringdrums Decidedly Indecisive Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2002
    I hope I put this in the right forum :)

    I plan on replacing the pickups in my MIM Fender at some point but I've never soldered at all. What I'd like to know is what is the best thing to practice soldering on? I'd rather not experiment on the bass the first time and make a mess of things.

    Should I get an electronics kit, or even buy some pots and practice soldering wires to them? I know soldering isn't rocket science, but I'd still like to have some idea of what I'm doing before I experiment on the bass.
  2. jja412

    jja412 Fine gear enthusiast

    Feb 2, 2004
    St. Louis
    Get some cheap pots and switches from an electronics store or local Radio Shack.
  3. First, practice simple things, like soldering wires to each other, then to resistors.

    Go to Radio Shack, get some cheap wire (stranded, soemthing like 20 or 22 gauge), some solder, a 25 watt soldering iron (pencil-type), and a bag of their assorted resistors. Also get a wire stripper and some alligator clips.

    Cut a few short pieces (four or five inches ) of wire and strip the ends with the stripper, then twist the ends around each other...alligator clips located a couple of inches back can help hold the wires to keep them from moving. Heat up the junction with the iron....after a few minutes, touch the solder to the bare wire you've been heating, if the solder flows into the wire it's hot enough. Let the solder flow into the wires, you will actually observe the solder "wick" up into the wire strands.

    Try soldering wire to a resistor leg--put the alligator clip close to the resistor body, this not only holds the resistor but also keeps it from overheating, and solder the wire to the resistor leg.

    Let the solder cool twenty or thirty seconds before moving the junction--don't blow on it, let it cool naturally....

    Another hint: use one of those copper pot-scrubbing pads to clean the oxidation off your soldering iron tip.

    I advise safety glasses or reading glasses. Hot solder in the old eyeballs kinda hurts.
  4. fookgub


    Jun 5, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Actually, a bass is a great thing to learn on. It doesn't get much simpler than that, and its virtually impossible to damage the components. Use an iron in the 15-45W range, and remember that a solid mechanical connection is the foundation of a solid electrical connection.

    As I remember, my first soldering experience was on a guitar. I tried to use an audio taper pot to blend two pickups. I can't remember how I wired it, but rest assured, it did not work. But you can't learn if you don't make mistakes. ;)
  5. AxtoOx


    Nov 12, 2005
    Duncan, Okla.
    I'd rather not use my bass to learn on either, but It is easy. It's also easy to make a cold solder joint or burn something when you start out. I would suggest using flux also. The Radio Shack Idea is best. Tell them what you want to do. They should give you a crash course, and I think they sell kits w/ everything you need cheap,plus have stuff you can practice on. Your just doing wires or are you soldering them to the pot. Forgive me, It's been 10 years at least since I put in new pup's and I don't feel like looking.
  6. I would add : Apply a little solder to the iron itself just before doing the junction it self,
    it will tell you if the iron is hot enough + the solder on the iron will help with getting the additional
    solder flowing faster.
    (don't want to apply the iron to long on the junction, the isolation on the wires can melt really fast)

  7. fourstringdrums

    fourstringdrums Decidedly Indecisive Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2002
    What is flux?
  8. AxtoOx


    Nov 12, 2005
    Duncan, Okla.
    Soldering flux is a paste you apply to help w/ even heating and solder flow is the best way to describe it. It make it easier to avoid a cold solder joint and makes the heated solder flow easier. The guys at Radio Shack can give a more detail description. You can do it without it, but it makes it easier.
  9. Pearly Gator

    Pearly Gator

    Dec 10, 2005
    Well, I've only been soldering for 45 years and was NASA and WS certified however, I'll share what little I know that may help you.

    Get some insulated, solid intercom wire from your local hardware store. Strip off an inch of insulation and twist the exposed copper conductors together neatly. Solder that together using SN63 or 50/50 rosin core solder. Touch the iron to the wires, forming the heat supply. Apply the solder to the wires. You CAN touch the solder to the iron for a moment to get it flowing but do not put solder on the iron tip and apply it the connection. Complete all soldering by applying the iron for 5 seconds MAXIMUM. Keep practicing untill you get good results. If it looks good, it will work good.

    Solder is not like glue where the more you use, the stronger it is. Less is more with soldering. Soldering is welding. That twisted wire you just soldered should leave the twisted wire visible and look like it's changed it's color to a shiny silver. As mentioned, do not move a connection until the solder cools, otherwise you will get a cold solder joint. (A fractured connection, usually of high resistance.)

    DO NOT use acid core solder on anything electronic.

    Use an iron with a large enough tip for the work. If you connect a wire to a potentiometer case, you may need a larger tip or iron. (More heat.) FWIW - I use $12 orange Weller iron for 99% of all my soldering.

    DO NOT use a soldering gun. A 20 to 35 watt iron is large enough for instrument work.

    Clean the iron tip with a damp, natural sponge. This cleans the tip and cools it. When finished, clean the iron tip with the sponge, apply a protective coat of solder to prevent oxidation and unplug it. NEVER leave an iron plugged in and unattended. (You knew that but it needs to be mentioned anyway. ;) )

    Wash your hands afterwards. Solder contains lead.

    Good luck!

  10. Soldering is NOT welding and I now understand NASA SO much more!! :smug: Sorry to pick up but I know what you're driving at.
    The washing you hands thing is good advice but mainly for the flux. Most of the free world will have banned lead solder by July 2006 - the USA will not be far behind. Whatever radio shack stocks is fine.

    forestring, While you're in there have a look at the electronic kits. They will probably sell a little Preamp kit. Its a worthwhile thing to learn on.
  11. ChrisPbass


    Jul 18, 2006
    Fairfax, VA
    How can I use a multimeter to make sure a connection worked? for ex...soldering a pot to a piece of wire and then to and old P/U.
  12. Wow, reviving a 4 year old thread for that?:eyebrow:

    Use the ohm meter. Make sure you get 0 ohms continuity between each point.

    Some meters also have a continuity beeper that buzzes when the leads short together. This can be useful if you need to check a bunch of connections quickly.