Listen while you read: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Do You Wanna Get Heavy
I have been staying with the fundamentals here for a while and today I'm going to continue the trend. Soldering a basic skill that any electronic hobbyist is going to want to acquire and for me it is actually the fun part of building electronics. It is a skill I think anyone can teach themselves and be good at, regardless of the caliber of tools they have. I don't have a hot air gun but I can solder fine pitch parts, it just takes a little practice. However, I would say there are tools that you just have to have. Another thing, you're going to make mistakes, you're going to mess up your pcb layout, solder something backwards or let the ghost out of your IC, so boy scout it and always be prepared. With all this said here's a list of the basic tools that I MUST have when starting any project. P.S. don't make fun of my messy desk, I can find out who you are!
Corded Weller Soldering Iron: You can own as many soldering irons as you want, but at the very least have a 12watt Weller soldering iron. I can't tell you how many soldering irons have gone bad in the past for me, but my 12watt Weller has never failed to work. I have left it running for DAYS and still it continues.
Solder: Now, I know that there is pressure coming to use silver solder. Silver solder is fine and I have been able to use it will all of my soldering irons. However, I would will always keep 60/40 tin/lead for prototype work. Its cheap and If you ever use any lead parts there is no point in using silver solder right?
Breaded Solder Wick: These next three are a follow up to what I said in the opening paragraph. You ARE going to make mistakes, be PREPARED. Copper braid is useful in soldering surface mount ICs with a plain old soldering iron.
Solder Sucker: You might think you can get away without this one if you have braid but I use this first when I start the removal of a part then use the braid. Sometimes I have to use the sucker again and then go back to the braid. Removing a COM port connection on a PCB can be difficult.
Flux Pen: When retouching parts this is a absolute necessity. I have even used this help in removal, it helps the solder become more viscous.
Wire Wrap: Again your going to make mistakes and when you screw up a trace on a pcb, the fasted and most discrete way to fix it is to wire wrap it. It might be hard to strip the wire, for that I use my teeth, but it fit between all types of pitches.
Alcohol: This is probable the one thing you can get by without having if your only using proto-boards, boards that set pattern predrilled holes with copper pads and traces underneath, for your project. Alcohol will clean any left over flux off your pcb helping in keeping your project running for a long time.
Safety Glasses: For safety's sake wear projection. I feel like a hypocrite, no, I don't wear them all the time, but you should!