Soldering: no more stage fright

15. May 2014 13:39 by outbackuav in Hardware, Posts

I used to hate soldering, now I love it.  Sometime in the early eighties I tried to make a Centronics adaptor for my Sinclair Spectrum microcomputer.  The soldering was horrible and it never worked and not long after I plonked down $3,500 for an IBM PC clone with two floppy disk drives and no hard disk.  The ESCs in my planes probably have more CPU power than that PC.

My main problem was that YouTube hadn't been invented yet.  Now there's many good soldering videos there, like the ones made by Dave Jones of EEVBlog fame and Bruce Simpson (XJet):


My suggestions are:

  • Get the right gear: if you can afford it, a temperature controlled iron is a must.  It stops your flux (and your work) going up in smoke.
  • Soldering iron tips - use the right size and shape for the job
  • Helping hand: very useful unless you have three hands already
  • Pre-tinning: essential for a good bond
  • Chemist glasses: the best $2.50 ever spent!  I only need the weakest ones but they make a huge difference
  • Start simple with things like cables and battery connectors, leave the micro servo mods for later

When I got my ArduPilot it was of course the cheapo version from RCTimer - which required soldering the pins.  I was terrified of destroying my new $70 baby but it was all over in about 20 minutes.  I almost wished there was more to do.

Trivia Corner:
Why don’t Americans pronounce the ‘L’ in soLder?  Is it the French influence on American English, like the way they say “herb”?

6 Tools I Wouldn't Be Without

6. May 2014 20:08 by outbackuav in Posts

1. Tweezers

Super fine Japanese tweezers from eBay, I have straight and curved but the curved ones don't have much grip.  Very useful for grabbing stuff inside small fuselages and wings.

2. Chemist Glasses

If you don't need them now, you'll need them one day!  I used to used a magnifying glass on the top of a set of helping hands but the glasses are much easier.

3. Temperature Controlled Soldering Iron

I replaced my basic 40 watt unregulated with a Chinese temperature-controlled iron with a digital display.  It was very cheap (sorry Haako!) but it does a fine job.  I bought a set of tips that make any job a lot easier.  I used to dread soldering now I've soldered new wires on to servos and even added resistors inside a servo to make it sweep 180 degrees.

4. Servo Connector Crimper

Free yourself from the tyranny of servo extension cables and connectors in inconvenient places.  Crimping is easy and makes much neater planes.

5. Combination Watt Meter, Servo Tester, Battery Checker

I've got a little HobbyKing 6 in 1 unit that is very useful for understanding what current I'm using, testing servos and peeking insode batteries.

6. Half Decent Muiltimeter

My first one was $4.99 (can you tell I'm cheap?).  Finally upgraded to a new one and it has automatic voltage ranging and best of all, an audible continuity tester - very useful when you've got into some contortion to put the probes on and then realise you can't see the screen.