For general electronics work the best type of soldering iron is one powered by mains electricity (230V in the UK),
it should have a heatproof silicone cable for safety.
The iron's power rating should be 15 to 25W and it should be fitted with a small bit of 2 to 3mm diameter.
If you are buying your first soldering iron I recommend the
from Rapid Electronics.
It is designed for lead-free solder which melts at a slightly higher temperature than
traditional solder, but the iron can be used with traditional solder as well.
It has a safe heatproof silicone cable and is for a 230V mains supply, fitted with a UK plug.
Rapid Electronics also sell soldering irons for a 110V mains supply.
Low voltage soldering irons are available, but their extra
safety is undermined if you have a mains lead to their power supply!
Temperature controlled irons are excellent for frequent use, but not worth the extra
expense if you are a beginner. Gas-powered irons are designed for use where no mains
supply is available and are not suitable for everyday use. Pistol shaped solder guns
are far too powerful and cumbersome for normal electronics use.
The best size of solder for electronics is 22 swg (swg = standard wire gauge).
Thicker solder (such as 18swg) can be used for larger contacts on switches and other parts but
it requires more care when used for finer work on stripboard and most PCB joints.
I recommend using lead-free solder.
Solder for electronics use contains tiny cores of flux, like the wires inside a mains flex.
The flux is corrosive, like an acid, and it cleans the metal surfaces as the solder melts.
This is why you must melt the solder actually on the joint, not on the iron tip. Without
flux most joints would fail because metals quickly oxidise and the solder itself will not
flow properly onto a dirty, oxidised, metal surface.
Always wash your hands after using solder, this is especially important with traditional
solder because it contains lead which is toxic.
Hand tools for Electronics
You may already have some of these tools such as the pliers and screwdriver.
Desoldering pump (solder sucker)
For desoldering a joint to correct a mistake or replace a component.
An ESD nozzle prevents damage to ICs which can be damaged by static electricity.
You need them to cut and strip the insulation without damaging the wire inside.
The automatic type adjust themselves, on others you must set the stop yourself or use them very carefully.
Most designs include a cutter but this is not suitable for trimming component leads (use side cutters).
This multimeter has all the ranges required for testing simple projects: DC voltage, DC current (including a useful 10A range),
resistance, diode test and AC voltage. All these features are explained on the multimeters page.
For more advanced use, including AC current, capacitance and frequency measurement,
I recommend this multimeter from Rapid Electronics:
Digital Multimeter (advanced)
have kindly allowed me to use their images on this website and I am very grateful for their support.
They stock a wide range of components, tools and materials for electronics and I am happy to
recommend them as a supplier.
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