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Central UK
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Hi all,
illness left me with a hand tremor and even with a set of 'helping hands' I struggle with soldering.
The tip is always so far away from the handle that it tends to amplify the tremor and flys all over the place.

Have tried basic electric irons but these are usually pretty long. The little draper gas iron is much better but I'm constantly refilling it.
Any other suggestions?

I also find that the tips are eating away at themselves at quite a pace and I'm soon left with an annoying concave soldering tip??

Any advice much appreciated
best regards
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Have you tried using a prop of some sort for your hand or the iron?  I'm thinking prop up between your hand and the flange on a typical iron.

As far as your eroding tips go, make sure you tin the tip - once you're through soldering, clean the tip, then melt a large blob of solder and leave it on the tip.

When soldering, wipe the tip just before you use it - don't clean the tip then put it back on the stand. This leaves some solder on the tip while it's waiting for you.

-j
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Many thanks for this. I'm not currently doing all the tinning and cleaning so I'm sure that I'm to blame for the erosion.

I'll see what I can find as far as a prop goes and give it a try.

I also wondered if a better quality iron would be worth investing in. Because it is moving around a fair bit I wondered if something that got slightly hotter would allow for a faster connection. Lost count of the number of components I've melted trying to stick two bits of wire together! :-) I have an LCD panel I need to solder pins to and have been putting it off as I'm sure I'm going to fry it! :-)

Thanks again
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Manchester (England England)
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Above advice is good, also:-

You could use surface mount techniques with solder paste and a hot air gun. that way you don't have to be so precise.

As to eroding tips, some tips are iron clad to prevent this. In which case you don't use "tip saving solder" otherwise you could use it. This has a small amount of copper in it to retard erosion.

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I also wondered if a better quality iron would be worth investing in
Defiantly, if it heats up quicker and holds the temperature more constant with improved feedback especially.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2010, 09:51:05 am by Grumpy_Mike » Logged

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2MuchNFO
Using some of the temperature controlled irons will help, in that their heating capacity is much larger than is required, and the tip or electronics at the hot end controls how much they deliver.

A popular one on this side of the world is Weller. They use heat sensitive magnetics in the tip to control the heat, and they have a relatively short handle to tip.

I know some of the clever people that assist the disabled, make various gadgets to help overcome problems, and I wonder if it would be possible to make something that changed where you hold the iron, to reduce the tremor effect on the tip.

The alternative is a jig that allows you to rotate the iron down onto the job, where you can apply the solder with your other hand.

You have my sympathy, I had always imagined loss of eyesight as being a major problem for someone involved in electonic servicing,  but your tremor is something that would frustrate me.

Mark
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A popular one on this side of the world is Weller.
Yes I have a few of these personally.

However, professionally the best two are Metcal which is not quite as good as the current favourite JBC
http://www.jbctools.com/
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Thanks again everyone.

Believe me, trying to get my head around volts and amps and diodes and transistors etc etc is being far more of a hinderance than the tremor at the moment.  ;D

..as will be persuading my wife that I need to buy a new soldering iron :-)
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2muchnfo
I do work for a charity REMAP which invariably gets involved with problems like yours.  Sometimes we have to apply some lateral thinking and your particular case might need quite a bit of this.

Firstly you need a good iron and it must be clean and properly tinned.  A dirty iron will always fail to solder but will keep pumping heat into whatever you are working on.

Now to your problem.  On the basis that you have a hand tremor, the solution might well be to "eliminate" the tremor rather than develop a work-around.  Would it be possible to make some form of hand restraint that permitted you to use and manipulate a soldering iron but which would eliminate the tremor by virtue of the fact that your hand was restrained.  Say something like a U-shaped yolk you could lay on the work-bench, into which you could drop your hand but still permit some degree of manipulation of your fingers to control movement of the iron.

Alternately you may need to look at some means of fitting the iron into a mechanical frame which would guide it onto the job and effectively isolate its movement from that of your hand.

jack
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I thought about suggesting SMT/paste/hot air as well, but then thought that may be just trading the problem of soldering for the problem of placing the components.

not only does a hot air gun require a bit less precision, there are also mounts for the gun that hold it over the work for you.

Hakko is another well known brand; I've had good luck with used Hakko gear from ebay.

There are also Hakko knock-offs that are OK for hobby work (but having done both, I'd get a used Hakko off ebay rather than a new knock-off).

-j
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2MuchNFO,

I'm in the same boat, I've has cataract surgery in both eyes and I have carpal tunnel that makes my hand shakey, I am not able to solder a perfboard to save my life.

However, I am able to create 'dead bug' circuits without trouble.
I use epoxy to glue components and ICs upside down to a piece of hardboard.
I connect wires to the connections by pinching the wires onto the connections with a pair of needlenose pliers and then I solder them.
Its much easier to solder the connections/wires when they are sticking up in the air.

When the circuit is done I paint exposed connections with Plasti-Dip (available at homedepot).

Another Example:
http://kd1jv.qrpradio.com/ARRLHBC/ARRL_MMR40.html
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More excellent suggestions. I'll try some out and report back - hopefully it will be of use to others in the same/similar position.
You've convinced me on the Soldering iron. I'm scanning eBay.

One thing that has helped, although may not be 'good form' is that I also make use of needlenose pliers. If I need to join two wires I strip off the insulation at the end and bend the ends of the wires into hooks. I then hook them together and crimp with the pliers to make a more sturdy join....then solder the join.

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Hooking wires together before soldering is excellent practice.   As a humble instrument apprentice, some 50 years ago, we were always taught that joints should be mechanically strong before soldering.   The practice of simply laying a wire alongside a component and soldering the two together is very poor workmanship.

jack
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