List of tools for surface mount work

I am putting together a list for prototyping designs with surface mount parts, mainly for myself. But it will help anyone else with the same question.

I've never done surface mount before and only got one design on PCB with surface mount parts so far. I've not soldered parts on the board yet. I am trying to figure out what tools I need to do the job. I received some grant and the work is open source and for teaching. So I can afford some nicer tools. Here is my very short list of tools:

  1. [EDIT] This German iron just crapped out on me. Got to get hold of repair service (seems only one person for whole USA). "Nice" solder iron with micro/mini tips. I got that. Weller WD1001 and a micro tip. The set already includes a small tip.
  2. Fume extraction from OK electronics
  3. Vacuum pickup pen for MCU
  4. Tweezers ESD Adafruit and sparkfun both sell them. I might get the angled nose one and a pair of straight one
  5. 0.022" diameter solder (lead-free) RadioShack has them for $8 3oz, or search the web to find cheaper ones. I just hang a few spools of different sizes with hook-loop straps on my fume extractor. Grab the end and solder away!
  6. Some magnifiers (for me?!)
  7. I found a couple of multimeters for surface components around $25 at sparkfun and adafruit. Would be nice to know what you're soldering before doing the job.
  8. Maybe I will get a rework station instead of oven. I don't know how that will work out with the business office. When I was in school I bought a pair of noise cancelling head sets, so I can hear people talk while working in super noisy environment (we tend to yell and get in bad temper in that noisy lab). But school paper pusher decided this thing can play music, so no reimbursement.
  9. Solder paste
  10. Squeegee? What is that, precious? If I don't have stencil, say for prototyping, what tool is best for spreading?
  11. What else do you use specifically for surface mount?

FYI, I will only have may be up to 3 IC (including ATMEGA328P-AU) that are surface mount and one SD card slot, and 0603 chip resistors and caps.

So what do you think I am missing? I am interested in very small production runs say 20 units etc. I don't think I'll get reflow oven etc.

Thanks for your input!

Hot air rework station. Got mine from ebay, XTRONIC-4000 series, maybe X-tronics, US distributor in the midwest. Also a nozzle for the specific chip size to be reworked, limits the airflow to just the pins area. I bought several different sizes from, 328, 1284, 2560, TPIC6b595, 74HC595, whatever parts you are using. Search "nozzle", couple examples: Prices vary, larger packages seem to be less expensive. Easier to assemble? Solder paste, Kester EZ256, Easy256, something 256. Leaded solder. EP256, that's it. Stencil for your design - send gerbers to, ~$30 depending on size. Squeegee for applying paste. Tweezers Maybe heated tweezers for removing 2-pin devices. Your design will include ICPS and/or FTDI headers? If not, an Atmega328 programming adapter from - square adapter with 6 pins that you press over the '328, other end connects to an AVR programmer, program via ICSP. (site not opening for me at the moment)

4 element, 1500W toaster oven. Way less tedious to reflow than to be hunched over for hours soldering little pins. Thermocouple probe for your meter. Use to monitor the toaster oven. Manual method: places PCBs in oven. Crank on full, as oven approaches preheat phase back off and let it settle. ~150C. Wait 2 minutes. Crank on full, as oven approaches reflow phase backoff and let it settle. ~235C. Wait 30 seconds. Turn heat fill off, when temp drops down to 180, crack door, when it cools more open door fully. On mine you can hear the bimetal element click the heat off and on, so when I wanted if off I just back off till I heard it, if looked to be cooling too low I turned it back just a little. Whole process only takes 2 to 3 minutes. Do a couple of dry runs, kind of calibrate where you need to set your knob for the desired temps. DO NOT EXCEED THE MAX TEMP of 250, 255C. Many data sheets have the profile, some in words, some in pics. For example, see a page 10 here "IR-Reflow Normal Process" or page 4 here

Need 4-element/ 1500W to achieve the ramp-up rates specified. Can be an old one you have in your basement (what I use now) or find at a yard sale, can be a new for $50 from Target/Wallmart (what I have waiting in my dining room for me to add an automatic controller to - got a thermocouple, chip, bunch of parts, just need to get around to it). High-proof isopropyl alchohol to wipe boards with prior to applying solder paste. I have 99% from local electronics supplier. 95% okay, doesn't dry as quick. Also good for cleaning boards that have been manually soldered. 0.025"/23 guage solder, I use leaded solder from MG Chemical. Purchased locally in 1lb spools.

Hope that helps.

I place my components manually (tedious I know) but I would say make sure the tweezers are good quality, no burrs or anything on the tips. And I use two different types, straight ones for most work and angled ones for bigger components such as ic’s.

I don't like those vacuum pickup pens either. Much easier to use a tweezers.

The really small tips for soldering irons aren't that easy to use. Unless you're working with very small pins like on a TSSOP (smaller than SOIC) you should stick with the "normal" sizes.

Someday I hope to build a custom "hot plate", about 15cm square, for doing reflow. A toaster oven sounds like a good idea if you're using solder paste/stencils but I'd like to have something that I can reflow on and still be able to manipulate the parts by hand.

+1 for the hot air rework station. "Rework" is a misnomer though, you can use them for the initial soldering of components.


Depending on your eyesight, a large magnifying glass on a stand might be useful.

Takes practice tho - I find it hard to work under a magnifying glass. Reading glasses get in the way, or something about losing stereo vision. I have some 3x reading glasses that work better.

Those head-mounted magnifiers work well, and you can flip down more power when you need it as most of them have an extra lens or two on swivels/hinges.


I got the 3X thru my optometrist Pearl Vision. Can’t stand the low quality of the other methods.

very interesting. Bit expensive but maybe one Day I'll get there :~

Graynomad: Those head-mounted magnifiers work well, and you can flip down more power when you need it as most of them have an extra lens or two on swivels/hinges.


I second this. Works great for me. But buy a good quality (look at the distortion on the sides of the glasses) Best regards Jantje

Really sorry I left the post a couple days. Been busy changing passwords all over, due to the heartbleed security issues. Still have too many more sites to go.

OK, I added your recommendations to my list. Unfortunately my weller solder pencil or station is needing repair. Its temperature sensor is on the verge of breaking. See picture of “NO temperature” and correct temperature. Very disappointed with $350 of investment. May get a hakko instead with the grant. This weller is for home business.

CR, so if I do get a rework station, and a proper nozzle, all I have to do is to add solder paste to the pads, place MCU, attach proper nozzle, and heat up, right? That sounds easier than soldering every pin or even drag soldering. I have a chiseled tip that I think should work for drag soldering. Just need flux.

all I have to do is to add solder paste to the pads, place MCU, attach proper nozzle, and heat up, right?

Correct, plus maybe use solder wick to remove any bridges on fine-pitch chips.

I've not done the soldering iron drag trick, dunno if that's easier or not, but certainly using hot air is pretty easy although you have to be careful not to blow parts across the board :)