Recommended Soldering Tools
So you want to build a keyboard, but are unsure of exactly what you'll need? Don't worry, here's a list of suggested tools for soldering. Some of these items with have a star (★) next to them, as these are the ones that Keebio has.
Here's a video we put together talking about the tools we like:
At the minimum, you'll need these items to build the keyboards that Keebio offers:
- Soldering Iron
- Flush Cutters
A temperature-controlled soldering iron is recommended. Even though you can get by with using a non-temperature-controlled one, for a beginner, it's very easy to burn pads on a PCB due to inconsistent temperatures and the iron getting too hot. A decent temperature-controlled soldering iron is not much more expensive than a regular one.
Here's a list of some suggested ones:
- ★ KSGER T12 Soldering Iron Station ($$) - Recommended mid-tier option. Tips heat up to the right temperature fairly quickly and are hotswappable without needing to turn off the station. Handles soldering to ground planes well due to good thermal mass. Pro tip: Only thing to note is that when changing the tip, to get the station to recognize it properly, press in the control knob and turn it to select the correct tip.
- ★ Yihua 937D+ SMD Soldering Iron Rework Station LED Display ($) - Easy to adjust temperature using the knob, and having a digital readout is very nice to have so you know what temperature the iron is at
- ★★ PACE ADS200 Professional Soldering Station ($$$) - By far Keebio's favorite soldering iron! Tips heat up in 2-3 seconds, and they are hotswappable. Handles soldering to ground planes very easily. Highly recommended.
Integrated soldering iron and hot air stations
If you plan on doing some work with SMD components in the future, having a hot air station is great to have and sometimes doesn't cost that much more than a regular iron.
Avoid lead-free solder unless you are more experienced. Lead-free solder requires high temperatures, and for someone starting out with soldering, using it often leads to cold joints and/or overheating of pads. Leaded solder is fine, and that's what most people use anyway. Don't cheap out on solder!
Diameter: 0.031" solder is good for general usage. For SMD components which are smaller, 0.020" is recommended.
Tin/Lead Ratio: 63/37 or 60/40 are good ratios to go with. 63/37 stands for 63% tin, 37% lead.
You'll need flush cutters for clipping diode legs, resistor legs, and Pro Micro header pins.
Here's some additional items you might find to be handy during builds:
- Soldering Iron Tip Cleaner
- Solder Sucker and Wick
- Hookup Wire
- Helping hands/PCB holder
- Solder Spool Holder
Using a wet sponge to clean your tip is okay, but using a brass wire ball cleans better and doesn't reduce the temperature of the soldering iron tip. Highly recommended.
Tip Tinner: Good to use once at the beginning of a soldering session instead of tinning with solder and helps restore tips
You're bound to screw up a build at some point, and you're going to need some way to remove that solder. Highly recommended to buy a solder sucker of some sort, wick is not that important to have.
- ★ Blue and Metal Solder Sucker ($) - There's a bunch of these cheap suckers sold under various listings and despite the price, they get the job done.
- Desoldering Irons/Stations
- ★ Velleman VTDESOL3U Vacuum Desoldering Pump With Heater 30W ($) - Careful with this one as you depress the pump, as hot solder will come flying out of it. But you can desolder a whole board quickly with this
If you're going to be doing any kind of SMD work, you'll need some tweezers to handle all those small parts.
Needed for attaching an RGB LED strip, using as jumper wires, or handwiring. Recommended wire gauge is 22 AWG to 28 AWG, make sure it's solid core and not stranded. Having multiple colors is also recommended.
No specific recommendations, main thing you'll probably use it for is checking for continuity, so having one that beeps is nice (most multimeters have beep option). The free/cheap ones from Harbor Freight will do the job.
Nice for protecting the surface that you're working on.
Better than just leaving the solder spool sitting on its side.
Helps solder stick better. Usually the flux in solder will do just fine, but this can help sometimes.
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