In soldering, using the right accessories and tools can be the difference between an excellent job and failure.
The right setup doesn’t just make your job easier; it enhances the entire soldering experience, allowing for precision, comfort, and overall better results.
In this comprehensive guide, you will find an extensive guide to soldering accessories that simplify the process, from the must-have cleaning tools to high-precision devices that can take your soldering projects to the next level.
The Importance of Soldering Comfortably
Soldering comfortably is essential for several reasons.
First, it’s crucial for safety because uncomfortable positions can lead to accidents and burns.
Moreover, working comfortably has been shown to boost efficiency and speed, allowing you to complete your tasks more quickly and accurately.
Imagine, for example, the difference between having your workpieces properly secured and having them loose on an unstable surface.
Steadiness is key to achieving high-quality and reliable soldering joints, preventing soldering defects, and avoiding stress.
Whether you solder occasionally or frequently, investing in the right accessories and building a comfortable soldering setup is rewarding.
They do cost extra, but the good news is that you don’t have to buy all at once; you can buy things as your soldering jobs become more and more complex, and you gain experience.
Remember that besides selecting the right soldering accessories, ergonomic considerations such as proper posture and hand positioning are equally crucial for a comfortable and safe soldering experience.
In this guide, I will go from the most basic accessories, the must-haves, to the ones that are for high-precision soldering and, in some cases, are not indispensable but are great to have.
Links to Soldering Accessories
1. Heat-Resistant Mats
Heat-resistant soldering mats or soldering pads are one of the first things you should consider when you start getting more involved with PCB assembly and electronics. These mats can withstand high temperatures, shielding your workbench or the surface beneath them from both the heat of the soldering iron and potential solder splashes.
These products usually have anti-slip properties and are resistant to chemical products used in soldering, such as flux and isopropyl.
They are extremely portable, and most of them come with compartments, trays, and even magnetic pads to hold small components, screws, tools, solder rails, and other elements, helping to keep your work area well organized.
I suggest you get a heat-resistant mat with ESD (Electrostatic Discharge) protection. This feature prevents static electricity from building up and discharging onto sensitive components, which could damage them.
Mats are reasonably cheap, going from $20 to $50.
Please note that the pricing information provided is only a guideline and is subject to fluctuation; it’s advisable to check the latest price at the shop.
Soldering Iron Cleaning Accessories
Whether you are using a pluggable soldering iron or a soldering station, cleaning and tinning the tip is crucial to ensure perfect joints and keep it protected, extending its lifespan.
There are different products you can use for cleaning your soldering iron’s tip, but the ideal would be to have both a soldering sponge and a brass wire cleaner because they can be useful in different situations.
2. Soldering Sponges
Sponges or wet cleaning pads are organic sponges, often made of sulfur-free cellulose and held by a small container. They must be damp but not soaked in water, as moisture prevents the soldering tip from scratches and friction.
These sponges are practical for removing excess solder and debris while soldering and cleaning the tip after finishing the job.
A good soldering practice is to rub the soldering iron’s tip over the sponge to remove solder debris and oxidation, ensuring it will be ready to solder the following joint.
3. Brass Wool Cleaner
As the name suggests, a brass wool cleaner consists of a container holding a thin, curled brass wire. The brass wire has a thin coat of rosin flux to help clean the tip more effectively.
Some people prefer this method over the wet sponge; however, both tools have their cons and pros, and according to my experience, both ways are equally effective; it’s just a matter of personal preference.
4. Tip Tinner
Tip tinner or soldering tip tinner is a paste made of a mixture of soldering flux and solder powder that usually comes in a small, round tin can.
This product is useful for tinning, as it is more effective and practical than regular solder, and it’s highly recommended when using soldering stations that use high-precision, expensive tips.
Keeping the soldering iron tip clean is crucial for optimal performance; a dirty tip can impede heat transfer, making your soldering tasks both more difficult and less reliable.
5. Soldering Iron Stands
Soldering iron stands are essential accessories for any soldering setup. They are designed to hold your soldering iron in place when not in use, preventing accidental burns or accidents and allowing you to have your hands free for other tasks without worrying about letting the soldering iron cool down.
There are many models of soldering iron stands; some include a sponge or wool cleaner, and others have small compartments on the base for storing small things like spare tips.
The simplest ones are thin, foldable sheets of metal, or just brackets, that don’t provide as much protection and stability as more complex yet affordable models with a proper base and excellent thermal insulation.
Securing the workpieces in place is important for achieving great results, working comfortably, and reducing the margin of error.
Let’s take a look at some of these accessories.
6. Pliers and Tweezers
These tools are essential for avoiding burns or injuries and protecting the components while soldering. A good set of pliers and tweezers is one of the first accessories you should consider when building your soldering setup.
They come in different sizes and shapes to help you hold the workpieces comfortably and effortlessly.
I recommend getting needle-nose pliers and a pair of ESD-safe tweezers.
7. Third-Hand Tools
These tools feature adjustable arms with alligator clips at their ends that allow holding from wires to small circuit boards in place.
There are many models available; some bring two arms, and others bring up to four arms.
8. Soldering Helping Hands
These are an enhanced version of the third-hand tools. Besides the adjustable arms, they feature a magnifying glass to help work with small components or complex circuits.
Some models also include light for enhanced visibility, and most advanced models bring LED lights with different color modes.
9. Soldering Vise
A soldering vise is a sturdier and more stable version of the helping hand or third hand. It’s like a mini-workshop vise that is strong enough to hold heavy boards in place without damaging them.
They come in different sizes and models; some have a vacuum base that sticks to the workbench, others a screw, and others have holes to be bolted like their bigger brothers.
10.Circuit Board Holders
These accessories are great for working with surface-mount or sensitive through-hole circuit boards.
They are bigger than soldering vises and have holders that allow rotating the board 360 degrees, allowing them to reach all the sections comfortably.
They can be adjusted to different sizes of boards and offer ESD (Electro Static Discharge) protection. They are an excellent option to have in mind when building your soldering setup.
Sometimes, you need to desolder components, whether to replace them or to fix a soldering mistake. Melting solder is the easiest part, but removing the solder without a proper aid can be challenging.
These accessories are also practical for removing excess solder when soldering, helping to make your joints accurate and clean.
11. Desoldering Braid or Wick
This accessory is the most classic way to deal with excess solder resulting from applying too much solder to the soldering iron tip or joint and removing solder when doing desoldering jobs.
A desoldering wick is essentially a flat, slim, braided copper wire with a coat of flux that comes in rolls or stripes. It comes in different sizes to suit small and large applications.
Using the desoldering wick is straightforward; you just have to cut a tiny piece of desoldering braid and lay it over the solder joint you want to undo. As you heat the braid and solder joint with the soldering iron or hot air gun, the solder will melt and flow into the desoldering braid, absorbing the solder.
While using it requires some practice, this technique allows removing solder with precision.
12. Vacuum Desoldering Pumps
Vacuum desoldering pumps are less precise than wicks but best suited for extensive desoldering jobs. As the name suggests, these tools use a manual vacuum pump to suck up melted solder.
They are plastic or metallic tubes with a plunger and a spring inside. They have a nozzle on one end and, on the other, the end of the plunger and a locking button.
When you press the end of the plunger, the spring is loaded, and the mechanism is locked, leaving the plunger ready to suction.
As you push the locking button, the plunger is released, and the spring brings it back into place, creating a vacuum that suctions the melted solder through the nozzle. The solder is trapped inside the tube and solidifies.
The tool can be opened for cleaning and removal of the hardened solder.
Electric Solder Sucker
These tools share the same principle as manual vacuum desoldering pumps but use an electric pump to suction the molten solder.
They are more precise than their manual counterparts, allowing them to work easily in SMD soldering tasks.
When soldering complex circuits or for extended periods, these tools help do the job accurately and alleviate eye strain and visual fatigue.
13. Magnifying Glasses
I already mentioned magnifying glasses when discussing “Soldering Helping Hands”; however, they deserve their place on this list.
Sometimes, you will need a bigger magnifying glass, and excellent desktop models with LED lights are extremely helpful for extensive soldering sessions, mostly when working with SMDs and/or small components.
14. Electronic Microscopes
Electronic microscopes used to be expensive tools unsuitable for DIYers, hobbyists, or professionals; they were exclusive tools used by large corporations. Nowadays, thanks to the revolution of technology, you can buy a proper electronic microscope for $200 and up.
Some soldering and reworking stations even bring them from the factory, simplifying the work on small and complex circuits. Besides, electronic microscopes are great for finding soldering defects and troubleshooting circuit board problems, thanks to their excellent resolution and image quality.
15. Anti-Static Straps or ESD Wristbands
Anti-static straps or ESD(electrostatic discharge) wristbands are designed to prevent electrostatic discharges from the operator’s body to the circuits and components being handled.
They are made of non-conductive materials, such as flexible fabric or rubber, with a metal or carbon strap connected to a ground point, such as an ESD mat or a grounded workbench.
The strap equals the person’s electrical potential with the grounded surface, preventing static charges from building up. They also protect the operator from ESD-related injuries from working with components like charged capacitors.
Wearing an anti-static wristband is crucial because static electricity can damage sensitive electronic components, thereby affecting the reliability of your work.
When using the right tools and accessories, everything becomes easier and safer.
Remember, you don’t have to buy all these items at once; however, there are interesting kits at very convenient prices. Unfortunately, certain jobs require soldering in uncomfortable positions, but when working on a workbench, there is no excuse for not working comfortably.
A well-organized working space is as important as having these accessories; I hope you enjoyed this guide and you can enjoy soldering as much as I do.
David Castillo is an automotive industry expert specializing in vehicle electronics and stand-alone fuel management systems. He has over 20 years of experience and owns a car repair garage and tuning shop.
David still runs his shop but is now more focused on pre-purchase car inspections and writing for FinePowerTools.
Back to Contents
- The Importance of Soldering Comfortably
- 1. Heat-Resistant Mats
- Soldering Iron Cleaning Accessories
- 5. Soldering Iron Stands
- Workpieces Holders
- Desoldering Accessories
- Visual Aids
- 15. Anti-Static Straps or ESD Wristbands