Soldering 101

At workbenches in TV stations all around the country, soldering is done on a daily basis.
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At workbenches in TV stations all around the country, soldering is done on a daily basis.

Whether it’s equipment repair or simple cable manufacture or repair, the quality of the connections can mean the difference between solid performance and unsatisfactory results. The integrity of the wires, use of insulating materials, and proper heat selection are contributing factors for reliable connections.

When soldering connectors, remember to tin stranded conductors before soldering. Before cutting the conductors to length, strip some insulation off and solder a “test tin.” It is likely that the insulation will contract, exposing more conductor than you had originally. If you do not take the shrinkage into consideration, you may end up with too much un-insulated conductor. If the cable gets twisted during use, the result could be shorted conductors inside the connector.

Covering connections with heat-shrinkable tubing is good insurance against these types of shorts as well.

Whenever possible, good mechanical connections before soldering can add strength to any solder connection. Some connectors have holes for the conductors to be placed through prior to soldering, which adds some strain relief under tension.

Soldering stations come in all shapes and sizes, and variable heat settings are available on most soldering stations. Care must be taken to not damage any component that you are soldering, whether it’s a semi-conductor or a connector with plastic components. However, if you do not get good solder flow, the connection will not be optimized. Don’t get in a hurry. Take time to clean and prepare both surfaces.