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Soldering, tools, suppliers, PCB fab houses and Other Such Info

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Senior Member
May 10, 2009
This thread contains misc. electrical know how. Including soldering tips, tool/part suppliers, and all sorts of other stuff. We start with a basic guide to the electronics toolkit originally written by Super Nade, here. I intend to update it with links at some point.
Super Nade said:

This brief guide is for those who wish to jump head-first into the world of electronics repair and modding. I've broken things down component wise and left it at that, Mix and match as you please. I've deliberately left out details because a) I don't have first hand experience with all applications and b) It would take me too long to write this up.

Components are marked with green text for better visibility. I'll updates this as and when possible.
  • Basic Soldering Kit:
  • Soldering irons come in various shapes and sizes. What you need depends on your application.
    • For simple solder jobs like connecting wires, you can get away with a cheap $10 Soldering Iron from Radioshack.
    • For re-capping jobs, pick an iron that is at least 40W or higher, can go up to 400+ C, offers ESD protection and has a tip with a larger surface area. Recommended manufacturers are Weller, Goot and Hakko.
    • For delicate SMD work, you may need a soldering station and multiple irons to do a clean job. Again look at Goot, Hakko or Weller for best results. You may need a fine tip.
  • Solder. Essential and preferably with a Rosin (flux) core. There are different kinds of solder available with different properties. I would go with non-ROHS solder for now. ROHS solder is lead free, but also has a higher melting point. You may have issues with the flow and if your iron can't get hot enough, you are stuck.
  • Flux may be used because it helps with the even and quick spread of the solder. Not absolutely necessary, but very useful if you are having a hard time with getting the solder to uniformly adhere to stuff.
  • You need a loop of Soldering braid to suck up molten solder. It is definitely safer than a solder pump and can be used on PCBs.
  • Solder pump to suck up gobs of molten solder. I don't use it, but it can be useful.
  • Stainless Steel sewing needles of different diameter to clean out holes on a PCB. Solder won't stick to them so they can bore through a hole when heated.
  • Wire strippers and cutters.
  • Carbon/Graphite tipped ESD safe tweezers.
  • Ghetto ESD safe work areas can be created by cutting open anti-static bags and using the insides as an ESD safe area.
  • Wrist straps. Make sure you ground yourself properly if you are handling IC's.
  • Iso-propanol for cleaning stuff (do not use Acetone).
  • Lint free tissue (Kodak).
  • Solder tip tinner. This is a must to keep a clean tip.
  • Sponge and lots of water!
  • Test and Diagnostic equipment:
  • A Digital Multimeter is a must. I use a Fluke, but even the $30 ones are acceptable. It depends on what you are measuring.
  • PC USB Oscilloscope: Companies who make them include USB Instruments, Pico Technologies, Link Instruments and Hooby Labs' Disco.
  • Oscilloscope: If you are pressed for money, go with an Analog scope. DSO's can be expensive and are still slower than a good Analog scope.
  • Probes: O-scope 10x probes are useful for debugging. Textronix have a wide array of these probes.
  • Kill-A-Watt: A rough tool that gives you the Average AC power drawn from the wall. Can be inaccurate.
  • Power Spectrum Analyzers: Very expensive, can run up to thousands of $'s.
  • ESR Meter (Bob-Parker design) to measure ESR of a Capacitor.
  • Good Capacitor Manufacturers:
Choosing the right capacitors depends on your application. My tackle box has all kinds of capacitors in 'em. For recapping, you can choose between Electrolytic, Conductive Polymer and Organic Semi-conductor (OS-CON). I'll list out a few good brands and applications from my experience.
  • United Chemicon KY, LXZ, KZE (Motherboards and PSUs)
  • Nichion LE Conductive Polymer (Motherboards)
  • Nippon Chemicon NPCap (Conductive Polymer) (Motherboards)
  • Sanyo OS-CON, SEPC,WG (Motheboards, Audio)
  • Rubycon MBZ (Motherboards)
  • Panasonic FM, FC (Motheboards, Audio)
  • Capacitor manufacturer and ID Database
  • Other components
  • Trimpots from Bourns
  • Inductors from Yaego



Senior Member
May 10, 2009
An online resource and PCB fab house post, also originally from Super Nade.
Super Nade said:
I'm compiling a list of websites for electrical data and standards as it pertains to electronic components. This is really a hodge-podge of useful resources. Feel free to chime in with your own input and I'll add it here.
  • This is probably the best site for Pinout info: PINOUTS.RU
  • Capacitor manufacturers and ID Database
  • Form factors and PSU standards at Formfactors.org
  • ExpressPCB offer PCB Prototyping software and manufacturing but the output format is proprietary.
  • I prefer to use the open source software EAGLE used all around the world. Also try the 3D add-on called Eagle3D
  • Cheap proto-boards can be fabricated HERE
  • PCB Express is another option, but they are not "dirt cheap"
  • Pad2Pad and BatchPCB are other recommendations from our members.


Senior Member
May 10, 2009
A guide to tiny soldering, originally posted by four4875.
[quote="EDIT: the pics aren't available, the webserver they were on was destroyed in a flood. google for shelby ohio flood and you should find some info on it.

I've been doing a bit of soldering to TINY components lately, and I took a few pics of it and hope to offer a guide that you guys can follow. The pics aren't of Vmods, but similarly small, if not smaller, components.

A HUGE thanks goes to johan851 for his help in correcting my grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling.


First, you'll want to get together all of the supplies you'll need. In my opinion, the most important tool you'll use is a magnifying glass. I have one from my dad that folds up and is like an inch and a half square, and unfolds to stand itself up at about an inch and a half high. One great thing about it is that my camera's lense fits right up against it, and it actually takes good pics (which inspired me to write this guide!). Heres a pic of it.

Next is the soldering iron. For this I used a Radioshack dual 15/30 watt iron. You can make a 30 watt iron into a 15 the same way RS does it by sticking a diode in one of the 110V lines. The switch just bypasses the diode. I used the tip as it came out of the box, didn't even have to file it to a better point or anything.

Solder, wire, desoldering braid. I have a roll of solder that is quite old, it's a pretty fine diameter, and I dont know what mix it is. All I know is that it is small and has rosin flux in it. I sacrificed one of my rounded IDE cables that I got from Newegg a couple years ago. It has some nice fine wires, and they are all free from each other. I bought a roll of desoldering braid from RadioShack (referred to as RS from now on) and it's serving me pretty well. I also have handy a RS desoldering iron, but its only good for big things. Another handy tihng to have around is super glue or hot glue for a less permanent mod. If you have it, flash tac or another super glue accelerator is suggested.

Now is a good time to prepare yourself. Work in a well-lit, clean environment; I chose my kitchen table. I noticed that when making connections at 6 PM as opposed to 6 AM the next morning, I had much more success on the first shot, obviously because I was tired and running on BAWLS. My back was sore from hunching over for the last 12 hours and my eyes were burning from being tired and from superglue fumes....so basically be in a good mood, not tired or anything. I forgot to add, If you're fat like me, it makes a huge difference in comfort to take off your belt. Might as well take the keys and wireless card out of your pockets while you're at it.

Get your stuff out and handy, and get the board or whatever out of the case and cleaned up of dust and whatnot. Get the iron in a conveniently reachable spot, preferably sitting on its stand or in its holder if it's a station, plug it in and get it heated and tinned, and clean the tip with the damp sponge that I didn't mention up in the supplies list. I position the board i was soldering with the region I was soldering facing either away from me or to my right. This way I can use my left hand to hold the wire in place and hold the iron in my right. Have solder, your magnifier, and everything else in convenient reach.

Now to the actual soldering.

I like to touch the iron to the pin im soldering to to be sure there isnt some kind of coating that will make things difficult on it. Then prepare the wire. I start with a piece of wire with 7 strands in it, strip about 3/4 inch from it (pic) , and pull 4 of them back so i have 3. you can cut off the spare strands, or leave them, it doesnt matter. I cut them off usually. then i twist the 3 remaining strands (pic) . i hold the strands in my right hand, between the pointer finger and thumb, and spin the whole wire in the left hand. After it's stripped, seperated and twisted, I tin it. I have a habbit of just sticking the wire up from bottom through a screw hole on the board im working on to hold it. Then come from the bottom of the wire with the iron and put the solder on top of the wire. I start at the end of the wire and work my way towards the insulation, I've found that this minimizes the amount of melted / burnt insulation. I then trim the wire to 3 to 5 mm in length. (pic) In the pic, the dark line is one of my hairs, for a size reference we can usually relate to. above the wire is a piece of solder.

Once I have the wire ready, I get it good and lined up on the pin. It is usually helpful to make a 45 degree or so bend on the end of the wire we'll be using. Then I lay the wire on the chip, bent part down parallel to the pins, and get it lined up. Magnifier is really handy here. After it's good and lined up, I hold my left index finger over it nice and snug (pic) , and check that it's on the right pin again. When I'm lucky, the wire will be bent so it's laying right on the pin at the same angle as the pin.

From here, check that it's the right pin one last time, then gently touch the iron to the wire. Be very careful not to push it to either side, just straight down. I like to be looking through the magnifier while doing this, another reason the free standing one is handy. If you do it this way, be careful if you have long hair, it might fall and hit the iron, and a facefull of burnt hair smoke isnt a good thing when trying to solder a delicate joint. The wire should heat and the solder melt very quickly, and you should be able to see it flow and stick down just a little. For me, I dont have the iron any longer than 2 seconds. Any longer and the heat could damage the chip, as the copper wires inside the IS or the silicon itself can melt and cause it to isfunction. Here is the part I hate. The wire is likely to heat up and get hot under your finger. I tough it out, for the connection's sake. When you lift the iron the wire should be stuck on the pin, and now you can glue it in place so it dont get ripped off. I try to get just a dab of super glue around the wire's insulation, as close to the connection as I can get it, to hold it long enough for me to get my finger off. After the little dab of glue is dried, you can FINALLY lift your finger, and glue the wire in place a little better without worrying about glueing your finger in place.

If you messd up the conenction, like you bridged the wire with another pin, heat up the wire and pull it off. Be sure to let the chip have some time to cool off before putting the iron to it again. Everything should feel cool to the touch, if not wait a little longer. This way you dont build up heat in the IC and kill it. If there is solder between the pins on the chip (like this) , lay the desoldering braid over it (pic) and stick the iron on tip. Get it hot and solder should flow into the braid. You may have to use the iron to slightly bend the braid so it makes a better contact with the pins. I move the braid and the iron back and forth to be sure it gets it all. then I swipe the iron's tip up each pin in the area from the PCB up, and then inspect with magnifier. after I'm satisfied that they're clean, I try the connetion again. Sometimes you'll have to redo the wire, others you can use it again and save that little bit of time.

Once you have it in place and glued down nice and firmly so you dont yank the wire off, you're pretty much done. pic.

I hope i didnt forget anything, if so lemme know and ill add it. If you'd like to see a larger version of any of the pics, take off the .sized from the link and you'll get a 5 mp one. i did compress the jpegs a little to save space and transfer.

I hope this helps someone get the Vmod done to their components, any questions on my method ill be glad to answer.

Thanks to 3Dflyer and SolidxSnake for their additions, eobard for stickin it, and everyone for the props :D[/quote]
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Senior Member
May 10, 2009
A general warning against the ColdHeat Soldering Iron, picture and idea from this thread.

Due to the way the Cold Heat soldering iron works it runs a very real risk of killing any electronics it is used on.
For wires that are not connected to any ICs it is fine. ICs it can kill!
This is the character under discussion:
Thanks to mysterfix for the pic.
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