According to Pete: SMD Soldering Tips and Tricks

He's back, folks!

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If the phrase "according to Pete" stirs the distant shadow of a faded memory lost among the mists of remembrance in a dusty corner of your brain, don't feel bad. The last time Pete descended from his Office of Engineering Direction to deliver knowledge unto the people was way back in June 2015. Pete's a busy guy, guys.

But you know what they say, if you love something let it go, and maybe someday when it doesn't have a bunch of meetings or boards to design, it will return to you and you'll know it was thinking of you the whole time, or something, and here he is: the prodigal Pete (he was thinking of you the whole time).

On this very special edition of According to Pete, our intrepid DoE is sharing some of his favorite and most useful SMD soldering tips – because no Training Montage ever started with the hero already being really good at soldering.

As always, if you have any questions, comments, soldering jokes or good news to share with Pete, leave them in the comments!

Interested in learning more foundational topics?

See our Engineering Essentials page for a full list of cornerstone topics surrounding electrical engineering.

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Comments 25 comments

  • DAS01 / about 8 years ago / 2

    A good tip for desoldering (especially QFP packages) is ChipQuik. It works great!

  • Member #265806 / about 8 years ago / 1

    I've found that the cheap reader glasses are really good for SMT work. They are available in up to 3x magnification, which is actually better than the expensive machinists visor ( 1.9x ) without the eyeloop. I have like 5 of them now ...

    I do have a nice stereo scope for inspection, 10 and 30x in case you want to see the molecular makeup of the solder.

  • Meaghan / about 8 years ago / 1

    Thanks for the great video! Any recommendations for a board vice?

  • .Brent. / about 8 years ago / 1

    To remove parts with more than 2 contacts with the same trivial technique as shown for the 0603 chip resistors I like to use tips like these tunnel tips, or even just a spatula tip.

  • rub0t / about 8 years ago / 1

    Just want to add that I've had success using a regular toaster oven. It works surprisingly well and is not modified. I look up the solder reflow profile on the datasheet and mimic it with a timer and turning the heat dial by hand. Not exactly professional but it does the trick for me.

  • Shirley / about 8 years ago * / 1

    The newsletter blurb for this says "be bolder with your solder". Must have been written by a Brit (they say SOUL-durr); the rhyme doesn't work in American English (where we say "SOD-durr").

    Aside from that, great video. And +1 for ChipQuik; the stuff isn't cheap but it's a life-saver for removing difficult components.

    • Chelsea the Destroyer / about 8 years ago / 3

      It was, in fact, written by an American (me). The non-rhyme was the joke :)

  • laserhawk64 / about 8 years ago / 1

    Wow, that's some fine-pitch soldering.

    I have a specific job I'm trying to ignore right now because of just how fine-pitch it is. I have a USB floppy controller stolen off an external drive that I'm converting to 5.25" floppy duty (yes, I am a retrotech nerd lol)... which involves replacing the original 26-pin FFC with what amounts to basically a wiring harness. The pads on the controller PCB are about the same thickness as the wire, sans insulation, in the floppy ribbon cable -- oh my -- and every next connection I try to put down tends to lift up the previous three. (Frustrating as [very long loud beep]!) I've a well-used and thoroughly abused genuine Hakko 926... TBH I also have one of the old Sparkfun Soldering Stations (one of the ones made by ATTEN and rebranded by you guys) but it needs yet another wand replacement, the LED goes kind of hyper nutsy cuckoo after about fifteen, twenty minutes. (FWIW, I didn't have the Hakko yet, when I last worked on this thing.)

    If someone has tips on how not to have Infuriating Things happen when I do each joint, I'd be thrilled. I'd love to finish that project...

  • In the wearables industry you can imagine most of the soldering I do is through a microscope. If you're going to do a lot of SMD soldering I would invest in a decent stereo microscope. I've done 01005 components with it. I like to tin the pads, apply a dab of liquid flux (use a small piece of wire to apply just enough), and then float the component onto the pads and tack one side of it.

  • Sneally / about 8 years ago / 1

    Great video! Do you use any type of fume extractor/fan to avoid inhalation? I have yet to purchase one for my home since I solder infrequently for projects. I currently use a low power fan pointed out the window...

    • I don't have one, but I've considered it. I've cultivated a habit of slowly exhaling on my work to keep it out of my face. Not optimal, but works in a pinch.

  • noworries / about 8 years ago / 1

    ChipQuik is great for stubborn through hole as well as SMD parts.

    The level of difficulty in doing SMD rework depends greatly on the amount of free space around the part you are working on.

    Using adhesive-backed aluminum tape to shield the components around the area you are working on is also sometimes helpful when using hot air as it keeps the parts surrounding those worked on cooler and prevents solder from getting between their pins. You can get this tape in your local hardware store.

  • OK, coupla things...

    1) Thanks everybody for the kind words and for coming back to check these videos out. 2) Man, I've gotten gray. Winter is coming... 3) The position I'm in while soldering in this video sucks. In order to get the camera in there, I'm sorta backed off a ways and I'm not supporting my hands the way I'd normally do. So I can't see right and my hands are shaking all over the place. And the ultimate examples look worse than my regular work. Yes, really! I swear! I left a bridge on that last part cuz I couldn't see it. 4) Magnifiers = yes. I normally keep a lupe to check my work... or did so a long time ago when I was a tech (different life).

  • North Alabama PC / about 8 years ago / 1

    Pete, I have leaned to use kapton tape around the part to protect other parts from the heat/air (no flying parts, no other parts leaving the board), only leaving the part to remove or place exposed to hot air.

    Works great and the kapton tape can be used for heat protection in projects.

    Note: on that last part removal in the video we saw a lifted pad but still attached to its trace.

    • Lifted pads can happen, it's true. Generally, the replacing part holds it, if you can manage not to tear it free in the first place. I've gotten some mad green-wire skills to occasionally fix the fixes...

      • North Alabama PC / about 8 years ago / 1

        Don't get me wrong I have lifted many in my time. I did work for a electronics contract manufacture for 5 years, I have used hot air smd equipment and handheld heat guns to remove and replace parts. Currently I have used ChipQuik to remove parts and use some of your tricks. Always good to see other ways of preforming smd removal and replacement.

        How about a video for tips & tricks for board design, I have designed a few then had a board manufacturer make a small batch at a fair cost.

        • I actually have done one on board design. Maybe two. I'm not sure what number it is, but it's somewhere back in the archives.

  • JakeR / about 8 years ago / 1

    Seeing what one is doing is 90% of the battle. Nothing beats a good (well-lit) stereo microscope if you can pick one up at a reasonable price. Having magnified depth perception helps a lot. In my experience, once you can see your tools that closely your brain seems to close the loop better and reduces the hand-shaking .

    Also, if you have a good set of dental picks you can clear out the solder bridges by running the pic between the pins with the solder hot. If there isn't too much solder there the pick will break the surface tension holding the two together and they will pop back to being separate. The solder won't want to stick to the pick at all. I suppose one could chisel it out with the solder hard was well, but that sounds like much more work.

  • Member #614767 / about 8 years ago / 1

    I thought there was already a #43.

  • Member #866565 / about 8 years ago * / 1

    Great tips, Pete. Thanks! I have also tried different techniques; sharing a few that worked for me:

    • Holding the component with a jig helps

    • Curved Tweezers provide better visibility of the component while soldering & desoldering

    • Flux pens help in better soldering and avoiding 'dry-solder'

    • Dental picks are really helpful when you want to use a little pressure while de-soldering some of the components

    • And lastly, using acetone to clean the PCB at the end

    • DrPhibes / about 8 years ago * / 1

      I prefer a pair of squeeze to open tweezers for all my surface mount needs. Can't go wrong with TOL-12573.

  • scharkalvin / about 8 years ago / 1

    I've managed to solder 0.5 mm QFTP parts with an iron. I actually use one of those thin tips, and I've never had them bend or break, in fact I've never even needed to replace them in years. Granted, I'm using a Weller, not a Chinese designed soldering station. I usually try to NOT make solder bridges, but I have no problems removing them with solder wick. A good magnifier is critical, especially for us older guys. I have a pair of close up glasses that my father used to use, their lenses look like coke bottle bottoms and they have a working distance of under a foot. I can see pimples on a fly with those!

    A hot air station is on my want list, and there is Chinese one available on ebay for about $35 that got good reviews on the EEV Blog. I've seen videos showing soldering with paste and hot air that make it look easy. We'll see about that.

  • Member #260321 / about 8 years ago / 1

    Welcome Back Pete, we miss your upbeat witty presentations.

    My concern, even with 0.10 parts is seeing what I am doing and steadying my hands. First step is of course to clean my glasses. Maybe I should get a new prescription but they are what I've got. I use desk lamps left and right to illuminate. The magnifier on my Helping Hands works but I have to close one eye to see it clearly through the dinky lens. I use my trusty 60/40, it smells better than some of the ROHS, and sometimes a little bit of flux works.Afterwards I carefully inspect with my big magnifying glass.

    • Sembazuru / about 8 years ago / 1

      I have a set of these magnifying visor. Not exactly Haute Couture (in fact expect to be under siege by the fashion police), but a really good example of function over form. I usually have mine angled so it is in the top half of my vision so I can either look through our under it without having to adjust it's angle. (Sort of opposite of the orientation of reading glasses...) The adjustable LED light on it (it adjusts up, down, left, and right) is really helpful since I don't have a dedicated workbench with a lamp.

      It is really cheap. I have to constantly re-tighten the friction bearings for the angle (maybe I should put some wave washers in there), and the power switch for the light on mine can be intermittent. Even with that, I feel it's functionality is way more than the $10 it costs.

      Watch out if you get these or something similar... If your SO also does fine work (needlepoint, beading, soldering, model building, etc) you may need to buy a second pair so your pair doesn't constantly get stolen. ;-)

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