One thing that I’m not terribly good at is soldering. I do it a lot, and I improve every time I work with it. At this point, I mostly work with through-hole soldering, since it’s a lot easier to learn with…and easier to hook up without ordering custom PCBs.
My light project to date has been done this way, basically creating a light panel, hooking it up to a battery and a potentiometer, and putting them into a case. I currently have three working panels…a diffused white light, a bright white light, and a soft white light. That in and of itself isn’t all that important to this post, but it’s how I differentiate the lights.
The other purpose for this longer running project was to get some experience with different soldering methods, so I decided to document a little bit of that here. There are three methods that I concentrated on: hookup wire, the foldover (as I call it), and bridging. I’ll discuss each, below.
The first light, using diffused white light, I did by hooking up all of the LEDs via hookup wire. This is still my favorite method, simply for the ease of use. Having wires to solder to when you’re done is handy, too.
If I could get this to be a little bit less messy, it would be ideal. Doing that solo without a decent helping hand kind of makes that unlikely, though. I did get better with practice…and the decision to actually use pliers to do the bends. It’s still one of the easier methods.
This is technically the easiest method to do alone, though it does still have its challenges. Essentially, you just push the LED leads through the board, and fold over the legs so that they’re mostly touching. Thus the name.
While this does look a little neater from further away, the picture doesn’t really do the messiness justice. When the legs are folded over so that they’re as close to touching as you can get them, then you solder the legs together, forming a built-in wire for connectivity. Now, the benefit to this is that if you’re working solo, it’s a LOT easier to get everything done. This is certainly the FASTEST method that I tried. The downside is that because of all the little legs soldered together, it’s super hard to diagnose or trace a bad joint. This board took the longest to troubleshoot of any of the others. I had several individual LEDs that weren’t working, so it took a while. Fortunately, due to the nature of the problem, it kind of isolated the basic area of the problem.
This is something that I put off till last. I just finished it this morning, and that’s only because I said “OK, I’ve figured it out…sort of…back to hookup wire for the rest!” Yes, I cheated.
Towards the top, you can see where I was using the bridging technique. I am TERRIBLE at this, for some reason. Basically, you solder each pad, and then “bridge” them with some more solder. Since I’m not terribly good at it, it took me forever, and I kept having to re-do bridges. A lot of times, I had to suck out the solder and re-do the joints because I got too much on the iron, and bridged between positive and negative. About every other LED! So I did start to get better as it went on, and it was taking less time, but since I had to solder in each of the LEDs one at a time, it was essentially the same as the hookup wire method on time…except the connecting time was a lot higher. So I switched to hookup wire less than halfway through. I just wanted it done, lol. While I think that if I perfect this method, it would be the best for working with protoboard, leaving much finer and cleaner hookup lines.
So basically, I’m most likely going to be using hookup wire in the future. I’ll still be practicing bridging, and I hopefully I’ll get the bridges down to normal sized solder.
If anyone has any suggestions, please, PLEASE leave them in the comments below, or send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. I really want to learn this a bit better.