Disclaimer - This kit was provided free of charge by CPC
I love soldering!
I only learnt to solder about 2-3 years ago, but since then I have enjoyed the hobby. Yes even the bits where I botch something up!
Soldering is a basic maker skill and essential for those learning maker skills. But where do you start? There are loads of kits and various brands with the associated quality.
So when Rachel sent me her take on the "Essential Soldering Kit" I had to take a peek.
All the kit that you need is contained in the box
- 40W Soldering Iron
- Stand and Sponge
- Brass Tray Cleaner
- Desoldering Pump
- Lead Solder
- Helping Hand
- Soldering Tools
So this is not your typical cheap iron that uses a screw to hold the tip in place. This iron uses a collet to retain the tip of the iron. Unscrewing the collet reveals the soldering iron tip, in this case a chunky point that will do the job for most projects. The collet and soldering iron tip remind me of Hakko soldering irons, I wonder if they are compatible... Removing the tip we see the heating element, similar to those used on Antex irons.
The iron feels pleasant in use, it didn't feel in the way. But I just wanted a little more precision, so maybe changing the tip should be on my list?
Strangely the iron also comes with a built in LED, so you can see where you are soldering. Handy and fun feature, but my first thought was "Can I remove the LED?"
The iron comes with a proper British 3 pin plug that conforms to safety regulations, no doubt Barry and the CPC engineers have thoroughly tested this.
When a soldering iron is not in use, it is kept in a stand. The provided stand is of heavy cast iron / heavy metal construction and uses a coiled steel wire to retain the iron. It did the job well and it never fell over despite me bashing it a few times. The supplied soldering iron does not go all the way into the coil, but it is firmly in place. I didn't test the sponge as I prefer to use the brass tip cleaner to keep my iron clean.
When soldering mistakes always happen and a good desoldering pump is handy to have. It works by sucking the solder away from the board as you heat up the solder. This simple desoldering pump worked well when I botched a connection...ahem
Firstly lead solder is safe to use if you follow a two golden rules
- Use an extraction system or solder in a well ventilated room.
- Wash your hands after soldering, especially before eating anything.
With those rules in mind this solder was really easy to use and came in 0.7mm diameter, nice and precise and you get 100g, plenty to start you off.
Have you tried to hold two wires while attempting to solder them together? It's not fun and once I burnt my finger..ouchy! Helping hands are just that, they are weighted stands with clamps to hold components, wires, board in place. The included magnifying glass is handy for detail work.
It's not advisable to go poking around when soldering. Hot irons and fingers don't mix, so a good set of tools to bend components, hold wires out of the way and scrape away detritus are essential.
So Les, what did you build?
You've made it this far so here goes!
I hacked some Poundland LED bats to work with a Raspberry Pi!
Here are the pre-hacked bats running from 2 AA batteries.
I chopped off the wires, twisted each wire to provide a strong point, then flowed solder on to the wire.
Next I chopped the MALE end off a Male to Female GPIO connector. I then twisted and flowed solder on to the wire. I had some heatshrink tubing handy so used that to tidy up the joint. I soldered one bat wire to a GPIO connector wire, then the other. I then tested the electrical connection by attaching the connectors to the 3V3 pin of a Raspberry Pi (Pin 1) and to a GND pin (Pin 6)....
BUT NOTHING HAPPENED!
So LEDs have a polarity and current only flows one way, so I reversed the polarity..swapped the wires around and.......
Holy illuminated flying rats Batman
We have GPIO powered Halloween toys to hack!
This is a great kit for those who have never soldered before. The components have been well chosen to offer the best experience for a price point. No they are not Hakko / Antex / Weller quality, but nor do they carry the same price.
If you are starting to solder, you can't go far wrong with this kit. It does what it says on the box, it provides the essentials to get you started.
- Price 5/5
- Features 4/5
- Build 4/5
Does a good job and won't break the bank!
Where can I buy one?
From CPC's website for £19.99 (exc VAT) £23.98 (inc VAT)