Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Monday, November 07, 2005

Soldering without sight

Are you just burning to try your hand at soldering? Blindness or a visual impairment doesn't have to keep you from practicing this valuable craft. The following tip was provided by Jack Yeaman. Before you get started soldering, here are some other quick hints:

  • Choose your weapon--You'll first need to choose a soldering gun or iron. A 100 watt soldering gun with a wire tip is a good choice for beginners. Soldering irons remain hot all the time, whereas the gun's tip will begin to cool as soon as an acttivating button or trigger is released.
  • Start with scrap--Until you are comfortable using a soldering gun or iron, don't pull out that circuit board and begin trying to install circuits. Start with piece of scrap metal and get accoustomed to the feel of the soldering tools you are using. Learning to solder requires just a little patience to master a few simple but important safety issues.

"I feel that many blind persons shy away from soldering without cause. I do not try to solder circuits where the pins to be soldered are spaced less than about one eighth inch from other circuitry. I usually use a one hundred watt soldering gun with a wire type tip. You may also like a heat controlled iron but you will have to deal with it being hot all the time it is in use. I use a small gauge wire solder filled with a noncorrosive flux.

I recommend the following tools if you can get them:

  1. An eight inch length of stainless steel wire eighteen gauge or so. You may put a small handle such as a stylus knob at one end. To use, wrap an inch or so of wire solder around the wire and place the tip of the wire where you wish to apply the solder. Next slide the coil of solder down to the tip and move the tip of the iron down the wire to engage it with the solder and apply heat to thoroughly melt the solder. The stainless steel wire will not stick to the solder. This wire is cheap at dental supply stores and is used to straighten teeth.
  2. Hospitals occasionally discard stainless steel gauze forceps or hemastats which are like very long locking long nose pliers. Just clamp everything to be soldered in place with these then wrap on a bit of the soldering wire and slide the tip of the soldering iron along the tool to engage the solder. Some radio stores sell an equivalent tool.
  3. Wrap the solder wire around the soldering tip of the cold iron then move it to where the solder is to be applied and heat the iron. You can learn to smell the melting flux and know when to remove the heat. Be sure you apply enough heat to thoroughly meld the solder with the joint.
  4. Keep a wet rag handy to wipe off and clean the tip of the iron while it is still hot. Do this at least once each working period. More might be said but let this suffice for now. Give it a good try before you scream for help. I still have fingers without corns and burns after many well soldered circuits.
  5. "

Christmas Tree Circuit Board

This little electronics kit uses two circuit boards shaped like a christmas tree, and a package of LEDs to teach a kid how to solder.

The kit includes 24 LEDs, (16 red, 4 green, 4 yellow), and are ready to mount and solder. Hook it up to a 9V Battery and it lights up. You supply the solder and soldering iron. Click this link to order the Christmas Tree Circuit Board from American Science & Surplus.

Contributor: Jack M. Yeaman

USB-powered soldering iron

Yes, you read that title right, it’s a USB-powered soldering iron! Nice! And somehwat appropriate when you think about it, chances are if you’re the soldering iron type, then you’re probably in your den, basement or your bedroom and you’re very close to a computer.

Japanese manufacturer, Thanko has managed to use USB to power a soldering iron. It’s not perfect, as 1 USB port will heat up to about 200-250°C. However, they rigged this iron to use 2 USB ports, so you can plug both in and get it heated up another 100°C or so. It doesn’t stop there, you can also attach a 9V battery to get the temperature all the way up to 500°C.

Why fool with all this trickery to get it to work? One more useful feature for those with low vision, a LED light under the tip to help you see what you’re working on.

Click this link to purchase the USB White LED Precision Pencil Type Soldering Iron.

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