Suggest Newbie(ish) equipment kit recommendations please.

sunvalleylaw

Member
2018-11-28 5:11 pm
I am wanting to start doing my own work in replacing capacitors, installing upgrade boards, other restoration of old audio gear, etc. So I need some gear. I have previously worked on connecting power supplies and jacks on guitars, and replaced pickups in a strat, though my soldering was a mess. Got it to work well eventually after cleaning it up. In the pic below is the gear I currently have. A cheap Chinese solder gun that I purchased from a guitar pedal building site, with not very precise temperature settings, that holder magnifier extra hand thing, which needs to be mounted on something to stand up better when I am working, as it tends to fall over, that solder sucker thing, and that solder. Worked well enough for my former projects, but I always felt like I was not controlling the temp very effectively.

Was thinking about getting a used, good basic professional solder gun at least, and anything else I need for a basic kit. Also, I am looking at online courses or info for soldering techniques so I can improve that before working on anything I really care about. My goals are upgrades of Hafler amps and pre-amps, recapping, old receivers, etc., rebuilding speaker crossovers such as in my old Dahlquists, etc., recapping or etc. in old turntables, etc. And it looks like there are practice kits you can get online, and I have a couple old receivers that are not worth much I could start with after a little study/practice, that if I can get right, I will give away as gifts to someone who wants a little system. And if I don’t get it right at first, I can work to fix it, or it won’t be the end of the world if these pieces end up unusable after my practice.

So, can anyone help me with upgrading my kit? I will also add some really good lighting, as my eyes need it, and getting that Helping Hand magnifier set up right will be key.

Thanks in advance.
 

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rayma

Member
2011-04-29 8:37 pm
NO soldering gun. There's no such thing as a professional solder gun, they are not used.
You must use a temperature regulated soldering station to do quality soldering, like one of these.
Also only use 63/37 solder. NOT 60/40. Practice on the receivers until you get consistently good results.

https://www.amazon.com/KESTER-SOLDE...t=&hvlocphy=9018935&hvtargid=pla-898055485197
https://www.amazon.com/Hakko-FX888D...ocphy=9018882&hvtargid=pla-379180582979&psc=1
https://www.amazon.com/Weller-WE101...la-573154322852&ref=&adgrpid=63202739518&th=1
 
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sunvalleylaw

Member
2018-11-28 5:11 pm
NO soldering gun. There's no such thing as a professional solder gun, they are not used.
You must use a temperature regulated soldering station to do quality soldering, like one of these.
Also only use 63/37 solder. NOT 60/40. Practice on the receivers until you get consistently good results.

https://www.amazon.com/KESTER-SOLDE...t=&hvlocphy=9018935&hvtargid=pla-898055485197
https://www.amazon.com/Hakko-FX888D...ocphy=9018882&hvtargid=pla-379180582979&psc=1
https://www.amazon.com/Weller-WE101...la-573154322852&ref=&adgrpid=63202739518&th=1
Ok, wrong word. The cheap little one I had is called a “station” on the box too, but is not as good as a Hakko, which I understand is the go to name. Thanks for the suggestion. Didn’t know about that solder either. I had purchased the kind recommended in the DIY guitar effects pedal page. Must be different standards, or I just got bad info.
 

rayma

Member
2011-04-29 8:37 pm
The important thing is that the soldering station is temperature regulated, so the tip remains
at a much more constant temp when in use. Cheap stations won't be regulated.
Also use a chisel tip, from 2-3mm wide, not a pointed tip.

For DIY you should only use 63/37 eutectic solder. This will allow you to make much better,
and more consistent, solder joints. There is no pasty range with eutectic.
 

PRR

Member
Paid Member
2003-06-12 7:04 pm
Maine USA
www.diyaudio.com
use a chisel tip
WHY do they even make conical tips?? When are we soldering inside a conical hole? The surface of a cone can't be tangent to ANY other shape, so can only make point contact (OK, line contact, if you are lucky). Even my Vulcan is chisel:
Vulcan-310W.gif


We now see he has an "iron" not "gun"; but the market does not always know one from the other.

ME, I'd rather have a "dumb" 37 Watt iron than these low-low-price "temperature" irons which, IME, don't do what they promise. After a year soldering hundreds of connections, you can learn by smell and feel how hot your iron is and, within limits, how fast to make a joint. Made many thousands of PCB and jackbay joints. Yes, it is a learned knack but I started very very young (before moon rockets?).

The classic Weller GUN is a professional tool in -other- fields. Some carpentry jobs use a shaving blade, others use a hatchet.... the Weller is the hatchet for quick rough work. Their biggest 260W gun will do the same jobs as the 310W Vulcan above, and won't give me heatstoke in July (b/c I can turn-off between joints).
 
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rayma

Member
2011-04-29 8:37 pm
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myleftear

Member
Paid Member
2017-09-10 6:33 pm
Luzern
Get rid of that magnifier thing.
Get a good magnifier-helmet /-cap. For holding things it might be better than nothing but not much. You‘d need something to hold a board, and something for the small parts.

Good mechanical tools of course.

Good solder-wick (mark johnson recommended some recently)

Measurement-gear…
 

NickKUK

Member
2019-12-28 9:16 pm
A good positionable light. Desk space.

Solder iron, Solder, flux (separate), solder wash, solder wick (or desoldering gun if you're doing alot), solder extractor fan/filter (flux fumes).

Metal set of small tools like pliers (including bent and 90), tweezers.

A set of non-static dishes/tubs - that way you can easily clean, or pack or unpack for the day. Earthed electrostatic mat would be good for solid state work.

Reliable multimeter - true rms - this will be your most used piece of kit. A good set of probes (possibly a probe kit)
Capacitor tester

Variac, current limiting PSU.. etc

Oscilloscope and audio spectrum analyser.
 
I don't care if you have a industrial Weller station ( I do) or a $6 "pencil", the quality of your work is totally skill. Don't blame the tool.

Now I DO also have a gun. Old 600W Weller gun. You need that to solder buss wire to steel chassis doing old tube amplifiers! It is almost big enough to do stained glass, but that big thing above is far better. Mass of the tip, not temp.

600, 700, 800 not that big a deal. The mass of the tip matters more. Good stations will have different shape and mass tips. A medium flattened conical is good for terminal blocks, but PWB work usually needs a much smaller tip. You need enough mass to get on and off quick. If you ever lift a pad, you are on the part way too long. You should never need heat sink clips. It takes less than a second to do a proper joint.

I like squeeze bulbs as the spring pumps tend to spray solder around. Stuck with the newer "red" ones as the larger "blue" ones we had in industry I can't find. One trick, cut a notch in them so when you put the bulb down while removing the iron you get a better seal. I also use solder wick, but some tricks to that. Get a can of flux. Keep the tip sparkling clean. Clean it in the sponge going both out of the holder and before returning. If re-soldering something old, a bit of flux and fresh solder makes it flow.

Anyway, it is a matter of practice. I thought I was pretty good until we went through the same cert as NASA cert. But then we had a rule, techs did not do their own soldering as we would be "good enough" where our assemblers would be patient and do it well.

The most common mistake in rework is not cleaning everything up well enough. For solid state, yes, a anti-static mat and wrist strap. You can damage a fet input op amp by just picking it up be the case and the air across the pins can damage it. We proved that (I did failure analysis for 10 years in the computer industry)
 
Absolutely a trustworthy multimeter. Depending on your work, you may want a low Ohms scale. It used to be I would say Fluke or go home, but now, there are so many really good meters out there cheap. Many have "C" scales, some even crude frequency. ( I am old school so I have an old B&K LCR meter and benchtop counter) A PC can replace a lot of test equipment. I played with a $60 Hantek USB scope, but needed to make an AC input adapter and the max resolution was 20mV/div and for amplifier and power supply work, I want 100 times that. Another 40dB! and 10:1 probes were not enough if working on tubes. Those are too expensive for me at this stage. I still keep an old analog multimeter. Very handy for looking at stabilizing times.

I made up some simple probes I plug into my Focusrite 2i2 and can direct cable it for input to scope and spectrum analyzer programs. Free or cheap. But not calibrated. ( I cheat as I have an old Heath scope calibrator) I use it as the output for signal generator. AC only of course. I do audio so I ma not impressed with any square or triangle wave.
 

kodabmx

Member
Paid Member
2011-10-31 1:00 am
Toronto
...Old 600W Weller gun. You need that to solder buss wire to steel chassis doing old tube amplifiers!
Never seen one larger than ~250W. If my old "pencil" quartz 60W doesn't get hot enough, I use fire.

I had the Hakko 888 listen above. The handle/heater failed within a month. A replacement didn't get the tip hot enough, an official handle from Hakko if half the cost of the iron.
I then bought a generic T12 station for 1/3 the money - it's far better than the Hakko was and it's worked perfectly for over 3 years now, and the tips have the heater built in and cost 15$ a piece.

https://www.amazon.ca/Soldering-station-portable-Temperature-Controller/dp/B075PDNTMK
For a bench meter, I picked up a used B&K Precision 2831A, The scope is a Hantek USB scope, the DDS is Chinese but works well.
 
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A good positionable light. Desk space.

Solder iron, Solder, flux (separate), solder wash, solder wick (or desoldering gun if you're doing alot), solder extractor fan/filter (flux fumes).

Metal set of small tools like pliers (including bent and 90), tweezers.

A set of non-static dishes/tubs - that way you can easily clean, or pack or unpack for the day. Earthed electrostatic mat would be good for solid state work.

Reliable multimeter - true rms - this will be your most used piece of kit. A good set of probes (possibly a probe kit)
Capacitor tester

Variac, current limiting PSU.. etc

Oscilloscope and audio spectrum analyser.

Thank you for that thorough and practical list.
 
I don't care if you have a industrial Weller station ( I do) or a $6 "pencil", the quality of your work is totally skill. Don't blame the tool.

Now I DO also have a gun. Old 600W Weller gun. You need that to solder buss wire to steel chassis doing old tube amplifiers! It is almost big enough to do stained glass, but that big thing above is far better. Mass of the tip, not temp.

600, 700, 800 not that big a deal. The mass of the tip matters more. Good stations will have different shape and mass tips. A medium flattened conical is good for terminal blocks, but PWB work usually needs a much smaller tip. You need enough mass to get on and off quick. If you ever lift a pad, you are on the part way too long. You should never need heat sink clips. It takes less than a second to do a proper joint.

I like squeeze bulbs as the spring pumps tend to spray solder around. Stuck with the newer "red" ones as the larger "blue" ones we had in industry I can't find. One trick, cut a notch in them so when you put the bulb down while removing the iron you get a better seal. I also use solder wick, but some tricks to that. Get a can of flux. Keep the tip sparkling clean. Clean it in the sponge going both out of the holder and before returning. If re-soldering something old, a bit of flux and fresh solder makes it flow.

Anyway, it is a matter of practice. I thought I was pretty good until we went through the same cert as NASA cert. But then we had a rule, techs did not do their own soldering as we would be "good enough" where our assemblers would be patient and do it well.

The most common mistake in rework is not cleaning everything up well enough. For solid state, yes, a anti-static mat and wrist strap. You can damage a fet input op amp by just picking it up be the case and the air across the pins can damage it. We proved that (I did failure analysis for 10 years in the computer industry)
Never seen one larger than ~250W. If my old "pencil" quartz 60W doesn't get hot enough, I use fire.

I had the Hakko 888 listen above. The handle/heater failed within a month. A replacement didn't get the tip hot enough, an official handle from Hakko if half the cost of the iron.
I then bought a generic T12 station for 1/3 the money - it's far better than the Hakko was and it's worked perfectly for over 3 years now, and the tips have the heater built in and cost 15$ a piece.

https://www.amazon.ca/Soldering-station-portable-Temperature-Controller/dp/B075PDNTMK
For a bench meter, I picked up a used B&K Precision 2831A, The scope is a Hantek USB scope, the DDS is Chinese but works well.
Thanks for those additional thoughts and suggestions, and to you others as well. And yes, of course, I can own the coolest pro gear and it doesn’t matter if I don’t have decent skill. And I will have to be realistic about it, as this is not a profession for me. But I figure I can get good enough to recap a few things and install prebuilt/populated boards such as you see in Hafler amp mod threads, etc. The tech I have gone to down the road, who does good work, uses the static mats and wrist strap, and always touches something before returning to the piece. it is Intermountain Idaho and is dry and especially full of static during winter. Will check out those other stations too, and good info on what to be looking for In terms of tips, etc. Thanks.

Also, been looking at some youtube vids for some tips, and will look for some online course, one that requires work on actual stuff of some kind, and hopefully one where they will check your work and give feedback, via some sort of online interaction by testing, having you show them your work via web or phone cam, etc. Seeing as there is nothing anywhere near me to attend. Had hoped there would be a course at the local community college but no luck.
 
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Reading glasses. I have one of those large (6") magnifying light things that I used, then I tried a pair of my wifes $10 reading glasses and could see the small stuff much better. I have never needed glasses so I never tried this but was quite suprissed at the magnification. I dont know the glasses spec but they are strong (there real blurry and make me dizzy when I look up). And I dont know if this works for people who already need reading glasses (will a more powerfull set work?). I only use the magnifier now when I need the light.
 
Thanks for those additional thoughts and suggestions, and to you others as well. And yes, of course, I can own the coolest pro gear and it doesn’t matter if I don’t have decent skill. And I will have to be realistic about it, as this is not a profession for me. But I figure I can get good enough to recap a few things and install prebuilt/populated boards such as you see in Hafler amp mod threads, etc. The tech I have gone to down the road, who does good work, uses the static mats and wrist strap, and always touches something before returning to the piece. it is Intermountain Idaho and is dry and especially full of static during winter. Will check out those other stations too, and good info on what to be looking for In terms of tips, etc. Thanks.

Also, been looking at some youtube vids for some tips, and will look for some online course, one that requires work on actual stuff of some kind, and hopefully one where they will check your work and give feedback, via some sort of online interaction by testing, having you show them your work via web or phone cam, etc. Seeing as there is nothing anywhere near me to attend. Had hoped there would be a course at the local community college but no luck.
Learn to solder from the US navy:

https://www.hnsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/mod04.pdf On page 2-24

The rest of the series, in depth and you dont have to be an EE ( mostly for there techs) to learn stuff.

https://www.hnsa.org/manuals-documents/2575-2/