Maximite Colour (Part 1)
I am interested in learning how to solder, so I got a cheap soldering iron from Aldi when it came out one week. I started soldering some small kits like the WeevilEye Beginner's Kit, the Badge Rocket Kit, and the Velleman Crawling Microbug Kit. I also tried the Crystal Radio Kit which was crappier (no instructions) and I didn't get to work. The solders felt good though, so I think it's more for me not understanding how it worked or not being around reception.
After those I decided to move up to something bigger. That led to me getting the Maximite Colour Kit. This is a printed board with a PIC chip already attached to it. Everything else you have to solder on yourself. This includes two things that are surface-mount soldered on, which I had never done before.
I started small, with the resistors and worked bigger, except for a tiny tiny tiny tiny capacitor that I didn't even realise was something that needed soldering. About halfway through (during the capacitors) the ALDI soldering iron cooked itself. That ended all work for the weekend.
The ALDI soldering iron had a short life overall, but it taught me some stuff; enough to know what I really wanted. I had no idea what temperature it went to (hot enough, but no idea how hot) or if it was fully warmed up (no light or anything). Both were extremely annoying. Using this as an opportunity to not get stuck in that situation again, I got what seems to be a popular consumer-level soldering iron, a Hakko FX-888D from Mektronics (cheapest place I saw it). It's likely overkill for what I need (5 presets, a locking mechanism), but it has a digital temperature setting and a light to tell you when it has heated up, so I'm happy.
With the new soldering iron, I was able to continue my work the following weekend. I was mostly done with the small stuff, except for one piece I mentioned before, a 10mf capacitor. I saw it mentioned here, and once I found the spot on the board for it (it took a minute, it's near the PIC), I realised it had to be surface mounted. This was a challenge. Not only is this the first surface mount soldering I've done, the piece is tiny (1.5mm x 1mm). I did some googling about how to do surface mount soldering, and from this I realised that there was already solder on the pads (came with it). I was able to heat the existing stuff and push it down without burning the board. I think it's OK. After that, doing the surface mounts for the SD card reader was pretty easy.
Finally, I had it all together.
Of course as soon as I plugged in the power... nothing happened. So now I get to learn how to use a multimeter and test solders/components. To be continued...
I enjoy soldering. There's a nice zen-like quality to doing it. Flip on some music and zone out as I put it all together. It might be different if I was working under a timelimit or not for myself, but right now it's good.