Soldering is strangely addictive, like knitting for tech geeks. Maybe it’s the solder fumes, but I find myself oddly relaxed. The other big surprise is that it’s really far easier than beginners think. (Read: I’m a klutz. If I can do it, so can you.) And there are plenty of good visualist hacker projects to which you can apply your skill, from the Arduino to video switchers and synthesizers and other sensor-to-computer rigs for DIY VJ controllers or distance-sensing 3D animator thingies.

But the one soldering mountain even hardware DIYers seem not to fear is surface-mount soldering. It requires a lot more precision, and has a far greater potential to destroy an expensive component (partly because it’s trickier, and partly because you’re more likely to be doing it with something pricier).

Sparkfun, purveyors of cool DIY gadgetry and raiders of credit cards (at least mine), have a terrific tutorial on SMD:

Sparkfun Tutorials (scroll down for multi-part SMD knowledge written in a beginner-friendly style)

I hear you. You’re still not sure you won’t screw this up. It’s easier to watch it being done than hear it explained, so watch a soldering ninja at work in this new Sparkfun tutorial video:

Perfect for assembling your own Arduino and creating a new Processing visual project. Stay tuned; I’ve got some new projects for March and April that I’ll finally get to document here on CDMo.

  • i'd probably suggest that people be made aware of ESD (anti-static) precautions when they give this stuff a go…I had a look at Jay's arduino the other day and there's some ICs I would definately class as 'static sensitive' (which means your hand static would kill the IC). For about AU$30-AU$50 all up at places like jaycar you can get a hold of a roll up antistatic mat and a wrist strap that just plug into a normal powerpoint. Good security when your arduino doesn't work-no-more and you are *sure* your soldering is solid. I'd also stray from the video as far as I would solder the opposite corners of the IC first so that you don't find one side lifting up (tombstoning) making the fix a pain in the arse.

    alternatively, you could hang around late after work and 'borrow' the reflow soldering machines… đŸ˜‰

    happy soldering