My son is beginning to take a real interest in electronic circuits. As a ham, I should feel uniquely qualified to show him the world of radio and electronics.
But I never really learned how to solder. Not well, at least. Sure, I can solder a PL259 onto the end of some coax and it works OK, but the connector usually hides the sloppiness of my handiwork. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not scared of a soldering iron — I just am not as practiced with it as some of the QRP kit builders that frequent this blog.
I searched online for an interesting kit to build and stumbled upon Elenco’s AmeriKit AK-100 Learn to Solder Kit (about $15). What better opportunity to
teach myself teach my son how to solder!
The kit includes a 25-watt soldering iron (Elenco SR-1N), a pair of diagonal cutters (Elenco ST-1), a spool of lead-free solder, and a solder practice kit containing a printed circuit board and various components. Also included is a nice 15-page guide to soldering and very detailed instructions about how to assemble the practice project. (I’ve yet to be disappointed in anything from Elenco. If you have kids or grandkids and they don’t have Elenco’s Snap Circuits Jr. Kit, it’s the best $20 gift you can buy them!)
This kit was a huge hit with my son. He had a great time placing each component in its clearly labeled place. After doing a few of the practice exercises, I was amazed at how proficient he became! I learned so many tips from the instruction manual about how to create good solder joints and electrical connections. The manual itself is well worth the price — the soldering iron and practice kit are a great bonus!
The included soldering instruction booklet covers general electronics basics like determining resistor and capacitor values, paying attention to polarity, and safety precautions. It also covers specific soldering (and desoldering) techniques for different types of work. There is an in-depth look at the different types of solder (when you would or wouldn’t use them) and many tips and tricks to making your job look more professional. You’ll have to excuse our solder joints in the pictures, however — there was a lot of learning and practicing going on!
After about an hour and a half, the project was done! We had a working siren with flashing red LEDs. My son couldn’t have been more proud of his work! Although we have done quite a few “tech” projects together, this was the first time we’d really gotten into circuit fabrication. It was time very well spent and I’m very excited to be creating a solid foundation of good habits. It’s always better to learn the right way instead of trying to erase bad habits later!
If you have a son or daughter (or grandchild!) interested in electronics, don’t hesitate to check out Elenco’s Learn To Solder Kit. Like Elenco’s other educational kits, it was well worth its modest price.