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Forum Home > Tips, Tricks and Tutorials! - Builder's Guides for GuitarPCB Boards! > Sticky: Soldering Techniques for GuitarPCB Boards

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Please Read all of this thread for Proper Soldering and Debugging Techniques as well as learning how to Properly Post a request for Support in the Forum when you need help.

The purpose of this thread is to educate those who are new to soldering single sided boards (the boards we use here) as well as a refresher to those who have much more experience with soldering and follow these steps without thinking about them.  I will try to present these concepts in an orderly fashion as steps we can all learn from, refresh ourselves with, and follow.

When using ICs, FETS, Transistors etc...

Always use a socket!

For the straight  In-Line sockets just use a pair of pliers and your hand in a rocking back and forth motin to break off three or whatever you might need to do the job!

Choosing the Right Type of Iron and Tip


  1. Get a temp controlled solder station, if you don’t have one! The solder will flow much easier without burning up the board. This station should have a wattage rating of 30-40 watts.  Also the temp. setting should be adjusted to about 700-750 degrees fahrenheit for the boards and solder connections we are using/making. 
  2. I use a Conical Tip as it is more pinpoint exact on the smaller pads and boards that we use.

Steps for Soldering a Single Sided Board


  1. Push the component through the non-traced side (copper free side) so the leads will come out the traced side (copper side).  The circuit path or lines of copper are known as traces and the holes with copper rings around them are known as pads. 
  2. It is a general rule to start with your smallest components first and then move on to the larger ones (ex. resistors and diodes first and electrolytic capacitors later on). 
  3. Make sure your components lay flat against the non-traced side, you can pull them closer to the board with your needle nose pliers by the legs of the components from the trace side if need be.  Of course larger components with larger lead spacings will not always lay flat (this step is for neatness of your non-traced side). Also when you flip the board over to solder this should hold the component in place. 
  4. Hold the iron tip and subsequently the wand straight up on the connection (perpendicular to the board) this will help the solder to flow where you want it to be (at the pad). At too much of an angle you may have some problems in tight areas (solder bridges or burning up other components with the side of the iron). 
  5. Place the tip of the iron such that it contacts the lead and the pad at the same time and then you wait like 5-10 seconds with a good iron to start flowing your solder in. Ground pads longer.
  6.  Clip the leads of the component at the crest of the solder connection and inspect your new joint.
  7. Clean your iron tip after every connection; that is wipe it clean with your sponge and make sure it looks shiny silver without previous globs of solder on it. Try a brass scrub instead of a sponge so you do not lose heat!

When ready to wire up your pedal I recommend "Barry's Best" - Pedal Hookup Wire

Rock on with your solder wands people and lets get this pedal party started!!

Here is a Great Soldering Tutorial from Jameco:

July 23, 2010 at 4:26 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Site Owner
Posts: 8781

An Excellent Video on Soldering - Watch & Listen at least twice!

I use this awesome wire for making pedals. It is stranded 24 Gauge Tinned and Bonded.

Here is the Link with a great price and well worth it!  "Barry's Best" - Pedal Hookup Wire

July 23, 2010 at 5:12 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Site Owner
Posts: 8781

Solder Advice: Do not overdo it  with the solder.

The cheapest type of solder for electronics is 60/40 solder = 60% tin, 40% lead.

Don’t like it, and I can’t recommend it.

A nicer alloy is 63/37. This is a “eutectic” blend, which means it transitions straight from liquid to solid without a pasty state in between. With non-eutectic solders like 60/40, you have to be careful to keep the joint still while it goes through this pasty state or it may not form properly. If the solder joint doesn't solidify properly, your project may not work at all, and even if it does, the joint may fail in the future.


Also know that .031 is a good Diameter of Solder to work on Pedal Circuit Boards with.

First start with as Conical Tip like this:

While much of this info is discussed above this is just a quick reminder of proper technique!

Assume that the components have been placed correctly in the circuit board and the PCB is upside down. Component leads should have been bent outwards slightly so that the component does not fall out of the holes.

Turn the soldering iron on and wait for it to heat up. Dampen the cleaning sponge on the soldering station.

When the iron is hot (1-2 minutes) clean the tip of the iron. It should look bright and shiny.

"Wet" the iron by melting a tiny amount of solder on the end of the tip.  - This aids heat transfer.

Place the tip on the joint to be soldered and ensure it is in contact with the PCB pad as well as the component lead.

Wait a few seconds for the work to heat up.

Slowly apply solder to the intersection of the lead and pad. Do not apply solder directly to the iron tip. The tip is a heat source only


Applying solder to the joint (not the tip)

Apply enough heat and solder so that the solder flows all around the joint. Do not let it "ball" up and form a ball of solder attached to the component lead only. A Solder joint like this is the most common error made by beginners.

Remove the solder and slowly drag the iron tip up the component lead. The solder will form a concave conical shaped fillet. (Like the Eiffel tower, not convex like the Taj Mahal dome)

The soldered joint should look bright and have no granulation or greyness. This is a sign of a "cold"  or "dry" joint which is caused by low temperature soldering or movement during cooling.

Do not allow the component lead to move for a few seconds.

Wipe the tip after 3 or 4 joints with a Wet Sponge or Copper (Brass) scouring Pad.

Very Important keep those tips clean and tinned!


How to Post a Support Thread and what we need


When things go wrong....and they will!


1. Verify all Values! - Caps, and Resistors etc...Resistor Color Code Calculators are on the Web!  Google.

Resistors must be verified by Color Code since they cannot be measured properly when soldered in circuit.

2. Verify all Orientations! - Trannies, Diodes IC Chips, Electrolytic and Tantalum Caps.

3. Verify Wiring - Easy Pedal Wiring Diagram - Works for most pedals!

4. Check for bridges - Soldering Techniques for GuitarPCB Boards

5. Get the DMM (Digital Multi Meter) out. - Search the Forum, use the Search Bar or Google for more help.

In regards to measuring Voltages using your DMM here are some basic tips.

When using the meter it is possible to follow a number of simple steps:

1. Turn the meter on and Get into the right mode!

There are often two separate modes for AC and DC voltage.

Both will have a V but one will have two lines, one dashed and one solid (DC) and one with have a wave next to it (AC).

For Pedals here we want DC!!

2. Insert the probes into the correct connections - this is required because there may be a number of different connections that can be used.

3. Set switch to the correct measurement type and range for the measurement to be made. When selecting the range, ensure that the maximum range is above that anticipated. The range on the DMM can then be reduced as necessary. However by selecting a range that is too high, it prevents the meter being overloaded.

4. Optimise the range for the best reading. If possible enable all the leading digits to not read zero, and in this way the greatest number of significant digits can be read.


Testing Voltages of Transistors is very helpful in Debugging a build it looks like this:

Any Ground plane will do for the Black Probe then start taking Voltage readings and report them to us. This applies to Transistors as well as IC Chips.

Google Datasheets to report the proper Pin Numbers or Letters with your reading.

Example 1: Google "2N3904 Datasheet" then you will know which leg is C, B or E.

Example 2: Google "MPF102 Datasheet" to know which leg is D,S or G   etc....

6. Then post a Forum Topic in the Support section complete with Pictures and your Voltage Readings!

7. Get or Build an Audio Probe! - This will save you a lot of time and guessing!

Also in regards to Audio Probes you can read this helpful link from Tips and Tricks:

Using an Audio Probe to Debug Builds


*When Debugging you cannot accurately measure a Resistor while it is in the circuit!

A Tonmann explanation:

Let's have a look at what goes on when you measure a resistor out of circuit with a DMM:

When you clip your red and black probes across a resistor and select "Resistance", the DMM applies a DC voltage across the resistor which causes a current to flow through the resistor (the green arrow). The DMM measures the amount of current flowing through the resistor and then calculates the resistance - the DMM knows how much voltage it has supplied, it has measured the current, and by Ohm's Law (R = V/I) it can calculate the resistance - clever things these DMMs.

This is what your "no other components between the leads" diagram shows.

When you put the resistor in a circuit and then try to measure it's resistance you can end up with a totally different resistance reading. By the way, if you are measuring resistors "in circuit", you must have the power supply disconnected.

In the next diagram I've taken only the relevant parts of the circuit when measuring R4 and/or R5:

Applying the probes across R4 causes a current to flow through R4, it also causes a current to flow through the drain-source of Q2 and Q1, through R2, through R5 via the ground connection and back into the DMM.

The DMM is now measuring more current than it did when the resistor was out of circuit. As far as the DMM is concerned, more current must mean there is less resistance. - remember the DMM "knows" how much voltage it applied, has measured more current and calculates the resistance, R = V/I.

In the two right-hand diagrams, I've made the circuit (hopefully) easier to understand. As I said in my last post, what we have here is a series/parallel circuit. I've replaced the JFETs with their drain-source resistances - a few hundred Ohms each; add the resistances of Q2, Q1, R2 and R5 together, that's the series part of the circuit which we can call Rs and then calculate the parallel part of the circuit - (R4 * Rs) / (R4 + Rs).

I hope this explains everything for those not interested in the techie part, and has given some insight on circuit calculations for those who are interested.

June 2, 2011 at 9:51 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Site Owner
Posts: 8781

Use A Fine Conical Tip with .031 diameter solder.

If I may add....

For cleaning up potential Bridges and many other Pedal Building chores this a Hobby Tool that looks like a Dental Pick but was intended for Scribing Models etc...

It is very handy for many things. heck it will even pull you children's loose baby teeth out with an expensive trip to the dentist:  ;)

It has a hook for grabbing things as well as a  firm pointy steel tip. The back of the hook is also like a blade for cutting.

So, for example, it is also extremely handing for cleaning up Solder Bridges and Cutting Traces among many things.

Here is a Picture:

You can buy one for $8 here and it will last you forever:


Update: We now use Fabricated Circuit Boards, with Solder Mask:

Since we have upgraded to Fabricated Circuit Boards some of the material may seem dated but much of the advice still applies. I have added a short Youtube video so that you may see me working with a newr fabricated board.

New Fabricated Board Soldering Demo

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

Here is yet another Soldering Tutorial from Jameco:

July 8, 2011 at 11:24 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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