[Tech] Soldering Pickups 101

Discussion in 'The Sevenstring.org Workbench' started by Digital Black, Aug 1, 2005.

  1. Digital Black

    Digital Black SS.org Regular

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    This is taken from some old guides I wrote on another forum.

    It seems that a lot of people ask the same questions about this stuff. Rather than explain it every time, refer them here. This is aimed at the beginner to moderately educated guitar player. Seasoned pro's and players who have done it all (setups, rebuilding, ryv) won't get anything from it, though, you are more than welcome to comment.

    So, you decided to change those old pip's? Firstly, wire colors and non-OEM wiring are beyond the scope of this thread post. To get into those areas I suggest these links.

    www.guitarnuts.com

    www.guitarelectronics.com

    Soldering for Dummies:
    First you must have some basic equipment. I'll quote Radio Shack part numbers because they are common stores. You don't have to buy from here and better deals can be found. A good soldering gun would be a 30 watt "pencil ", Radio Shack number 64-2067 for $7.69. Any higher wattage is unnecessary and could possibly damage the components / wire if heated to long. Stay away from the 100 watt "guns", with the hooked tip. This is overkill for a beginner and hard to use in small spaces. A good solder would be a rosin mixture ("rosin" is used to help the bonding process of metal to metal), RS # 64-013 $3.99 and is in roll form . This should last anyone a while. The most important piece is a multimeter. A small device with an analog meter/needle (or digital if you prefer to spend more) with two leads. Cheap ones measure DCv,ACv, Ohmic resistance / continuity and sometimes Amps ( RS # 22-218) ..Measuring ohm's is important for guitarists. Finding shorts or unconnected leads helps to solve many problems. To check for a short, measure two points of a circuit ( a wire for example, both ends) if the meter goes to zero(no resistance), it is short or open (on the wire, this would be normal to measured this since the wire is one piece, if it didn't then there is a break in the wire somewhere). Volts, amps and ohms can be confusing at first.

    To simplify, think of this water analogy.

    Voltage :water pressure
    Ac :water moving back and forth
    Dc : water flowing in one direction
    Amps :amount of water
    Watts : force/work of water
    Ohms : resistance of moving water

    This is just to simplify for someone new at this. It's a little more complex than this, but enough to get one going.
     
  2. Digital Black

    Digital Black SS.org Regular

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    Installing the pup's: How to solder

    Know what you are going to connect (have a plan of what needs to be done) before the old pip is taken out. Every guitar is different and every pip manufacturer uses different colors to determine what goes where. Use the above links if you having trouble.

    Let the gun heat up. Have a wet sponge in a small dish. Before you apply solder, wipe the hot tip a little. This cleans it and gets rid of any impurities that might affect your connection. Don't bother wiping / cleaning the tip after you've made the connection, it will just dry up. Leave it till your ready for the start of the next connection. Don't worry if the tip rusts quickly, heat accelerates the oxidizing process. After you wipe the tip, apply and melt a little solder to the tip. This will aid in the heat transfer to the wire to be connected. (Just a small dab.)
    On your connection to be made, leave at least a 1/4 inch wire exposed, twisted if possible - this keeps wire from splitting out all over as you work with it.

    HEAT THE WIRE AND OR CONNECTION, NOT THE SOLDER ITSELF!

    This is the #1 rule for a good connection. Have the tip on the bottom and the fresh solder on top. Let the newly heated wire melt the solder and it will flow onto the connection. Melted solder will always flow to the hottest point so try to make the wire the hottest point. It will try to get to the tip of the soldering iron. THIS IS NOT WHAT YOU WANT! Allow it to cool by itself, don't blow on it as this causes a poorly connected joint. Use a stand to hold the Soldering Iron, and be careful not to burn yourself, it's easy to do in the small guitar cavities.
     
  3. Digital Black

    Digital Black SS.org Regular

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    A few secrets:

    If you're a vintage/OEM freak and want everything perfect, then don't bother with what follows here. For someone who changes pip's a lot, wants to try out a lot of different pickups quickly or wants an easier time with their "junker" guitar. Here are some shortcuts:

    A lot of time you will find that there is a lot a junk all soldered at one point. When installing a new pip, all this stuff comes loose and has to be reconnected. You don't have to use all of the new wire on the new pickup. You can splice it in the middle or near the old pickup wire pickup itself. For someone who changes pickups a lot this is good. This connection can be used over and over, just remember to wrap the bare wire in some black tape to prevent any shorts. The sound quality loss is minimal if a good connection is made.

    If you just bought a new pickup and you are really not sure if it's going to work for your sound, add a little bit of wire and use some auick connects (solderless connectors). You can compare pips very fast by changing them. Once you settle on a plan, you can go in, remove the wire extension, and solder them in. Sound quality loss will be minimal if a good connection is made, but I wouldn't leave it like this unless you change sound a lot.
     
  4. Digital Black

    Digital Black SS.org Regular

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    One thing to remember, and this is crucial. Do not buy ACID CORE solder. This type is used for plumbing. Most k-mart or hardware type stores put each type right next to each other, so it's easy for a newb to make that mistake.
    Also, after you solder a connection, you may seem some brownish residue ( espicially on the back of the pots ). This is called "flux" and is perfectly normal. There is no need to use Flux remover on these type of connections.
     
  5. JPMDan

    JPMDan IT'S OVER 9000!!!! Contributor

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  6. D-EJ915

    D-EJ915 Forum MVP

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    also flux is for plumbing, you don't need it for electronics.
     
  7. Digital Black

    Digital Black SS.org Regular

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    Not true , flux is used in electronics in some instances.

    http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2049774&cp=2032058.2032236.2032313&allCount=48&fbn=Type%2FFlux&f=PAD%2FProduct+Type%2FFlux&fbc=1&parentPage=family

    From wiki, cause I'm too lazy:
    Solder often comes pre-mixed with, or is used with, flux, a reducing agent designed to help remove impurities (specifically oxidised metals) from the points of contact to improve the electrical connection. For convenience, solder is often manufactured as a hollow tube and filled with flux. Most cold solder is soft enough to be rolled and packaged as a coil making for a convenient and compact solder/flux package. The two principal types of flux are acid flux, used for metal mending, and rosin flux, used in electronics, where the corrosiveness of the vapours that arise when acid flux is heated could damage components. Due to concerns over atmospheric pollution and hazardous waste disposal, the electronics industry has been gradually shifting from rosin flux to water-soluble flux, which can be removed with deionised water and detergent, instead of hydrocarbon solvents.

    I didn't think anybody read these guides I wrote. I wrote these way back before ss.org existed, when I was slumming around on HC..
     
  8. JPMDan

    JPMDan IT'S OVER 9000!!!! Contributor

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    so what about the solder iron I found? Also would you like me to search for new part numbers to update your post? I'm a do it yourself kind of guy and rather solder my own shit
     
  9. D-EJ915

    D-EJ915 Forum MVP

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    Really any soldering iron that's at least somewhat powerful 20 watts or more will do you just fine, get a feel for how it works and you'll be fine. I know guys use 100 watt irons but they're so used to it they'll never damage a component.
     
  10. Black Watch

    Black Watch Contributor

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    One thing I would like to add on the soldering front. The choice of solder should be a subject of some consideration. In many cases you will want to use some manner of flux to help the heat spread well, and you may be using some heat sinks to help keep the wrong parts from getting too hot and possibly damaging plastics (such as insulation).

    Having soldered several dozen circuit boards in the last few years, you need to keep in mind the fact that you will have to wash whatever you solder after it cools to remove the excess flux and the impurities that come out as you cook the connections. Failing to do so will leave nasty chemicals in your circuit that can oxidize and change the electrical nature of the connection, or corrode some parts.

    The solder spool will say how to clean up, but my recommendation would be to use an organic core solder, such as Kester "Red Box" organic core solder. The benefit of this is you don't have to use alcohol to clean up (which can do nasty things to paint finishes on guitars) but uses water instead. You can usually get this from places like Mouser.
     
  11. mEtAlORc

    mEtAlORc SS.org Regular

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  12. Zepp88

    Zepp88 Arktanian Diplomat Contributor

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    You don't NEED a desoldering iron, you can just heat up the solder and pull the wire away.

    I personally prefer to use a desoldering iron. It's easier and cleaner to me.

    You can also use desoldering braid, which takes some practice.
     
  13. ChrisPcritter

    ChrisPcritter Contributor

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    I'm not trying to step on any toes, just offering another point of view.

    Just a quick note. I was a reapair tech for air force communications equipment and was trained on electronic soldering for "hole through", surface mount" and "microscopic soldering" by "Pace" which is a company that makes high end soldering equipment.
    We always used a small amount of flux, but not the kind you buy for plumbing. It allows for the best and cleanest connections. "Tin" the wire and connection if possible, which means a small coating of flux and then solder to get rid of impurities. Connect the two, then heat from one side and apply solder from the other.
    (which can be left and right or top and bottom).
    Clean the flux residue with denatured alcohol and a small rag being very careful not to get any on your guitars finish.


    Also before I intall a new pot, I clean all connections with an eraser which works very well for cleaning circuit board connections as well (like the ones on your sound or video card on your computer).
     
  14. ChrisPcritter

    ChrisPcritter Contributor

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    Also as some have said have a small wet sponge for cleaning the tip. And I find it useful to have an aluminum can smashed so that the bottom is still intact. Put some flux in it to help clean the soldering iron tip. Contaminants lead to bad solder joints and poor connections.
    When you've finished soldering, coat the tip of the iron with solder to prevent rusting. When you go to use it the next time clean the old solder off and the tip will last much longer and work better..
     
  15. Minto Took

    Minto Took SS.org Regular

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    Very true with the procedures you stated.

    I'd like to add in some work area things you can do as well. I like to have a sheet of cardboard or the backing from an old clipboard between my project and the table to help prevent burning said table and it makes clean-up easier. Also, if you need to work with leads on a pre-amp outside the guitar, grabbers like mentioned earlier work very well for this. Lastly, a drafter's lamp (the kind with a built-in magnifying glass) really helps see into tight places. You can usually get those at the local office store starting around $20 USD.

    I'm working on my senior design project for my degree in EE, so I'll be huffing flux from now until August. :D
     
  16. JBroll

    JBroll Hard-On For Freedom™ Contributor

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    Just a note...

    In my experience with Radio Shack solder, the 63/37 works much, much better than the 60/40.

    Jeff
     
  17. jaxadam

    jaxadam SS.org Regular

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    Huh, I'll have to check that out, because I use 60/40, and don't ever really seem to have any problems.
     
  18. JBroll

    JBroll Hard-On For Freedom™ Contributor

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    I didn't have problems, but things just seemed to get... cleaner.

    Jeff
     
  19. zombietime

    zombietime SS.org Regular

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    It has a lower melting point and has a higher tin content than 60/40. Anyway, i'm IPC certified in soldering .... IPC 610, J-STD, blah blah blah. Been working for an electronics manufacturer for about 4 years. I do technical documentation now but still solder once in a while.

    What we use are Water Soluble solder, No Clean solder and Rosin. Flux can and will corrode electronics if you use the wrong kind for your application. I recommend using a no clean solder if you aren't going to run your guitar through an industrial SMT cleaner. Water soluble cleans in plain water, Rosin and No Clean need a chemical additive to the water to clean them. Flux more or less cleans your pad/contact area of oxidation to promote proper adhesion and solder flow.

    Real world example of flux issues... we used no clean solder paste on a customers pcba and after a few months coils were failing. It was traced back to the no clean flux working up into the component and eating away at it.

    I'm going to keep this short but be aware of what type of solder you use as it does make a difference. We use Kester and I only really use Hakko irons and rework stations as they've been bullet proof.

    Oh and be cautious of Lead Free solder. It requires much more heat and is not fun to rework. You don't need to be RoHS compliant in your own home. :D

    (i'm no engineer or anything and ymmv as always)
     
  20. 7StringedBeast

    7StringedBeast Random Fingers

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    A good advice: when soldering stuff like capacitors it is good to use alligator clips attached to it, close to the part that will be soldered. This helps preventing heat from damaging the capacitor.

    My :2c:
     

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