Since the start of the year, I’ve been teaching myself how to solder properly. I’ve found that putting together a complex kit is something akin to the same sense of progress and accomplishment that I used get with e.g. Lego Technic kits as kid. It’s good to get back the access to that set of feelings!
I started with some cheap antenna kits from the QRP Guys to get better reception on my SDRs, found I quite liked putting them together and fettling them after the completion of construction.
I purchased a proper Weller soldering station from Amazon and a varied set of tips. Also included in that purchase was a roll of proper leaded solder – none of that really hard-to-work-with unleaded “solder” for me thank you very much. The Weller iron has certainly made smaller electronic kits an awful lot easier to do, with 70W and a needlenose tip.
The most complex kit I have completed to date is a QCX-40 kit by Hans Summers (http://www.qrp-labs.com/qcx.html) with a fair few toroids to wind and quite an amount of densely packed small through-hole componentry. It’s a 4W Morse radio, that other builders have reached worldwide with appropriate antennas. It’s piqued my interest in learning Morse, as that’ll be useful to me as a future Amateur Radio Operator.
I’ve also completed QRP-Labs U3S kits, one to be used with an amplifier and the other is going to be barefoot. Both have the relay kit for multiple low pass filters, so I will have choices from 160m to 6m for WSPR transmissions. There’s also a nice 50W class C amplifier built and biased, for the QCX to be guaranteed worldwide reception of my signals.
Having the decent soldering iron has also meant that I can perform repairs on my own stuff that broke. A nice example is my Yamaha AV amplifier, the decided to stop powering on. Troubleshooting with a multimeter, careful application of a soldering iron, replacement of a failed component, and it’s now as good as it was when i got my hands on it.
When I’m assembling a kit, putting the components in and soldering them to the PCB, it is really calming and quite zen. It’s definitely something that I have found that I greatly enjoy. And, when the circuits are completed, I usually have a new toy to play with..