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I am a beginner at electronics.

I don't have many tools and stuff, so I am forced to solder by hand.

I don't have a pcb to solder on, so I usually just solder the wires together, but it's really difficult without a holder.

Is there an easier way to do this? If not, is there a substitute for a wire holder?

Any help would be appreciated.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Clothes-pegs (or clothes-pins in some dialects) could work. The wood ones with the little spring in them... \$\endgroup\$ – brhans Dec 30 '14 at 19:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you're halfway clever you can invent all sorts of holders. I've used clothes-pins, a pair of needle-nose pliers with a rubber band on the handles, alligator clips (very handy!), pieces or scrap wire bent different ways. And often just stuff weighted down somehow on the workbench. \$\endgroup\$ – Hot Licks Dec 31 '14 at 3:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just out of curiosity, do you actually only have one biological hand attached to your body? \$\endgroup\$ – nitro2k01 Jan 1 '15 at 7:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Why do you want a substitute for a wire holder? What's wrong with a wire holder? \$\endgroup\$ – Phil Frost Jan 1 '15 at 17:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PhilFrost I got a wire holder today. It is a lot of help. I just didn't know where to find one before, and didn't want to get one online because of the shipping and taxes. \$\endgroup\$ – Pyraminx Jan 1 '15 at 19:57

11 Answers 11

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Something like this may help. Just google "solder helping hand"

enter image description here

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If you really need 3 hands to solder, you're doing it wrong. The need to hold the components or wires together while soldering means that you're using the solder both for mechanical AND electrical connection, and this is a very bad habit to get into. There's an old saying that the difference between military and hobbyist soldering is that the military assumes that solder has zero strength, while hobbyists assume it has infinite strength. Lean to the military. If you're connecting 2 components, wrap one lead around the other, then solder.

And PkP has a good idea about using a couple of books.

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    \$\begingroup\$ And you have the right idea about solder strength! \$\endgroup\$ – PkP Dec 30 '14 at 19:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's more than strength. If the joint moves when cooling, the solder will crystallize incorrectly, giving something much like a cold joint \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman Dec 30 '14 at 22:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ They must have had a tough time when SMT came around. \$\endgroup\$ – whatsisname Jan 2 '15 at 6:05
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How about stack some books on top of each other, and nudge one of the components or wires between two book corners.

First put some solder to each wire end. And after that, just heat the wire ends together with the soldering iron. That way you don't need to hold both wires and the soldering tin.

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    \$\begingroup\$ hard copies never die!!!!! \$\endgroup\$ – GR Tech Dec 30 '14 at 20:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GRTech, right, rather difficult to do this with two copies of an eBook :D \$\endgroup\$ – PkP Dec 30 '14 at 20:31
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You could use different splicing techniques to keep the wires together while you solder them together. Below are images of two different techniques:

enter image description here

enter image description here

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    \$\begingroup\$ These are good techniques, but I still have to hold the solder, iron and the wire at the same time. What substitute is there for a wire holder? \$\endgroup\$ – Pyraminx Dec 30 '14 at 18:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pyraminx, that's true. I suppose you could use one of these in combination with PkP's answer. \$\endgroup\$ – TronicZomB Dec 30 '14 at 18:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ For wires that are going to be soldered the above schemes are generally overkill. Simply twisting together a couple of times is usually sufficient. \$\endgroup\$ – Hot Licks Dec 31 '14 at 3:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pyraminx most solder comes in a spool which is pretty heavy. If your spool isn't heavy enough then any other heavy object will do. Unspool 10 cm or so of solder and set the spool on it. Then bend it to where you need it. Your remaining hands hold the wires (now mechanically attached together) and the iron. Heat the wires with the iron, then bring the two into the solder which is held in place by the spool. \$\endgroup\$ – Phil Frost Jan 1 '15 at 13:51
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Solder wire is reasonably stiff. Pull out several inches of solder wire from the roll, set the roll on its side, then bend the solder wire up into a hook shape. You can then use one hand to hold the wires up against the solder and another to hold the iron.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, this is a technique I've often used. \$\endgroup\$ – Hot Licks Dec 31 '14 at 3:18
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Tape... Just tape the wires to your bench, and bend them up a little.

If they roll you can tape them some more or use something heavy to keep it in place.

Use pliers with a rubber band around the handles to make pliers that will hold your wire or wires hands free. Use vise grips if you have them.

If you don't want to twist them together first, I usually just put some solder on one wire and touch it and the iron to the other wire that's taped down. You can also melt some solder onto your tip and use that to make the connection.

Now if you truly only had one hand to work with you could configure the wires to be touching using a method above and then bend the solder over and around the joint. When you touch the iron to the wire solder combo surface tension will suck the solder wire up to your iron and your wires.

Just some ideas.

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First I assume you do have two hands.
Are you building an air wired type circuit? (A rat's nest of wires and components.)
So first you can try twisting bits together to hold them mechanically while you solder them. If that doesn't work, then I tin both pieces.
Get a bit of extra solder on the iron.
Hold one piece onto where it needs to be and tack it in place with the iron.

But you need something as a base. I tend to use a blank piece of copper clad.

Here's a pic

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  • \$\begingroup\$ We're not so comfortable clicking links. Could you put the picture on your post instead? \$\endgroup\$ – ʇolɐǝz ǝɥʇ qoq Feb 26 '15 at 5:24
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1) First, make a diagram of how you want everything to fit together, then start by melting a small blob of solder onto a component lead where another component lead will cross it.

2) Do the same thing on the lead that will cross then, using one hand, hold one component so the blobs are one on top of the other, then with the other hand (and a soldering iron) melt the blobs until they flow into each other, and then hold them together without moving them until the joint cools.

3) Continue the process at each location where leads will cross until you're done.

After a while, some wires will cross automatically as you're soldering others down, so merely solder them together as you go along.

I like to work on a sheet of paper on a flat surface, and if I need to hold down the circuit while I'm working I'll just use the corner of a book or something to keep it from moving during those times.

When you're finished you should have an "air-wired" circuit, and it would be a good idea to touch up all the solder joints just to make sure they're solid. Because of pressures you've applied during the first phase, when you go to touch up the work and re-melt some joints some wires may adjust themselves by springing around a little. That's OK, just make sure that they're where you want them to be and stable when you re-solder them and that the joint never moves while it's cooling.

If you have a longish run, like Vcc or GND, and it would look nasty if you only had the component leads to solder together, you could use a piece of tinned bus wire to keep everything tidy, as shown below, and eventually, you should wind up with something like this:

enter image description here

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It is not clear why you are short of hands here. For several tasks, it may help to split one hand into two: for holding solder or some part, ring finger and pinky can be sufficient, and you can use thumb against one or both of the remaining fingers as a separate "hand". With some practice and/or dexterity, both of those half-hands can be trained to move independently (of course within the anatomic constraints).

For adding solder to some part held with the same hand, this can work reasonably well. Splitting the hand holding the soldering iron tends to work worse and is more likely to lead to burns.

Maybe practice eating with chopsticks.

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Put the two wire ends together and wrap them together. Then you additionally wrap solder around them. This will make things mechanically stable.

Next step is grab the soldering iron with one hand and the solder job with the other and solder it.

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If you're holding the solder, soldering iron and wires together then you're doing it wrong.

Never use solder to solder (unless it's for soldering jewelry or something mechanical). You should use nothing to solder. Solder should only be used to tin the wire. (There is an exception, through hole components require you to solder while holding the solder)

  1. Use the solder to tin each wire and/or surface you're soldering.

  2. Bring the wires and/or surfaces together.

  3. Apply heat to the joint until the solder on the wire/surfaces melt.

  4. Hold the wires/surfaces together for a bit longer until the solder hardens.

Once you've learned this trick you can even solder surface mount components to boards (of course, in that case you only tin the solder pads, not the components).

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    \$\begingroup\$ -1. This contradicts almost all of my techniques with rosin-core solder. Adding solder directly to the joint opposite the heat is more efficient, uses less solder and produces cleaner joints than your technique. Perhaps more important... there is nothing wrong with "using solder to solder." \$\endgroup\$ – Shamtam Dec 31 '14 at 17:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Moreover, it's very difficult to get a proper mechanical connection between two pieces of stranded wire if you tin them first because they become inflexible once tinned and twisting them together is difficult. With heavy gauge wire, it will be impossible. \$\endgroup\$ – Phil Frost Jan 1 '15 at 13:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Agree with the other comments (but won't downvote you further). It's certainly worth knowing about "reflow soldering" as an option for special cases such as surface-mount. but there are many cases where it is definitely not the best option. \$\endgroup\$ – keshlam Jan 2 '15 at 3:15

protected by W5VO Jan 2 '15 at 15:58

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