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I'm finding it a little bit cumbersome to work with a gridded perfboard with holes that have no isolated copper soldering pads. Specifically, I'm finding that I need to make create a big wads of solder on each terminal end just to hold the component in place. It's big and messy and I'm making lots of mistakes along the way. I've used perfboards with pads before, and it was really easy to get components to stick and hold in place. These boards just baffle me for some reason.

Is there any special trick to working with padless perfboards? How can I get my components to stick to them easily without making a big ball of solder on each terminal end?

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Don't do big balls of solder. Use point-to-point wiring, using the component leads as wires as much as possible.

Or take up wire-wrap. Either or.

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look for an online pdf called milspec soldering standard. It deals with turrets but the essentials are the same.

Pretend that the lead coming from one component is the 'turret'. Let it come straight out. Pretend the other component's lead is the 'lead' and give it a quarter turn to wrap it around the 'turret post', taking care to make sure the spacing is reasonably tight. You can accomplish this by leaving the first component lead long enough to bend around the straight lead, which has been pretrimmed to appropriate height, such that it might push the straight lead towards the other component just a bit. Then trim that lead and use the pressure against the top of the board and the components by some pad or paper towel or whatever to hold the components in place, and the partially wrapped 1/4 turn wire from the first component should be enough to hold the work steady.

Then bring in the tip and heat both leads and bring in the solder after. If you're working with some low stability like no helping hands or pressure to apply against the board and wire, then you should try to make that end of the 1/4 turned wire at short as possible so it feels snug to the straight lead of the second component, and then to bend that lead slightly in the direction away from the first component to tighten that up so there's no slip and you can solder.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIT4ra6Mo0s

The trick to not creating blobs of solder is proper wetting.

I would worry a lot less about a joint that has 1/16th inches of space between the leads and gets joined by properly wetted solder (its supposed to be a solid fused piece of metal when you're done) than I would worry about a blob of solder that indicates a cold solder joint. The former is at least highly resistant to mechanical failure from vibration as well as corrosive failure.

I used to make blob style solder on bare phenolic board as well. Its not hard to do it right, but it takes some research or some thinking if you cant find the answers. Components held in place well, board well stabilized, leads as close as possible, proper heating of leads so wetting action occurs and solder runs in to 'grab' both leads and create a solid fused connection.

The other alternative, one which might even look superior with some practice, is to buy a spool of appropriate gauge bus wire and clip ALL leads of components short so they stick up just past the board as if you were doing PCB/stripboard.

Then cut some bus wire to appropriate length and either repeat the process of turning the ends 1/4 way to make some slightly 'grabby' bus wire that will hold itself in place through pressure applied against both leads with a 'slightly short' bus wire, or use some kind of clamp to hold the wire in place as a straight end or turned end and solder it in place on both sides.

A third option is using another piece of wire to old things in place. put it on the holes on either side of the lead or bus wire some distance from he joint to be heated so it doesn't provide a nice heatsink near the source, or put it close if you need a heatsink, and then twist that wire together on the other side of the board so it shortens up like a noose to hold the wire in place.

Having something which can apply pressure to individual wires and be rapidly removed is the fastest option. Like a helping hands device with decent ball-joint resistance to movement that you can apply one of the hands against the wire and board, flat across.

I like bare perfboard now because you can use a permanent marker to place all the component's locations on both sides of the board without worrying about copper pads. Then you can keep track of your connections very efficiently as you stick in your parts and solder together.

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