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So I'm just starting to get into soldering, and being a noob, I got the most el cheapo solder kit you could possibly get.

Now the problem is that the soldering iron isn't very hot. So with lead-free solder, it takes some convincing and pressing the solder onto the iron for a few seconds before the solder melts.

This is fine if I don't have my fan (regular desk fan) on - I could solder quite normally. However, the fumes smell horrible, and apparently they are bad for you. But when I turn my fan on, the solder won't melt. Or it would melt after 2 minutes with me pressing down the soldering iron and overheating everything on the board, but instantly freeze as long as it it's not directly in touch with the soldering iron. I even got solder wire stuck firmly onto a circuit board because it froze so quickly.

It seems like the fan is cooling down the solder, which is strange since it's not a super powerful fan or anything. Is there a way to prevent this? Or do I need to get one of those special fume extractor fans?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Two things every beginner should do: Buy a temperature controlled soldering station with enough thermal inertia, and keep hands off lead free solder. \$\endgroup\$ – PlasmaHH Jun 17 '15 at 15:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Solder fumes aren't particularly bad for you: they're vaporised resin, not lead or tin. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Johnson Jun 17 '15 at 15:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NickJohnson: Just that most people say that some resins can cause cancer. And longer exposure to them can make you feel dizzy and alter your smell and taste. Also see electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/1904/… \$\endgroup\$ – PlasmaHH Jun 17 '15 at 16:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PlasmaHH Many people say that pretty much everything can cause cancer. kill-or-cure.herokuapp.com \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Johnson Jun 18 '15 at 9:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PlasmaHH Point me to peer reviewed studies instead of anecdotes, and I'll happily change my mind. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Johnson Jun 18 '15 at 10:29
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No, you don't need a special extractor. And there is a way to work around the cooling effect of the fan.

It's called a decent soldering iron, and you need one desperately. This is not due to the specific problem which led you to post, although that's bad enough. It's taking a long time to melt your solder, and during this whole time your parts are getting heated. This is very bad for your parts. You can easily kill ICs by doing this. Bite the bullet and get a decent iron.

It's also possible (but you don't mention it) that your cheap kit gave you solder which is too thick. For general electronic soldering, .050 solder is about as thick as you should have, and .025 dia solder is much better.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ .025mm is maybe a bit too thin... \$\endgroup\$ – PlasmaHH Jun 17 '15 at 15:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ It doesn't seem like the soldering iron is too bad though. Without the fan on, everything is normal. \$\endgroup\$ – ithisa Jun 17 '15 at 17:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ If the fan can cool things off that much, the soldering iron is not up to snuff. "it takes some convincing and pressing the solder onto the iron for a few seconds before the solder melts." While part of the problem may be that your tip is not properly tinned, and you aren't cleaning it properly, what you describe is NOT normal. Solder should melt instantly for small parts/wires. \$\endgroup\$ – WhatRoughBeast Jun 17 '15 at 18:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ BTW, also start with a tip that is as wide at the business end as you can. The needle point ones can be significantly cooler at the tip than at the heating element, particularly in moving air. \$\endgroup\$ – Dean Franks Aug 8 '18 at 19:58
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As stated previously, it is well worth it to get a better soldering iron, preferably a temperature-controlled one. This doesn't mean that you have to spend a lot of money to get a closed-loop iron, just one with variable control.

Heating your components for more than a few seconds is highly discouraged. This could potentially cause severe damage to components, or delaminate PCB traces.

You could also try re-tinning your iron tip if the solder isn't melting on contact, but soldering with a higher quality iron makes the whole experience of electronics assembly much more enjoyable.

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