The Soldering Life

I’ve been soldering for around thirty years now. I started off like a lot of baby geeks with the marvellous books by R.A. Penfold. They contained loads of great little projects, basic multivibrator circuits, one-pot violins, light-controlled squealers. I wasn’t a natural with electronics like Woz but what I lacked in maths and talent, I made up for with sheer enthusiasm. I loved the feeling of going to RF Potts with a shopping list of parts, coming home and then a few hours later, having a working tiny gadget.

Sadly, I’ve let my soldering slide the last few years and when I decided to make up some balanced jack-to-jacks today, it was far more difficult than it should have been. And, come on, this is easy-peasy soldering! I was doing proper circuits when I was 12, making up an audio lead is much less complex.

Gradually, it came back to me. I was having trouble because I was making all the classic beginner’s mistakes: I wasn’t tinning the ends of the wires, I wasn’t heating the joint enough but instead trying to cheat by melting solder onto it. Which, as any geek will tell you, makes a terrible joint as there’s no adhesion, the lump of solder will just fall off when stressed.

Then, I really started enjoying myself. In economic terms, it’s foolish for me to make my own leads. Yes, it’s cheaper than buying them but if I figured in what I normally charge per hour of my time (for recording or photography), it’s a bit silly. It would make far more sense to buy them.

But it wouldn’t be as much fun! There’s something about the smell of rosin-cored solder that takes me back to being a kid, the joy of discovery and the thrill of making some LEDs blink in sequence or the noise of a police car siren. Once you get in the swing, there’s something deeply calming and satisfying about soldering.

Now I have eight lovely balanced leads that are the perfect length for the patching I need to do. Yes, I could have bought them. But getting there is half the fun! 😀