The minimum of what’cha need

Before I go into the modding of the 7800 with composite, I figured it would pause for a moment and discuss about what was needed to accomplish the task. Now I won’t go into the art of soldering or de-soldering as they are plenty of excellent Youtube videos on the subject. What I’m going to post here is the minimum tool set one needs. Mimimum as if you don’t have this you won’t be able to accomplish the task or, more than likely, screw it up. So, here we go.

The variable heat soldering iron. Cost: $50 -$100.


A variable heat soldering iron enables you to vary the heat of you soldering tip. Why is this important? depending on what you are soldering/de-soldering, different heat requirements are needed. Soldering in an IC, usually low heat is best as you can damage the IC with too much heat. De-soldering, maximum heat is best. I even turn my soldering iron down all the way and use it to shrink shrink-tubing.

Another must is a sponge or some steel wool to wipe your soldering iron. As you see in the photo, my soldering station has a sponge with it. I am constantly wiping my soldering iron when in use. Just a little accumulation of solder on  the tip disrupts the flow of the solder. This makes the solder not flow properly or not stick at all.

Now this is a preference but I use a needle point tip for almost all my soldering. I have found that I can get the most accurate solder with a needle point tip as opposed to, say, a flat tip. The down side is I do have to be constantly cleaning the tip since it is such as small area. Also, de-soldering is a bit slower.

The next most absolutely useful tool is the helping hand. Cost $5.00 – $50.00.

20170529_105950This is possibly the most useful, general purpose tool, that I have. I use it for holding wires while I solder, holding small boards to solder, holding plastic parts while gluing and the list goes on.

The two flexible clip leads will hold, just about anything. The base is made of heavy weight metal so the device won’t tip. The magnifying glass helps in the tiny solder spots on boards.

I also use my helping hand a lot in modeling to holds parts while gluing them together.

The only thing I found is that it is too small for holding motherboards and the like. I have found larger helping hands that are made for such as that at Fry’s and I have them on my wish list.

Here are some other stuff you really need.


The top blue item is a de-soldering pump. $5.00v-$10.00

This little device pulls the solder off your board when de-soldering. To work it you click the yellow plunger down till it clicks. Then hold the de-soldering pump next to the spot you are heating up and click the yellow plunger. This sucks the solder up into the device and off your board, sometimes. You might have to repeat the procedure a few times to get all the solder off.

If the de-solder is too stubborn you might have to use a de-soldering wick. $3.00 -$5.00.

The de-soldering wick is the round device on the left with the copper colored wiring braid streaming out of it. To use the wick you place a lenght of braided copper wick over the area that you are de-soldering. Then you place the soldering iron on top of the wick. The solder will then flow up into the copper braiding and off your board. Afterwards you cut off the length of braiding were the melted solder embedded.

I use both the wick and the pump to de-solder. They tend to compliment each other.

The next item isn’t used all that much by pros but for novices to mid-levels like me I think it is a must. This is a clip heat sink. Cost $1.00 – $5.00

One of the problems I had early on was over heating components. I would get the item in place and it wouldn’t work since I had fried it in the soldering process. The heat sink clip keeps this from happening. All you do is clip the sink between where you plan to solder and the device and the heat is dissipated through the sink instead of frying your component.

This is especially helpful with ICs. Here you would just clip the sink to the leg of the IC you where soldering to keep the IC cool (ICs are particularly susceptible to heat.)

There is a down side though. Sometimes the heat sink will pull so much heat from where you are soldering the solder won’t stick. Just use your commonsense in this case.

The bottom item is my roll of solder.Cost $ 5.00 – $50.00

I found that – Sn60/Pb40 (60% tin/40 % lead) .032″ diameter, 22 AWG with RA flux core – works best for the soldering I do. Don’t worry if you don’t understand what all the designations mean (I sure don’t), just know that it works.

NOTE: solder contains lead. Always, always use in well ventilated area! The fumes could be hazardous.

Another item that is a must, but not pictured, is some rubbing alcohol and Q-tips. Cost: $2.00 – $4.00

Body oils can keep solder from sticking. So always clean the area before you solder.

That’s it. You could go bigger and get fancy electric solder pumps and temperature controlled soldering irons but this is the minimum at under $100.00

Next time I will go over the mod of the 7800 with composite.

Ta, Field Mouse



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