Soldering Essentials

Here are the essentials. It's a lot of stuff to buy at first, but good tools will last you for years, and you're worth it.  Spending a few dollars on yourself to get good equipment will save you so much heartache down the road.

Use the good wire! Cheap wire breaks, especially in wearables. Yes, it's a couple dollars more, but your project will work for 10x as long (I wish someone had convinced me of this when I was first getting started).

1 x Soldering Iron
30W Soldering Iron. Get a good one! You won't be sorry.
1 x Solder
Rosin-core solder
1 x Soldering Iron Stand
Don't burn your table!
1 x Solder Wick / Braid
For fixing mistakes
1 x Flush Cutters
This is my favorite tool in the world! Maybe get two.
1 x Wire Strippers
Get the good ones!
1 x Heat Shrink
Multicolored and multi-sized
1 x Clear Heat Shrink
Perfect for sealing up the ends of NeoPixel strips
1 x Alligator Clips
Small alligator clips for testing
1 x Red Wire
Silicone stranded wire (noodle wire) in red
1 x White Wire
Silicone stranded wire (noodle wire) in white
1 x Black Wire
Silicone stranded wire (noodle wire) in black

Microcontrollers for Testing

Even if you've got a different microcontroller in mind for your final project, having a Circuit Playground Express and/or Gemma M0 on hand for testing your pixels is a great idea. You can hook either board up with alligator clips, so even if your final code isn't ready, you can still test your solder joints.

I always keep a Circuit Playground Express near my workstation with simple test code loaded onto it, so I can test connections as I build.

1 x Circuit Playground Express
Circuit Playground Express - Your LED strip's "brain"
1 x Gemma M0
Gemma M0 - Get one for your project and one to keep as a tester!
1 x USB Cable
Trust Your Cable! Get a new one, you'll know it works.

Nice-to-Have Items

Items in this section are not 100% essential, but can be super helpful if you're tricking out your workstation. I've also added a few things that I'm grateful to have on-hand since they get used in so very many projects.

1 x Multimeter
Oh-so helpful for troubleshooting
1 x Third Hand
Sometimes you need one. With magnifier for those tiny solder pads.
1 x Soldering Mat
Keep your tabletop nice
1 x Solder Sucker
Extra help for mistakes
1 x Solid-core Wire
For making solid connections that don't need to flex
1 x JST Connector with On Off Switch
In case you want to put your battery further from your controller
1 x AAA Batteries
Don't run out!
1 x USB Battery Pack
More power sources are always a good thing.
1 x Pliers
Always come in handy!

Round Out your Station

I have a few other tools on my workstation that I use in almost every project. Most of these can be found at your local hardware store or craft store.

  • Hot glue gun -- find one with a low AND high temperature setting
  • Lots and lots of glue sticks to fit your glue gun
  • 99% Isopropyl alcohol -- great for cleanup, de-sticking hot glue or for electronics repair
  • Cotton swabs for applying 99% alcohol
  • Heat Gun -- Very useful for melting heat shrink or re-melting hot glue
  • A good steady work light. Mine has a magnifying glass built-in.

This guide was first published on May 13, 2020. It was last updated on May 13, 2020.

This page (Your Soldering Kit) was last updated on Feb 20, 2021.

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