Solder SOIC

There are those who love to hand solder surface mount devices, even preferring it to through hole, and then there are those who won’t touch SMD with a boat hook (or tweezers), and there are those somewhere in between. I’m in the latter camp so far, having done only a little SMD work. But I’m here to tell you this: If you can solder anything, you probably can solder larger and wider-pitch SMDs. In particular, if you’re looking at a project that’s mostly through hole but with one or two SOIC packages (or other wide pitch packages such as SOT-23), “don’t be scared to try it”.

I’m not going to tell you how to do it — get on YouTube and search, you’ll find a gazillion video tutorials. I just want to tell you to give it a shot. You’ll want a decent temperature controlled soldering iron and a good magnifier. Both of which are also good things to have for through hole soldering, so get them whether you do SMD or not! Aside from those, you’ll need some fine solder (I use 0.5 mm for all my soldering), a flux pen, and a decent pair of tweezers. Don’t dismiss the latter’s importance. I tried a janky pair of tweezers I had around the house for my first SMD work and they made the job a lot harder. And that’s it for equipment.

You might not even need the magnifier if you have youthful eyes, though I can’t imagine it wouldn’t make the job easier. I’m 65 and need the magnifier, but with it I can see what I’m doing just fine. And my hands are not the world’s steadiest, but I have no problem doing the work. Just use the tweezers to place and hold the part, and use your bench to steady your hands.

As for soldering iron tips, it’s tempting to go for the finest conical tip you can get, but I think a chisel tip actually works better. It heats up better than conical and you can use it for the drag soldering technique. Just because the pins are small doesn’t mean the soldering tip has to be too.

You probably don’t want your first SMD soldering attempt to be the synth module PCB or other project you’re hoping to build, though. Here’s a kit to practice with. Make an LED blinking circuit and once you’re done you’ll be ready for your module.

I have some SMD kits I’ve been procrastinating dealing with, and a hot air reflow station I haven’t used yet — I’ve got enough through hole projects to keep me occupied first. But I’ve recently had and will have a couple projects that are mostly through hole but with a single SOIC-8 device each. Not a problem. Just do it!

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